News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2006

DEA Drug Raid Nets Largest Drug Seizure in Region Since Hurricane Katrina

MAY 19 -- New Orleans, Louisiana – William J. Renton, Jr., Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the New Orleans Field Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Jim Letten, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, announced the largest post-Katrina drug seizure in the greater New Orleans metropolitan area.

On Thursday, May 18, 2006, DEA Special Agents and law enforcement officers assigned to DEA multi-agency task forces, in both New Orleans and Houston, culminated a lengthy multi-jurisdictional drug investigation, with the arrest of six individuals in Slidell, Louisiana and three individuals in Houston. Sharing information and leads, the investigation came to focus on a residence on Heather Lane in an unincorporated area of St. Tammany Parish near Slidell. Investigators observed suspected criminal activity which led them to initiate a number of enforcement actions, including the execution of a state search warrant at this residence. This resulted in the arrest of six defendants, including WILLIE LEE WHITE, JR., aka Lee, age 53, of Houston; EVERETT PAYNE, age 34, a displaced Katrina victim currently residing in San Antonio; MARLO DAVLIN THOMAS, age 30, a displaced Katrina victim currently residing in Houston; JOSEPH DEGREAT, age 32, a displaced Katrina victim currently residing in Houston; NAKOSHA SMITH, aka Coco, age 26, a displaced Katrina victim who currently resides in Slidell; and ANDREW WILLIAMS, III, aka “Fat Boy”, age 27, of Slidell. Investigators initiated their enforcement actions in Slidell when a large quantity of U. S. currency estimated to be approximately $50,000, was seized from WILLIE LEE WHITE, JR. after he was stopped in a vehicle leaving the Slidell residence. A subsequent search of the Heather Street address resulted in the seizure of 50 kilograms of cocaine (110 pounds), approximately 3,500 tablets of MDMA (Ecstasy), 5 pounds of high-potency marijuana, a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol with an obliterated serial number, a 40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, a 357 revolver, a money counter, and a large sum of U. S. currency estimated to be approximately $60,000.

“ The overwhelming success of this investigation is a direct result of the renewed commitment and collaborative efforts among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to insure drug traffickers do not regain their markets in the greater New Orleans metropolitan area, said SAC Renton. “This is the largest cocaine seizure by law enforcement authorities since Hurricane Katrina, and is the single largest seizure of cocaine destined for local distribution in the history of St. Tammany Parish.”

Renton also thanked the dedicated professionals of the participating members of the task forces in both states for their exemplary efforts.

Within hours of making the arrests and seizures in Slidell, DEA agents and task force officers in Houston executed searches at two residences. This action resulted in the arrest of three defendants believed to be responsible for supplying the drugs seized in Slidell. Those arrested are JOSE ANGEL GONZALEZ, age 22, a wanted subject who refused to identify his local residence; PAULA AGUIRRE, age 75, of Houston, Texas; and JOSEPH HENRY AGUIRRE, age 40, of Houston, Texas. AGUIRE’S residence was secured and a number of weapons were recovered. This search resulted in the seizure of wholesale quantities of cocaine, MDMA (Ecstasy) and marijuana, as well as two assault rifles, including an AK-47 and AR-15 with over 1,000 rounds of ammunition and 10 fully loaded magazines and three semi-automatic pistols. At the time of his arrest, JOSE GONZALES was wanted by Texas authorities for three counts of aggravated assault with bodily injury which resulted from his perpetrating a drive-by shooting in the Houston area. The three defendants in Texas have been charged in local court in Harris County, pending further federal investigation.

The defendants arrested in Slidell were charged today in a federal criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute in excess of five kilograms of cocaine. The suspects had their first appearances in federal court before U. S. Magistrate Judge Louis Moore at 10:00 A.M. today and federal prosecutors for the Eastern District of Louisiana have moved for detention of all defendants.

United States Attorney Jim Letten stated:

“ Yesterday’s arrests of these nine individuals - sadly, many of them New Orleans residents displaced to Texas by Hurricane Katrina - along with the seizure of drugs, cash and firearms is compelling evidence of the absolute commitment by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Department of Justice and our partners in state and local enforcement, to tirelessly work to interrupt the introduction of illegal drugs, weapons, and the criminal element into our region as we rebuild following Katrina’s devastation. Indeed, every gram of illegal drugs threatens to undermine the health and safety of our citizens, and the security of our communities. At this time, when the need to rebuild a safe and healthy environment for our children is so critical, our citizens must know that federal law enforcement, including DEA, the U. S. Attorney’s Office and our partners, will dedicate the energy, leadership, and the assets needed to provide the foundation for a region free from the scourge of such crime.”

Officers from seven local law enforcement agencies participated in this investigation as members of the DEA Task Force. Those agencies include the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Slidell Police Department, the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, the New Orleans Police Department, the Hammond Police Department, the Westwego Police Department, the Louisiana State Police, and the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office. In Texas, the participating agencies in the DEA lead Task Force were the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Laporte Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Assistant United States Attorney Maurice Landrieu is prosecuting those arrested in Louisiana on behalf of the United Stated Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The public is reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.