by Sarah See
At least 70 suspected drug smugglers with alleged ties to a Mexican cartel's distribution network were arrested by authorities in Arizona, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Monday.
U.S. and Mexican suspects in the massive take-down of the drug trafficking network allegedly smuggled more than 330 tons of illegal narcotics a year, according to CNN.
The organization, responsible for smuggling more than $33 million worth of drugs a month, is believed to be tied to the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's most powerful ring, according to the Associated Press.
The ring used a variety of sophisticated techniques to move drugs by air and ground transportation from the Arizona-Mexico border to a network of "stash" houses in the Phoenix area, which sold the drugs to distributors nationwide, law enforcement officials said.
The ring also used backpackers and vehicles to move drugs, operating from cells based in the Chandler, Stanfield and Maricopa communities, officials said.
Smuggling routes along an 80-mile section of the border were virtually monopolized by the ring, authorities said.
More than 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies were involved in a 17-month investigation called Operation Pipeline Express, according to CNN.
Thousands of pounds of marijuana, cocaine and heroin and more than 100 weapons were seized in a series of raids by officials, according to CNN.
The ring has generated an estimated $2 billion from more than 3.3 million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin over the past five years, according to ICE.
Authorities are continuing to search for more suspects, according to CNN.
All who are arrested will be prosecuted by Arizona state officials, authorities said.