ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO ANNOUNCES OVER 50 ARRESTS IN INTERNATIONAL HEROIN RING
Washington, D.C. - Attorney General Janet Reno today announced that law enforcement authorities from the United States and Colombia have concluded a ten-month long investigation, call Operation White Horse, with the arrest of more than 50 individuals who were part of an organization trafficking in heroin between Colombia and the United States.
Operation White Horse was coordinated by the Special Operations Division, a joint law enforcement program comprised of attorneys from the Department of Justice's Criminal Division and agents and analysts from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Unites States Customs Service (USCS), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
"This joint investigation represents law enforcement cooperation at its best. Working together, the participating agencies and government of Colombia have taken steps to make our streets and communities safer," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "Fewer drugs on the street means less crime and more opportunity for all of our communities."
According to DEA Administrator Donnie R. Marshall, "Thanks to the joint efforts of U.S. and Colombian law enforcement, we wiped out an entire international heroin trafficking ring. Sixty-five members of this organization were in for a rude awakening this morning as they saw the wholesale dismantling of their organization from top to bottom--from their Colombian headquarters to distribution cells all the way down to the street-level dealers."
Today's arrests were coordinated by the multi agency Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, designed to dismantle an organization responsible for placing high-purity Colombian heroin on America's streets. In addition to the arrests, a total of 16 search warrants were executed in the United States and Colombia.
Among those arrested were Wilson Salazar-Maldonado, Fran Giovany Munoz-Marulanda, and Jair Brito-Giraldo, , all based in Colombia, who were responsible for supplying multi-kilogram quantities to heroin distribution groups operating in New York and Philadelphia. This organization predominantly smuggled heroin into the United States through heroin "swallowers," who would ingest pellets of heroin in Pereira, Colombia, and then travel via commercial airline from Colombia to New York through third countries. Upon reaching the United States, the heroin would be re-packaged and sent to distribution elements operating in Philadelphia and New York. The investigation revealed that the defendants in Philadelphia obtained heroin from three New York organizations. The New York organizations were headed by Luis Evelio Brito Giraldo, Ruben Henao and Humberto Romero. Heroin distributed by the Philadelphia defendants were sold under such brand names as Titanic, Godfather, Badland, and Verizon.
Based on this joint investigation by the DEA, the FBI, the IRS, the INS, the USCS, Philadelphia Police Department, and Westchester Police Department, over the past month, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Eastern District of New York filed drug conspiracy and drug distribution charges against members of this organization operating in Philadelphia, New York, and Colombia. Arrest warrants were issued for a total of 19 people in New York and 27 in Pennsylvania. Among those charged in the New York investigation were Humberto Romero and four other members of his organization who were arrested in Aruba on or about October 6, 2000, when they attempted to smuggle approximately 3.8 kilograms of heroin from Aruba to the United States. Additional charges were filed in Colombia by Colombia's Office of the Fiscalia Nacional de Republica, as a result of a Colombian National Police (CNP) investigation targeting elements of this heroin organization operating in Pereira and Cartago, Colombia.
Prior to today's arrests, which are expected to number over 50, Operation White Horse had resulted in 32 arrests and the seizure of 6.5 kilograms of heroin, .7 kilograms of crack, and approximately $1,231,000 in U.S. currency.