TUCSON, Ariz. -- Authorities said they have captured and prosecuted a group of "scouts" paid by Mexican drug cartels to be lookouts for drug and human smugglers on Arizona hilltops.
The Pinal County sheriff's and county attorney's offices said they arrested 8 cartel members who were paid to spend numerous days on hilltops overlooking the southern Arizona desert. They used cellphones and digitally-encrypted radios to communicate.
"Some of them have extensive criminal records here in the United States," Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said.
The investigation began in February when deputies pulled over a 22-year-old man in Eloy. Garcia was carrying 600 pounds of food, and cans of gasoline. Garcia said he was paid to drop off the supplies to cartel "scouts."
Deputies and border agents arrested 7 suspected lookouts in remote areas a month later. The men told authorities they had spent more than a week in the desert.