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News Release [printer friendly page]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 23, 2004

DEA Eliminates Major Source of US Meth
Joint US/Canada Investigation Yields Large Amounts of Ephedrine, Meth

DEA Deputy Administrator Michele Leonhart today announced the successful culmination of Operation Brain Drain, a 17-month joint OCDETF investigation which identified and dismantled the most significant source of ephedrine from Canada to the United States. Operation Brain Drain targeted Canadian bulk ephedrine distributors and their U.S. associates, as well as U.S.-based Mexican methamphetamine manufacturers and distributors. DEA and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police led a joint effort in this investigation.

“This should send a clear message to those who manufacture and traffic illegal drugs that you could be next. Thanks to the cooperative success of this investigation between the two countries, we have identified the most significant sources of ephedrine from Canada to the United States,” Leonhart said. “Breaking up these organizations will dramatically limit the availability of ephedrine in the United States and will have a significant effect on the large scale production of methamphetamine in the United States.”

Operation Brain Drain yielded 90 arrests, including five major traffickers, 92.6 pounds of methamphetamine, 2735 pounds of ephedrine powder, and nearly 1.7 million ephedrine pills, two kilograms of cocaine, 62 pounds of precursor chemicals, 5 gallons of meth solution, 27 weapons, 11 vehicles, two large clandestine meth labs, and $3.5 million in Canadian currency. Ephedrine is one of the major ingredients used to manufacture methamphetamine.

FOCUS AND ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS OF OPERATION BRAIN DRAIN

This operation targeted the Armando Solis methamphetamine manufacturing and trafficking organization, which is based in central California, has Mexican ties, and operated throughout the western and central United States. In addition, the investigation focused on the Richie Mishal poly drug organization, which has a history of distributing large quantities of steroids, MDMA, and marijuana throughout the United States. Mishal was involved in the trafficking of ephedrine with Canadian Rodger Bruneau, who was also a major target of the DEA/RCMP investigation. Solis was arrested, along with others involved in methamphetamine trafficking, by DEA Sacramento, and Bruneau was arrested by the RCMP.

The case also revealed that Mishal sold ephedrine to Faisal Rashid, who then sold it to Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Bruneau also shipped large amounts of ephedrine to Mishal via Hugh Stevens in Buffalo, New York. Bruneau’s multiple purchases of large amounts of ephedrine from Pumpuii, a Canadian company, were for methamphetamine manufacturing in the United States and Canada. The ephedrine was then distributed via Bruneau’s various associates to U.S. methamphetamine manufacturers, Canadian-based Asian gangs, and the Canadian Hell’s Angels. The combined investigations further revealed the connection between Solis, Bruneau, Mishal, Rashid, and Stevens. Stevens was arrested by DEA Buffalo, along with other traffickers.

Mishal and members of his criminal organization were involved in the importation and distribution of hundred pound quantities of ephedrine from Canada via Buffalo to Sacramento for distribution to large scale methamphetamine manufacturing organizations based in northern California. Pam Molner, sister of Rodger Bruneau, was also arrested by DEA Miami on manufacturing and conspiracy charges, and charged in Sacramento.

In all, the Sacramento portion of Operation Brain Drain resulted in the arrests of Mishal, Rashid, and Molner, among others. These arrests have disrupted the distribution of ephedrine from Canada, and stopped the purchase of Pumpuii by Mishal, which would have resulted in his access to even more ephedrine for trafficking.

SPECIAL THANKS AND RECOGNITION

The success of Operation Brain Drain could not have taken place without the cooperation and coordination of the following:

DEA Special Operations Division, Southwest Border Methamphetamine Section

DEA Sacramento, Buffalo, Miami, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Honolulu, Vancouver

RCMP Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Edmonton

FBI Sacramento

United States Attorney’s Office

IRS Sacramento

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Buffalo, Sacramento

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