SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – The land of high tech has also become ground zero for the distribution of heroin and other narcotics to the rest of the nation, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.

The arrest this week of 12 people tied to a drug trafficking ring that was smuggling heroin from Mexico is just one example of cartel activity in the South Bay, said Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vaneir.

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“Santa Clara County is a major distribution hub for narcotics nationally. The cartels have local cells that are based here,” Vaneir said, which first refine and repackage cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. “Then they are delivered to various locations throughout the United States.”

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

Vaneir said the arrests on Tuesday were the result of a long investigation involving federal agents and various local police departments.

“The investigation began back in 2009 with a 70-pound heroin seizure in the East Palo Alto area, a quantity of heroin with an estimated street value of over $5 million,” he said.

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Undercover agents then spent nearly three years tracking the targets, during which time they purchased another three pounds of heroin.

Vaneir said investigators suspect 28-year-old Carlos Jose Moreno of Santa Clara headed a transnational criminal drug trafficking organization affiliated with the Norteno gang.

Suspects were also brought into custody in East Palo Alto, Hayward and Oakland. Police seized firearms and heroin during the bust.

The California Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement led “Operation Middle Man,” with help from the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office and San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force.

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