Pot-Smuggling Lookouts Found in the Mountains of Pinal County
A traffic stop in February on the southern edge of Eloy led to law enforcement discovering that marijuana smugglers had lookouts hiding in the mountains, making sure authorities didn't come into contact with the people carrying the product.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Office has just announced that sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol agents have found eight such lookouts hiding in the hilltops over the last few months.
This all started with that traffic stop south of Eloy, in which a 22-year-old Mexican citizen was pulled over while driving a Ford van the morning of February 20. When the deputy approached the van, the driver was on a cellphone, and explained to the deputy that "spotters" in the area were watching, and told him to run.
The driver -- who had trash bags filled with 600 pounds of food, plus dozens of gas cans -- explained the system of "spotters" to deputies, and admitted that he was responsible for giving them supplies.
NBA Preseason Basketball: Phoenix Suns v. San Antonio Spurs
TicketsMon., Oct. 3, 7:00pm
NBA Preseason Basketball: Phoenix Suns v. Utah Jazz
TicketsWed., Oct. 5, 7:00pm
Arizona Coyotes vs. San Jose Sharks
TicketsFri., Oct. 7, 7:00pm
TicketsSat., Oct. 8, 7:00pm
Border Patrol found one such lookout later that month, and in March, PCSO and Border Patrol set up on operation in which they swooped in to a hilltop by helicopter at 6 a.m., where three such spotters were found.
"Evidence including nine cell phones, three cell phone chargers, car batteries, large water jugs, multi-tools, two solar panels, radio chargers, five radio batteries, and binoculars were all collected," according to a PCSO press release. "Panoramic photos of the area were taken from the hilltops showing the vantage points from the caves."
According to PCSO, these scouts admitted to being hired by associates of a Mexican drug cartel.
Three days later, on the other side of the county, law enforcement pulled off a similar operation, spotting another three lookouts on a mountain outside of Red Rock. Only two of those spotters were taken into custody, and the third got away. They were found with similar supplies, plus an AR-15 rifle, according to the sheriff's office.
Two more lookouts were found on a hilltop near where the first helicopter operation took place.
PCSO says Border Patrol has found has many as 100 of these lookout posts throughout this popular drug-smuggling corridor, which runs through Pinal County.
All eight of the lookouts are facing serious charges, including conspiring to smuggle marijuana, and aiding a criminal syndicate.
Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.