FEDERAL AGENTS DISMANTLE INTERNATIONAL DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION
MILLION REWARD OFFERED LEADING TO THE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General Janet Reno, DEA Administrator Donnie Marshall, U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and FBI Director Louis Freeh today announced the arrest of over fifty individuals in ten cities as the result of "Operation Impunity II," a nationwide investigation targeting cocaine and marijuana trafficking between Mexico and the United States.
Prior to today's arrests, Operation Impunity II had resulted in 82 arrests and the seizure of 5,266 kilograms of cocaine, 9,708 pounds of marijuana, and approximately $10,890,295 in U.S. currency.
"The success of Operation Impunity II - as well as the earlier successes in Operation Limelight and Operation Impunity I - was largely the result of the outstanding coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement officials and prosecutors across the country," said Attorney General Janet Reno.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Chamberlin also announced a reward of up to two-million dollars for the arrest or conviction of Mexican drug trafficker Osiel Cardenas-Guillen or his two lieutenants, Juan Manuel Garza Rendon and Adan Medrano. U.S. Attorney Mervyn Mosbacher in Brownsville, Texas, today unsealed an indictment charging, Cardenas-Guillen and seven other members of his organization with conspiracy to distribute drugs and assault on federal agents as a result of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force's (OCDETF) investigation "Operation Cazadores."
"Through our worldwide counter narcotics program, and by working closely with our friends and colleagues in the law enforcement community we plan to win the fight against drugs," said Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Chamberlin.
Operation Impunity 11 was coordinated by the Special Operations Division, a multi agency law enforcement program comprised of attorneys from the Department of Justice's Criminal Division, and agents and analysts from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Customs Service, and the Internal Revenue Service.
Federal agents, supported by local and state police agencies, carried out the arrests early this morning in Brownsville, McAllen, Houston, Chicago, Columbus (Ohio), Louisville (Mississippi), Memphis, and New York.
The individuals arrested face a variety of federal charges for their involvement in a wide ranging conspiracy to smuggle thousands of pounds of cocaine and marijuana from Mexico, across the southwest border into Texas, for distribution throughout the United States.
Operation Impunity 11 is the third phase of an investigation that began in August 1996, under the code name Operation Limelight. The original investigation focused on the Amado Carrillo-Fuentes organization, and resulted in 43 arrests and the seizure of $7,395,579 in U.S. currency, 4,012 kilograms of cocaine, and 10,846 pounds of marijuana.
At the conclusion of Operation Limelight, the Special Operations Division initiated "Operation Impunity I, which targeted the remnants of the Carrillo-Fuentes organization by focusing on several major Mexican traffickers who were controlling cocaine and marijuana transportation routes into the United States. That investigation also sought to identify the Colombian sources of supply who were using the Mexican transporters to ship their cocaine into the United States through the Reynosa corridor in South Texas. Operation Impunity I resulted in 123 arrests and the seizure of 12,434 kilograms of cocaine, 6,177 pounds of marijuana, and approximately $19,031,751 in U.S. currency.
In late 1999, federal investigators obtained evidence that the same organization had reorganized itself with new distribution cell managers in the United States and organizational command and control elements in Mexico. In addition to remnants from the Carrillo-Fuentes organization, agents learned that some members of the Mexican Gulf Cartel had also become associated with the organization, including Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, allegedly a former Gulf Cartel lieutenant.
Cardenas-Guillen is reputed to be a leading figure in the Matamoros drug trade. He is charged with direct responsibility for a June 9, 1999, assault on a Cameron County Texas Sheriff s investigator working undercover for the U.S. Customs Service in Brownsville, Texas. Cardenas-Guillen is also charged with assault on an FBI agent and a DEA agent in Matamoros, Mexico, on November 9, 1999.
"We are sending a clear and strong message that no one can threaten or harm a federal agent with impunity," said DEA Administrator Donnie Marshall. "Make no mistake, if you harm a special agent, we will spare no effort to ensure that you are brought to justice."
On March 14, 2000, a federal grand jury in Brownsville, Texas, returned a sealed indictment charging Cardenas-Guillen and his closest associates with two drug-related offenses and with the June 1999 and November 1999 assaults. The indictment of Cardenas-Guillen was the result of Operation Cazadores, a two-year investigation conducted by the U.S. Customs Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Cameron County Sheriffs Office, the Brownsville Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Federal agents have been working closely with the Procuraderia General de la Republica (PGR), the Mexican Attorney General's Office, in their efforts to capture Cardenas-Guillen and his associates.
"Through the indictment and $2 million dollar reward announced today, we are turning the tables on a predator who has terrorized the public and targeted the police," said U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
"Today's arrests represent a major blow to a violent international drug trafficking operation," said FBI Director Louis Freeh. "Moreover, these charges send a strong message to those that would try to intimidate law enforcement officers carrying out their duties."
In addition to the domestic enforcement activity, the United States Government today presented provisional arrest warrants for extradition in Mexico and the Dominican Republic requesting the arrest of eight Mexican nationals in Mexico, and one Dominican national in the Dominican Republic. Three of the eight Mexica nationals being sought were directly involved in the assault of the federal agents in Matamoros, Mexico.
Federal indictments have been returned in connection with Operation Impunity 11 in the Southern District of Texas (Houston, Brownsville, and McAllen); Northern District of Illinois (Chicago); Southern District of Ohio (Columbus); Western District of Tennessee (Memphis); and Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).