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ICE dismantles transnational drug trafficking organization

Extensive operation nets 14 arrests, 10 indictments, 4 guilty pleas and 3 kilograms of cocaine

NEWARK, N.J. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have arrested the last international fugitive in an investigation into a transnational drug trafficking operation based in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Canada, England, Jamaica and Saint Lucia, dubbed Twisted Sister, which began over a year ago.

Mervin Francis, 33, of Saint Lucia, was arrested by the Metropolitan Police's Extradition Squad in London, England. He will remain in custody in England until he is formally extradited to New Jersey.

In May 2009, Francis became an ICE fugitive after being indicted in the District of New Jersey for conspiracy to import into the United States more than five kilograms of cocaine, as well as conspiracy to export from the United States more than five kilograms of cocaine. ICE's investigation revealed that Francis would conceal cocaine within the handrails of couriers' luggage. Francis was previously based in Jamaica and St. Lucia. The cocaine was smuggled into the United States and Canada and then on to Great Britain for distribution in Birmingham, England.

"ICE's aggressive investigation was successful in taking down this transnational drug smuggling operation from top to bottom," said Peter T. Edge, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in New Jersey. "This extensive multi-agency operation is yet another example of how international teamwork can disrupt the flow of drugs, bring criminals to justice, and dismantle criminal networks that profit from narcotics trafficking."

To date this ICE-led investigation has yielded 14 arrests, 10 indictments and four guilty pleas. Four previously arrested individuals, Tajara Barnes, Genard Howard, Nigel Roberts and Cortnie Spencer, were arraigned in New Jersey today.

ICE agents in Newark, New York, Philadelphia and Miami conducted this investigation with assistance from ICE Attaché London, England; ICE Assistant Attaché Kingston, Jamaica; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), DEA London Country Office; DEA Barbados County Office; U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey; the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida; The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force; Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, Stains, England; the West Midlands Police Department, Birmingham, England; Newark Police Department and Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police.

The prosecution of the case will be handled by the United States Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey in Newark.