SAN DIEGO (AP) — Three San Diego men have been arrested on suspicion of running a drug trafficking ring that mailed up to 20 pounds of marijuana to dozens of customers in at least eight states, authorities said.
Chris Gillen, his brother, Kyle Gillen, and Matthew Schneider were arrested earlier this week at their homes and remain behind bars on $200,000 bail each.
The bust crippled a drug distribution ring where vacuum sealed parcels were used to avoid detection, according to authorities. Mailing drugs can be less costly than some other trafficking methods but is highly risky because federal authorities often inspect suspicious packages.
The trio is suspected of mailing up to 20 pounds of pot at a time each week to customers in New Jersey, Texas, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, West Virginia, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania. The operation is believed to have brought in between $20,000 to $30,000 a week, said Lt. Lon Turner of the Chula Vista Police Department, which was part of a task force that conducted a yearlong investigation of the alleged ring.
Officers also seized 300 marijuana plants at a warehouse, along with roughly $500,000 in assets, including cars, guns and investment accounts, as part of the bust. During the warehouse raid, two pit bulls charged toward officers and were shot. One of the animals is in critical condition, Turner said.
The U.S. Postal Service tipped off the task force about the shipments, which led to further investigation, authorities said.
"In general, dogs alert on an odor and are trained to find drugs," Turner said of prevention efforts. "Drug traffickers believe a vacuum seal will eliminate the odor but it can leak out."
Kyle Gillen was involved in another pot venture several years ago, according to U-T San Diego (http://bit.ly/16tHTIP ). Gillen and a dealer set up a marijuana growing operation in a warehouse, hoping to use their medical marijuana permits to grow the plants and then sell them to dispensaries.
The marijuana plants died and his business partner went to Gillen's apartment and stole some items, the paper reported. Chris Gillen was beaten and restrained with duct tape during the robbery.