Two dozen people around the world were arrested today as part of the largest coordinated international law enforcement action in history directed at “carding” crimes—offenses in which the Internet is used to traffic in and exploit the stolen credit card, bank account, and other personal identification information of victims.
From the most basic task of finding a crime scene to more complicated matters regarding language and cultural barriers, FBI agents in Indian Country depend on their local, federal, and tribal law enforcement partners. And our partners rely equally on us—for expertise, training, and other resources.
DEA NEWS: HAJI BAGCHO SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON ON DRUG
TRAFFICKING AND NARCO-TERRORISM CHARGES
WASHINGTON – An Afghan national with ties to the Taliban was sentenced to life in prison today for conspiring to distribute heroin to the United States and for using drug proceeds to fund, arm and supply the Taliban, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Haji Bagcho, an Afghan national and large scale drug trafficker, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in the District of Columbia. In addition to his prison term, Bagcho was ordered to forfeit $254,203,032 in drug proceeds along with his property in Afghanistan.
“This is DEA at its finest, working in close collaboration with our Afghan partners to end the long reign of this Afghan drug lord whose drug proceeds financed terror,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “One of the world’s most prolific drug traffickers who helped fund the Taliban will spend his remaining days behind bars in a U.S. prison due to the relentless efforts of DEA, our Afghan counterparts and our prosecuting partners.”
“Haji Bagcho led a massive drug production and trafficking operation that supplied heroin in more than 20 countries, including the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “In 2006 alone, he conducted heroin transactions worth more than $250 million. Bagcho used the profits of his narcotics trafficking operation to support high-level Taliban commanders in Afghanistan. Today’s life sentence is an appropriate punishment for one of the most notorious heroin traffickers in the world.”
Bagcho was convicted by a jury on March 13, 2012, after a three week trial, of one count of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, knowing and intending that it would be unlawfully imported into the United States; one count of distribution of one kilogram or more of heroin knowing and intending that it would be unlawfully imported into the United States; and one count of narco-terrorism. The trial, before Judge Huvelle, was only the second under the narco-terrorism statute since its enactment in 2006.
Bagcho was charged in a superseding indictment on Jan. 28, 2010, after his arrest and extradition to the United States from Afghanistan in May 2009.
The DEA, in cooperation with their Afghan counterparts, conducted the investigation, which revealed that Bagcho was one of the largest heroin traffickers in the world and manufactured the drug in clandestine laboratories along Afghanistan’s border region with Pakistan. According to information presented at trial, Bagcho, who had been operating his heroin business since at least the 1990s, sent the drug to more than 20 countries, including the United States. Proceeds from his heroin trafficking were then used to support high-level members of the Taliban in furtherance of their insurgency in Afghanistan.
With the help of cooperating witnesses, evidence showed that the DEA purchased heroin directly from Bagcho’s organization on two occasions, which Bagcho understood was destined for the United States. They also conducted several searches of residences belonging to Bagcho and his associates, recovering evidence consistent with drug trafficking. During one search, ledgers belonging to the defendant were found and were later introduced at trial. One ledger, cataloguing Bagcho’s activities during 2006 alone, reflected heroin transactions totaling more than 123,000 kilograms, worth more than $250 million. Based on heroin production statistics compiled by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime for 2006, the defendant’s trafficking accounted for approximately 20 percent of the total amount of heroin produced worldwide that year.
Over several years, evidence at trial established that Bagcho used a portion of his drug proceeds to provide cash, weapons and other supplies to the former Taliban governor of Nangarhar Province and two Taliban commanders responsible for insurgent activity in eastern Afghanistan, so that they could continue their “jihad” against western troops and the Afghan government.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Matthew Stiglitz and Marlon Cobar of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The case was investigated by the DEA Special Operations Division in the United States, with assistance from the DEA’s Foreign Deployed Advisory Support Team and Kabul Country Office in Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and in close cooperation with Afghan law enforcement. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section provided invaluable support.
