News Release
October 22, 2009
Contact: Amy Roderick
Number: 858-616-4166

DEA Announces Largest Single U.S. Strike Against Mexican Drug Cartels
Project Coronado results in 1,186 arrests and huge drug and money
seizures against one of the world's most violent drug cartels

OCT 22 -- WASHINGTON – DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart joined Attorney General Eric Holder and other federal officials today to announce the results of "Project Coronado", a 44-month multi-agency law enforcement investigation which targeted the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and ATF Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson also participated in the announcement.

Yesterday and today, 303 individuals in 19 states were arrested in a series of takedowns through coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement. More than 3,000 agents and officers operated across the United States to make the arrests during the two-day takedown. 62 kilograms of cocaine, 729 pounds of methamphetamine, 967 pounds of marijuana, 144 weapons, 109 vehicles, and 2 clandestine drug labs were also seized in the past two days.

“Project Coronado, our massive assault on the La Familia Cartel, is part of our continued fight against all of the powerful Mexico-based drug cartels,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “This organization, the newest of Mexican cartels, is directly responsible for a vast majority of the methamphetamine pouring into our country across our Southwest Border, and has had a hand in fueling the cycle of violence that is wracking Mexico today. DEA, along with our U.S. and Mexican partners, are committed to strategically attacking the international and domestic drug trade with every tool at our disposal, and defeating those that thrive on the suffering of others.”

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, 1,999 kilograms of cocaine, 2,730 pounds of methamphetamine, 29 pounds of heroin, 16,390 pounds of marijuana, 389 weapons, 269 vehicles, and two clandestine drug labs.

Here locally in San Diego, 13 arrests were made, along with the seizure of 13 pounds of methamphetamine, 1 kilogram of cocaine, several pounds of marijuana and 6 weapons. For questions concerning San Diego activity, please contact Public Information Officer Amy Roderick, (858) 616-4166. For national information and questions, please call DEA Public Affairs, (202) 307-7977.

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.