ATLANTA - Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working in conjunction with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), conducted search and arrest actions in Cobb County Thursday and Friday, as part of a large-scale investigation, dubbed "Operation Spider Web," in which 15 individuals were indicted for alleged drug trafficking and firearms- related crimes.
"Georgia residents can sleep better tonight knowing that an organized criminal ring has been hit," said Brock Nicholson, acting special agent in charge of the ICE HSI office overseeing Georgia and the Carolinas. "This case demonstrates yet again how law enforcement in Atlanta is committed to working together to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks."
In May 2009, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies began investigating a drug trafficking organization operating in the metro-Atlanta area and elsewhere. The organization allegedly coordinated the receipt and distribution of cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana throughout Atlanta and elsewhere, using firearms in furtherance of its illegal activities.
The indictment alleges that members of the organization hid, transported and stored illegal drugs and drug money inside of tires that were then either placed on or inside drug delivery vehicles.
As part of the takedown, agents searched two tires shops, "Alex Tires and Rims" in Marietta, Ga., and "Emmy Tires" in Griffin, Ga. Both tire shops were allegedly operated by Santiago Villanueva Pineda, 36, of Marietta. Agents also executed three search warrants, including at the tire businesses used by the criminal organization as fronts for its illegal activities. The takedown ensnared 13 defendants, with the arrest of eight additional individuals on state drug charges or for immigration offenses. Items seized during the takedown included 22 guns, several kilograms of cocaine and methamphetamine, a meth lab, over $30,000 in cash, and several vehicles. Those seizures supplement the approximately $1 million, 75 kilograms of cocaine, over 11 pounds of methamphetamine, 16 firearms, and two grenade hulls already seized in the investigation.
"The U.S. Attorney's office targets the largest drug trafficking organizations in the district, so that we can reduce the drug trafficking and violence not only in the state of Georgia but the other parts of the country that these organizations touch," said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "Operation Spider Web involves 15 defendants who are alleged to have distributed cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana using tire stores as fronts, and tires as drug packaging. The takedown of this case has a direct impact on the community to make Atlanta safer, with less drugs and fewer guns on the streets."
"DEA and its law enforcement counterparts orchestrated a well-planned and coordinated assault against a high-level poly-drug distribution network," said Rodney G. Benson, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Atlanta Field Division. "Because of the unified effort between DEA and its law enforcement counterparts, this organization will no longer be able to wreak havoc on our community."
"The mission of ATF is unwavering--we fight violent crime by investigating and prosecuting those who criminally use firearms that cause immeasurable damage to our communities," said Gregory K. Gant, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agent in charge. "Today's enforcement activity is a perfect example of the law enforcement community working together to remove these violent criminals from its streets."
Last week, a federal grand jury returned a ten-count indictment related to "Operation Spider Web," which was unsealed Friday with the arrests. The indictment charges the defendants with various criminal offenses including conspiring to traffic over five kilograms of cocaine, over 100 kilograms of marijuana, and over 500 grams of methamphetamine; substantive drug trafficking charges; and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes.
The investigation and prosecution of this case is a coordinated effort through the OCDETF, which is comprised of special agents of ICE-HSI; DEA; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); ATF; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and the Marietta-Cobb-Smyrna Organized Crime Intelligence Task Force (MCS), which is comprised of officers from Cobb County Sheriff's Office, Cobb County Police Department, Marietta Police Department, Smyrna Police Department, Kennesaw Police Department, Acworth Police Department and Powder Springs Police Department, along with the Cobb County District Attorney's Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim S. Dammers, Ryan Scott Ferber and Gerald Sachs are prosecuting the case.