Authorities in Ventura County, Calif., on Monday said the arrest of an alleged heroin kingpin in Mexico was triggered by a local investigation that has made a significant dent in the area drug market.

Described by Mexican officials as "the king of heroin," Jose Antonio Medina Arreguin, 36, was apprehended last week. He is said to have smuggled 440 pounds of heroin monthly into California for at least three years, stashing most of it in secret compartments built into automobiles. Mexican narcotics officials said his operation brought in about $12 million a month.

At a news conference, Ventura County Dist. Atty. Greg Totten said the arrest by Mexican authorities "dramatically weakened perhaps the largest drug operation" in the county's history. Although much of the investigation focused on drug sales in Oxnard, Arreguin's alleged network of distributors sold black tar heroin and methamphetamines from San Diego to San Jose, officials said.

Totten said Arreguin -- also known as "Don Pepe" -- was not known to be a member of any larger drug syndicate. However, he apparently operated with the blessings of La Familia, a cartel that controls the western state of Michoacan. Officials said they had no evidence of any role played by Arreguin in the wave of bloody drug violence that has swept the nation.

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