Good morning, and thank you all for being here.
Today I’m joined by several key leaders in the U.S. government’s efforts to combat Mexican drug cartels: Michele Leonhart, DEA Acting Administrator; Kevin Perkins, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division; and John Morton, Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
We are here to announce the results of Project Deliverance – a 22-month, bilateral investigation focused on the transportation infrastructure in the United States used by Mexican drug cartels to distribute illegal narcotics throughout our country and smuggle weapons and cash across the U.S.-Mexico border. This interagency, cross-border operation has been our most extensive, and most successful, law enforcement effort to date targeting these deadly cartels, and it is a direct result of our ongoing Southwest Border Strategy.
Our aim was to target not just cartel operations, but the networks of individuals across the United States the cartels tap to distribute drugs in our country and smuggle cash and guns out of it. This Project over the last 22 months has led to the arrest of more than 2,200 individuals, including the alleged leader of the Castro-Rocha drug trafficking organization, Carlos Ramon Castro-Rocha. It has also resulted in the seizure of approximately $154 million in U.S. currency, approximately 1,262 pounds of methamphetamine, 2.5 tons of cocaine, 1,410 pounds of heroin, 69 tons of marijuana, 501 weapons and 527 vehicles.
Yesterday, just yesterday alone, as part of this investigation, approximately 3,000 agents and officers fanned out in 16 states in a coordinated enforcement action that has led to the arrest of 429 individuals. In addition to these arrests, we took more than 90 pounds of heroin, and more than 2,900 pounds of marijuana, as well as other illegal drugs, off our streets and we seized more than $5 million in U.S. currency. Let me be clear – this was simply yesterday alone.
These outstanding efforts were coordinated by the Special Operations Division, which is comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, ICE, IRS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and ATF, and by attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. More than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies provided investigative and prosecutorial resources to this investigation. I want to thank the many prosecutors, investigators, and law enforcement officials who contributed to Project Deliverance’s success.
Without question, these arrests and seizures will disrupt drug cartel operations and impact the ability of traffickers to move narcotics into the United States. This operation has struck a significant blow against the cartels, but make no mistake: we know that as successful as this operation was, it was just one battle in what is an ongoing war. These dangerous cartels will continue to attempt to wreak havoc on both sides of the border, and we will continue to target them with every resource available to the federal government and our state and local partners. By deploying more resources to federal law enforcement agencies through our Southwest Border strategy, we have enhanced our ability to target these cartels, but we will not rest until we have defeated them. That’s why the President is asking for an additional $500 million in supplemental funds to enhance our law enforcement activities and protection along the border. We have already put into place a multi-layered effort to target illicit networks trafficking in people drugs, illegal weapons, and money, but we need to increase it – and we will.
The progress we have announced today would not be possible without the assistance of our partners in the Mexican government, who are waging a courageous battle against drug cartels within their own borders. We applaud their efforts, and we will continue to stand by them and work with them. Together, I am confident that we can build on the success of this operation – and on last year’s landmark investigations, including Operation Xcelerator, which targeted the Sinaloa Cartel and resulted in more than 780 arrests, and Project Coronado, which targeted the La Familia Michoacana Cartel and resulted in nearly 1,200 arrests.
Through these and other law enforcement efforts, we are striking at the heart of criminal smuggling operations. We are also putting drug traffickers, and those who threaten the safety of our communities and the security of our border, on notice. This Administration, working with enforcement at all levels as well as our international partners, is committed to defeating these cartels, and we have proven the power of strong collaboration and coordination in achieving that goal.
Once again, I want to thank the agents, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and many partners involved in yesterday’s takedown and in the success of our ongoing fight against Mexican drug cartel operations.
I’d now like to turn it over to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.