LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Investigators say a former Bullitt County Special Deputy has ties to a Mexican Cartel. WDRB traveled to the center of drug operations to investigate how authorities caught up with him and the other local men tied to the investigation.

The Drug Enforcement Agency says the Sinaloa Cartel transports narcotics across the country from southern California using a network of cars and trucks -- and sometimes planes -- to get the drugs to their destinations.

"The purity levels are higher coming up from Mexico area," Riverside DEA Asst. Special Agent in Charge Frank Pepper said.

A DEA map shows the Sinaloa Cartel is working in Louisville, Lexington and London, Kentucky.

Tim Massino with the Los Angeles Drug Enforcement Agency explained why southern California is such a hot bed for drug activity.

"Probably the one reason is its proximity to the border. We are probably 1.5 to 2 hours [from it]," he said. He added the interstate system and rural, desert areas allow easy transportation and storage.

But Pepper says people in Kentuckiana should be concerned.

"Due to the fact that this area brings it in, warehouses it for a temporary time, in what we call stash houses or stash warehouses temporarily, then it's distributed back east to Kentucky," he said.

Federal prosecutors say Chris Mattingly, a former Bullitt County Special Deputy, is a major drug trafficker with connections to a Mexican cartel. Sources say it's the Sinaloa Cartel. 

Mattingly is behind bars at the Oldham County Jail. He was indicted last September for conspiracy to distribute 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana. That's about 2,200 pounds, which has a local street value of more than $2.5 million.

But investigators say Mattingly has been working with others. It's an investigation that has been going on for years.

In May of 2014, at an intersection in Perris, California, investigators pulled over Ronnie Shewmaker of Bullitt County. They say inside his Chevy Malibu with Kentucky plates, they found about $420,000 in cash. They say he also has ties to Chris Mattingly.

A document shows Shewmaker was booked for being under the influence of a controlled substance. The Riverside County District Attorney's Office says the charge was never filed, but tells WDRB the case may have been submitted to federal authorities instead.

Investigators say his arrest in Perris is close to an area known for stash houses. It's a remote area that's difficult for law enforcement to surveil.

The DEA in Los Angeles couldn't speak specifically about Mattingly's case because it's a pending investigation, but Pepper says when one of their connections is arrested, it affects the cartel. 

"It forces them to evaluate who they are going to deal with and it puts a temporary stop on trafficking in that particular area," he said.

Investigators say they learned about Mattingly through a wiretap with a drug cartel member in Riverside, in which Mattingly told the drug trafficker about a delivery of money for marijuana. 

"We're intercepting drug trafficking. We're not intercepting the everyday citizen," Massino said.

Attorneys say the Mattingly case also involves about 70 gigabytes of video and audio. But Mattingly's attorneys question the legality of these Riverside wiretaps. The DEA says drug traffickers try to make it hard for investigators by using burner phones they trash quickly.

"They go through a number of phones on a monthly basis," Massino said. 

While some defense attorneys are against the wiretaps from the government, Pepper says they can be a very important part of cases against traffickers.  

"I would say to them the government has a tremendous burden with the court system to show that there is probable cause to believe their clients have been trafficking narcotics and committing crimes against the community," he said.

Police went to Mattingly's Used Cars in Breckinridge County, Ky., where prosecutors say a Mexican man opened a car door and took out a cooler with $60,000 in cash. 

In March of 2015, investigators searched Mattingly's farm in Breckenridge County and say they found $20,000 in cash and guns with night vision. 

Mattingly hasn't been a special deputy in Bullitt County for a while though. He had his badge pulled after he showed it to investigators when he was pulled over in 2014 in Louisville for possession of marijuana and steroids.

The case was later dismissed.

Federal prosecutors say there may be additional charges against Mattingly -- and other suspects -- that involve meth.

While several investigations continue into Mexican Drug Cartels, the DEA is standing by its decision for court approved wiretaps.

They point to the results.

"In many cases, it's the only way we can identify who the real culprits are and make the connections between organizations," Massino said.

Ronnie Shewmaker could not be reached for comment on this story. 

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