45 Indicted in Major DEA-Led Investigations of Drug Trafficking Operations at San Juan International Airport
—Multi-Ton Quantities of Cocaine Shipped Aboard American Airlines Commercial Aircraft Destined for Continental United States—
June 6 (San Juan, PR) – On May 31, a federal grand jury indicted 25 individuals as a result of an investigation lead by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, announced today United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.
The defendants are charged in a 16 count indictment with violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
The defendants were members and associates of a criminal organization whose members and associates engaged in narcotics distribution and criminal acts principally out of the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The leader of the organization is Maribel Rodríguez-Fragoso, aka “La Flaca.”
The indictment alleges that in or around 2010 until May 2012, members of the enterprise and their associates carried kilograms of cocaine in backpack/bags, or hidden on their person, or driving official work vehicles into the Airport through the employees secured entrance. Once in the secured area, they would transfer the kilograms of cocaine to couriers inside of a designated restroom, who would then board flights departing to the continental United States.
It is further alleged that members of the enterprise transported large sums of drug proceeds in the form of U.S. currency from the continental United States to Puerto Rico. Some of the drug proceeds were used to purchase items, such as vehicles, which were regularly used to further the enterprise.
DEA Deputy Administrator Thomas M. Harrigan today said, “Americans have a right to expect the highest integrity from those they entrust with their safety, and DEA is committed to protecting that trust. Today’s arrests at one of the nation’s busiest airports reflect our relentless commitment to working with our partners to aggressively fight drug trafficking, not only at our nation’s points of entry, but at source, transit, and arrival zones throughout the world.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian Kidd, Sean Torriente and Justin Martin from the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. This unit operates under the Narcotics Unit, and it is supervised by the Chief of the Narcotics Unit, AUSA Timothy Henwood. This unit is yet another component of our new initiative against violent crime and illegal firearms.
A second indictment unsealed today charges 20 individuals for aiding and abetting each other, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 9000 kilograms of cocaine, aboard American Airlines commercial aircrafts. At times pertinent to this indictment, convict Wilfredo Rodríguez-Rosado, aka “Mogoyo” recruited and organized a group of individuals to package, transport and deliver suitcases loaded with kilograms of cocaine to the American Airlines cargo area at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport. Moreover, he recruited and organized a group of American Airlines employees to ensure that those suitcases were smuggled into American Airlines aircrafts destined to Miami and Orlando, Florida and Newark, NJ.
The case was investigated by the DEA, the PRPD, and the FBI, with the collaboration of the San Juan Municipal Police, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Olga Castellón, Mariana Bauzá and Maritza González.
“The defendants in this investigation not only utilized their positions and security access to smuggle large quantities of illegal narcotics, but they also compromised the safety and security at one of the Caribbean’s most vital airports,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Caribbean Division, Pedro Janer. “DEA will continue to dismantle these organizations that think they can blatantly use legitimate entities to carry out their smuggling operations.”
“The United States Attorney’s Office, along with our state and federal law enforcement counterparts, will continue investigating and prosecuting drug trafficking organizations which use our island as a trans-shipment point for drugs to the U.S. mainland. The use of commercial aircraft to smuggle narcotics in and out of Puerto Rico, also creates a serious threat to our national security,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
The defendants in both cases are facing a minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years up to life. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The DEA Caribbean Division would also like to extend its gratitude to the DEA Divisions in New York, Miami, Newark and Dallas for their incredible support and assistance.
GCIS Director W. Edward Griffith has ordered an immediate activation of all CYBER SECURITY TASK FORCE SERVICES at this agency and has called on all staff members to be on call until further notice. The Director has also ordered the full mobilization of all Machaseh Security Service personnel.
DEA Suspends Cardinal Health Distribution Facility: Cannot Sell Controlled Substances for Two Years
On May 15 the DEA announced a settlement agreement with Cardinal Health, a pharmaceutical wholesale distributor that suspends for two years its ability to sell controlled-substance medications from its Lakeland, Florida, distribution facility. In the agreement, Cardinal admits that its due diligence efforts for some pharmacy customers and its compliance with an earlier agreement signed in 2008 for similar violations at the same facility were, in certain respects, inadequate. The obligations of the agreement remain in full force and effect for a period of five years unless DEA agrees in writing to an earlier termination. The current settlement agreement also includes a signed Administrative Memorandum of Agreement whose terms apply to all Cardinal’s 28 registered distribution facilities.
