A supervisor at a UPS distribution center in Tucson, Arizona took advantage of his position to operate a drug and cash smuggling operation. A total of 11 people were arrested in late November 2019 after a two-year investigation by both the Tucson Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Four of those arrested were UPS workers, including the supervisor who ran the “sophisticated” operation. Those arrested have been charged with money laundering, drug possession, and drug distribution.
UPS Supervisor Turned Ringleader
The ringleader of the group, Mario Barcelo, was a UPS dispatch supervisor. He allegedly used his position to make sure that drug-packed boxes bypassed security measures and were delivered to destinations up and down the East Coast. In exchange for the drugs, bulk amounts of cash were sent back to Tucson. The drugs, which included marijuana and other controlled substances, were shipped from Mexico to Arizona.
According to Tucson Police Sargent William Kaderly, the drug operation shipped several thousand pounds of drugs weekly at its peak.
“[Barcelo] has been able to provide this service to drug traffickers without being detected both internally and externally by law enforcement for years. They've been doing it for so long that they were truly comfortable that they were never going to get caught.”
When the law enforcement agencies made their raid, they found nearly 50,000 cartridges of illicit THC vaping oil. The Centers for Disease Control has said these illicit THC cartridges are possibly the culprit behind the rash of vaping-related illnesses and deaths across the United States.
Authorities also seized large amounts of cash and more than a dozen vehicles related to the investigation, including a Corvette and Range Rover.
Law Enforcement Frustrated
A UPS representative said in a statement that the company was cooperating with law enforcement but could not divulge any information since the investigation is still ongoing. But detectives had expressed frustration with UPS because the company would not work “proactively” with them to catch the criminals. Sgt. Kaderly cited an incident in 2017 when the police were not allowed to enter a Tucson UPS facility to investigate an illicit package.
Tucson Police Department Captain John Leavitt said, "The larger implication of the investigation is that any product, guns, drugs or WMDs could have been shipped across the country by these criminals. They had no standards as to what could be shipped."
VUCSA Defense Attorney
If you have been swept up in a drug trafficking operation and have been charged with distributing or possessing a controlled substance, you need an attorney who will fight for your rights and get the best possible outcome for your case. Steve Karimi is a former prosecutor who now defends those accused of illegal drug charges. Call his office today at 206-621-8777 or fill out an online contact form to get started on a free consultation of your case.