WASHINGTON - Assistant Secretary John Morton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Attorney General Eric Holder, acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Assistant Director Kevin L. Perkins of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division announced the arrest of more than 2,200 individuals on narcotics-related charges in the United States and the seizure of more than 74.1 tons of illegal drugs as part of a 22-month, multi-agency law enforcement investigation known as "Project Deliverance."
On June 9, 429 individuals in 16 states were arrested as part of Project Deliverance, which targeted the transportation infrastructure of Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the United States, especially along the Southwest border, through coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement. More than 3,000 agents and officers operated across the United States to make the arrests. Law enforcement agents also seized $5.8 million in U.S. currency, 2,951 pounds of marijuana, 112 kilograms of cocaine, 17 pounds of methamphetamine, 141 weapons and 85 vehicles.
"This operation represents one of the most powerful attacks the U.S. government has launched against the criminal organizations smuggling narcotics, weapons and cash across our borders," said ICE Assistant Secretary Morton. "The results of Project Deliverance clearly demonstrate the combined strength that federal agencies bring to bear in the battle against the cartels."
In addition, as part of the bilateral efforts between Mexico and the United States to disrupt drug cartel operations, Mexican law enforcement provided significant supportive actions for Project Deliverance. Among those arrested during the course of the operation was Carlos Ramon Castro-Rocha, an alleged heroin trafficker who has been designated a Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT). A CPOT designation is reserved for significant narcotics traffickers who are believed to be the leaders of drug trafficking organizations responsible for the importation of large quantities of narcotics into the United States. Castro-Rocha was arrested by Mexican authorities on May 30, 2010, based on an arrest warrant from the United States. Castro-Rocha was indicted in U.S. District Court in the Western District of North Carolina and in U.S. District Court in the District of Arizona on drug trafficking charges.
Individuals indicted in these cases are charged with a variety of crimes, including conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana; distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana; conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States; and other violations of federal law. Numerous defendants face forfeiture allegations as well.
Overall, in 22 months, Project Deliverance has led to the arrest of 2,266 individuals and the seizure of approximately $154 million in U.S. currency, and 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.
"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," said Attorney General Holder. "This successful operation, however, is just one battle in an ongoing war. So long as cartels and smugglers attempt to wreak havoc on our borders, we will continue to target them with every resource available to the federal government. This administration, working with law 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."
"Project Deliverance inflicted a debilitating blow to the network of shadow facilitators and transportation cells controlled by the major Mexican drug cartels," said DEA Acting Administrator Leonhart. "Deliverance continues a deliberate and strategic effort to cut off and shut down the supply of drugs entering our country, and the flow of drug profits and guns to Mexico. The stakes are extraordinarily high, and this massive operation is a milestone in our tireless assault on these violent drug cartels."
"Violent drug distribution networks along the Southwest border pose a threat to our border security and thus a threat to our nation's citizens. By combining resources through operations like Project Deliverance, the law enforcement community will continue to disrupt and dismantle drug distribution networks and put those involved in the transportation of these drugs behind bars," said FBI Assistant Director Perkins.
This coordinated takedown is part of the department's Southwest Border Strategy, announced in March 2009, which uses federal prosecutor-led task forces that bring together federal, state and local law enforcement components to identify, disrupt and dismantle Mexican drug cartels through investigation, prosecution and extradition of their key leaders and facilitators, and seizure and forfeiture of their assets. Through continued joint cooperation at all levels of the Obama and Calderon administrations, the Department of Justice and its partners are actively working to stem the flow of illegal narcotics, weapons and bulk cash moving across the U.S./Mexico border.
During the course of this investigation, arrests were made and/or charges have been unsealed related to Project Deliverance in the following areas: District of Arizona, Eastern and Southern Districts of California, District of Colorado, Southern District of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Northern District of Illinois, District of Maryland, Eastern District of Missouri, District of Montana, District of Nevada, District of New Mexico, Northern and Southern Districts of New York, Western District of North Carolina, Eastern and Western Districts of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Tennessee, Southern and Western Districts of Texas, Eastern District of Virginia, Western District of Washington and the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
In a coordinated action, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on June 9, 2010, named two individuals and two entities linked to the international drug trafficking organization La Familia Michoacana as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers. This action targeted Wenceslao Álvarez Álvarez, aka Wencho, his frontman Ignacio Mejia Gutierrez and two entities, Mega Empacadora de Frutas, S.A. de C.V. and Importaciones y Exportaciones Nobaro, S.A. de C.V. Under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, any assets these individuals or entities may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen. In addition, U.S. persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the designees.
The investigative efforts in Project Deliverance were coordinated by the multi-agency Special Operations Division, comprised of agents and analysts from ICE, DEA, FBI, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as attorneys from the Criminal Division's Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. More than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies contributed investigative and prosecutorial resources to Project Deliverance, many of which were through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Forces and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETFs). Significant assistance for Project Deliverance was also provided by the Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs.
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.