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March 20, 2019Houston, TX, United StatesNarcotics

Houston-based federal drug task force investigation leads to 43 additional arrests

HOUSTON — Law enforcement authorities arrested 43 people Tuesday and Wednesday as part of a federal drug investigation dubbed “Operation Wrecking Ball” into alleged drug trafficking and related crimes that spanned multiple jurisdictions and states.

This Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation is led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The following agencies are assisting with this investigation: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Houston Police Department, IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Marshals Service, Galveston (Texas) Police Department, Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas National Guard’s Joint Counterdrug Task Force.

The 43 arrested this week join four others who were already in law enforcement custody. Nine other individuals are considered fugitives and warrants remain outstanding for their arrest.

The indictment, which was returned in November 2018 and unsealed March 20, alleges that the defendants engaged in a variety of cocaine and heroin transactions. Some allegedly also conspired to commit money laundering and illegally transferred money to avoid reporting requirements.  

The charges also allege that the crimes occurred between Feb. l, 2016, and April 19, 2018. According to the indictment, the drugs were smuggled into the United States from Colombia and Mexico. Heroin and cocaine were then distributed through Houston to Atlanta, Georgia; Buffalo and New York, N.Y.; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Norfolk, Virginia.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of any illegal proceeds of the alleged crimes. To date, about $3.1 million has been seized as part of this investigation.

“This operation is the result of countless hours of hard work by officers and agents from many different agencies,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick, Southern District of Texas. “OCDETF is uniquely able to marshal resources for complex cases. The Department of Justice is committed to disrupting the work of international cartels and other drug trafficking organizations. This case also is reinvigorating my office’s commitment to Galveston. For the first time in decades, we have a full-time prosecutor on the island who is focused on cases that will have a local impact in Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston and Matagorda counties.”

“Today’s enforcement operation marks the culmination of a 3 ½-year investigation targeting one of the largest suspected drug organizations seen in Southeast Texas in decades,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy. “The success of this investigation was possible only because of the many law enforcement agencies dedicated to protecting our communities in the greater Houston-Galveston area from those who prey on them.”

Those arrested are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Edison in Houston on March 21.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Cusick, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Updated: 03/21/2019