OVER 100 ARRESTED IN MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR MARIJUANA SMUGGLING OPERATION
Culminating an 18-month nationwide investigation by federal, state, and local law enforcement, in cooperation with the FedEx Corporation, over 100 individuals were arrested on federal criminal complaints and indictments, charging importation and distribution of more than 100 tons of marijuana. Members of the criminal organization are charged with working with a small number of FedEx employees in the distribution of this marijuana throughout the United States.
"Today we have taken another major step in our fight against drug trafficking," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "Law enforcement's overnight delivery to the American people is safer streets for our children."
The investigation, known as Operation Green Air, was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, in cooperation with the U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Attorney's Offices and the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, and state and local law enforcement. To date, Operation Green Air has resulted in the seizure of 34,000 pounds of marijuana and $4.2 million in U.S. currency and assets.
Members of the criminal organization are charged with using FedEx Corporation planes, trucks, and facilities across the country to ship marijuana with an estimated wholesale value of $140 million. Those charged include 25 employees of FedEx Corporation, including a FedEx security official in New York City, customer service representatives and drivers.
The leadership of the FedEx Corporation worked closely with law enforcement so that the group could be investigated and prosecuted.
"We appreciate the cooperative spirit we received form FedEx Corporation," said Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration Donnie Marshall. "We look forward to continuing to work together to make it more difficult for anyone to compromise the movement of legitimate packages throughout the United States."
U.S. Customs Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly underscored that, "The cooperation between FedEx and law enforcement in this case is an excellent example of the kind of government-industry partnership we need to combat drug smugglers."
"From the moment our offices first detected these shipments in July of 1998, FedEx worked side-by-side with DEA to expose the full scope of this operation," said Robert A. Bryden, Vice President, FedEx Corporation. "FedEx, like DEA, is concerned about prevalent illegal drug use in our society. We believe continued proactive cooperation with law enforcement sends a clear and strong message to those who would misuse our network."
Operation Green Air targeted this Los Angeles-based trafficking organization which is estimated to have made $30 million from illegal activities in the past two years. The investigation also focused on corrupt FedEx employees in Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, New York and New Jersey. FedEx employees were recruited to ensure that the marijuana was loaded onto FedEx aircraft for transportation from California to various FedEx distribution centers including Atlanta, New York, Boston, Connecticut, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Newark. The FedEx employees also provided security for the marijuana shipments while in FedEx Corporation facilities and delivered the marijuana to organization members for distribution in the destination cities. Other corrupted FedEx employees manipulated corporate billing and accounting records to permit free shipping and to make tracing of the shipments more difficult.
The investigation was coordinated by the Special Operations Division, a joint Department of Justice, DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs, and IRS program, staffed by attorneys from the Justice Department's Criminal Division and agents and analysts from the participating investigative agencies. The effort has culminated in criminal complaints and indictments being brought by the United States Attorneys' Offices in Los Angeles; San Diego; Brooklyn, NY; Fort Lauderdale, FL; and the Districts of New Jersey; Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Marshall said the investigation is ongoing.
Additional information is available on the DEA Website (www.usdoj.gov/dea).