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16 arrested in raids targeting Tucson-based heroin ring

Federal agents and Pima County Sheriff's deputies led a series of raids at more than a dozen locations in Southern Arizona as part of a multi-agency effort aimed at taking apart a heroin trafficking ring responsible for moving at least $1 million in drugs and weapons over the last year, authorities said.

More than 100 law enforcement officers from a dozen agencies took part in the raids that began Thursday morning, including agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations, part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Agents served 32 warrants in Tucson alone, including one at a house on the West Side where agents, backed by an armored vehicle from the Department of Homeland Security, smashed through a back window and arrested at least one man. 

During a news conference following the raids, Doug Coleman, special agent in charge of the DEA in Arizona, said that the organization had ties to Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel, and moved heroin, marijuana and firearms from Tucson, including more than 100 pounds of heroin in 2015. 

Along with drug smuggling, the group was also responsible for laundering drug money, said Coleman. 

Officials also searched locations in Douglas and Winslow, said Jeremy Jolles, assistant special agent in charge of HSI's Tucson office. 

Sixteen people were arrested during the raids, and officials seized 11 weapons, $12,000 in cash and two pounds of heroin and two pounds of cocaine, Jolles said. 

Officials also seized cellphones, scales, and ledgers used by the group, Jolles said. 

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Along with federal and state officials in the United States, law enforcement officials in Mexico also took part in the operation, said Coleman, who declined to give more details. 

Jolles said that investigators targeted the organization beginning in August 2015 when they identified Sean Player Dixon, 42, as the leader of the group. 

Dixon along with his accomplices moved heroin in Tucson and shipped heroin and marijuana to Virginia and Maryland, said Jolles. 

Deputies with the Pima County Sheriff's Department had launched their own investigation into the group, stemming from a tip that an East Side house might be connected with drug smuggling, said Capt. Deanna Johnson, with PCSD's special investigations division. 

Deputies soon learned that DEA and HSI were also investigating the group, leading to a joint effort between the three agencies, said Johnson. 

Along with Dixon, officials arrested his wife, Pauline Dixon, 42; and his nephews, Terrence Gooden, 34; Ricky Manning Jr., 35; and his niece Janeayi Manning-Qualls, 33.

Also arrested was Raymond Pro, 39; Virgil Fleming, 45; Teresa Torres, 73; Ezekiel Jackson, 28; Robert Glaspie Jr., 25; Enrique Estrada, 44; Andres Acedo, 36; Jennifer Ann Estrada, 38; and Rosalva Perez, 56. 

Those arrested face state charges filed by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, including racketeering, distribution of narcotics for sale, procession of narcotics for sale, use of wire and electronic communication in drug-related transactions, and money laundering, said Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe, a ICE spokeswoman. 

The investigation is ongoing and several suspects remain at large, said Pitts O'Keefe. 

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Charles Reed/ICE

Investigators from multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug enforcement Administration, and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, executed numerous search and arrest warrants in southern Arizona Thursday, dismantling a local drug trafficking organization suspected of distributing and selling heroin, marijuana, and various firearms.