AUSTIN (AP) – Authorities say they have broken up a major smuggling ring responsible for moving five kilograms of cocaine per week into the Austin area since last May.

A series of simultaneous raids last week led to 19 arrests. One person remains at large and two others were already in custody on unrelated charges.

U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman said Wednesday that 15 of the suspects will face federal drug charges since they are accused of distributing over 150 total kilograms of cocaine.

If convicted, that means mandatory federal minimum sentences of up to 10 years in prison, and maximum sentences of life behind bars.

The seven others will face state charges.

Assistant Austin Police Chief Sean Mannix characterized the busts as “taking out an entire cell.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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