A joint anti-narcotics drug task force in Los Angeles on Thursday nabbed more than a dozen suspects with ties to three known drug trafficking organizations that routinely snuck narcotics across the border from Mexico into the United States. The drug traffickers allegedly hid their illicit shipments inside the axles of commercial trucks that ended up at truck yards located in South Los Angeles and southern Los Angeles County, according to law enforcement sources.
The 18 suspects arrested on Thursday are among the 57 named in two indictments and one criminal complaint filed in United States District Court. Drug enforcement agents and officers are continuing the dragnet for the remaining 39 suspected drug traffickers, according to the officials at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
As a result of a criminal investigation that began in early 2011, law enforcement members of the task force seized more than 2,400 pounds of methamphetamine, 30 kilograms of cocaine, 16 kilograms of white heroin, 20 kilograms of brown heroin, and more than $1.2 million in suspected drug money. The agents and officers also confiscated 18 firearms found in the possession of the 18 suspects.
Thursday's counter-narcotics operation resulted in agents and officers seizing an additional 7 pounds of methamphetamine, a dangerous synthetic stimulant of the central nervous system that is considered more potent and longer lasting than cocaine.
The task force members also seized an addition three guns as well as four vehicles used to transport the drugs out of Mexico and into southern Los Angeles.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was passed by the Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton with the promise it would allow goods and services to flow more freely between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to News with Views in January 2011.
"Unfortunately, many of the goods entering America from Mexico are illegal drugs, the trafficking of which was made easier by the trade pact," according to an article appearing in News with Views by Jim Kouri.
The task force also recovered at least $50,000 in U.S. currency and they discovered a fully-equipped methamphetamine laboratory.
“As the means and methods that drug trafficking organizations use evolve, so will law enforcement evolve to meet the challenge,” said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. “The allegations here describe a wide-ranging conspiracy to exploit aspects of our nation’s trucking and transportation system and funnel enormous amounts of dangerous narcotics into this country. The arrests we announce today dismantle that conspiracy and disrupt this threat to public safety.”
The investigations that led to this morning’s takedown were conducted by the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)/Southern California Drug Task Force, a federally funded group comprised of federal and local law enforcement agencies.
The federal agencies involved in this far-reaching investigation and apprehension are the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.
The local law enforcement agencies involved are the Azusa Police Department, the South Gate Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Whittier Police Department, all of which are in California.
“Through the cooperation of federal, state and local law enforcement, thousands of pounds of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin have been seized, with a combined street value in the tens of millions of dollars,” Anthony Williams, DEA Special Agent in Charge stated.