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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
January 10, 2002
For further information, contact:
DEA Public Affairs: 202-307-7977


Operation Mountain Express III logoToday, the Drug Enforcement Administration, together with the U.S. Customs Service, Internal Revenue Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, announced the arrests of more than 100 individuals in twelve cities in connection with a nationwide investigation targeting the illegal trafficking of pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is an essential precursor chemical used to manufacture the illegal drug, methamphetamine.

Federal agents, with assistance from numerous state and local law enforcement agencies, carried out the arrests in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Riverside, Fresno, San Diego, and Carlsbad, California. In addition, agents worked jointly with state and local law enforcement personnel, as well as with federal, state and local prosecutors, as part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).

This investigation is the third phase of Operation Mountain Express and stems from a previous national enforcement effort which targeted rogue U.S. based chemical registrants who, although authorized to distribute List I chemicals, were illegally diverting and distributing pseudoephedrine to methamphetamine production organizations operating in California and elsewhere. Over the past year, federal agents have focused their investigation on a structured national network that has been responsible for illegally smuggling Canadian manufactured pseudoephedrine into the United States and further distributing the chemical to methamphetamine production organizations, primarily in California.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft stated, “Equally as serious as trafficking illegal drugs is the illegal trafficking of chemicals used to produce drugs. The DEA’s continued success demonstrates that we will not allow drugs to prey on our communities and children. We will continue to work together to remove this scourge from our nation.”

According to DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson, “In the last two years, the use of Canadian pseudoephedrine has become the norm rather that the exception in West Coast based Mexican methamphetamine laboratories. The fact that the super methamphetamine laboratory operations are having to obtain their pseudoephedrine from out of the country demonstrates the success of U.S. efforts to control the illegal diversion of pseudoephedrine within our borders.”

U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Robert C. Bonner added, “Operation Mountain Express III should have a significant impact on methamphetamine trafficking in this country. By targeting the groups that smuggle pseudoephedrine from Canada into the U.S., this operation has denied Mexican ‘meth’ manufacturers a primary source of precursor chemicals. The huge pseudoephedrine seizures in this case prevented thousands of pounds of ‘meth’ from being manufactured and sold on the streets of our country.”

In addition to today’s 54 arrests, 67 individuals were arrested previously as part of this investigation. Today federal agents also executed 49 search warrants, confiscated 96 automobiles, restrained bank accounts, businesses, and residences, and seized $350,000 in U.S. currency in connection with this investigation.

“The IRS is pleased to be able to provide its financial investigative expertise to the war on narcotics. Because we can often determine the origins and destinations of the drug trafficking proceeds, we are able to identify the leaders of the narcotics organizations,” said IRS Deputy Commissioner Bob Wenzel.

As of noon today, Operation Mountain Express (Phases I, II, & III) has resulted in the seizure of over 30 tons of pseudoephedrine, 181 pounds of methamphetamine, over 300 arrests, 9 clandestine methamphetamine laboratories, and over $16 million in U.S. Currency.

Federal indictments have been returned in connection with this third phase of Mountain Express in U.S. District Courts with the cooperation of U. S. Attorneys offices in the Central District of California (Los Angeles); the Southern District of California (San Diego); the District of Arizona (Phoenix); the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago); the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit) and the District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

Operation Mountain Express Phase III, was coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s joint law enforcement program called the Special Operations Division, which is comprised of agents and analysts from DEA, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs Service, Internal Revenue Service, as well as attorneys from the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.

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