Attorney General Barr announces results of DEA Operation Crystal Shield
Includes seizure of over 556 pounds of methamphetamine and over $2 Million in the St. Louis and Kansas City regions
ST. LOUIS – Attorney General William P. Barr and Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea announced the results of Operation Crystal Shield today, DEA’s six-month-long effort targeting the command and control elements of Mexican cartels that operate major methamphetamine “transportation hubs” in the United States.
At a press conference in Phoenix, Arizona, Attorney General Barr and Acting Administrator Shea announced that in just six months, Operation Crystal Shield generated a total of more than 750 investigations, resulting in nearly 1,840 arrests and the seizure of more than 28,560 pounds of methamphetamine, $43.3 million in drug proceeds, and 284 firearms.
DEA launched Operation Crystal Shield on February 20, after identifying nine major methamphetamine trafficking hubs: Atlanta, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Diego and St. Louis. Together these nine divisions accounted for more than 75 percent of methamphetamine seized by DEA in 2019. Under this operation, DEA directed enforcement resources to these cities where methamphetamine is often trafficked in bulk and then distributed across the country.
“In the months leading up to the launch of Operation Crystal Shield, communities across the United States experienced a surge of methamphetamine,” said Acting Administrator Shea. “The COVID pandemic locked down many communities and impacted legitimate businesses, but the drug trade continued. Under difficult conditions, DEA – along with our federal, state, and local partners – never stopped working as we helped stem the flow of methamphetamine onto our streets, even as violent drug traffickers sought new ways to smuggle it into the United States. The success of Operation Crystal Shield reflects the devotion of DEA and our partners to protect our communities from the scourge of drug trafficking and violent crime under any circumstances.”
In the DEA St. Louis Division alone, which covers Missouri, Kansas and southern Illinois, DEA conducted 54 investigations, made 118 arrests, and seized 556 pounds of methamphetamine, and $2,061,150 in drug proceeds.
The DEA St. Louis Division covers the states of Missouri, Kansas and the southern district of Illinois, which encompasses hundreds of miles of interstate roadways. “Our efforts in this operation focused on the transshipment of methamphetamine through the highways that cross through the Midwest,” said Special Agent in Charge William J. Callahan, head of the St. Louis Division. “Being in the heart of the country means that drug traffickers are using the highway system to move their drugs from the Southwest border, not only to the cities located in our region, but also to those on the East Coast. Drug traffickers transport their illegally-gained cash back to Mexico, and the seizure of those funds severely impacts the command and control of the drug organization.”
In addition to targeting methamphetamine trafficking through the highway system, Callahan added, “Drug trafficking leaders from the Southwest border and West Coast routinely utilized the U.S. Postal Service and other commercial parcel shipping businesses. Our investigators partnered with federal, state and local law enforcement throughout the region to discover traffickers who utilized this method, and disrupt the methamphetamine supply.”
Operation Crystal Shield leveraged existing DEA initiatives that target major drug trafficking networks, including the Mexican cartels that are responsible for the overwhelming majority of methamphetamine trafficked into and within the United States. From FY 2017 to FY 2019, DEA domestic seizures of methamphetamine increased 127 percent from 49,507 pounds to 112,146 pounds. During the same timeframe, the number of DEA arrests related to methamphetamine increased by nearly 20 percent.