Justice News

Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden Introductory Statement for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces and Asset Forfeiture Program’sNational Leadership Conference
Washington, DC
United States
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Good morning and thank you all for coming here to participate in the National Leadership Conference. I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak with you briefly this morning, to introduce Attorney General Holder and to thank you for your contributions to the OCDETF and Asset Forfeiture Programs. Your hard work, dedication to public service, and sacrifice to protect the citizens of the United States are extraordinary and a real credit to the Department.

One of the highlights of serving as the Deputy Attorney General is that I have the privilege to Chair the Executive Committee for OCDETF and to oversee the superb work done by the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who make the Program so successful. As someone who has devoted a significant portion of his professional life to public service, what I find particularly commendable about the OCDETF Program is its emphasis on interagency cooperation and innovation.

The Attorney General and I are committed to reinvigorating the Department’s traditional areas of law enforcement. As we do so, the OCDETF and Asset Forfeiture Programs are models to be emulated.

Each is founded upon the principle that we can do more together than we can separately -- that no single agency can tackle this mission alone. You all ask, and answer, the question: Why recreate the capabilities of an agency, when we can work more effectively as partners to shut down drug trafficking organizations, seize assets and save taxpayer dollars in the process?

OCDETF and the Asset Forfeiture Program bring together the agencies and personnel with existing resources and expertise to accomplish their missions in a highly successful manner. And we are making major strides forward. New understandings between DEA, ATF and ICE will allow new levels of cooperation, deconfliction and intelligence sharing. This in turn will bring new power to our several and collective efforts.

The Attorney General and I appreciate all of your efforts that have made these achievements possible. I want to express particular appreciation to Secretary Napolitano and Deputy Secretary Lute, Assistant Secretary Morton, and their teams, as well as to recognize our own fine leadership here at DOJ – Michelle Leonhart, Ken Melson and Assistant Attorney General Breuer, and their teams. Finally, on what may be his final OCDETF gathering as he goes off to new and exciting challenges, I want to express our great appreciation to Stuart Nash for his many, significant contributions to this program, the Department and the Nation.

This is a strong program. No other program can measure its performance better. From the beginning of an OCDETF investigation, information is shared among agencies and targets are selected based upon the best intelligence. Throughout the process, the progress or results of OCDETF efforts are reported in the Management Information System (MIS) so that the taxpayers may see the results of their investment. From FY 2003 to FY 2008, forfeitures from OCDETF cases have totaled almost $3 billion. A model for performance accountability and effectiveness, OCDETF is rightfully positioned as the centerpiece of the Department’s counter-narcotics strategy.

Your hard work through OCDETF and the Asset Forfeiture Program is essential to the Department’s current strategy to identify, disrupt and dismantle the Mexican drug cartels. The Attorney General and I have committed to doing everything we can to bring together the resources and talents of our law enforcement agencies, working together with our partners in the Mexican government to combat the large criminal enterprises responsible for the scourge of international drug trafficking and the associated violence, firearms trafficking, money laundering and corruption. This is not just a Border issue. It is a national issue that requires OCDETF agents and prosecutors throughout the country to coordinate our intelligence capabilities and our enforcement efforts in attacking this problem.

When we work together the results are spectacular: A few months ago the Attorney General announced the arrest of more than 750 individuals on narcotics-related charges under Operation Xcellerator, dealing a major blow to the Sinaloa Cartel. In addition to the arrests, we seized over $61 million in U.S. currency, 191 firearms, 4 aircraft, and 3 maritime vessels.

Both Operation Xcellerator and Project Reckoning, which resulted in another 600 arrests, seizure of $76 million in currency and the indictment of a triumvirate of Gulf Cartel leaders, were tremendous successes in the U.S. government’s battle against the Mexican cartels and illustrate the strengths of the Department’s strategy. Neither would have been possible without the development and effective sharing of tactical and strategic intelligence between and among federal agency partners through OCDETF.

The Asset Forfeiture Program is similarly critical to our efforts to reduce and deter criminal activity. Your use of civil and criminal forfeiture to seize and forfeit the assets of organized crime targets is essential for this fight. One of the most important objectives of the Asset Forfeiture Program is the reduction of the incentive to commit financial crimes by taking money out of the hands of dangerous criminals and terrorists.

Profit is the reason that these criminals commit crimes. And it enables more crimes. You take that incentive away – and take away the means for future criminal activity -- each and every time you find, seize, and forfeit illicit proceeds. And the Asset Forfeiture Program provides much needed money for necessary law enforcement equipment and community programs. Through the Forfeiture Program you make that money work for law enforcement and victims of crime.

So – for all these reasons and more -- on behalf of the Department, I want to thank you for the sacrifices that you make to keep our communities safe.

Now, it is my honor and privilege to introduce our Attorney General, Eric Holder. From his first day in office, the Attorney General has made it a top priority of the Department to attack drug trafficking organizations through innovative, intelligence-driven investigations and prosecutions. He is leading the charge to reinvigorate the Department’s traditional law enforcement mission – including fighting drug trafficking, financial crimes, international organized crime, gang violence, health care fraud, civil rights and the environment. I want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership at this critical time. Mr. Attorney General.