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Eastern District of California Actions in “Project Delirium”

SACRAMENTO, CA-- United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced local results in “Project Delirium,” a 20-month multi-agency law enforcement investigation, announced today by U.S. Department of Justice officials in Washington that targeted the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

Since June 1, 2011, as part of an ongoing takedown, 221 individuals have been arrested across the United States as part of Project Delirium, including more than 70 individuals apprehended yesterday and today. In addition, $ 770,499 in U.S. currency, 635 pounds of methamphetamine, 118 kilograms of cocaine, and 24 pounds of heroin were seized by law enforcement agents. For more on the nationwide effort, go to www.justice.gov.

As part of Operation Delirium, two men were charged in Fresno with drug trafficking offenses in the Eastern District of California. On July 7, 2011, Ivan Abreo 27, of Modesto, and Joseph Paul Nichols 36, of Ceres, were indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. According to court documents, the underlying investigation resulted in the seizure of approximately 60 pounds of methamphetamine. Abreo and Nichols were distributing methamphetamine from Central California to Hawaii and Oklahoma. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen A. Servatius is prosecuting this case.

The arrests of Abreo and Nichols come on the heels of other recent enforcement actions in this district targeting drug trafficking operations linked to the La Familia organization.

One investigation that resulted in the indictment of 21 defendants on April 7, 2011, began in 2009 with the investigation of a La Familia distribution cell operating in Sacramento. According to the court documents, the investigation ultimately led to the identification of the cell’s leadership, some of its U.S.-based suppliers, and a “border boss” operating in Mexicali, Mexico, who was responsible for coordination of narcotics shipments between the United States and Mexico. Law enforcement agents seized more than 145 pounds of methamphetamine, firearms, and cash. Two defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

A second investigation involving drug trafficking tied to the La Familia led to the indictment of nine defendants on September 2, 2010. According to court documents, in 2009 an investigation began into a Sacramento-based methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana distributor, one of the largest distribution hubs used by La Familia in the western United States. When agents raided a ranch house in Gilroy, they found more than 600 pounds of methamphetamine and a ledger detailing the distribution of more than 3,300 pounds of white and blue methamphetamine during a four-month period in 2010. Altogether, agents seized 612 pounds of methamphetamine, 17 kilos of cocaine, and several firearms. Those cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Beckwith and Jason Hitt.

U.S. Attorney Wagner said: “This office is taking an active role in this national effort to disrupt the La Familia cartel, a violent drug trafficking organization that is active in this district. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in targeting this organization, and to put its members behind bars.”

“Through coordinated and strategic efforts like Project Delirium, we are disrupting the operations of Mexican drug cartels in the United States and Mexico,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “Today, we see drug traffickers operating in urban and rural communities alike. The arrests and seizures we are announcing today have stripped La Familia of its manpower, its deadly product and its profit, and helped make communities large and small safer. The department is determined to continue our aggressive efforts, along with our Mexican law enforcement partners, to diminish and ultimately eliminate the threat posed by these dangerous groups.”

“Through the Secretariat of Public Security, the Government of Mexico has seen increased results in their fight against the drug trafficking organizations,” said Mexico’s Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna. “Due to increased information sharing and collaboration with the DEA, these efforts have resulted in successful and significant arrests and seizures of drugs and money.”

“DEA’s Project Delirium is the second successful, strategic and surgical strike to disrupt and destroy one of the most violent Mexican cartels, La Familia,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Through their violent drug trafficking activities, including their hallmark of supplying most of the methamphetamine imported into the United States, La Familia is responsible for recklessly and violently destroying countless lives on both sides of the border. The strong joint efforts with our Mexican federal police and U.S. law enforcement partners are crippling this brutal organization by capturing its leaders, strangling its distribution networks, and relentlessly pursuing its members and those who facilitate them. The damage has been so severe that La Familia has been forced to rebrand themselves as the ‘Knights of Templar’.”

The investigative efforts in Project Delirium were coordinated by the multi-agency Special Operations Division, composed of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, ICE, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service, as well as attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. More than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies contributed investigative and prosecutorial resources to Project Delirium through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.

An indictment is merely an allegation and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.



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