PHOENIX – Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, along with U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke, Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Kenneth Melson, Drug Enforcement Administration Deputy Chief of Operations Dave Gaddis, and other federal and local officials today officially unveiled the new Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force site in Phoenix.
The Phoenix Strike Force is housed in the offices of the DEA Phoenix Division. The OCDETF Strike Force functions as a cohesive unit by bringing together representatives of the partner agencies to more effectively focus on specific investigative targets. Federal, state, and local agencies represented include the DEA; ATF; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS); the Criminal Division of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the Arizona Department of Public Safety; the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office; and the Phoenix, Mesa, and South Tucson Police Departments.
“OCDETF Strike Forces, like the one here in Phoenix, reflect the kind of collaborative law enforcement approach that allows us to most effectively combat the vicious drug trafficking organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel that contribute to violence and other crime in neighborhoods here and across this country,” said Ogden. “Now in its 27th year, the OCDETF program has been a model of interagency coordination, innovation, and teamwork. This strategy recognizes that the most successful way to fight these intricate criminal networks is by combining the strengths, resources, and expertise of federal, state and local agencies.”
“By concentrating experts from so many agencies in one place, the strike force model allows for real-time sharing of intelligence and deployment of strategy,” stated U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Dennis K. Burke. “That advantage allows strike force agents to react more decisively to interdict the actions of large, sophisticated and violent drug trafficking organizations. Coordination leads to better intelligence, quicker reaction and more convictions.”
The Phoenix Field Division formed an OCDETF Strike Force in August 2008 that focuses completely on investigations of command and control elements of the Sinaloa Cartel and Arizona-based distribution cells associated with the Cartel.
Since its inception, the Phoenix Strike Force has indicted a Sinaloa Cartel associated CPOT (Consolidated Priority Organization Target) and RPOT (Regional Priority Organization Target), conducted in excess of 80 wire taps of Sinaloa Cartel related Drug Trafficking Organizations, and has been directly or indirectly responsible for the seizure of over $150 million dollars in U.S. currency, associated assets, and financial instruments. In addition, information provided by the Phoenix Strike Force has led to the seizure of over $29 million in cash and assets in Mexico and 93 arrests in the United States.
“DEA is successfully striking back at the Mexican Cartels that use Phoenix as a major transshipment point for their drug trafficking operations,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “In coordination with the Calderon Administration, we are targeting and arresting major drug traffickers impacting Arizona, disrupting their operations both in Mexico and the United States. This multi-agency Strike Force, which has already helped take down significant Sinaloa Cartel leadership, is a proven law enforcement tool for tackling the challenges we face along the Southwest Border.”
“Within the OCDETF arena, ATF maintains its focus on major drug traffickers who use firearms to further their trade and violate firearms-trafficking laws, as well as laws relating to explosives,” said ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson. “Firearms often serve as a form of payment for drugs and, together with explosives and arson, are used as tools by drug organizations for purposes of intimidation, enforcement, and retaliation against their own members, rival organizations, or the community in general. ATF’s jurisdiction and expertise make it a well-suited partner in the OCDETF program.”
Based on the success of the Phoenix Strike Force Group, an additional Strike Force Group was formed in the Phoenix Field Division’s Tucson District Office in June 2009. The Tucson Strike Force Group is comprised of law enforcement personnel from DEA, ATF, ICE, FBI and the South Tucson Police Department. Both Strike Force Groups will continue to pursue OCDETF case designations for federal prosecution and will work in a complementary role with the Arizona HIDTA (High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area).