HARLINGEN, Texas -- Narcotics agents seized nearly 9 tons of cocaine worth an estimated $1 billion and arrested three men in what was described Thursday as one of the largest cocaine busts in U.S. history, officials said.
Undercover agents searching a lower Rio Grande Valley home about 6 p.m. Wednesday found several locked duffel bags containing 17,950 pounds of cocaine, wrapped in newspapers from Bogota, Colombia, said Michael Cox, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Tony Ricevuto, a supervisory agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington, said the cache was the largest cocaine seizure in the southwest United States and ranked among the top 10 in U.S. history.
State narcotics agents obtained a search warrant following a tip from a confidential informant and subsequent surveillance of the three-bedroom home, which was recently purchased for about $20,000 in cash, Cox said.
Cox said equipment found in the home indicated the cocaine was to be divided, rewrapped and shipped to the Los Angeles area. He said there is no indication the drugs had any connection to the world-record seizure of about 20 tons of cocaine in Los Angeles Sept. 29, and another large seizure in El Paso, Texas.
'This is by far the largest seizure in Texas history,' Cox said. 'I'm not sure but I think the largest seizure until now was only about 3,000 pounds or so.'
The suspects, who awaited arraignment Thursday on possession charges, were identified as Hermenegildo Rivas Sosa, 51, of Matamoras, Mexico; Alfonso Tristae Gonzalez, 36, of San Antonio, Texas; and Guadercio Garcia Garcia, 38, of McAllen, Texas. They were being held in the Harlingen city jail.
Undercover agents were watching the home about 3 p.m. Wednesday when three men standing outside suddenly ran inside and agents surrounded the house, Cox said.
The undercover operation involved DPS agents, Harlingen police, Cameron County sheriff's deputies and the Cameron County District Attorney's Office, Cox said.