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ICE seizes 900 lbs. of marijuana in Arizona

NOGALES, Ariz. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents locally arrested four suspected drug smugglers and seized more than 900 pounds of marijuana Thursday.

While conducting surveillance of a suspected stash house, agents observed several vehicles, including a Ford F-350 pickup truck and Chevrolet Malibu sedan, arrive at the residence. Agents moved closer to the house on foot and witnessed suspected smugglers load packages visually consistent with marijuana bundles into the pickup truck's bed, and then conceal the packages with a bed liner.

After the truck was loaded, the vehicles left the residence with HSI agents covertly in pursuit. Agents conducted a traffic stop at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Camino del Vista Cielo and discovered 929 pounds of marijuana concealed in the pickup truck's bed. The pickup truck's driver, Jose Garcia-Diaz, 26, and passenger, Bonito Burgos-Villareal, 38, were both arrested on charges related to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. Agents also arrested the driver and passenger of the Malibu, Gerardo Gutierrez-Garcia, 34, and Carlos Moron-Zepeda, 37, on similar charges. All four suspects are Mexican citizens.

"Through hard work and generous amounts of shoe leather, ICE agents are identifying the criminal organizations smuggling narcotics through the Nogales area and are holding them responsible for their illicit activities," said Kevin Kelly, assistant special agent in charge of ICE-HSI in Nogales. "We will continue to target their workers, their vehicles and their stash houses until these smuggling organizations have no place left to operate in Nogales."

All four suspects will have their initial appearance in federal court in Tucson on Friday. A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.