PHOENIX, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Authorities say they have broken the back of an Arizona smuggling ring responsible for transporting thousands of undocumented migrants into the United States.
The bust is the largest human-smuggling operation ever uncovered by state task-force investigators, and is the result of more than a year-long investigation, The Arizona Republic reported.
Authorities said the operation brought immigrants into Arizona from Mexico and Central and South America. It was dismantled Wednesday when police arrested and booked six men on suspicion of human smuggling, operating a criminal syndicate, fraud, fraudulent schemes and identity theft.
Investigators said the smugglers used a fleet of vans and other vehicles to transport illegal immigrants from the Arizona-Mexico border to locations within Arizona; 62 vehicles were seized in Wednesday's raid.
Investigators only identified one of the suspects Marco Rodriguez-Banks, 29. Authorities said the smuggling operation was moved to the Phoenix area because of extra border security.
"They are highly adaptable, and they change as a result of law-enforcement activities," said Matthew Allen, a special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona.
"Many of this organization's resources were in the southern part of the state. But when it got too hot for them in southern Arizona, they relocated a lot of their resources to the Phoenix area."
The investigation started over a year ago when a Goodyear police officer conducted a routine patrol check on a U-Haul rental storage lot. He discovered trucks and vans with tinted windows, and what appeared to be reinforced shock absorbers, signs the vehicles were used in smuggling.