Multi-Agency Operation Results in Over $5 Million in Cash Seizures
AUG 23 -- (LOS ANGELES) – Timothy J. Landrum, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today the culmination of the second phase of Operation Imperial Emperor, a multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation targeting a Mexico-based poly-drug trafficking/money laundering organization with cells located throughout Southern California. As a result of these investigations, 59 individuals have been arrested and 664 pounds of cocaine, 142 pounds of methamphetamine, 434 pounds of marijuana, 3 firearms, 14 vehicles and approximately $5,170,896 U.S. Currency was seized. The drugs seized in this operation are estimated to have a combined street value of more than $30 million. Today throughout Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, 10 individuals were arrested as a result of 14 search warrants conducted by more than 200 federal, state and local law enforcement officers.
“The culmination of the second phase of Operation Imperial Emperor should send a clear message to drug traffickers, that law enforcement will not rest until the criminals who bring drugs and destruction into our communities are removed from our streets,” said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “This operation targeted a complex confederation of Mexico-based drug trafficking organizations that put hundreds of kilograms of cocaine onto the streets of Southern California. Through the joint efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement these organizations will no longer be able to prey on our communities.”
The DEA teamed up with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to dismantle five separate distribution cells operating in the Southern California area. The lead target of the operation, Victor Emilio Cazarez-Salazar, based in Sinaloa, Mexico, rose to power in 2005 and was designated as a Consolidated Priority Organizational Target (CPOT) by the Department of Justice in October 2006 and subsequently indicted in the Southern District of California for federal narcotics violations.
J. Stephen Tidwell, FBI Assistant Director in Charge stated, “Imperial Emperor sends a powerful message to drug trafficking organizations; federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are working jointly to disrupt and dismantle the distribution of illegal drugs in the greater Los Angeles area.”
On February 28, 2007, members of law enforcement dealt a crippling blow to this organization in Phase One of Operation Imperial Emperor, with the dismantling of numerous trafficking cells across the United States. On June 1, 2007, Cazarez-Salazar was designated by President Bush as a Financial Kingpin under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act and will be aggressively target by the Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control. A Provisional Arrest Warrant has been issued for the arrest of Cazarez-Salazar who remains a fugitive.
Operation Imperial Emperor revealed that the CAZARES-Salazar organization contracted out the transportation of narcotics from Mexico into the United States by air, land and sea. Metric ton shipments of cocaine were transported out of Colombia and Venezuela through Central America to Mexico via tractor trailer, vehicle and small aircraft. Once in Mexico, the cocaine would be transported to the United States through US border points of entry, and on to cities such as Los Angeles, to be broken down into smaller shipments for further distribution in the United States. From Los Angeles, 30-50 kilograms of narcotics would be stashed inside hidden vehicle compartments such as wheel wells, false panels, and gas tanks, and transported to customers in California and other states.
The following agencies joined forces with DEA for this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation and provided invaluable assistance to the successful outcome of this investigation: Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, Riverside Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, El Monte Police Department, Pomona Police Department, San Bernardino Police Department, Riverside Police Department, Glendale Police Department, Ontario Police Department, Placentia Police Department, Cypress Police Department, Fullerton Police Department, Anaheim Police Department, Garden Grove Police Department, North County TARGET Team, California Major Methamphetamine Enforcement Team, Downey Police Department, Colton Police Department, Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Timothy J. Landrum, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge, Los Angeles Division, has provided audio comments on this operation. The audio can be accessed by doing the following: Dial 1-888-557-6494, and then dial mailbox number 701. Listen and record.
Digital photos can be viewed on www.dea.gov. Photos are also available upon request.