DEA Dismantles Riverside Ecstasy and Ketamine Trafficking Ring
NOV 18 - RIVERSIDE, CA – The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Riverside District Office successfully dismantled a large scale MDMA (ecstasy) and ketamine distribution organization operating throughout Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties. This 14-month investigation culminated today with the execution of 12 search warrants and numerous arrest warrants as part of an international investigation known as Operation Sweet Tooth. Operation Sweet Tooth targeted two international ecstasy and marijuana trafficking rings whose drug smuggling and money laundering operations had ties to the Far East, Canada and the United States.
“Ecstasy and ketamine are powerful and dangerous drugs wreaking havoc in our communities, predominantly affecting our young people who falsely believe that these drugs are not dangerous. They couldn’t be more wrong.” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Stephen C. Delgado. “Today’s arrests have successfully dismantled an organization responsible for distributing these drugs, bringing violence to our streets and destroying families. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners around the world to identify and dismantle these criminal drug organizations.”
This investigation conducted by the DEA, jointly with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Glendale Police Department, Ontario Police Department, San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, Riverside Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol (CHP) has effectively dismantled a large scale drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing significant quantities of ecstasy and ketamine throughout California. This joint investigation with the IRS resulted in identification of the organization’s flow of illegal drug proceeds, to include laundering money using casinos, shell corporations, bank accounts, real property and vehicles.
“Criminal enterprises such as these consider the seizure of a load of illegal drugs as the ‘cost of doing business,’” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Michael S. Kochmanski. “The IRS Criminal Investigation in coordination with the law enforcement community is working diligently to bankrupt these enterprises by seizing their bank accounts, property and assets. The law enforcement community is working to make drug trafficking “cost prohibitive” by prosecuting the ring leaders, securing significant jail sentences and by seizing all of their assets.”
Today’s warrants resulted in the seizure of nine vehicles, eight firearms, $50,000.00 U.S. Currency, and an undetermined amount of what is believed to be MDMA and ketamine. The entire investigation has resulted in the seizure of approximately 35,000 dosage units of ketamine, 30,000 MDMA tablets, 200 pounds marijuana, 10 pounds of “ice” methamphetamine, one kilogram of cocaine. These seizures have a combined street value of approximately $2,524,000.00.
This investigation was initiated in response to Riverside and San Bernardino Counties being plagued with “rave” parties which were serving as vehicles for MDMA and ketamine distribution and consumption. Through an undercover operation, DEA was able to identify Adam MEZZO as the single major distributor of ketamine in the Southern California area. The investigation further revealed that ketamine was being smuggled from Mexico and MDMA from Canada. In addition, this organization used Asian street gangs to distribute bulk quantities of drugs to local distributors.
Those arrested today are among 31 individuals indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute MDMA and ketamine and conspiracy to launder proceeds of narcotics distribution. Today’s arrestees include the following:
Simon Cheung, age 28, Rosemead, CA
Participating agencies in today’s operation included the DEA, IRS, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Inland Crackdown Allied Task Force (INCA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, Glendale Police Department, Ontario Police Department, Corona Police Department, Riverside Police Department, Irvine Police Department, and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).
Further information will be disseminated to press outlets when available for release. Please forward any questions to DEA Los Angeles Public Information Officer Sarah Beers at (213) 621-6827.
Video B-roll and photo stills available