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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2007

Baby Blankets Used To Hide Heroin
DEA’s Operation Jacket Racket Nets Over 100 Arrests in San Diego,
NY, Mexico and Colombia

photo - This baby blanket was used to hide heroin.
This baby blanket was used to hide heroin.

MAY 23 -- (SAN DIEGO) - Alan Poleszak, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s San Diego Field Division joined United States Attorney Karen P. Hewitt to announce the unsealing today of ten indictments charging forty-four individuals with various drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting offenses. Approximately thirty-six of the forty-four charged in San Diego were arrested over the last week as part of an international operation involving New York City, the City of Newark, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

A typical smuggling method used by all three Colombia sources of supply was to sew heroin into the linings of clothing or to conceal it in the linings of suitcases. Some of the drugs were even hidden in baby blankets.

The charges stem from an investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service, United States Marshals Service, and numerous state and local law enforcement agencies in San Diego, Riverside, Santa Ana, Phoenix, New York, Newark, and Nebraska, as well as foreign federal law enforcement agencies in the above-noted countries.

“Operation Jacket Racket” was a DEA Special Operations Division-coordinated narcotics investigation targeting a large scale Colombian heroin drug trafficking organization with distribution cells in San Diego, New York City, and Newark, New Jersey. The investigation also targeted multiple Mexico-based heroin transportation cells involved in the importation of large quantities of heroin into the United States, from three sources of supply in Colombia over an extended period of time. According to the indictments, upon arriving in the United States, the heroin was shipped to either New York or New Jersey, via airports in San Diego, Phoenix, or Las Vegas. Couriers were typically given a transportation fee, which, was deposited into bank accounts in New York and New Jersey, and then immediately withdrawn in Southern California.

“The tremendous effort of the DEA Narcotic Task Force, coupled with outstanding cooperation from Colombia, Mexico, and elsewhere has resulted in this achievement. Solid police work transcends international boundaries, as evidenced by the results of this investigation. The threat of heroin and cocaine trafficking has been reduced by the tireless efforts of DEA and its worldwide partners,” said Poleszak.

The identified Colombian sources of supply and members of the transportation and distribution cells were among those arrested as a result of federal indictments unsealed in San Diego and New York. Fifteen of the San Diego defendants were arrested in the Southern District of California; three were arrested in the Central District of California; nine were arrested in Colombia; seven in Mexico, one in Costa Rica, and one in the Dominican Republic. The San Diego investigation into the above-noted Mexicali-based and Tijuana-based heroin transportation cells led to the identification of several other drug trafficking (and counterfeit currency) organizations. These smaller organizations were also using the services of the heroin transportation cells. Investigation into these smaller organizations led to additional seizures, arrests and indictments.

During the course of the investigation, more than 100 individuals were arrested and approximately 350 kilograms of heroin, 220 kilograms of cocaine, 1 kilogram of methamphetamine, 150 pounds of marijuana, $200,000 in United States currency, and $1,000,000 in counterfeit United States Currency were seized.

United States Attorney Hewitt said, “This investigation has dismantled three major heroin distribution networks that smuggled large scale quantities of heroin through the southwest border. Federal agents, working with law enforcement officials abroad, have cut down these traffickers at the source of supply, which will prevent future heroin supplies from reaching the streets of our community.”

“This criminal enterprise operated throughout the western hemisphere, but ICE agents and their investigations are global. We will continue to foster and strengthen our relationships with international and domestic law enforcement in order to identify, locate and bring criminals to justice,” said Serge Duarte, Acting Special Agent in Charge for ICE Investigations in San Diego.

Robert W. Malaby, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Los Angeles Division, said, "Operation Jacket Racket was an outstanding example of law enforcement agencies working together to achieve a common goal. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to working with fellow law enforcement agencies to identify and curtail the trafficking and sale of drugs in the United States."

“Drug trafficking organizations continue to devise ways of hiding their illegal proceeds in order to promote their unlawful activities and fund their operations. IRS Criminal Investigation continues to be a prominent partner in narcotics investigations by utilizing the financial expertise of our special agents to uncover the elaborate money laundering schemes. Focusing on both the drug and financial aspects in joint investigations leads to the success in dismantling drug trafficking organizations,” said Ronald Krajewski, Acting Special Agent in Charge, San Diego Field Office.

United States Attorney Hewitt also wishes to thank the DEA's New York Field Division and the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, who participated in this investigation, and whose efforts led to the arrests of four additional defendants on charges that they conspired to distribute 1 kilogram and more of heroin. These defendants are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan federal court.

United States Attorney Hewitt praised the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for the coordinated team effort in the culmination of this investigation. The OCDETF program was created to consolidate and utilize all law enforcement resources in this country’s battle against major drug trafficking. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges over the next two weeks.

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