News Release
October 22, 2009
Contact: SA Mike Williams
Public Information Officer
Number: 213-276-3033

Alleged La Familia Cartel Members Hit Hard Throughout
Southern California

“Project Coronado” Results in More Than 1,186 Arrests During
44-Month Operatio

OCT 22 -- LOS ANGELES (OCT 22) – DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum announced the arrest of more than 24 individuals throughout Southern California as part a 44-month nationwide multi-agency law enforcement investigation known as “Project Coronado.” Locally, three Southern California based drug distribution cells associated with the violent La Familia drug cartel were targeted.

Yesterday and today, 303 individuals in 19 states were arrested as part of Project Coronado, which targeted the distribution network of a major Mexican drug trafficking organization known as La Familia, through coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement. More than 500 agents and officers operated across Southern California to make the arrests during the two-day takedown. 151 pounds of methamphetamine, 22 weapons and more than $135,000 in cash were also seized in the Los Angeles area during the sweep.

“The criminal organizations targeted in Operation Coronado were smuggling thousands of pounds of dangerous drugs into the U.S., many of which wound up in neighborhoods throughout Southern California,” said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “Those arrested include key members of the La Familia organization, a violent Mexican drug cartel that is responsible for flooding our streets with cocaine, meth and heroin.  By working in collaboration with our state and local law enforcement partners, these organizations will no longer be able to prey on our communities.”

The La Familia cartel is a violent drug trafficking cartel based in the state of Michoacan, in southwestern Mexico. According to court documents, La Familia controls drug manufacturing and distribution in and around Michoacan, including the importation of vast quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico into the United States. La Familia is philosophically opposed to the sale of methamphetamine to Mexicans, and instead supports its export to the United States for consumption by Americans. La Familia is a heavily armed cartel that has utilized violence to support its narcotics trafficking business including murders, kidnappings and assaults. According to one indictment unsealed in New York, associates of La Familia based in the United States have allegedly acquired military-grade weapons, including assault weapons and ammunition, and have arranged for them to be smuggled back into Mexico for use by La Familia. Individuals indicted in the cases are charged with a variety of crimes, including: conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana; distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana; conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States; money laundering; and other violations of federal law. Numerous defendants face forfeiture allegations as well.

To date, Project Coronado has led to the arrest of 1,186 individuals and the seizure of approximately $33 million in U.S. currency, more than 1,999 kilograms of cocaine, 2,7300 pounds of methamphetamine, 29 pounds of heroin, 16,390 pounds of marijuana, 389 weapons, 269 vehicles and two clandestine drug labs.

"The FBI will continue to dedicate personnel as we create and participate in multiple task forces targeting significant domestic and international drug trafficking organizations, as these cartels fund and engage in various forms of organized crime and violence, to include kidnap and murder of innocent women and children," said Keith Bolcar, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. "Today's operation is another example of the importance of these cases, given competing demands and many times, limited resources."

“We will do everything in our power to ensure that the crimes committed in Mexico are not allowed to come over into the United States and affect the residents of San Bernardino County. This takedown is an example of the teamwork and professionalism displayed by all of the officers and deputies involved in this investigation. We will continue to partner with Federal and State agencies in operations such as this to ensure the safety and well being of the residents in San Bernardino County,” said San Bernardino County Sheriff Rod Hoops.

“The operation to dismantle the La Familia drug trafficking organization in the United States demonstrates an unprecedented level of partnership and coordination at the local, state and federal levels. We at ICE are proud to have played an important role in yesterday’s operation and look forward to continuing to work with our law enforcement partners to target these criminal organizations,” said ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton.

“IRS - Criminal Investigation plays a unique role in federal law enforcement’s counter-drug effort in that we target the profit and financial gains of narcotics traffickers," stated Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge of IRS - Criminal Investigation's Los Angeles Field Office. "By targeting drug trafficker's financial gains and following the money in illegal narcotic investigations, we help to disrupt and dismantle significant narcotics trafficking organizations, enabling increased criminal prosecutions and asset forfeitures.”

“We are very pleased with the results of this operation,” said John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division. “This nationwide operation demonstrates ATF’s commitment to partnering with federal and local law enforcement agencies to take the most dangerous criminals off the streets. Each of the firearms seized in this case will now be traced to determine their origin and possible involvement in further illegal arms trafficking.”

Arrests were made or charges were unsealed related to Project Coronado in the following districts: Central District of California, Southern District of California, District of Colorado, Northern District of Georgia, District of Massachusetts, District of Minnesota, Southern District of Mississippi, Eastern District of Missouri, Northern District of Oklahoma, Southern District of New York, Northern District of New York, Middle District of North Carolina, District of South Carolina, Middle District of Tennessee, Eastern District of Texas, Northern District of Texas, and the Western District of Washington. There were also arrests by state authorities in California, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia. Assistance for Project Coronado was provided by the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and Office of International Affairs.  Additionally, local prosecutions will occur in California; Nevada, Georgia and North Carolina.

The investigative efforts in Project Coronado were coordinated by the multi-agency Special Operations Division, comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, 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 Coronado through OCDETF.

The three local investigations that were part of Project Coronado were conducted by DEA, the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Southern California Drug Task Force and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The Los Angeles HIDTA is a multi-agency, integrated task force comprised of 21 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. HIDTA’s mission is to reduce drug trafficking in the most critical areas of the country. HIDTA accomplishes their mission by combining resources and focusing teamwork among federal, state and local efforts.

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.


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