US: Nearly 200 Defendants Charged in Series of Arrests Targeting Drug-Trafficking Organizations Nationwide

Nearly 200 people have been charged as part of a series of arrests targeting large-scale drug-trafficking organizations operating throughout the United States.

“Over just three days and across 10 states, the Justice Department has charged nearly 200 individuals for their alleged roles in major drug trafficking operations,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “These cases represent just a fraction of the work our agents and prosecutors are doing every day to target, disrupt, and dismantle the cartels and drug trafficking organizations that are poisoning the American people.”

“Every year, tens of thousands of Americans die from illicit drugs trafficked into our communities, including fentanyl and other synthetic opioids,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “This wave of indictments and arrests — stretching from Alaska to Mississippi and from Nebraska to West Virginia — shows the reach of the Justice Department and our partners across the country and around the world when it comes to disrupting narcotics trafficking.”

The cases announced this week were brought by federal law enforcement in four districts leading to the arrest of defendants from 10 states that cover crime rings operating in the Eastern, Southern, and Midwest regions of the U.S. and throughout Alaska.

These efforts are all part of a Department-wide Violent Crime Reduction Strategy implemented under Attorney General Garland to leverage the resources of the Department’s federal prosecutors, agents, investigators, criminal justice experts and grant programs to combat violent crime.

Every U.S. Attorney’s Office across the country has worked alongside state and local partners to implement district-specific violent crime reduction strategies. These cases represent the ongoing, targeted efforts by U.S. Attorney’s Offices to seize deadly drugs and to prosecute those whose actions bring violence in communities.

On Jan. 25, the District of Alaska announced charges against 54 defendants in connections with a large-scale organized crime ring operating within the state of Alaska, allegedly run by an inmate from a California prison. Heraclio Sanchez-Rodriguez, 57, is accused of using contraband cell phones to communicate with his suppliers in Mexico and their brokers, leaders in California and Oregon, and distributors of the drug trafficking enterprise in Alaska. From February 2022 to July 2023, law enforcement intercepted over 36 kilograms of fentanyl, 27.3 kilograms of meth, 11.3 kilograms of heroin, and 118 grams of cocaine connected to the enterprise The indictments allege the enterprise mainly used high-level suppliers to send drug packages through the U.S. Postal Service from Oregon and California to Alaska. Distributors located in Alaska would allegedly receive the packages and traffic the drugs to Alaskan communities, from the most populous cities to some of Alaska’s smallest villages.

On Jan. 24, the Northern District of West Virginia announced charges against 82 defendants for a drug trafficking ring operating in the Eastern Panhandle. According to court documents, Gary Bernard Brown Jr., 38, of Baltimore, supplied others with large quantities of fentanyl capsules and powder for redistribution in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties. The investigation yielded 10 kilograms of fentanyl with a street value of $1.2 million. The fentanyl being trafficked was blue and packaged in colorful capsules, potentially attractive to children. It was enough fentanyl to create more than 33,000 of the capsules for sale. Officers also found cocaine, methamphetamine, firearms, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets during the investigation.

On Jan. 23, the District of Nebraska announced charges against 19 defendants for their roles as part of a meth distribution ring operating throughout Nebraska with ties to Kentucky and California. Alejandro Ruiz, 41, allegedly ran the crime syndicate out of California and trafficked meth and other narcotics from Mexico into California and then into the Midwest, including central Nebraska. In addition to meth seized through controlled buys, law enforcement also seized three firearms.

On Jan. 23, the Southern District of Mississippi arrested 40 individuals stemming from a four-year federal investigation of multiple drug-trafficking organizations distributing meth, cocaine, and other illegal narcotics. The case included defendants throughout Mississippi with connections to Mexico, California, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere. Some defendants are charged with committing a meth drug offense while minors, including a young toddler, were at the location. Investigators seized 36 firearms, five kilograms of crystal meth, and one kilogram of cocaine.

The investigation and prosecution of these cases are part of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operations, which aim to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Press Release

Tags: Opioid Crisis

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