BLAINE, Wash. – Thirteen people were arrested today on two federal grand jury indictments alleging a conspiracy to export hundreds of pounds of narcotics, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, from Mexico through Southern California and into Canada, announced Brad Bench of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Seattle Field Office.
Three defendants were arrested in the Los Angeles area, while the others were arrested in the Seattle and Vancouver, Canada areas. Three additional defendants are currently in state custody and will be transferred over to federal custody at a later date.
The indictments unsealed today charge a total of 30 defendants with a series of narcotics-related offenses, including conspiracies to distribute, import, and export controlled substances. The indictments further allege that the organization imported MDMA, or ecstasy, from Canada to Southern California in exchange for other drugs.
According to the indictments and other court documents, the defendants, one of whom was arrested on August 24 and remains in federal custody, were members of related international drug trafficking organizations that worked together to traffic bulk quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin from Mexico to Canada through Southern California, including at locations in Costa Mesa, Compton, Ventura, and Redlands.
The drugs would be exchanged for either cash or bulk quantities of ecstasy, the indictments allege. Some of the defendants allegedly also conspired to transport narcotics to Australia from Southern California. The drug trafficking organizations included members of Canadian, Mexican, Serbian, Chinese, and Sudanese organized crime groups, according to court documents.
The defendants allegedly used modified cellular devices with military-grade end-to-end encryption to communicate with each other regarding their drug trafficking business, including the transportation of narcotics between the United States and Canada. These devices are manufactured primarily by Canadian companies that remove most functionality from the phones, leaving only an encrypted email system, court papers state.
In total, law enforcement seized approximately 428.5 kilograms (944.7 pounds) of cocaine, nine kilograms (19.8 pounds) of heroin, 46.6 kilograms (102.7 pounds) of methamphetamine, and 46.12 kilograms (106.1 pounds) of MDMA. Law enforcement also seized approximately $811,000 in Canadian currency.
Those defendants arrested today in the U.S. will appear this afternoon in United States District Court, including in downtown Los Angeles.
If convicted of all charges, the defendants would face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter was investigated by ICE's HSI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Los Angeles Police Department. Critical support was provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Toronto Police Service, the Sudbury Police Service, the Hamilton Police Service, Peel Regional Police, the Hawthorne Police Department, the Baldwin Park Police Department, the West Covina Police Department, the Fontana Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Justice Canada, and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Victoria A. Degtyareva of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.
HSI participates in organized crime drug enforcement task forces, which were established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The program identifies, disrupts and dismantles the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation's drug supply.
For more information concerning HSI's narcotics mission, please visit https://www.ice.gov/narcotics.