Eight people were arrested last month in connection with a drug deal gone wrong, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said.
The suspects made arrangements to sell 180 pound of marijuana to three men. During the meeting, the buyers were robbed, beaten, zip-tied and tossed in the trunk of a car by men dressed as police.
"We seized several weapons, many police badges and other law enforcement identifiers," said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. "So you got these dope peddlers trying to rip off their customers posing as police."
The alleged ringleader of the international drug smuggling operation, 40-year-old Edward Alvarez of Litchfield Park, was the first of the drug dealers to be arrested. He has been linked to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel by the Department of Justice.
When Alvarez was arrested, deputies found cash hidden in the wall, weapons and several police officer identifiers.
Brothers Robert E. Varner, 20, and Brandon Jesue Varner, 19, both from Tolleson were later arrested. MCSO believes there is at least one more suspect.