Justice News

Attorney General Eric Holder at the Operation Xcellerator Press Conference
Washington, DC
United States
~
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Today, in a combined effort by federal, state and local law enforcement in California, Minnesota and Maryland, more than 50 alleged members of the dangerous Sinaloa Cartel were arrested as part of an international narcotics trafficking and money laundering investigation called Operation Xcellerator.

This 21-month investigation, coordinated by the Special Operations Division here at the Justice Department and led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, combined numerous individual investigations in the United States, Mexico and Canada with a common focus on the drug trafficking activities of one of the largest Mexican drug cartels.

During the last 21 months of this operation, more than 750 people have been arrested in the United States and Mexico. More than $59 million in illegal drug proceeds and large amounts of narcotics and weapons have been seized in the United States by law enforcement authorities, including more than 12,000 kilos of cocaine, 1,200 pounds of methamphetamine, 1.3 million ecstasy pills and more than 160 weapons.

These are enormous amounts of narcotics – drugs otherwise destined for our streets.

The Sinaloa Cartel has operated a wide-ranging criminal endeavor in the United States and Mexico. The indictments unsealed today allege that they distributed these dangerous narcotics into our communities, profited from their sale, and laundered the illegal proceeds.

The indictments allege that cartel members contracted the transportation of narcotics to the United States, and then distributed them through an extensive web of cells in places like California, Minnesota, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Including today’s arrests and indictments, this investigation has led to federal narcotics prosecutions across the country, and I want to commend those involved in coordinating and orchestrating this operation for their extraordinary efforts. An operation of this scope and magnitude can only be effective when the resources and expertise of federal, state and local authorities are marshaled to combat a common enemy.

It is no secret that we are now seeing many more international aspects to cases that were once only domestic. As our world grows smaller, the ability of criminals from outside the United States to operate within our borders grows larger.

In the face of internationalized crime, there are no more important partners than our law enforcement counterparts abroad, and I particularly want to thank our counterparts in Mexico for their important support of this operation.

I met yesterday with Attorney General Medina Mora of Mexico and we discussed the unprecedented levels of violence his country is facing.

The Mexican government has been courageous during the last two years to directly confront the drug trafficking cartels and I stand before you today to say that we are ready and willing to continue the fight with our Mexican counterparts against these violent criminal enterprises.

El gobierno de Mexico ha sido muy valiente en los ultimos dos años en hacer frente directamente a los carteles de las drogas. Y estoy ante ustedes para decir que estamos listos y comprometidos para continuar la lucha contra estos criminales violentos junto con nuestras colegas mexicanos.

International drug trafficking organizations pose a sustained, serious threat to international safety and security. They bear the hallmarks of organized crime, married to savvy business practices that allow for successful international commerce. They are lucrative, they are violent, and they are operated with stunning planning and precision. The sad reality of what happens when these cartels are allowed to infiltrate our communities can be seen in every big city and small town in America.

Operation Xcellerator proves, yet again that these cartels are not just operating in Mexico. Their reach stretches far and wide. So despite the successes I am announcing today, we simply cannot afford to let our guard down.

The Department of Justice under my leadership will continue to work with our counterparts in Mexico, through information sharing, training and mutual cooperation to jointly fight these cartels, both in Mexico and the United States.

We can provide our communities the safety and security they deserve only by confronting these dangerous cartels head on, without reservation. We can do that, and we will.

I would now like to turn the microphone over to DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart to give you more details on the operation.