Sinaloa cartel possibly connected to major bust in Southern California

When a white Ford F-150 led the California Highway Patrol on a police chase, little did the officers know that by the time they stopped the driver, they’d find close to 200 pounds of drugs and large amounts of cash in the truck.

But they did, also arresting a Hispanic man in his 40s, who they are still questioning for possible drug cartel involvement. 

On June 18 around 9:37 a.m., California Highway Patrol K-9 officers stopped the vehicle on the 5 Freeway and Boyle Ave for a traffic violation. The driver fled, leading officers on a pursuit through various streets and freeways. The chase ended on 2nd Street, west of Figueroa Street. While arresting the driver, officers found approximately 190 pounds of methamphetamine worth $3.4 million and about $5,000 in cash.

Image 1 of 7

Credit: CHP Southern Division

This happened just down the street from where federal officials announced a 10-count indictment linking local Sinaloa cartel operatives with underground Chinese groups laundering millions of drug sales money in Southern California

RELATED: LA-based Mexican cartel associates charged in money laundering indictment

In essence, the Mexican drug money is allegedly laundered by a Chinese group who benefits by putting the money into assets bought by wealthy clients who can "invest" large amounts of money overseas without Chinese government oversight. 

Photo courtesy USDEA

So, for example, a courier for the cartel sells drugs then takes large amounts of cash and hands that over to the laundering agents.

They can either deposit it into small accounts in U.S. banks, under different names – avoiding the bank's requirement to report large deposits to the government – or have clients buy expensive cars or goods in the U.S. to launder the money into "legitimate" assets. 

More than $50 million in drug profits have been laundered this way, according to investigators who arrested two dozen people and confiscated large amounts of drugs, weapons and money. According to the DOJ, officials seized more than 300 pounds of cocaine, 92 pounds of meth, 3,000 ecstasy pills, 44 pounds of psilocybin mushrooms, multiple ounces of ketamine and nearly a dozen semiautomatic guns.

Local agencies involved in the investigation include departments from El Monte, Los Angeles, and San Gabriel Valley cities. 

No word on whether the bust today in downtown Los Angeles is related to these particular groups, but investigators are talking to the driver, to decide which agency, LAPD or the feds, takes over the investigation.