DEA-Led Operation Delivers Over 2,000 Arrests
JUN 10 - (WASHINGTON) – DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart joined Attorney General Eric Holder to announce the arrest of 2,266 individuals on narcotics-related charges in the United States and the seizure of more than 74.1 tons of illegal drugs as part of a 22-month multi-agency law enforcement investigation known as “Project Deliverance.”
Yesterday, 429 of the arrests took place in 16 states as part of “Project Deliverance,” which targeted the transportation infrastructure of Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the United States, especially along the Southwest border, through coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement. More than 3,000 agents and officers operated across the United States to make the arrests yesterday. Also, during yesterday’s enforcement action, $5.8 million, 17 pounds of methamphetamine, 112 kilograms of cocaine, 2,951 pounds of marijuana, 141 weapons and 85 vehicles were seized by law enforcement agents.
In addition to 2,266 arrests overall, “Project Deliverance” has led to the seizure of $154 million, and 1,262 pounds of methamphetamine, 2.5 tons of cocaine, 1,410 pounds of heroin, 69 tons of marijuana, 501 weapons and 527 vehicles during the entire course of the operation.
“This interagency, cross-border operation has been our most extensive, and most successful, law enforcement effort to date targeting these deadly cartels, and it is a direct result of our ongoing Southwest Border Strategy,” said Attorney General Holder. “This successful operation, however, is just one battle in an ongoing war. So long as cartels and smugglers attempt to wreak havoc on our borders, we will continue to target them with every resource available to the federal government. This Administration, working with law enforcement at all levels as well as our international partners, is committed to defeating these cartels, and we have proven the power of strong collaboration and coordination in achieving the goal.”
“Project Deliverance inflicted a debilitating blow to the network of shadow facilitators and transportation cells controlled by the major Mexican drug cartels,” said DEA Acting Administrator Leonhart. “Deliverance continues a deliberate and strategic effort to cut off and shut down the supply of drugs entering our country, and the flow of drug profits and guns to Mexico. The stakes are extraordinarily high, and this massive operation is a milestone in our tireless assault on these violent drug cartels.”
In addition, as part of the bilateral efforts between Mexico and the United States to disrupt drug cartel operations, Mexican law enforcement provided significant supportive actions for “Project Deliverance.” Among those arrested during the course of “Project Deliverance” was Carlos Ramon Castro-Rocha, an alleged heroin trafficker who has been designated a Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT). A CPOT designation is reserved for significant narcotics traffickers who are believed to be the leaders of drug trafficking organizations responsible for the importation of large quantities of narcotics into the United States. Castro-Rocha was arrested by Mexican authorities on May 30, 2010, based on an arrest warrant from the United States. Castro-Rocha has been indicted in U.S. District Court in the Western District of North Carolina and in U.S. District Court in the District of Arizona on drug trafficking charges.
Individuals indicted in the cases are charged with a variety of crimes, including: conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana; distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana; conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States; and other violations of federal law. Numerous defendants face forfeiture allegations as well.
This coordinated takedown is part of the department’s Southwest Border Strategy, announced in March 2009, which uses federal prosecutor-led task forces that bring together federal, state and local law enforcement components to identify, disrupt and dismantle the Mexican drug cartels through investigation, prosecution and extradition of their key leaders and facilitators, and seizure and forfeiture of their assets. Through continued joint cooperation at all levels of the Obama and Calderon administrations, the Department of Justice and its partners are actively working to stem the flow of illegal narcotics, weapons and bulk cash moving across the U.S./Mexico border.
During the course of this investigation, arrests were made and/or charges have been unsealed related to “Project Deliverance” in the following districts: District of Arizona, Eastern District of California, Southern District of California, District of Colorado, Southern District of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Northern District of Illinois, District of Maryland, Eastern District of Missouri, District of Montana, District of Nevada, District of New Mexico, Northern District of New York, Southern District of New York, Western District of North Carolina, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Western District of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Tennessee, Southern District of Texas, Western District of Texas, Eastern District of Virginia and the Western District of Washington. Significant assistance for “Project Deliverance” was provided by the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and the Office of International Affairs.
In a coordinated action, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Wednesday, June 9, 2010, named two individuals and two entities linked to the international drug trafficking organization La Familia Michoacana as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers. This action targeted Wenceslao Álvarez Álvarez, aka Wencho, his frontman Ignacio Mejia Gutierrez and two entities, Mega Empacadora de Frutas, S.A. de C.V. and Importaciones y Exportaciones Nobaro , S.A. de C.V. Under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act Kingpin Act, any assets these individuals or entities may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen. In addition, U.S. persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the designees.
The investigative efforts in “Project Deliverance” were coordinated by the multi-agency Special Operations Division, comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, ICE, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and ATF, as well as attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. More than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies contributed investigative and prosecutorial resources to Project Deliverance, many of which were through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Forces and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETFs).
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.