News Release
August 16, 2006

DEA Dismantles International Black Tar Heroin Trafficking Group
Nationwide Coalition of Agencies Target Drug
Organization with U.S.-Mexico Ties

(Atlanta, GA)- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today announced the culmination of Operation Black Gold Rush, an international, multi-jurisdictional investigation that targeted a black tar heroin trafficking organization. The leaders of the trans-border crime syndicate were based out of Nayarit, Mexico and were responsible for heroin smuggling and money laundering operations that extended from the interior of Mexico to neighborhoods throughout the United States. Operation Black Gold Rush was comprised of DEA-led investigations in 23 separate U.S. cities, and as of 1:30pm resulted in the arrest of 137 individuals and the seizure of over 46 pounds of heroin. More than half of those arrests occurred in the Southeast within DEA’s Atlanta Field Division.

"Heroin is a miserable and highly addictive drug. It seduces the user into a false sense of well-being and then secretly destroys their life,” Atlanta Field Division (AFD) Special Agent in Charge Sherri Strange said. "We will not wait until a heroin & Fentanyl crisis hits our area. The information we are receiving is that heroin use is rising and showing up in our High Schools. Methamphetamine has received a lot of press coverage lately and justly so, but the DEA remains committed to combating all illegal drugs, especially heroin.

This organization purposely established distribution cells throughout the states of Tennessee, North and South Carolina to develop a strong base of operations and increase the user population. I am very proud of the coordinated effort between DEA and all of our federal, state, and local partners. We live in a great nation and law enforcement’s message today is absolutely clear…….drug traffickers are not safe…….not in our town, not in our state, not in our country. They will be identified, their operations shut down, and they will be removed from neighborhoods so the good people in this country can raise their children, our future leaders, in peace."

In the Atlanta Field Division, DEA agents in eight offices from Tennessee, North and South Carolina, along with partners from international, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies conducted an extensive year-long investigation which culminated today with the arrests of over 89 defendants, and resulted in the dismantlement of a major drug importation ring with distribution cells throughout the United States. Operation Black Gold Rush started with a single seizure of heroin in the Midwest. The sharing of investigative leads and drug-related intelligence led to the identification of a complex international black tar heroin trafficking organization. The organization used alien smugglers to illegally cross Mexican nationals from Mexico into the U.S. to work as couriers/sellers in individual cities. These couriers were part of a “call and deliver” system of drug distribution whereby a customer could have his heroin literally delivered to the front door. The illicit proceeds were laundered by the organization’s financial managers using a combination of wire remitters and bulk currency transport.

The Operation Black Gold Rush indictments are comprehensive and have captured every tier of the organization from bottom to top. This multi-million dollar criminal syndicate was targeted and dismantled at every level, to include the Mexican and U.S. command and control structure, the money laundering components, and the street level dealers. The defendants are facing a plethora of charges to include Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE), drug conspiracy, distribution, and money laundering charges.

Operation Black Gold Rush was a joint investigation involving DEA offices in Nashville TN, Knoxville TN, Memphis TN, Charlotte NC, Charleston SC, Florence SC, Greenville SC, Columbia SC, Atlanta GA, Denver CO, Cincinnati OH, Columbus OH, Indianapolis IN, Phoenix AZ, Tucson AZ, Los Angeles CA, Riverside CA, Louisville, KY, Las Vegas NV, Kansas City KS, Salt Lake City UT, Albuquerque NM, Portland OR, and Mexico City MX, and the associated U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Also involved were the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE), DEA HIDTA Group, FBI HIDTA Group, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety, Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Blount County Sheriff's Office, Union County Sheriff's Office, Richland County Sheriff's Office, Lexington County Sheriff's Office, Sumter County Sheriff's Office, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office, Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, Colleton County Sheriff's Office, Kershaw County Sheriff's Office, Florence County Sheriff's Office, Metro-Nashville Police Department, Murfreesboro Police Department, Memphis Police Department, Germantown Police Department, Millington Police Department, Lewisburg Police Department, Oak Ridge Police Department, Knoxville Police Department, North Charleston Police Department, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, Monroe Police Department, Concord Police Department, Columbia Police Department, Lexington Police Department, Irmo Police Department, Batesville/Leesville Police Department, West Columbia Police Department, Cayce Police Department, Myrtle Beach Police Department, Horry County Police Department, Florence Police Department, Greenville Police Department, Airport Authority, 21st Judicial Drug Task Force, 20th Judicial Drug Task Force, 5th Judicial Drug Task Force, 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Drug Enforcement Unit, and the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office.