Seventeen people were arrested in Southern California on charges of smuggling large quantities of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines into the United States from Mexico.

Authorities raided more than a dozen different locations in the region.

"This investigation has dealt a serious blow to a trafficking network we believe was funneling significant quantities of high-grade methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin into the Los Angeles area," Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, said in a statement.

The indictment identifies four drug-distribution cells, one them allegedly led by Gerardo Celis Gaytan, 41, who ran Campos Auto Repair in North Hollywood.

Investigators recorded the suspects talking on the telephone about drug consignments brought in from Mexico in vehicles equipped with secret compartments that were installed at Celis' shop.

Celis was also caught on tape in a discussion with fellow suspect Jose Daniel Lopez - a U.S. citizen living in Mexico - about a shipment of heroin hidden in tubes of silicone, federal prosecutors said.

Lopez, who owns a masonry business in Chula Vista, near San Diego, is accused of supplying drugs to Celis and of helping to launder the proceeds of drug sales.

Authorities are still looking for 22 other suspects, most of them thought to be in Mexico.

This week's raids and arrests followed a 10-month investigation by Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the Torrance, California, police department. 

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