Thirty-Eight Defendants Arrested as Part of Massive Assault Against La Familia Michoacana Operatives
Largest Single US Strike Against Mexican Drug Cartels
OCT 23 -- ATLANTA – Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, DEA Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Rodney G. Benson, Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Director Jack Killorin and Roswell Police Department Chief Ed Williams, announce the arrests of 38 defendants today. The defendants were arrested on October 21, 2009 as part of Project Coronado, a nationwide operation which targeted the distribution network of a major Mexican drug trafficking organization known as La Familia Michoacana or La Familia. Hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement officers made the arrests across metropolitan Atlanta.
In February 2009, the Atlanta HIDTA Task Force and the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation targeting elements of La Familia responsible for the importation of drugs into the metropolitan Atlanta area for further distribution to Florida, Alabama, and the Carolinas.
La Familia, a violent drug trafficking cartel based in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacan, controls not only drug manufacturing and distribution in and around Michoacan, but the importation of vast quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana into the United States.
La Familia is a heavily armed cartel that utilizes violence to support its narcotics trafficking business including murders, kidnappings and assaults within Mexico. They are notorious for utilizing scare tactics and violence to ensure they maintain power and control.
Yesterday’s enforcement actions in the Atlanta Metro area led to the arrests of 38 individuals and the seizure of 17 kilograms of cocaine, 13 weapons and $50,000 in U.S. Currency. Law enforcement also seized a total of 188 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and an operational methamphetamine conversion laboratory. It is interesting to note that of the 188 pounds seized, 174 pounds were located at a fully operational methamphetamine conversion laboratory which contained a combination of finished methamphetamine and 60 gallons of methamphetamine in solution. Enforcement actions taken prior to yesterday’s arrests and seizures resulted in the arrests of 49 individuals that have been charged in Gwinnett and other Georgia counties with offenses including Trafficking, Conspiracy, and Aggravated Kidnapping. Approximately 2,462 pounds of marijuana, 3.7 kilograms of “cheese” heroin, 111 kilograms of cocaine, 114 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 35 weapons, and approximately $2,700,000 in cash have been seized during these prior operations.
Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DEA Atlanta Field Division (AFD) commented about the operation, “Today through Project Coronado we have impacted La Familia Michoacana, a violent poly drug organization with cells operating throughout the United States. Working with our federal, state and local counterparts, we have once again brought to justice members of a dangerous organization operating in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area responsible for trafficking not only illicit drugs but complicit in kidnappings and attempted murder.”
Jack Killorin, Atlanta HIDTA Director stated, “You can summarize Project Coronado very simply. Teamwork trumps international crime cartel. La Familia has been marked by its aggressive growth and high profile violence. Today much of their U.S. operations lie in tatters. Coordination, cooperation, shared intelligence and unsparing effort by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors at all levels of government made this effort such a success.
Chief Ed Williams of the Roswell Police Department commented, “The Roswell police department is proud to have had such a significant role in Project Coronado. The opportunity to participate in cases like this is the reason why we joined the High Intensity Drug Trafficking (HIDTA) Area Task Force and sent it some of our very best officers. Over the course of my police chief career, I’ve often been asked by citizens, “Why don’t you go after the Big Guy?” Well, this time we did and the result will have a dramatic affect on the illegal drug trade.”
This investigation was conducted through the cooperative efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Roswell Police Department, the Gwinnett County Police Department, the Atlanta Police Department, the Georgia State Patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Suwanee Police Department, the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office, the Alpharetta Police Department, the Sandy Springs Police Department, the Johns Creek Police Department, the Commerce Police Department, the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
DEA Atlanta’s SAC Benson encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justhinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.