Drug-smuggling inquiry closes down shuttle to Rocky Point

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Sean Holstege
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 8, 2007 12:00 AM
A popular lower-cost shuttle service between Phoenix and Rocky Point has been shut down amid allegations that its owners were involved in a conspiracy to smuggle drugs and launder the proceeds. 

Federal agents raided the bus stand of Mota’s Place Shuttle last week in the border town of Lukeville as arrest warrants were issued for the owners of the west Phoenix company and other defendants.

“I drove out there last Sunday. I saw nothing. No vans. Nothing,” said Mike Jarvinen, whose Head Out to Rocky Point company shuttles mostly out-of-town tourists to the Sea of Cortez resort for $195 per person. He said authorities regularly use dogs and X-rays to search his shuttle vans.

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Before the raid, he said, there were half a dozen vans in Mota’s Lukeville lot.

The company, whose service name is Transporte Mota’s Place Shuttle, ran six 15-seat shuttles to Rocky Point, or Puerto Peñasco, every day, charging $40 a trip. The service was popular with budget travelers and people visiting relatives in western Sonora.

Passengers and others familiar with the company said the shuttles were usually half- or two-thirds full.

A grand jury indicted 47 defendants, including the company’s owners, last week on a total of 115 counts. Among those named were Gustavo Mota Sr., Gustavo Mota Jr. and Christian Enrique Mota. The Motas have been the registered owners of Mota’s Place Shuttle since 1991.

The Motas were charged with conspiracy, racketeering and conducting narcotics deals on a telephone. Calls to the bus station on West Van Buren Street went unanswered. The closing of their business leaves a void in budget service to Rocky Point. In addition to Jarvinen’s luxury service, travelers have other, albeit limited options for getting to western Sonora.

According to puerto penasco.com, a travel and news site about the resort, Kona Shuttle takes people in Mercedes-Benz vans for $100-$180, depending on the number of passengers. The fare pays for a round trip.

Jarvinen said he is seeing an increase in business as word of Mota’s closing spreads.

The investigation is led by the Phoenix Police Department, which is working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal agencies. Investigators and prosecutors declined to comment on the ongoing case but described it as big and weeks in the making.

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