News Release
July 11, 2007
Contact: Steve Hooten
Number: 206 553-1155

DEA Dismantles Multiple Meth Trafficking Organizations
In The Treasure Valley

49 arrested, charges include drug offenses and immigration violations

 JUL 11 -- (BOISE) – DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold R. Moorin announced the dismantlement of multiple methamphetamine drug trafficking groups that had been operating in the Treasure Valley for the past eighteen months.

“Today we have dismantled multiple drug trafficking groups, who cohesively have been responsible for bringing significant amounts of methamphetamine from Mexico into the communities of Idaho,” said Moorin. “These organizations used a variety of sophisticated methods to evade detection in order to facilitate what turned out to be an international drug trafficking operation. However, the DEA, working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, are committed to bring to justice those organizations that continue to damage and pollute our communities with drugs for profit.”

Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies executed multiple search and arrest warrants this morning on locations in Idaho, Nevada, California, and Oregon related to a methamphetamine ring that has been operating in the Treasure Valley for the past eighteen months. The enforcement activity led to the arrest of 49 suspects and the seizure of 11 pounds of crystal methamphetamine. Agents and officers also confiscated nearly $100,000 in currency along with 66 firearms and numerous vehicles.

The investigation, code named Operation Mountain Lion, was headed up by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. “The purpose of the operation was to trace shipments of crystal methamphetamine from their origins in Mexico through their trans-shipment locations in the southwest United States to their final destinations in the hands of dealers in the Treasure Valley” commented Moorin.

Much of the methamphetamine came from the Mexican State of Sinaloa in 10 to 20 pound shipments through Arizona, California and Nevada. There the drugs were repackaged in 2, 4, or 6-pound quantities for shipment to Idaho, usually contained within hidden compartments inside vehicles. The shipments arrived in Idaho every few days, with the cash flowing back to Mexico.

Investigators estimate that these and other groups recently prosecuted in the Treasure Valley have been responsible for the importation of up to 200 pounds of crystal methamphetamine into Idaho on a monthly basis. Crystal methamphetamine has a street value of $10,000 to $13,000 a pound.

Operation Mountain Lion in Idaho is part of a larger investigation throughout the western United States, which had previously netted 106 arrests and seized more than 46 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and a large number of weapons. As investigators began focusing in on suspects, they learned that pseudoephedrine + a necessary ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine + had become scarce in Mexico, due in large part to seizures of 19.5 metric tons of precursor chemicals in December 2006 in Mexico City. These seizures led to skyrocketing prices for methamphetamine in places like Idaho, where the per-pound price jumped from $10,500 to around $18,000 per pound.

During the course of the operation, investigators discovered that the organization has been associated with other groups which discussed and intended to commit acts of violence to facilitate narcotics trafficking operations. At one point, investigators served a search warrant at one of the organization’s suspected distributors and were stunned to find a 5-year-old child left alone. The child was taken into protective custody and investigators later learned that the child’s system tested positive for methamphetamine.

“These are well-armed, well-organized, across-the-border criminal operations,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Marc Haws. “This action today goes a long way toward shutting them down.”

Other departments and agencies participating in the investigation included the Ada County Sheriff’s Office; Canyon County Sheriff’s Office; Nampa Police Department; Caldwell Police Department; Boise Police Department; Idaho State Police; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms; and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.