MULTI-AGENCY LAW ENFORCEMENT OPERATION TACKLES GANG AND GUN VIOLENCE IN PALM BEACH COUNTY
Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael McAuliffe, Palm Beach County State Attorney, Hugo J. Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF), Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, Neil DeSousa, Acting U.S. Marshal, U.S. Marshal’s Service, Ric L. Bradshaw, Sheriff, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and G. Matthew Immler, Chief, Boynton Beach Police Department, along with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, announced today the results of Operation Smoking Gun II, a concerted multi-agency effort to combat the crime and violence associated with gang activity in Pam Beach County.
The United States Attorney’s Office and its federal and state law enforcement partners are committed to reducing gangs and gang-related violence. To this end, over the past year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal and state law enforcement have cooperated in a number of joint investigations and prosecutions, collectively called Operation Smoking Gun II, aimed at bringing the most violent of these criminal gangs and gang members to justice. During the investigation, federal and state law enforcement officials focused on two primary areas: trafficking and use of illegal firearms and narcotics offenses (including the unlawful sale of prescription drugs). The proactive investigation used undercover agents to purchase guns and drugs from violent and repeat offenders.
Operation Smoking Gun II has yielded substantial results. Since its inception in June 2010, a total of 49 defendants have been charged with federal firearm and narcotics offenses. Of those charged federally, many were felons in possession of a firearm. Of the 49 charged, 45 have been arrested and made their initial appearances in federal court this morning. Federal charges against the remaining 8 individuals remained sealed. In addition, approximately 58 defendants have been charged separately by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office with narcotics and firearm violations.
Since June 2010, Operation Smoking Gun II has resulted in the following seizures:
--350 firearms, including a machine gun, 6 sawed-off shotguns, 2 sawed-off rifles, and 80 stolen firearms;
--12,451 Oxycodone pills;
--819 Percocet pills;
--260 Endocet pills;
--250 Lorcet pills;
--245 Morphine pills;
--4,395MDMA (Ecstasy) pills;
--more than 4.5 kilograms of powder cocaine;
--more than .5 kilograms of crack cocaine; and
--more than7 kilograms of marijuana.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Almost every day in South Florida, we see the deadly consequences of gang and gun violence. Gang and gun violence is not self-contained. It is not limited to one gang member killing another or killing a rival. Gang and gun violence spills unto our streets and kills police officers, who are out there trying to protect us, kills bystanders going about their daily lives, and kills innocent children playing in their yards. This violence must stop. That is why we are here today. In Operation Smoking Gun II, our combined federal and local efforts resulted in charges against almost 100 individuals who will be removed from our streets. This will have a direct positive effect on the lives of the citizens of Palm Beach County.”
Michael McAuliffe, Palm Beach County State Attorney, stated, “Operation Smoking Gun II reflects the long-term effort by federal, state and local authorities to creatively catch criminals in Palm Beach County. By using sophisticated investigative techniques to build strong cases against violent felons and others who allegedly traffic in illegal firearms, pills, and stolen property, the streets are safer today than yesterday. I applaud the efforts and team approach in this matter. My Office’s strong commitment to this effort is reflected in the approximately 58 matters from Operation Smoking Gun II that have been charged in state court in Palm Beach County.”
“The removal of violent criminals and their guns from the streets of South Florida is a top priority for ATF. Operation Smoking Gun II is and the charges we are announcing today are the result of our commitment to work jointly with state and local law enforcement to do everything possible to ensure that our citizens and visitors are kept safe from harm,” said Hugo J. Barrera, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Miami Office. “The message is clear: if you seek to do harm through violence in South Florida, you will be found and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
“Over the years, criminal street gangs have become more organized and sophisticated while continuing to use drug trafficking as a means to finance their criminal activities. It is collaborative law enforcement efforts and complex investigations, such as Operation Smoking Gun, that disrupt these groups and make our communities safer,” said Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division.
“Operation Smoking Gun II is a testament to what we can accomplish when we pool our resources for the common goal of keeping our streets safer,” said Neil DeSousa, Acting U.S. Marshal. “The U.S. Marshals Service and members of the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force takes tremendous pride in working with our law enforcement partners and contributing to the success of Operation Smoking Gun. This was a well-planned operation that could not have succeeded without the cooperation of all of the state, local and federal law enforcement partners in South Florida. Each agency brought its expertise to the table and delivered. As a result, our communities are safer today.”
Chief G. Matthew Immler, of the Boynton Beach Police Department, added, “Through cooperative operations among Palm Beach County’s law enforcement agencies, gang violence has been greatly reduced over the last four years. Criminal enterprise is an ongoing problem that is best addressed by initiatives such as “Smoking Gun.” This operation demonstrates the benefits of state, county and local police agencies partnering with their federal counterparts to ensure that crime fighting resources are efficiently directed and utilized to rid the community of organized criminal activity.”
U.S. Attorney Ferrer thanked the many law enforcement agencies involved in this long-term OCDETF operation. In particular, Ferrer thanked the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, and the agents and detectives from ATF, DEA, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and the Boynton Beach Police Department, for their concerted efforts during this long term investigation. Ferrer also thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their assistance in this matter.
In February 2010, Operation Smoking Gun I, which focused on Broward County, resulted in charges against 33 defendants with federal firearm, narcotics, and other offenses. As in Operation Smoking Gun II, many of the federal defendants were felons in possession of a firearm. In addition, 63 defendants were charged separately by the Broward County State Attorney’s Office with narcotics and firearm violations.
An Indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.