Authorities said Wednesday that they have broken up a methamphetamine ring that shipped the drug in toys including an Elmo doll.

Agents said 19 people were in custody, including the alleged leader of the northern Colorado drug ring, and that they seized more than 45 pounds of what they described as high-quality methamphetamine.

Officials released photos of an Elmo doll found in a car in Barstow, Calif., with a caption saying 4 pounds of methamphetamine was found inside. Eid said he could not discuss what happened because the doll of the "Sesame Street" character was evidence in the case.

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Authorities said other toys also were used to hide drugs but did not elaborate. Other photos showed drugs shipped in a suitcase and tucked inside a tire.

U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said the alleged ringleader, Rigoverto Valle-Sierra, was arrested Tuesday in Greeley after a yearlong investigation.

Jeffrey D. Sweetin, regional Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge, said the operation was selling methamphetamine that was about 99 percent pure, while most methamphetamine sold on the street is about 30 to 40 percent pure. Authorities said the seized drugs, valued at $864,000, amounted to about 4 million doses.

Of the 21 people named in a federal indictment, 12 are suspected illegal immigrants, Eid said. Two suspects remain at large, he said.

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