Nationwide sweep targets drug cartel; nets 13 in San Diego County - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Nationwide sweep targets drug cartel; 13 nabbed in San Diego County

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Federal officials arrested 13 people from San Diego County in a nationwide sweep targeting a fast-rising Mexican drug cartel known for its violence, messianic culture and control over the methamphetamine trade.

The local arrests were made Wednesday in San Marcos, Imperial Beach and other parts of the county at individuals' homes, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, whose agents arrested 303 people nationwide this week in connection with the La Familia drug cartel.

Those arrested face charges ranging from drug and gun trafficking to money laundering. Federal authorities did not immediately say whether any of those arrested this week are cartel leaders.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said more than 3,000 federal, state and local agents participated in this week's sweep, making it the largest ever mounted against a Mexican cartel. In addition to San Diego, arrests were made in 37 other cities, from Boston to Seattle.

The arrests are part of Project Coronado, an ongoing federal government campaign against La Familia. Over the past 44 months, Project Coronado has netted 1,186 arrests and the seizure of $32.5 million, 2,710 pounds of meth, 4,398 pounds of cocaine, 29 pounds of heroin, 16,390 pounds of marijuana, 389 weapons and 269 vehicles.

La Familia is the newest of Mexico's five major drug cartels. Though it opposes the sale of meth to Mexicans, La Familia is responsible for the vast majority of the drug entering the United States, according to the DEA.

Since April, local officials have seized about 460 pounds of meth brought into the United States from Mexico as part of the cartel's operation, according to authorities.

The new cartel, a breakaway from the Gulf Cartel, first gained attention in 2006 by rolling the severed heads of five men onto a dance floor at a disco in Michoacan, Mexico, along with a note warning off rival traffickers.

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