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News Release [printer friendly page]
October 19, 2004
Contact: DEA Public Affairs

Operation Money Clip Dismantles
Major Money Laundering and Drug Operation

DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy today announced the results of Operation Money Clip, a multi-jurisdictional, Special Operations Division coordinated, multi-agency Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation that targeted and dismantled an international money laundering and drug trafficking organization and resulted in the arrest of 83 defendants.

Money Clip case began with a single traffic stop in rural Kimble County, Texas and the seizure of U.S. currency. Based on evidence seized at the traffic stop, DEA was able to expand the case to 43 investigations spanning the nation.

Operation Money Clip has resulted in 26 separate seizures for a total of $4.4 Million USC, 2,526 kilograms of cocaine, 74 pounds of crystallized methamphetamine (known as “Ice”), 2.8 pounds of methamphetamine, 39,265 pounds of marijuana, and 1 kilogram of heroin. Today's enforcement actions resulted in the seizure of an additional approximately $300,000 USC, 1,000 pounds of marijuana, 2 weapons, and 45 vehicles. Five residences are pending seizure in Los Angeles.

Operation Money Clip was initiated in response to DEA Administrator Tandy’s directive, issued shortly after her arrival at DEA, to focus investigations on the abilities, methods, and routes used to smuggle large amounts of currency from the United States to the sources of drug supply in Mexico and other foreign countries.

“Operation Money Clip clearly illustrates how money fuels the drug trade, and attacking these illicit profits is the key to dismantling drug organizations,” Tandy said. “By getting to the root of this sophisticated criminal organization, we have taken away their profits, their drugs, and arrested their key leadership. This operation ensures that these drug traffickers will never do business on American streets again and proves that, in order to defeat these large criminal organizations, law enforcement must be coordinated and united.”

Begun in October 2003, Operation Money Clip targeted a Mexican-based poly-drug trafficking organization with ties to the Mexican drug trafficking “Federation of Traffickers.” DEA San Antonio and the Kimble County, Texas Sheriff’s Department began the investigation based on a bulk currency seizure of over 2.2 million dollars. Through a complex and multi-jurisdictional follow-up investigation, DEA agents in 25 cities expanded the investigation and found that the organization allegedly laundered as much as $200 million dollars from various rural and urban American cities to Mexican targets over an approximately two year period. The ensuing investigation established that this organization allegedly distributed approximately 500 kilograms of cocaine, 200 pounds of methamphetamine, 20 kilograms of heroin, and 10,000 pounds of marijuana per month over a two year period.

Through innovative investigative techniques, a routine traffic stop evolved into a complex, multi-jurisdictional investigation. The money was laundered through remitter services, businesses, and foreign bank accounts. Metropolitan areas of Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles, and rural sections in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Iowa, South Carolina, and North Carolina were involved.

This one year operation culminates with enforcement actions against the leaders and organizational members in the following cities:

Los Angeles: Salvador Mendoza, a resident of Los Angeles, California, was identified and targeted for allegedly distributing one hundred and fifty kilograms of cocaine, five thousand pounds of marijuana and ten pounds of crystallized methamphetamine (Ice) per month. Mendoza allegedly used an El Paso, Texas transportation cell run by Humberto Diaz. Mendoza had dozens of domestic and foreign bank accounts that allowed this organization to mask the funds utilized to further their drug trafficking activities. Salvador Mendoza allegedly laundered drug proceeds through real estate transactions and a used car business.

Chicago: Jose Urena, a resident of Chicago, Illinois, was allegedly operating a distribution cell in conjunction with Salvador Mendoza in the Chicago area. This cell used Thomas Blank and Glenn Fuller of Grand Junction, Colorado to transport cocaine from Los Angeles, California to Chicago. Through a joint DEA Chicago and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation, agents identified this large poly-drug distribution organization believed to be responsible for the nationwide distribution of approximately one hundred and forty kilograms of cocaine, approximately one kilogram of heroin, and approximately one thousand pounds of marijuana since December of 2003.

Milwaukee: A trafficking cell was identified allegedly headed by Tarcisio Alcala. Alcala was believed to have distributed large amounts of cocaine and marijuana for this organization.

“Operation Money Clip is a testament to the spirit of cooperation and teamwork that DEA enjoys with federal and state prosecutors and with other federal and state and local law enforcement agencies. Operation Money Clip investigators are continuing their investigation to fully identify the organization’s breadth and domestic links,” Tandy added.

Special thanks and recognition:


US Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Narcotic & Dangerous Drug Section

Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General

Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Attorney’s Offices (San Antonio, Houston, Laredo, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Chicago, Rockford, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, El Paso, New York, Denver, Grand Junction, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Phoenix, Tucson, Philadelphia, Allentown, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Columbus, Baltimore, Roanoke, Atlanta, Greensboro, Charlotte, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Ciudad Juarez, and the Special Operations Division)

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