SELLS, Ariz. — Tribal authorities announced Thursday that a new joint tribal and federal task force has taken down a large-scale drug and human smuggling ring operating on the Tohono O'odham Nation, indicting the ring leader and 15 others in state court following a two-month investigation.
Pauline Lopez Grijalva, 53, the alleged leader of the smuggling ring, and 11 others were arrested in January by the Native American Targeted Investigations of Violent Enterprises, or "NATIVE," Task Force. They were subsequently indicted with four others in Pima County Superior Court, charged with 17 counts of human smuggling, drug and money laundering offenses.
The NATIVE Task Force is led by the Tohono O'odham Police Department (TOPD) and comprised of TOPD detectives and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents.
The ring is alleged to have smuggled as much as 600 kilograms of marijuana and 120 undocumented aliens a month through the Tohono O'odham Nation to Tucson, with Grijalva laundering $350,000 in illicit proceeds through financial institutions.
The task force seized 76 kilograms of marijuana, eight motor vehicles, two all-terrain vehicles, and $17,000 in cash after serving three search warrants during the investigation.
The NATIVE Task Force is a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiative formed in August 2013 to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) operating within or through the Tohono O'odham Nation.