LOS ANGELES - Federal and local authorities today announced the culmination of a seven-month investigation leading to the break up of a major heroin distribution ring that supplied the narcotic to 11 violent street gangs in East Los Angeles and the surrounding area.
So far, the probe has resulted in 88 arrests and the seizure of more than 20 kilograms of heroin with an estimated street value of $2.5 million dollars. In addition, investigators have seized $1.5 million in assets belonging to the organization, including vehicles, cash, and firearms.
The arrests and seizures are the result of a multi-agency investigation spearheaded by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Earlier this month, a federal grand jury indicted 48 individuals identified during the probe for conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 grams of heroin. Today, officers arrested 33 of those suspects, as well as 12 persons who are facing state charges in the case. In addition, three individuals named in the federal indictment, who are already in state custody, will be remanded to federal authorities.
"By pooling our expertise and resources, we have dismantled an international crime ring that for years has been importing and selling heroin to gangs throughout Southern California," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. "As the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, our goal is to disrupt activities that threaten public safety. When you're talking about a dangerous and highly addictive drug that ruins lives and fosters further crime, those risks are all too real."
"The relationship between drugs and street gangs isn't new to DEA," said Timothy J. Landrum, special agent in charge for the DEA in Los Angeles. "Street gangs continue to fund their operations through the illicit drug market - in this case, preying on those vulnerable in our communities through the sale of heroin on the streets of Los Angeles. Those arrested today were responsible for bringing more than 150,000 doses of heroin onto the streets of Los Angeles every week - enough to supply thousands of people. DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, working together to rid our neighborhoods of violent drug traffickers and street gangs."
According to an affidavit filed in the case, the organization imported black tar heroin from Mexico, then distributed it to at least six different distribution networks operating in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. The heroin was repackaged in baggies and sold to street gangs in the Los Angeles area. The organization is believed to be responsible for distributing approximately 15 kilograms of heroin a week, generating a monthly profit of approximately $2 million dollars.
The individuals charged in the indictment face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The lead agencies in this case received substantial assistance in the investigation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Unites States Marshal's Service (USMS); the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); the Montebello, West Covina and El Monte police departments; the California Bureau of Narcotics - Los Angeles Inter-Agency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (LA IMPACT); and Los Angeles County Probation.