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January 13, 2006
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U.S. agents seize $1.3 million worth of heroin in California desert, arrest three

The Associated Press

INDIO, California- Authorities seized 31 pounds (14 kilograms) of Mexican heroin in the southern California desert in a raid one official said was so big it looked like something out of a movie.

"In 34 years, I've never seen this large of a heroin seizure," Riverside County Assistant Sheriff John Boyd said Thursday after the bust was announced.

Agents estimated the heroin's street value at $1.3 million (euro1.1 million) was enough for 140,000 to 280,000 doses, said Stephen Azzam, an agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. In addition to the heroin, agents seized two trucks, two sport utility vehicles, about $53,000 (euro43,754.64) in cash and two firearms.

A Mexican-based organization produced the drug, Azzam said. He did not identify the group but said it has been operating for more than 10 years in the region 100 miles (161 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.

Three people were arrested and faced federal charges related to Tuesday's seizure. The DEA did not release their names but said the arrests followed a seven-month operation in the region involving the DEA and local law enforcement.

"This group is directly responsible for maintaining the flow of this caustic poison to our youth in the Coachella Valley and throughout California," Azzam said.

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