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Feds: California suspects used ‘call centers’ to sell heroin

July 13, 2021 GMT

ORANGE, Calif. (AP) — Two Southern California call centers that facilitated illegal drug deliveries distributed at least $2 million worth of heroin before a federal grand jury indicted 19 people in connection with the scheme, authorities said Tuesday.

The 13-count federal indictment charges the defendants with offenses tied to narcotics and money laundering. Twelve of them are in custody and expected to be arraigned in federal court in Santa Ana on Tuesday; it was not immediately clear if they had attorneys who could speak on their behalf. The remaining seven are being sought. They face charges that range from life in prison to 10 years incarcerated.

Authorities say the suspects operated a heroin ring between March 2017 and this April in Orange County by obtaining the drugs from suppliers in the U.S. and Mexico. Drug mules brought the heroin, sometimes concealed in their bodies, to Southern California.

Two brothers organized the call centers and tapped two other defendants to run the call centers and organize deliveries, according to the indictment. At one point, a defendant didn’t mention that one of the call centers was closing early, even though more heroin was needed that day for customers.

The suspects also are accused of depositing the money in different bank accounts to avoid federal reporting requirements, an offense that dates to 2013, officials said.

The investigation included, in part, an undercover agent who bought heroin, according to the indictment.