LOS ANGELES – United States Attorney Nick Hanna in Los Angeles and United States Attorney Robert S. Brewer Jr. in San Diego today announced the results of a coordinated operation conducted over the last three months that resulted in hundreds of kilograms of dangerous narcotics being taken off the streets of Southern California.
State and federal law enforcement agencies worked together to plan and execute this operation, which culminated in a one-week coordinated surge in mid-September and resulted in the seizure of approximately 778 kilograms of methamphetamine, 268 kilograms of cocaine, 30 kilograms of fentanyl, 31 kilograms of heroin, and $281,000 in U.S. currency.
In addition to the substantial seizures, six individuals were arrested and charged with various federal drug trafficking offenses in Los Angeles, and numerous additional individuals were charged with federal drug trafficking offenses in San Diego.
The operation focused on identifying narcotics entering the United States through Southern California ports of entry and then being transported to various locations throughout Southern California for further distribution around the country. Numerous High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) teams, comprised of both state and federal law enforcement officers and agents, worked throughout the operation to identify and arrest individuals, and to seize narcotics and drug trafficking proceeds.
“This operation underscores our significant – and successful – efforts to disrupt the smuggling routes used by international drug cartels to deliver narcotics to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Hanna. “This concerted effort allowed us to identify shipments coming in from Mexico and being delivered to stash houses across the region. As a result of the excellent work of law enforcement agents, we were able to make substantial seizures and arrest individuals who played important roles in the distribution chain.”
“Drug traffickers and their networks are not bound by city or county boundaries, and neither are we,” said U.S. Attorney Brewer. “With the combined resources of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, our reach is far and wide. We are seizing the drugs and dismantling the networks that are injecting our neighborhoods with poison.”
As a result of this operation, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have filed two cases that charge six defendants.
In one case, a federal grand jury late this afternoon indicted three defendants, including an alleged drug courier who is accused of driving a car from Tijuana into the United States with 21.8 kilograms of pure methamphetamine hidden in his car doors and quarter panels. The courier drove the vehicle to Compton, where he turned it over to another man, who unloaded the drugs into the trailer where he lived, according to court documents. The indictment charges the defendants – one of whom is currently known only by the moniker “Gringo” – with several offenses, including importation of methamphetamine. If convicted, the defendants in this case would face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in federal prison. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott D. Dubois of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.
In the second Los Angeles case resulting from this operation, a federal grand jury late last month indicted four defendants, two of whom allegedly drove a vehicle with a hidden compartment containing approximately 14.5 kilograms of methamphetamine into the United States, eventually bringing their load to a La Puente auto repair shop, where two other men helped them unload the narcotics. The owner of the shop, Juan Pablo Castro Velazquez, and the three other defendants face narcotics trafficking charges that carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lindsay M. Bailey of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.
The three-month operation was coordinated by Assistant United States Attorney Carol Alexis Chen, Chief of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section in Los Angeles, and Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Smith, Chief of the OCDETF Section in San Diego.
This effort is part of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation jointly undertaken by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in the Southern and Central Districts of California. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach to combat transnational organized crime. OCDETF Director Adam W. Cohen said, “We must salute the coordinated efforts led by dedicated OCDETF prosecutors from these two U.S. Attorney’s Offices to leverage our multi-agency strengths against these criminal networks.”
The investigating agencies involved in this operation were Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department; LA IMPACT; and SD-NET.