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The Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Customs Service today announced the conclusion of a two-year international investigation which culminated in the arrest of 93 individuals linked to the Amado Carillo Fuentes drug trafficking organization, headquartered in Mexico. "Operation Impunity" was a multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency complex investigation which tied drug trafficking activity within the United States to the highest levels of the cocaine trade operating today.

"The impact of Operation Impunity is significant," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "By targeting the cartel's importation, transportation and distribution network, we have substantially hindered their ability to move cocaine and other drugs into, and around, this country."

Donnie Marshall, Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration stated that "this investigation graphically proves the reach and depth of the internationally-directed cocaine trade that affects far too many communities within our nation - from major cities to smaller cities, from suburban locations to rural areas." During the duration of Operation Impunity, over $19 million in U.S. currency was seized, another $7 million in assets, as well as over 12,434 kilos of cocaine and over 4,800 lbs. of marijuana.

The most critical aspect of the investigation was the identification and arrest of three major drug trafficking cell heads - individuals who are on the payroll of major drug lords who direct their operations within U.S. cities: Arturo Arredondo aka "Aman" who was responsible for giving orders to traffickers based in the United States regarding all U.S. transportation and distribution activities; Jesse Quintanilla aka "Sobrino" who was in charge of all Chicago distribution of cocaine from Mexico; and Jorge Ontiveros-Rodriguez aka "Guillermo Alfonso" who was the San Diego cell head responsible for cocaine distribution. All three worked for the Amado Carillo Fuentes organization, based in Juarez, Mexico.

In 1997, Amado Carillo Fuentes, one of the most powerful drug traffickers in the world, died as a result of plastic surgery designed to change his appearance to evade law enforcement. A key lieutenant of the ACF organization, Gilberto Salinas Soria aka Gilberto Garza-Garcia who was arrested by Mexican authorities in January, 1999, directed U.S. affiliates from Mexico. Operation Impunity provided concrete evidence of their oversight and involvement in the day-to-day operations of their affiliates in the United States.

Typically, operatives of the ACF organization - targeted at all levels by federal agents in Operation Impunity - moved hundreds of tons of Columbian cocaine from Mexico, to McAllen, Texas to other cities such as San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York. From there it was moved to other cities like Nashville, Miami, Detroit, Raleigh, Houston, Newark, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Tulsa and Los Angeles where it was distributed to domestic organizations who guaranteed its sale on the streets of U.S. communities. Additionally, over a hundred million dollars in U.S. currency was returned to drug lords in Mexico by the same operatives who drove vehicles with bulk cash over U.S. highways. Traffickers based in Mexico and their U.S. affiliates communicated through various sophisticated means, taking full advantage of personal communications systems which the traffickers believed were safe from law enforcement attention.

Operation Impunity was coordinated by the Special Operations Division (SOD), which is a combined investigative coordination center for major narcotics and money laundering investigations involving the DEA, U.S. Customs Service, FBI, and IRS. In addition, there were numerous federal prosecutors in the field and with the Department of Justice Criminal Division's Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section, Office of Enforcement Operations, and Office on International Affairs. Also involved were the U.S. Attorneys Offices in the Southern District of Texas, Southern and Central Districts of California, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, District of Newark, Northern District of Georgia, Northern District of Oklahoma, Eastern District of North Carolina, Eastern District of New York, Eastern District of Michigan, Middle District of Tennessee, Southern District of Florida, and the Northern District of Illinois.

FBI Director Louis Freeh underscored that, "The success of Operation Impunity is an example of what can be achieved through cooperative efforts of all law enforcement agencies in addressing the most insidious crime problem facing our communities today."

"Drug investigations have become increasingly complex," added U.S. Customs Commissioner Raymond Kelly, "The best way to fight drug dealers effectively is by pooling our talents and resources. Operation Impunity is an excellent example of law enforcement pulling together to fight a common enemy."

Acting Administrator Marshall concluded that, "this operation was undertaken to prove that traffickers in Mexico and the United States no longer operate with impunity. The Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal and state law enforcement agencies will continue to target and disable major drug trafficking organizations in order to bring the highest levels of the drug trade to justice."