MORE THAN 261 ARRESTED IN MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR COCAINE AND MARIJUANA SMUGGLING OPERATION
Culminating an eighteen-month long nationwide investigation, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Customs Service, in cooperation with state and local law enforcement, today arrested 76 individuals, so far, in connection with a Mexico-based drug trafficking organization responsible for putting tens of millions of dollars worth of cocaine and marijuana on the streets of at least a dozen U.S. cities.
The investigation, known as Operation Marquis, targeted a drug trafficking organization based in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. The Marquis Organization consists of remnants of the former Amado Carrillo-Fuentes Organization along with other well-known traffickers. Transportation and distribution "cells" of the Marquis Organization had been established in cities across the United States, including: Laredo, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Tulsa, Chicago, Wichita, Little Rock, New York area, Newark, Charlotte, Detroit, Atlanta, Cleveland, Memphis, and Nashville.
Over the last several years, the Marquis Organization is alleged to have moved large quantities of cocaine and marijuana through the Nuevo Laredo transportation corridor into south Texas. In most cases, the drugs were temporarily warehoused in the Laredo area before being transshipped to established distribution cells operating throughout the United States. The organization's preferred method of transportation was tractor-trailers, with the narcotics concealed by cover loads of produce. However, the organization also utilized automobiles with concealed compartments for the transportation of smaller quantities of narcotics. Narcotics proceeds were generally repatriated to Mexico using the same trucks and cars.
According to DEA Administrator Donnie Marshall: "The Marquis Organization appears to be fairly typical of today's organizations operating from Mexicosmaller groups that rely on each other to capitalize on drug trafficking opportunities. Nevertheless, these organizations remain just as violent and dangerous as ever."
In this regard, the Marquis Organization has shown a propensity for violence. For example, three men, Jorge Ruvalcaba, Cesar Blake, and Idelfonso "Pancho" Chavarria, were shot to death in San Antonio, allegedly on the orders of Marquis-associate, Hugo Villareal-Solis. Villareal-Solis, Jose "Joey" Abel Rodriguez and the alleged gunman, Roberto Lopez, have been indicted in the Western District of Texas on drug and murder charges.
Arrests were conducted simultaneously during early morning hours today in 16 cities, including: Laredo, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, New York area, Newark, Charlotte, Cleveland, St. Louis, San Diego, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Nashville, and Memphis. Provisional arrest warrants naming 14 Marquis Organization members in Mexico will be submitted to Mexican authorities and, once apprehended, U.S. prosecutors will formally request their extradition.
In addition, the operation was briefed to the Director of the Organized Crime Unit of the Mexican Attorney General's Office, and investigative information on the identities of targets and telephone numbers in Mexico was shared. Mexican law enforcement agents and prosecutors will seek to develop and/or supplement cases against these targets for prosecution in Mexico or the U.S. The sharing of this type of sensitive investigative information during an on-going investigation in the U.S. sets a new standard in the level of trust and cooperation in the bilateral law enforcement relationship of our two countries.
"The success of Operation Marquis is an excellent example of what can be done when we work together with our law enforcement counterparts in Mexico," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "The Attorney General of Mexico and I have agreed to focus our law enforcement efforts on major drug traffickers and send a clear message to those criminals on both sides of our border that there will be serious consequences for preying on the citizens of our countries."
FBI Assistant Director Ruben Garcia, Jr. said, "Today's law enforcement activities will have a measurable impact on drug trafficking across our Southwest border. The work completed in this case emphasizes the importance of inter-agency cooperation in targeting and investigating drug trafficking organizations."
Acting U.S. Customs Commissioner Charles Winwood added, "This investigation demonstrates what can be achieved when law efforts are coordinated and resources are pooled. Operation Marquis shut down a sprawling criminal network that plagued communities throughout the country."
Prior to today's arrests, Operation Marquis had resulted in the arrest of 185 individuals and the seizure of 8,732 kilograms of cocaine, 27,738 pounds of marijuana, and $12,481,585.00 in U.S. currency.
The investigation was initiated in September 1999 and 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.
Federal indictments and complaints have been obtained in these Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) cases in the following United States Attorneys' Offices: Southern District of Texas (Houston and Laredo); Western District of Texas (San Antonio); Northern District of Texas (Dallas); Northern District of Oklahoma (Tulsa); Northern District of Illinois (Chicago); District of Kansas; Eastern District of Arkansas (Little Rock); District of New Jersey; Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte); Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta); Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland); Western District of Tennessee (Memphis); Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville); Southern District of New York (Manhattan); and the Southern District of California (San Diego).