SAN DIEGO - More than 75 federal and local law enforcement officers fanned out across San Diego and the South Bay Thursday morning targeting a major methamphetamine smuggling distribution network following a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Chula Vista Police Department.
The yearlong investigation resulted in an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury Sept. 15 charging 24 defendants with one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The defendants are suspected of operating a lucrative ring that distributed wholesale quantities of methamphetamine primarily to buyers in the San Diego area communities of Mission Valley, North Park and Chula Vista. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
"This investigation is a perfect example of the positive impact achieved in the community when local and federal law enforcement join forces to dismantle drug distribution networks operating in our neighborhoods," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for ICE's Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. "I commend the investigators for their tireless work that resulted in the takedown of a well-established, lucrative drug smuggling and distribution ring with ties to Mexican drug cartels. This joint investigation is victory for law enforcement and the community we serve."
"Operation Jackhammer demonstrates a seamless network of law enforcement agencies working together cooperatively to dismantle another dangerous drug trafficking organization," said Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano. "The Chula Vista Police Department remains committed to improving the quality of life for our residents by sharing department resources to jointly combat drug traffickers operating in our region."
Nineteen of the defendants, mostly residents of San Diego and Chula Vista, are in custody with arraignments pending. Five remaining targets are still being sought.
Additionally, two other defendants were arrested Thursday and charged in a separate complaint with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Agents also executed federal search warrants at eight Southern California residences in San Diego, Chula Vista and one business in National City. During the searches, investigators uncovered a large indoor marijuana grow consisting of 260 plants and several guns, including a loaded .357 caliber handgun and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
ICE is a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities. For more information, visit www.ICE.gov. To report suspicious activity, call 1-866-347-2423 or complete our tip form.