The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says a former Sinaloa Cartel member was found with police body armor, badges, a ballistic helmet, and Phoenix Police Department patches, as well as weapons and other "law enforcement identifiers."
The former cartel member, 40-year-old Edward Alvarez, allegedly was operating a group wearing the police gear to rip off potential drug buyers.
The Sheriff's Office knows about an incident in late March, in which detectives found out that they ripped off between $60,000 and $95,000 from gangsters in the Varrio Tolleson Chicanos gang.
Three of those gangsters arranged to buy 180 pounds of weed from Alvarez's group, according to the MCSO.
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When they met up, Alvarez's group, wearing all the police tactical gear with badges and patches, zip-tied and beat up the gangsters, and threw them into the trunks of cars.
One of the gangsters escaped, and for some reason, that led Alvarez's group to releasing the other two, the MCSO says.
The MCSO was led to Alvarez first, who was arrested a day after the robbery at his home in Litchfield Park, and more arrests kept being made over the next few weeks, as deputies arrested eight of the nine guys they're looking for.
An MCSO spokesman says detectives got the information on Alvarez's former cartel affiliation from the Justice Department.