Hundreds of Alleged Sinaloa Cartel Members and Associates Arrested in Nationwide Takedown of Mexican Drug Traffickers
“Operation Xcellerator” Takes 23 Tons of Narcotics Off America’s Streets
and Seizes More Than $59 Million in Drug Money
WASHINGTON – Today Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., announced the arrest of more than 750 individuals on narcotics-related charges and the seizure of more than 23 tons of narcotics as part of a 21-month multi-agency law enforcement investigation known as “Operation Xcellerator.” The Attorney General was joined in announcing the current results of Operation Xcellerator by DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.
Today, 52 individuals in California, Minnesota and Maryland were arrested as part of Operation Xcellerator, which targeted the Sinaloa Cartel, a major Mexican drug trafficking organization, through coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as cooperation with authorities in Mexico and Canada.
In Maryland three indictments have been returned as part of Operation Xcellerator, charging 29 defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; eight defendants are also charged with distribution of and possession with intent to distribute narcotics, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. The indictments also seek forfeiture of guns and $7 million in cash. Fifteen defendants charged in two of the indictments were arrested last year and three of those have already pleaded guilty, admitting that from March 2006 to August 2008, the members of that conspiracy distributed over 400 kilograms of cocaine in Baltimore. Fourteen defendants charged in the third indictment, which was unsealed today, were arrested and are expected to have their initial appearances today in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland. If convicted, the defendants face a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $4 million fine, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
The Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for bringing multi-ton quantities of narcotics, including cocaine and marijuana, from Mexico into the United States through an enterprise of distribution cells in the United States and Canada. The Sinaloa Cartel is also believed to be responsible for laundering millions of dollars in criminal proceeds from illegal drug trafficking activities. Individuals indicted in the cases are charged with a variety of crimes, including: engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise by violating various felony provisions of the Controlled Substances Act; conspiracy to import controlled substances; money laundering; and possession of an unregistered firearm.
“International drug trafficking organizations pose a sustained, serious threat to the safety and security of our communities,” said Attorney General Holder. “As the world grows smaller and international criminals step up their efforts to operate inside our borders, the Department of Justice will confront them head on to keep our communities safe.”
To date, Operation Xcellerator has led to the arrest of 755 individuals and the seizure of approximately $59.1 million in U.S. currency, more than 12,000 kilograms of cocaine, more than 16,000 pounds of marijuana, more than 1,200 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 8 kilograms of heroin, approximately 1.3 million pills of Ecstasy, more than $6.5 million in other assets, 149 vehicles, 3 aircraft, 3 maritime vessels and 169 weapons.
“We successfully concluded the largest and hardest hitting operation to ever target the very violent and dangerously powerful Sinaloa drug cartel,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “From Washington to Maine, we have disrupted this cartel’s domestic operations—arresting U.S. cell heads and stripping them of more than $59 million in cash—and seriously impacted their Canadian drug operations as well. DEA will continue to work with our domestic and international partners to shut down the operations of the Sinaloa cartel and stop the ruthless violence the traffickers inflict on innocent citizens in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.”
The 21-month investigation began shortly after the culmination of Operation Imperial Emperor, an investigation which resulted in the indictment of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF)-designated Consolidated Priority Organizational Target (CPOT) Victor Emilio Cazarez-Salazar, believed to be a command and control leader within the Sinaloa Cartel. CPOT Victor Cazarez-Salazar remains a fugitive.
As a result of today’s arrests, federal charges were unsealed against numerous individuals in California, Minnesota and Maryland. Cases resulting from Operation Xcellerator are being handled by prosecutors in 11 judicial districts, including the: Central District of California; Southern District of California, District of Minnesota; District of Maryland; Southern District of New York; District of Arizona; District of Massachusetts; Middle District of Pennsylvania; Northern District of Ohio; Western District of Texas; and Eastern District of California. Assistance for Operation Xcellerator was provided by the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and Office of International Affairs. Additionally, local prosecutions will occur in Los Angeles, Orange County, Calif., and Riverside, Calif.
The investigative efforts in Operation Xcellerator were coordinated by the multi-agency Special Operations Division, comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service, as well as attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. More than 200 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies contributed investigative and prosecutorial resources to Operation Xcellerator through OCEDTF.
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.