20 arrested in $1 million meth bust
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 22, 2005 05:40 PM
A police shootout in July launched an investigation into a dangerous drug ring that ended with the arrest of 20 suspects and the confiscation of more than $1 million worth of methamphetamine and $1.5 million in cash.
Phoenix Police Lt. Vince Piano, who supervised the investigation, called it one of the biggest meth busts of his career.
"This group, based on what I've seen, was moving more than 50 pounds a week," he said.
The ring was made up of associates of two notorious prison gangs, the New Mexican Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood.
"They do not usually get along unless there's money involved," Piano said.
The investigators had a coalition of their own: Phoenix Police, the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the federal Drug Administration Agency and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Together they seized 30 pounds of methamphetamine, 9 kilos of cocaine, a small quantity of marijuana, 15 vehicles, 48 weapons and $1.527 million. On Wednesday, the Attorney General's Office indicted 20 people on 50 counts, including drug, weapons and conspiracy charges.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, with much of the drugs and the cash laid out before him in evidence bags on folding tables, Attorney General Terry Goddard called it "an extraordinary arrest and seizure."
"The most important part is to take the criminals off the street," he said.
And Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called the arrests "a great Christmas present for this community. This poison destroys families and lives."
Police identified the ringleaders as William Shaffer McDowell, 30, and Michael Alvarez Fiore, 39. Police said they believe co-conspirators would import the methamphetamine in a raw form from the Mexican state of Sinaloa and cook it into the final product in Valley labs.
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