Cartels Are Using These American Mountains To Guide Drugs Into US

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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Mexican cartels have been using an Arizona mountain range just south of Casa Grande in Pinal County for years as a lookout for their scouts who keep an eye on incoming shipments of drugs.

Detective Eddie Castro told CBS 5 News that Mexican cartels are “radioing in, letting the smugglers know when it’s time to start going.”

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is well aware that the mountain range south of Casa Grande and next to what is called the Hidden Valley is frequently used by drug cartels.

“We’ve seen the big marijuana loads. We’ve seen cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine. We’ve kind of seen them all come through here,” Castro told CBS 5. “We’ve been told from five to seven scouts are sitting in this area and guiding them through here.”

After having gone to the mountain range with the detective, CBS 5 News returned to the cartel hideout without police protection.

CBS 5 News encountered a scout and reporter Morgan Loew and the scout had a brief but tense conversation in Spanish. Loew yelled in Spanish, “I’m a journalist!” The cartel scout asked Loew if he was working with the authorities to which Loew replied he was not.

The young cartel scout — who according to Loew could not be older than 20 years old — asked Loew to leave the mountaintop. Before leaving Loew gets to the other side of the mountaintop and takes photos of solar panels used for recharging cell phones and police scanners while also spotting supplies hidden in camouflage bags.

Loew claims that the best way to describe the site on the mountaintop is, “it’s like a small military forwarding operating base.” Loew ends his story admitting he is fearful for his life and that, “it took 1 1/2 hours to get to the top of the mountain. It took me 12 minutes of running, falling and sliding to reach the bottom.”

Mountaintop cartel scouts are nothing new in the area. In October 2014, CBS 5 News reported that 24 drug cartel scouts were picked up by the authorities over the course of six months in the same area around the Arizona mountain range south of Casa Grande. The report goes on to state that Border Patrol agents in the organization’s Special Operations Division, “are airlifted to high mountain tops, where they scan for scouts guiding smugglers through the desert.”

In June 2014, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office arrested five suspected scouts around the mountain range south of Casa Grande. The Sheriff’s Office confirmed to the media at the time that “cell phone and digitally encrypted radios,” were being used by the scouts.

When authorities climbed a hilltop near the mountain range they found that “evidence on the hilltop included nine cell phones, three cell chargers, car batteries, water jugs, tools, two solar panels, radio chargers, five radio batteries and binoculars” according to Sheriff Paul Babeuas reported by CBS 5 News. Babeu is now running for U.S. Congress.

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