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04/08/2010

ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton addresses HIDTA conference

How ICE fights the flow of dirty money in targeting transnational crime

Assistant Secretary John Morton discusses ICE's role in combating the drug trade at the 2010 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Conference in Washington, D.C., on April 8.
Assistant Secretary John Morton discusses ICE's role in combating the drug trade at the 2010 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Conference in Washington, D.C., on April 8.
Nearly 400 federal, state and local law enforcement representatives converged at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., on April 7-8 to attend the 2010 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Conference.

Under HIDTA, law enforcement agencies partner together to combat drug-trafficking crimes in designated areas around the country that have a high concentration of drug distribution, transportation, smuggling and other drug-related activities.

In addressing the group Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton explained how ICE fights transnational criminal activity by depriving criminals and criminal organizations of their sole motivator-money.

"When we undercut the profit, we also take away the single recruitment tool drug trafficking organizations have-making a quick buck," Morton said.

Morton cited the El Dorado Task Force’s Operation Triple Play where law enforcement officers made 28 arrests and seized large amounts of currency, vehicles and drugs. The case demonstrates how ICE "successfully navigates the shady underworld of narcotics money laundering-a world replete with money brokers, sham businesses, hidden accounts and other byways of illicit finance," Morton said.

ICE's latest advance in disrupting the lifeline that fuels criminal enterprises is the Bulk Cash Smuggling Center (BCSC) in Williston, Vt. Law enforcement officials can contact the BCSC for timely actionable intelligence related to BCS interdiction and receive ongoing BCS operational support.

Also in ICE's arsenal is a comprehensive study with DHS Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement. ICE has gathered and synthesized information from both U.S. law enforcement agencies and the government of Mexico to learn more about the criminal proceeds supply chain. Knowing where criminals are consolidating cash and how they're transporting it, law enforcement agents and officers will be armed with critical inside information needed to halt bulk cash smugglers and money launderers in their tracks. Morton said that the results of the study will be revealed at a meeting in Mexico within the next six weeks.

ICE participates in 30 of the 32 HIDTA programs around the country and Morton said, "We intend to continue working collaboratively in them for many more years to come."

The HIDTA conference was sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the leading agency that develops and coordinates drug control policies and acts as a central organizing body to manage the anti-drug efforts. The ONDCP initiated HIDTA in 1990.