Sinaloa Cartel
Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman speaks at press conference Tuesday to announce indictment against 60 alleged members of meth distribution network linked to Sinaloa Cartel. Photo via @SDANews Twitter

A grand jury indictment was unsealed Tuesday charging 60 alleged members of a San Diego-based methamphetamine distribution network with ties to the Sinaloa cartel with federal drug trafficking, money laundering and firearms offenses.

Prosecutors say the defendants were part of a ring that smuggled thousands of pounds of meth from the cartel across the border, then distributed the drug “to dozens of sub-distributors” in San Diego County, across the United States and even Australia and New Zealand.

Drug proceeds were returned to the network’s leaders through a variety of means, including bulk cash, structured cash deposits into bank accounts and money transfers through apps like PayPal, Zelle, Venmo and Cash App, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to a search warrant affidavit, the investigation into the network — dubbed Operation Crystal Hydra — began in the spring of 2020.

Investigators conducted “extensive physical surveillance” in conjunction with a six-month federal wiretap operation that intercepted the communications of the network’s members and was used to track their locations.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office reported that 44 of the 60 defendants were in custody as of Tuesday, with dozens of defendants arrested over the past month in five states. Officials also announced seizures of more than 220 pounds of meth and other drugs, 90 firearms and more than $250,000 in cash.