On February 3 of this year, DEA’s Miami Field Division served an Immediate Suspension Order (ISO) against Cardinal Health’s distribution center in Lakeland, Florida, alleging that this distribution center failed to maintain effective controls against the diversion of controlled substances, specifically oxycodone. It was not DEA’s first action against Cardinal’s Lakeland facility. In December 2007, DEA issued an ISO at the location as a result of its distribution of hydrocodone to ‘rogue’ internet pharmacies. That action, and similar actions at other Cardinal Health facilities across the United States, resulted in a $34 million fine.
Largest Controlled Substance Settlement in DEA History: $50 Million
On May 11 the Justice Department reached a settlement with Omnicare in which the company will pay a record $50 million civil penalty to resolve claims its various pharmacy facilities improperly dispensed controlled substances to patients at long-term care facilities across the country. Omnicare is the nation’s leading provider of pharmaceutical care for seniors, serving on a daily basis an estimated 1.4 million residents of skilled nursing, assisted living and other healthcare facilities.
The settlement resolves civil penalty claims made by the Justice Department that the company violated the Controlled Substances Act between 2007 and the present by:
· Routinely dispensing controlled substances to residents of long-term facilities without a prescription signed by a practitioner;
· In a limited emergency situation, dispensing controlled substances without an oral prescription called in by a practitioner;
· Dispensing controlled substances to residents of long-term facilities from prescriptions missing essential elements, such as drug name, dosage, strength, quantity, DEA registration number and practitioner’s name;
· Not properly doucmenting partially filled prescriptions, thust prevengin DEA from conducting an audit.
DEA Administrator Leonhart said: “This case highlights the responsibilities of pharmacists, doctors and others when prescribing or dispensing controlled substances. DEA is committed to protecting the public health and safety by ensuring that those involved in dispensing prescription medications adhere to their responsibilities, and today’s fine demonstrates what can happen when they fail to comply with the law.”
Four Sinaloa Cartel Figures Targeted, Including Sons of “Chapo” Guzman
On May 8 the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced designations that prohibit United States persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with four key Sinaloa Cartel operatives, including two sons of Sinaloa drug lord Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera. This designation also freezes any assets they may have under the jurisdiction of the United States.
“In order to put organizations like the Sinaloa Cartel out of business, we must continue to utilize every tool available to ensure that these criminal groups and their associates cannot exploit the U.S. financial system,” said DEA Chief of Financial Operations John Arvanitis. “DEA is attacking the Sinaloa Cartel and other organizations at every level like never before, so they are put out of business and their leaders are brought to justice.”
Five Charged for Distributing Heroin That Led to Death of 21 Year Old in Oregon
Laurin Putnam, 21 of Keizer, Oregon was found dead on April 16, 2012 from an apparent heroin overdose. In the 96 hours following her death, investigators made numerous arrests and conducted searches in Washington County, Multnomah County, Marion County, and Vancouver, Washington, seizing over four pounds of heroin, additional quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine, two guns, and over $20,000. On May 4 federal indictments were announced of Sergio Quezada Lopez, 33, Braulio Acosta Mendoza, 34, Jose Romo Gonzalez, 22, Jose Aldan Soto, 30, and Julian Hernandez Castillo, 31, for conspiracy that resulted in the death of Putnam.
Together with other counts in the indictment the five defendants with a conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in death. For any defendant convicted of a conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in death and who has a prior felony drug conviction, the statutory mandatory minimum prison term is life with no possibility of release, and up to a $20,000,000 fine. For any defendant convicted of the same crime with no prior felony drug conviction, the mandatory minimum prison term is 20 years and up to a $10,000,000 fine. These indictments are part of a multi-state investigation that is ongoing.