Mother of all dragnets: Hundreds of Mexican drug traffickers busted in US
By: Jim Kouri, CPP
Federal law enforcement agents arrested close to 1,200 suspects on narcotics-related charges and they seized more than 11.7 tons of narcotics as part of a 44-month multi-agency investigation dubbed â€œProject Coronado,â€ according to reports and documents obtained by the 14,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police. One law enforcement official called the anti-gang operation the “Mother of All Dragnets.”
Over the past two days alone, 303 individuals in 19 states were arrested as part of Project Coronado, which targeted the distribution network of a major Mexican drug trafficking organization known as La Familia, through coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement. More than 3,000 law enforcement agents and police officers operated throughout the U.S. to make the arrests during the two-day takedown. During the two-day operation alone, $3.4 million in U.S. currency, 729 pounds of methamphetamine, 62 kilograms of cocaine, 967 pounds of marijuana, 144 weapons and 109 vehicles were seized by law enforcement agents.
â€œThis unprecedented, coordinated U.S. law enforcement actionâ€”the largest ever undertaken against a Mexican drug cartelâ€”has dealt a significant blow to La Familiaâ€™s supply chain of illegal drugs, weapons and cash flowing between Mexico and the United States,â€ said Attorney General Eric Holder.
â€œWe will not allow these cartels to operate unfettered in our country, and with the increases in cooperation between U.S. and Mexican authorities in recent years, we are taking the fight to our adversaries. We will continue to stand strong with our partners in Mexico as we work to disrupt and dismantle cartel operations on both sides of the border,â€ said Holder.
The La Familia cartel is a violent drug trafficking cartel based in the state of MichoacÃ¡n, in southwestern Mexico. According to court documents obtained by NACOP, La Familia controls drug manufacturing and distribution in and around MichoacÃ¡n, including the importation of vast quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico into the United States.
La Familia is philosophically opposed to the sale of methamphetamine to Mexicans, and instead supports its export to the United States for consumption by Americans. La Familia is a heavily armed cartel that has utilized violence to support its narcotics trafficking business including murders, kidnappings and assaults.
According to one indictment unsealed in the Southern District of New York, associates of La Familia based in the United States have allegedly acquired military-grade weapons, including assault weapons and ammunition, and have arranged for them to be smuggled back into Mexico for use by La Familia. In a criminal complaint filed in Dallas, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators allege that operatives of La Familia shipped hundreds of firearms from the U.S. to Mexico over a 12-month period ending in October 2009.
Individuals indicted in the cases are charged with a variety of crimes, including: conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana; distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana; conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States; money laundering; and other violations of federal law. Numerous defendants face forfeiture allegations as well.
To date, Project Coronado has led to the arrest of 1,186 individuals and the seizure of approximately $32.8 million in U.S. currency, and approximately 2,710 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,999 kilograms of cocaine, 29 pounds of heroin, 16,390 pounds of marijuana, 389 weapons and 269 vehicles.
â€œProject Coronado, our massive assault on the La Familia Cartel, is part of our continued fight against all of the powerful Mexico-based drug cartels,â€ said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.
â€œThis organization, the newest of Mexican cartels, is directly responsible for a vast majority of the methamphetamine pouring into our country across our Southwest Border, and has had a hand in fueling the cycle of violence that is wracking Mexico today. DEA, along with our U.S. and Mexican partners, are committed to strategically attacking the international and domestic drug trade with every tool at our disposal, and defeating those that thrive on the suffering of others,â€ she said.
Arrests were made or charges have been unsealed on Wednesday and Thursday related to Project Coronado in the following districts: Central District of California, Southern District of California, District of Colorado, Northern District of Georgia, District of Massachusetts, District of Minnesota, Southern District of Mississippi, Eastern District of Missouri, Northern District of Oklahoma, Southern District of New York, Northern District of New York, Middle District of North Carolina, District of South Carolina, Middle District of Tennessee, Eastern District of Texas, Northern District of Texas, Western District of Texas and the Western District of Washington.
There were also arrests by state authorities in California, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia.
The investigative efforts in Project Coronado were coordinated by the multi-agency Special Operations Division, comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, ICE, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and ATF, as well as attorneys from the Criminal Divisionâ€™s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. More than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies contributed investigative and prosecutorial resources to Project Coronado through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.