Federal-Local Task Force Dismantles Huge Heroin Ring
OCT 25 -- SAN FRANCISCO – United States Attorney Scott N. Schools and Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Pena announced that a federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted 23 individuals for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin. The indictment also charges use of a person under 18 to distribute a controlled substance and possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Fourteen (14) of the individuals were arrested early this morning, in a set of coordinated raids conducted by over 500 federal and state law enforcement officers. Three (3) of the individuals were already in custody and arrangements for their court appearances will be made at a later date. Along with the arrest warrants, the agents and local officers also executed 20 federal search warrants in northern and eastern California. The indictment was filed on October 11, 2007 and unsealed today.
“Heroin destroys people’s lives, families, and communities,” said U.S. Attorney Scott N. Schools. “The investigation of large scale trafficking organizations requires collaboration among our federal, state and local law enforcement partners. This case is a great example of what can be accomplished when federal and local agencies combine resources. The case would not have been possible without the Oakland Police Department’s exceptional cooperation.”
The investigation commenced in 2005 when Federal and local law enforcement agents uncovered an alleged tar heroin trafficking organization operating from the Central Valley of California, with distribution cells in the Bay Area, primarily in Oakland. Investigators believe that the organization had the capacity to distribute between 50 -100 pounds of tar heroin per month. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers seized over three kilograms of tar heroin, with a street value of $600,000 and one firearm with an obliterated serial number.
Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Pena stated, “It is no secret that violence is often associated with drug trafficking and the misery of addiction. This investigation targeted a heroin organization at the highest levels and I am proud to say it is shattered. It is my hope that Oakland and the surrounding areas will see a decrease in violence and drug-related criminal activity as a result of this collaborative crackdown.”
The arrests and seizures culminate a two-year-long, intensive multi-agency and multi-district Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) investigation. The investigation was conducted jointly by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Oakland Police Department, and San Francisco Police Department with substantial assistance provided by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.
In the early morning hours of October 24, 2007, hundreds of law enforcement agents executed twenty (20) federal search warrants, eight (8) state search warrants, and conducted two probation searches at locations in Oakland, San Francisco, San Leandro, Hayward, Newark, Pittsburg, Vallejo, Tracy, and Delhi in search of evidence of the charged conspiracy to distribute heroin. As a result of the execution of the warrants, law enforcement seized approximately 2.5 pounds of tar heroin, 2 pounds of marijuana, 1 ounce of crystal methamphetamine, 1 ounce of cocaine HCL, 1 ounce of crack cocaine, $11,800 in US Currency, 2 vehicles, 1 Harley Davidson Motorcycle, and 21 firearms to include handguns, shotguns, rifles and assault rifles.
The following individuals were indicted by the grand jury and arrested:
The indictment charges one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute heroin, a violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846-; twenty-one counts of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, violations of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1); one count of use of a person under the age of 18 to distribute heroin, a violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 861-; and one count of possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(k)-. The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation requiring the defendants to forfeit to the United States all property constituting and derived from any proceeds the defendants obtained as a result of their criminal activity.
The maximum statutory penalty for the conspiracy to distribute heroin and the distribution of heroin charges is life imprisonment with a minimum required sentence of at least ten years. The maximum statutory penalty for use of a person under 18 years of age to distribute narcotics is twice the maximum punishment of the underlying narcotics distribution offense. The maximum statutory penalty for possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number is five years imprisonment, $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Thirteen (13) defendants made their initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco today at 11:00 a.m. before the Hon. Edward M. Chen, United States Magistrate Judge. One (1) defendant will make an appearance in federal court in Fresno, CA, tomorrow. The defendants are all held currently without bail. The defendants are all scheduled for appearance before the District Court at 2:30 p.m. on November 7, 2007 for status before United States District Court Judge Maxine M. Chesney.
An indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, the defendants must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Barbara Brennan Silano is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of AUSA Andrew M. Scoble, AUSA Kirsten Ault, paralegals Lakisha Holliman and Orisme Carminati and legal technician, Sheryl Castillo.