Thursday, July 21, 2011

DEA: 1,900 Mexican cartel members nabbed in drugs, money probe

The Washington Times

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, following a 20-month nationwide investigation, said Thursday it has arrested more than 1,900 members of a Mexican drug cartel as part of an operation known as “Project Delirium.”

DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart described the arrests, along with the seizure of $62 million in U.S. currency and nearly 25,000 pounds of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines, as the largest ever against the La Familia Michoacana cartel, one of Mexico’s most violent drug gangs.

“Through their violent drug trafficking activities, including their hallmark of supplying most of the methamphetamine imported into the United States, La Familia is responsible for recklessly and violently destroying countless lives on both sides of the border,” Mrs. Leonhart said.

“The strong joint efforts with our Mexican and U.S. law enforcement partners are crippling this brutal organization by capturing its leaders, strangling its distribution networks, and relentlessly pursuing its members and those who facilitate them,” she said.

Project Delirium is the result of information gathered during the course of a previous effort targeting La Familia, known as “Project Coronado,” which culminated in 2009. The new operation involved more than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.

Arrests have been made or charges have been unsealed in Washington, D.C., and 12 states from California to North Carolina. Mexican law enforcement authorities arrested one of La Familia’s reputed leaders, Jose de Jesus Mendez-Vargas, who also is known as “The Monkey,” based on Mexican charges.

Those arrested in the U.S. were charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana; distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana; conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States; and money laundering.

“Through coordinated and strategic efforts like Project Delirium, we are disrupting the operations of Mexican drug cartels in the United States and Mexico,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “The arrests and seizures we are announcing today have stripped La Familia of its manpower, its deadly product and its profit, and helped make communities large and small safer.”

John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said law enforcement officials in the United States, Mexico and around the world “are cooperating at unprecedented levels,” adding that there is a “willingness - like never before - to work hand-in-hand to fight the cartels, the criminal enterprises, and the violent gangs that threaten the peace and security of people on both sides of the border.”

Shawn Henry, the FBI’s executive assistant director for the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch, said investigations such as Project Delirium “target the dangers these organizations pose to the United States and Mexico” and that the FBI, working with its federal and international law enforcement partners, “will continue to commit our resources to combat the threat posed by transnational criminal enterprises.”

The La Familia gang operates in the Mexican state of Michoacan, located along the Pacific Ocean west of Mexico City and northwest of Acapulco. Although it smuggles cocaine, marijuana and heroin, it has become infamous for its distribution of methamphetamine, winning and maintaining smuggling routes into the United States by cutting off the heads and limbs of its rivals.

Another of the gang’s reputed leaders, Nazario Moreno, also known as “The Craziest One,” reportedly has written his own bible and many of his 1,500 followers hold prayer meetings before attacking or killing their rivals or Mexican military and police authorities.

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