Law Enforcement Makes Arrests Related to Mexican La Familia Drug Trafficking Cartel
More Than 110 Defendants Charged in the Northern District of Texas as Part of “Project Coronado”
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 22, 2009|
DALLAS—Approximately 84 members of methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking cells associated with Mexico’s La Familia cartel were arrested yesterday on charges outlined in 10 federal indictments and several complaints that were filed earlier this month and unsealed yesterday in the Northern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District and James L. Capra, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) Dallas Division. The charges include conspiracy with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance; possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine; conspiracy to commit money laundering; possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime; and conspiracy to fraudulently export firearms and ammunition from the U.S.
In addition, law enforcement officers executed approximately 40 search warrants yesterday at various locations throughout North Texas which resulted in the seizure of more than 220 pounds of methamphetamine (ICE), 4.5 kilograms of cocaine, $660,000 in cash, 50 firearms, 53 vehicles, one boat, two all terrain vehicles, one camper and two real properties. These seizures are in addition to more than 650 pounds of methamphetamine, 135 kilograms of cocaine, more than 100 firearms, more than $2.4 million in U.S. currency and more than $1 million in other assets already seized from members and customers of these organizations throughout the investigation by law enforcement in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“The commitment of law enforcement, including federal, state and local law enforcement, to detect, apprehend and prosecute those individuals involved in the distribution of illegal drugs, has never waned and remains as one of the highest priorities of those responsible for making our communities a better place to live,” said U.S. Attorney Jacks. “Project Coronado was a hard-hitting, resounding success with more than 110 alleged drug traffickers charged in this district and an enormous amount of drugs, otherwise destined for our communities, seized. Once again, the coordinated effort of law enforcement has proven that we do have the tools and the capacity to disrupt any criminal organization determined to deprive us of our safety and security.”
“The La Familia Michoacana Cartel is one of the largest and most well-established methamphetamine sources of supply operating within the United States. Our efforts, combined with those of our many other law enforcement partners represented here, have resulted in a multitude of arrests and the seizure of a large volume of illegal drugs from this trafficking organization,” said Special Agent in Charge James L. Capra of the Dallas Field Division’s Drug Enforcement Administration. “This operation is evidence that the law enforcement community at large will not stand idly by while drug trafficking organizations attempt to fight for and gain criminal control of our communities across North Texas.”
The arrests are part of “Project Coronado,” a nationwide multi-agency law enforcement effort led by DEA, that targeted the La Familia Cartel based in the state of Michoacana, in southwestern Mexico. La Familia is currently one of the Mexican government’s highest priorities in its battle against drug trafficking organizations. In a highly publicized incident in July 2009, members of La Familia launched a series of attacks against Mexican federal police officers and military members following the arrests of some of the cartel’s high-level members, including Arnoldo Rueda-Medina, a.k.a. La Minsa and Miguel Angel Berraza-Villa, a.k.a. La Troca, resulting in the brutal murder of 16 federal police officers. Rueda-Medina and Berraza-Villa oversaw the shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine into the U.S. and coordinated the collection of drug proceeds in the U.S. for shipment to Mexico.
Since 2006, DEA has been investigating several methamphetamine trafficking organizations that routinely receive significant quantities of methamphetamine, as well as cocaine and marijuana, from supply sources in Michoacana. While these were initiated as separate investigations, over the last 11 months the investigations revealed that the different organizations are all part of a network of methamphetamine distributors that receive large amounts of methamphetamine from, and in some instances work on behalf of, the La Familia cartel in Michoacan. Through these investigations, law enforcement learned that the drug shipments entered the U.S. primarily through southern Texas, with the Dallas-Fort Worth area serving as a critical distribution point for La Familia and a transshipment point for drug shipments to Georgia, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Mississippi and Chicago.
An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury and a defendant charged in an indictment is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. A federal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offenses charged, and must be made under oath before a magistrate judge. A defendant charged in a complaint is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The U.S. Attorney’s office has 30 days to present the matter to a grand jury for indictment.
Federal, state and local agencies assisting DEA in Project Coronado in North Texas include: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; FBI; Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation; U.S. Secret Service; North Texas HIDTA, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Air National Guard; Police Departments from Abilene, Addison, Allen, Arlington, Bedford, Coppell, Dallas, Duncanville, Fort Worth, Garland, Grand Prairie, Irving, Keller, Lewisville, Mesquite, North Richland Hills, Richardson, Rockwall, Waxahachie and Weatherford, Texas; Dallas-Fort Worth Airport Department of Public Safety; Dallas County Constables; Rockwall County Special Crimes Unit; Sheriff’s Departments in Dallas, Ellis, Denton, Hill and Parker County, Texas; the Sheriff’s Department in Carter County, Oklahoma; and the Dallas and Tarrant County District Attorney’s Offices.