Area drug task force honored as best in the nation
The Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force (NOLETF), staffed by federal agents and local police officers who work together to target large-scale drug trafficking organizations, was hailed as the best task force in the nation Thursday.
The NOLETF was given the Corporal Edward M. Toatley Memorial Award for Outstanding Task Force Effort. The presentation was made at the 2012 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s (HIDTA) national conference in Washington D.C.
The task force was honored for Operation Northwest Express, which took down an organization that dealt powder and crack cocaine in the Cleveland area and was involved in robberies, shootings and money laundering. The investigation resulted in criminal charges being filed against 14 people in state court and 72 people in federal court – the largest criminal indictment ever filed in the district.
The investigation included the use of wiretaps, undercover drug buys, GPS tracking and other investigative techniques.
The investigation revealed that the leaders of the drug trafficking organization in Cleveland obtained cocaine from Georgia and Kentucky and distributed to others, who used stash houses in Cleveland, Euclid and East Cleveland. Those three homes were seized, as was $100,000 in cash, nine firearms and six kilograms of cocaine.
All 86 subjects have been arrested and their cases are progressing through the court system.
The task force is made up of representatives from the Cleveland Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Coast Guard -- Criminal Investigative, and police departments from Shaker Heights, the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority, Euclid, the Regional Transit Authority, Strongsville, Cleveland Heights and Westlake.
The task force is funded through the Ohio HIDTA. It was selected for the honor from more than 400 HIDTA task forces.
“This award demonstrates the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force's commitment to dismantling the largest and most violent drug trafficking organizations and gangs,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office. “The FBI is proud to be partnered with officers and detectives from the various law enforcement agencies represented on the NOLETF and we look forward to continuing our investigative efforts together.”
Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said: “On behalf of the community and Division of Police, we would like to thank the officers and agents of the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force for their service and to congratulate them on this prestigious award. By earning this award it shows their commitment to the communities they serve and is truly deserved.”
U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach added: “This task force demonstrates the best of law enforcement in our region – federal agents and local officers working together to make sophisticated cases that improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”