News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 30, 2005

Prepared Remarks of DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy at Operation WildFire Press Conference
August 30, 2005
Washington, D.C.

Over the past week, DEA agents and diversion investigators, state and local law enforcement, and prosecutors undertook the first coordinated nationwide methamphetamine enforcement sweep. We arrested and put out of business 427 meth cooks, dealers, and transporters in 200 cities across the nation, and specifically targeted meth cooks and repeat offenders removing 120 of them out of our neighborhoods. And, behind all these numbers….:

  • We saw -- and rescued -- meth’s youngest victims, like the Missouri infant and 6 year old girl we pulled out of a bug-infested home where meth was being cooked. The children had no beds to sleep in and no food to eat – they didn’t even have electricity – but the guard dog out front was well-cared for.

  • We saw a toxic meth lab set up in a hotel room in Minneapolis—a hotel that is across the street from an elementary school.

  • We saw in Missouri a sophisticated biker gang running a meth lab where three of the five manufacturers were repeat meth offenders. Their operation was surrounded with hi-tech video surveillance equipment that allowed them to detect any law enforcement a quarter of a mile away.

  • We saw a mailman in Michigan delivering more than letters—he delivered meth to houses on his route and was a user himself.

  • We saw meth cooks operating in an assisted living home in Pennsylvania. Two of the 90-year-old patients had to be hospitalized as a result of exposure to the meth lab.

Those are just some of the examples of what we put an end to this past week.

True to this operation’s name, meth has spread like wildfire across the United States. It has burned out communities, scorched childhoods, and charred once happy and productive lives beyond recognition.

In addition to the arrests in Operation Wildfire, we closed down 56 meth labs and seized 208 pounds of meth – that’s enough to give a hit of meth to more than 284,000 people – roughly the population of Newark, New Jersey. We also seized more than a quarter million dollars of drug money.

This focus on meth isn’t new to the DEA. Meth is America’s Own – homemade, cheap and readily available – we are making progress but this is going to be a long haul, which we have been fully committed to along with our state and local partners.

Here in our neighborhoods, our courageous DEA agents are arresting meth cooks and traffickers—5,500 of them in the past year.

  • We have prioritized and deployed DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Teams to take down meth trafficking rings.

  • We are training our state and local partners to safely dismantle these toxic, volatile meth labs -- 9,300 of them since 1998 -- and arming each officer with $2,200 worth of equipment to raid meth labs.

  • Last year, DEA administered more than $18 million in funding for more than 10,000 meth lab cleanups

  • Together, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement and U.S. Attorneys drove most of the largest “super” meth labs out of America by arresting and prosecuting those who were supplying the bulk chemicals needed to manufacture pound quantities of meth.

As a result, 65% of meth now sold in America is manufactured by Mexican trafficking organizations, and DEA is working with Mexican officials to block that flow.

  • The Justice Department and DEA are providing meth training to Mexico investigators and prosecutors.

  • DEA is attacking international meth cartels by denying them necessary chemicals, profits, and trafficking routes; by seizing their drugs and dismantling their U.S. distribution cells; and by working with our international partners to target meth kingpins themselves.

  • A little over a week ago, we concluded Operation Three Hour Tour where we targeted high-level Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers in the U.S. We dismantled three major transportation cells and 27 distribution groups and seized 155 pounds of meth – enough to give a hit of meth to more than 200,000 people.

On a related front -- in the U.S. and beyond our borders -- we’re denying meth manufacturers—large and small—the necessary precursor chemicals they need to make their poison, particularly pseudoephedrine. In Operation Wildfire alone, we seized more than 400,000 tablets of precursors as well as 336 pounds of pseudoephedrine powder — which would produce more than 350,000 hits of meth.

  • Over the past 7 years, more than 2,000 pseudoephedrine-related chemical registrations and applications have been denied, surrendered, or withdrawn as a result of DEA investigations.

  • We’re taking this fight around the globe, because to win against meth in places like St. Louis or Sacramento, we have to go to places like Hong Kong—which is too often where meth cartels go for bulk pseudoephedrine.

  • In one international operation, we worked with partners from Hong Kong, Mexico, and Panama and prevented 68 million pseudoephedrine tablets from reaching meth cartels, which could have produced more than 2 metric tons of meth.

  • To continue that kind of success, DEA is forging international agreements -- between Mexico, Hong Kong and other countries -- to jointly pre-screen pseudoephedrine shipments to ensure they are going to legitimate Mexican companies for legitimate use and to stop those that aren’t.

Finally, the American family room and classrooms are our most important fronts.

  • Today, DEA launches “justthinktwice.com” a cutting-edge website devoted to and designed by teenagers to give them the hard facts about meth and other drugs in “teenspeak,” with graphic photos and personal stories – about how meth will steal their future and their looks, and take control of their life. This straight forward website is aimed at stopping young people from going down the dark road of meth.

  • DEA’s Justthinktwice.com website is exclusively aimed at our teenagers and young adults for good reason: according to a recent study, nearly half of meth users began during high school.

  • The good news is that, since 2001, meth use has declined 25% among our teenagers. DEA’s website will help continue that downward trend.

  • Tomorrow morning, Channel 1 will broadcast a demonstration of the new DEA website in 12,000 middle and high schools, reaching 8 million teenagers and 400,000 educators.

America has been scorched by the wildfire grip of meth. We cannot expect a cure overnight. But, with this nationwide operation, we extinguished some of those fires. And, DEA is fully committed to a sustained effort, here and abroad, to beat meth back. Our country and its children deserve nothing less.

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