Department of Justice Seal




(202) 616-2777


TDD (202) 514-1888


"For the past year, federal, state and local authorities have been engaged in a coordinated investigation of a heroin trafficking organization. The investigation, known as Operation Tar Pit, focused on a group that we believe has put millions of dollars worth of high-purity black tar heroin on the streets of at least 12 cities in this country.

"The Operation has been a great success. Throughout the day, federal, state and local authorities have apprehended nearly 200 individuals in cities across the country where we believe this organization has plied its deadly trade.

"As a result, we believe we have dismantled a major heroin trafficking organization operating in this country.

"Operation Tar Pit grew out of a San Diego investigation that began in June 1998 that revealed that a single trafficking organization was the source of much of the high purity black tar heroin in the area and in several other cities. Investigators also determined that the organization targeted by San Diego had previously been the subject of an investigation in New Mexico in 1998.

"That investigation also linked the organization to numerous heroin overdose deaths in the small town of Chimayo, New Mexico. Between 1995 and 1998, approximately 85 deaths in Chimayo were attributed to high-purity black tar heroin.

"This organization operated in a dangerously efficient manner. Despite substantial seizures of drugs and the arrests of cell members, this organization demonstrated an ability to adapt to increased pressure from law enforcement. It did so by establishing distribution cells in large and medium sized cities across the country.

"Not only did members of the organization exhibit disregard for the law, but their peddling of this powerful and addictive drug showed an even greater disregard for human life.

"This operation is a classic illustration of how drug law enforcement works best - federal law enforcement agencies working cooperatively, one with the other and with state and local authorities and working in combination with the efforts of the prevention and treatment initiatives in the community.

"I would like to thank the leadership of DEA Administrator Donnie Marshal and FBI Assistant Director Reuben Garcia -- as well as the law enforcement partners whose cooperation led to the success of Operation Tar Pit. This included the DEA and the FBI, the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorneys Offices conducting the investigation, and the multi-agency Special Operations Division.

"I would also like to recognize and personally thank the important service Senator Domenici provided early on in focusing attention on the harm being suffered by the communities in his state and the thoughtful and positive way in which he supported our efforts.

"The impact of law enforcement's work on this operation is significant, resulting in the seizure of potentially lethal heroin bound for streets and neighborhoods across the United States.

And most off all I'd like to thank the agents involved-- and we salute them.

"Thank you."