News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2007
SA Sarah Pullen
213-621-6827

DEA Operation Imperial Emperor Results in Hundreds of Arrests
22 Arrested in Los Angeles and 11 Kilograms of Cocaine and 12 Firearms Seized

MAR 5 --(LOS ANGELES) – Ralph W. Partridge, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today the culmination of Operation Imperial Emperor, a multi-jurisdictional investigation that targeted an international drug trafficking and money laundering organization. The DEA teamed up with international, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to dismantle an organization which had distribution cells that ranged from the South West Border to cities throughout the United States. Victor Emilio CAZARES-Salazar aka “Licenciado,” the Mexico based leader of the organization, was responsible for importing over five metric tons of cocaine into the United States on a monthly basis and the return of millions of dollars in bulk US Currency back into Mexico. Operation Imperial Emperor was comprised of DEA-led investigations throughout the U.S. and resulted today in the arrest of 66 individuals. Today in Los Angeles, 22 individuals were arrested, and 11 kilograms of cocaine, 12 firearms, 12 vehicles and approximately $20,000 U.S. Currency were seized.

“The collaborative effort of Federal, international, state and local law enforcement agencies has led to the ruin of a major drug trafficking organization and ultimately safer communities,” said Ralph W. Partridge, DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge. “The criminal organization targeted in “Operation Imperial Emperor” used complex smuggling methods and routes to bring its drugs into the United States, into the Los Angeles area, and ultimately to cities throughout the U.S.”

Operation Imperial Emperor targeted both the drug distribution cells and the money laundering networks of the CAZARES-Salazar organization. DEA agents, along with partners from international, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies conducted an extensive investigation which resulted in the dismantlement of a major drug transportation ring with distribution cells throughout the United States. The 22-month long investigation resulted in a total of 402 arrests and the seizure of 9512 pounds of cocaine, 27,229 pounds of marijuana, 18,465 marijuana plants, 705 pounds of methamphetamine, 227 pounds of “ice”, 11 pounds of heroin, 100 weapons, and $45.2 million in U.S. Currency along with $6.1 million in other assets. The leaders of the trans-border crime syndicate were based out of Mexico and were responsible for drug smuggling and money laundering operations that ranged from the interior of Mexico across the Southwest Border and into the neighborhoods of the United States.

Operation Imperial Emperor revealed that the CAZARES-Salazar organization contracted out the transportation of narcotics from Mexico into the United States by air, land and sea through associates of other large scale drug trafficking groups. Metric ton shipments of cocaine were transported out of Colombia and Venezuela through Central America to Mexico via tractor trailer, vehicle and small aircraft. Once in Mexico, the cocaine would be transported to the United States through US border points of entry, and on to cities such as Los Angeles, to be broken down into smaller shipments for further distribution in the United States. From Los Angeles, 30-50 kilograms of cocaine would be stashed inside hidden vehicle compartments such as wheel wells, quarter panels, dashboards and gas tanks, and transported to customers in other states. One method of shipment by the Los Angeles cell of the organization involved kilograms being individually heat sealed in silver mylar wrap and then secreted inside the refrigeration unit and ceiling of tractor trailers prior to delivery across the country. These same vehicles would then be used to transport the drug proceeds from East Coast cities back to California for subsequent transport to Mexico. The organization was responsible for moving in excess of 5 metric tons of cocaine per month with distribution throughout the U.S.

The following agencies joined forces with DEA for this 22 month Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation coordinated by DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD) and provided invaluable assistance to the successful outcome of this investigation: Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement Inland Crackdown Allied Task Force, Inland Regional Narcotic Enforcement Team, Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, California Regional Narcotics Suppression Program, Torrance Police Department, Long Beach Police Department, Internal Revenue Service, San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, Signal Hill Police Department, Southgate Police Department, Huntington Park Police Department, Baldwin Park Police Department, Riverside Sheriff’s Department, West Covina Police Department, Glendale Police Department, Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Video B-roll and photos stills available.

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