12 arrested after backpacks contained $421K in pot
Rigaberto Buelas was among those arrested and jailed. (Source: Pinal County Sheriff's office)
FLORENCE, AZ (CBS5) -
Eight adults and three juveniles are in jail on suspicion of smuggling 562 pounds of marijuana in backpacks after they entered the U.S. from Mexico on foot about a week ago.
On Thursday, U.S. Border Patrol agents said they observed 14 people, 12 of them carrying rectangular backpacks, south of Interstate 8 in Vekol Valley, an area known as a smuggling super highway about 70 miles north of the border.
The agents said they watched the group put the backpacks underneath a tree and then walk about 100 yards away and lay down beneath a tree.
When agents approached, two people in the group ran away on foot. Twelve people were detained.
The 12 backpacks were full of compressed and packaged marijuana, agents said. The street value of the marijuana was pegged at $421,500. The dozen suspects were taken to the Casa Grande Border Patrol Station.
Once at the station, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office Narcotic Task Force detectives took over the investigation.
During interviews, the suspects admitted to illegally crossing the border into the U.S. Twelve of suspects were carrying backpacks filled with marijuana, PCSO detectives said. Three of the them were juveniles and they were also carrying marijuana, detectives said.
Eight of the suspects, who were adults, were booked into the Pinal County Jail on charges of possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana for sale and possession of marijuana.
Rigaberto Alcaraz Verduzco, 25
Leonel Elenes Torres, 22
Francisco Alcaraz Renteria, 31
Julio Samaniego Miranda, 33
Rigaberto Villegas Buelas, 26
Sergio Verduzco Barreras, 36
Oscar Castro Valdez, 22
Alejandro Verdugo Cota, 26
Three of the suspects were juveniles and were booked for the same charges.
One person remained in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol.
Detectives with the Pinal County Narcotics Task Force helped the U.S. Border Patrol in the investigation.
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