DOJ and DEA Announce
AUG 31 – (WASHINGTON, D.C.) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Karen P. Tandy announced today the results of the DEA-led “Operation Wildfire,” the first-ever nationally coordinated law enforcement operation designed to fight against the spread of methamphetamine use and abuse in the United States. Over 200 U.S. cities participated in Operation Wildfire, resulting in the arrest of 427 individuals. The DEA and their law enforcement partners found 30 children present in meth labs raided during Operation Wildfire.
“There is no drug that has more consequences than meth – for the abuser, for the trafficker, for the environment, for communities, and for the innocent children who live in filth and neglect,” said DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy. “The meth crisis has ruined families, destroyed neighborhoods and put a tremendous strain on all levels of law enforcement and social services. This historic enforcement effort illustrates our commitment to extinguishing this plague and protecting innocent Americans from the harmful ripple effects meth leaves behind.”
“ The scourge of methamphetamine demands strong partnerships and innovative solutions to fight the devastation it leaves behind, ” said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. “Through Operation Wildfire, we have joined with state and local law enforcement to successfully pursue meth peddlers and producers in over 200 cities. The Department of Justice is committed to using every available resource to ensure that our streets and neighborhoods are safe and that the methamphetamine problem is brought to an end. ”
Operation Wildfire was successful, due in part, to the varied law enforcement and drug diversion tactics practiced by the DEA and their law enforcement partners including; undercover meth purchases; meth laboratory identification and seizures; execution of search and arrest warrants; identification and dismantlement of large-scale meth trafficking organizations; deployment of DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams to assist state and local authorities in their meth investigations; and the investigations of pseudoephedrine importers, grey-market wholesalers, and retailers.
While the past week represents the largest single enforcement effort against meth, it is far from DEA’s first. For instance, last week the DEA announced the dismantling of three major drug transportation organizations that each month brought in enough meth for more than 22,000 users residing in the U.S.
The widespread availability of meth has made it accessible and appealing to U.S. teenagers. In conjunction with this enforcement effort, DEA launched a new website today as part of its efforts to raise public awareness about the dangers of the drug. The anti-drug website, www.justthinktwice.com, gives teens and their parents, the straight facts about methamphetamine and it’s not a pretty picture. The realities of meth’s physical and emotional tolls are plainly described and accompanied by before and after photos of meth users, which graphically depict the ravages of meth on the user and make a strong statement about its consequences.
Operation Wildfire resulted in the seizure of 209.48 pounds of methamphetamine, 188 pounds of precursor chemicals used to make the deadly drug, and $255,570 in cash. In addition, 56 clandestine laboratories were seized in the nationwide sweep, 28 vehicles were seized, 123 weapons were found and 30 endangered children were removed from their meth environments.
The Charlotte District Office of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, in coordination with the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the US Marshal’s Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office Drug Task Force, the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, the Marion Police Department, the North Carolina Department of Probation and Parole, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Burke County Sheriff’s Office, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin Police Department, Newland Police Department, Banner Elk Police Department, Old Fort Police Department announce the results of their participation in Operation Wildfire.
On Monday, August 22, 2005, the above listed agencies initiated a three day coordinated enforcement operation targeting methamphetamine laboratory operators and methamphetamine traffickers in the Western portion of North Carolina. A total of 70 individuals were arrested, six methamphetamine labs were discovered and dismantled, 64 grams of methamphetamine, 30 weapons and $3,600 were seized. Of the 70 individuals arrested, 64 were repeat offenders. These individuals were charged with violations of either federal or state narcotic laws or probation violations. Charges included conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and possession of controlled substances.
This surge operation was an extension of ongoing efforts between DEA and state and local authorities to address the methamphetamine problem in North Carolina. Since October 2004, DEA has indicted and arrested 26 repeat offenders in McDowell and Rutherford Counties. These two counties have been the hardest hit by the methamphetamine problem. An additional 9 defendants have been indicted and arrested in Watauga, Caldwell and Macon Counties. Four additional Special Agents from DEA’s Regional Enforcement Team (RET) have been working in Western North Carolina since December 2004 to assist local DEA agents and state and local officers with both methamphetamine laboratory cases and organizations distributing Mexican methamphetamine.
Another part of DEA’s strategy has been to notify retail stores of the federal law regarding the sale of listed chemicals used to make methamphetamine and to target those who illicitly sell such chemicals to meth cooks. As a result, two store owner/managers in Rutherford County were arrested in June 2005 for illegally selling a listed chemical commonly used in the production of methamphetamine. DEA will continue this strategy in order to limit the availability of needed chemicals such as psuedoephedrine, iodine, red phosphorous and anhydrous ammonia to methamphetamine manufacturers.
According to Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Emerson, “DEA has placed a high priority in North Carolina on working with state and local counterparts to investigate and arrest methamphetamine cooks, traffickers and those who illicitly sell precursor chemicals used to make meth. DEA is very appreciative of the cooperative spirit exhibited by the US Attorney’s Office, the SBI and local agencies in this effort.”
Fact Sheet included separately that includes specific cities involved