INTERNATIONAL MDMA (Ecstasy) SYNDICATE DISMANTLED
Federal Agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS/CID) and the U.S. Customs Service (USCS) have culminated an 18 month investigation targeting a multi-ethnic, transnational MDMA (ecstasy) and cocaine distribution organization after enforcement action by Dutch police authorities on November 22, 2000, in the Netherlands. More than 22 suspects in four U.S. cities and in four European countries have been arrested to date. Additional arrests are anticipated in both the U.S. and overseas.
The investigation, known as Operation RED TIDE, was coordinated by a Los Angeles based federal task force comprised of agents from the DEA, FBI, IRS/CID, and USCS, and strongly supported by several local and state law enforcement agencies. To date, arrests have taken place in Los Angeles, California; Boston, Massachusetts; Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; Anchorage, Alaska; Salt Lake City, Utah; London, England; Frankfurt, Germany; Milan, Italy; and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
According to DEA Administrator Donnie R. Marshall, "Operation Red Tide is a textbook example of the new multi-agency, multi-national law enforcement cooperation needed to thwart organized crime in the the 21st century. Even though drug trafficking organizations are increasingly sophisticated and multi-national, they are becoming no match for the kind of law enforcement coalitions we have forged."
FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, observed, "This investigation stands as a shining example of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other law enforcement professionals around the world, to bring to justice those pedaling the dangerous 'party drug' know as 'ecstasy' regardless of where the suspects are in the world."
On July 22, 2000, a team of DEA and FBI agents provided information to the USCS about a load of MDMA that had been shipped to Los Angeles from Paris, France. As a result, 1,096 pounds (2.1 million tablets) of MDMA, the largest single seizure of the drug in history, were seized by USCS agents from a commercial air carrier in Los Angeles. The head of the organization, Tamer Adel Ibrahim immediately fled the U.S. after the seizure, but was quickly traced to Mexico by the DEA/FBI team. Investigators learned that Ibrahim was coordinating a multi-hundred kilogram shipment of cocaine from Mexico to Europe, as well as the shipment of an additional 1.2 million tablets (approximately 600 pounds) of MDMA from the Netherlands to Los Angeles, via Mexico.
In mid-September, Ibrahim traveled from Mexico to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where he planned to further coordinate the 1.2 million-tablet shipment of MDMA to Los Angeles. A co-conspirator, Joseph Gilboa, had traveled from Israel to meet with Ibrahim and other members of the syndicate to facilitate the shipment. Gilboa and Ibrahim along with others were arrested shortly thereafter and the 1.2 million tablets of MDMA were seized by the Dutch National Police.
Dutch officials continued their investigation over the next three months as the DEA/FBI team continued to funnel leads to that agency. On November 22, 2000, the Dutch National Police arrested seven co-conspirators, executed search warrants at 17 locations and seized several hundred thousand US dollars, as well as several hundred thousand Dutch guilders.
To date, 3,127 pounds of ecstasy tablets linked to the syndicate have been seized in the U.S., and elsewhere around the globe. Those arrested face federal charges for their involvement in the enterprise. According to court documents, all of those arrested are alleged to have been directly involved in the unlawful distribution of ecstasy and cocaine.
The investigation targeting the transnational MDMA and cocaine trafficking syndicate was a cooperative effort by the U.S. law enforcement agencies, as well as the Dutch National Police/Regional Team South, Mexico's Fiscalia Especializad Para La Atencion De Delitos (FEADS), the Israeli National Police, the German Federal Police (Bundes Kriminal Amt), the Cologne Germany Police Department, the Duissburg Germany Police Department, the Italian National Police and the French National Police.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Downey California Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles IMPACT Task Force also worked closely with federal authorities in California throughout the investigation.
Marshall added, "Operation Red Tide is extremely important because DEA views MDMA (ecstasy) as a new threat with a potential to cause great damage, especially to America's youth. One of the biggest problems with ecstasy is that its dangers are underrated by our young people. Many using ecstasy at rave parties and clubs are unaware of its dangers including a rapid pulse, severe dehydration, memory loss, and even death. The success of Operation Red Tide has ensured that a large volume of ecstasy that would have made it into the hands of our youth never hit the streets."