Federal Indictments Allege International Organized Crime Syndicate Imported and Exported Narcotics Across North America Tuesday, January 30
February 22, 2024
Ten people were arrested in multiple cities over the past day in relation to two federal indictments charging members of an organized crime syndicate who allegedly conspired to traffic and import hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and other controlled substances from Mexico through Los Angeles for export to Canada or re-distribution throughout the United States.
Arrest and search warrants were executed this morning by a coalition of international law enforcement partners in various cities, including Los Angeles; Sacramento, California; Miami; Odessa, Texas; Montreal; Toronto; and Calgary, Canada.
In addition to those arrested, two defendants were already in state custody, and seven defendants are fugitives, including three Mexicans who allegedly supplied wholesale quantities of narcotics to the traffickers in the United States and Canada.
The investigation, known as "Operation Dead Hand," resulted in two federal grand jury indictments returned under seal in Los Angeles earlier this month. The indictments, which were unsealed today, collectively charge 19 individuals for their alleged roles in the organized crime syndicate, including Mexico-based suppliers who brought large quantities of narcotics into the United States, United States distributors, a Canadian who led an exportation organization, Canadian-based semi-truck drivers who operate in the United States, and a large-scale Canadian trafficker and Italian organized crime figure, Robert Scoppa, whom investigators allege was purchasing massive quantities of drugs on a wholesale basis.
"Today's charges and arrests across North America reflect the Justice Department's close coordination with our Mexican and Canadian partners to disrupt international narcotics trafficking," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. "These cases provide yet another example of how our agents and prosecutors work side-by-side to uncover and dismantle organized criminal networks peddling and profiting from deadly drugs."
"Drug trafficking is a global problem being driven by sophisticated, organized crime groups who put profits over people's lives," said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California. "Motivated by greed, these criminals destroy lives, devastate families, and wreak havoc in our community. But this case shows that we will collaborate with our international partners to bring these criminal networks to justice. Those who traffic in highly addictive and dangerous drugs will be held accountable."
"Until today, the organized members of this conspiracy operated with impunity throughout the many thousands of miles that comprise the North American continent, poisoning communities along the way," said Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office. "The strength of this partnership cannot be overstated. The agents and detectives on this case did an outstanding job of pooling resources and worked seamlessly across borders toward a mutual goal of putting this massive drug pipeline out of business."
Investigators developed information indicating the organized crime group used Canadian "handlers" and "dispatchers" who travelled from Canada to Los Angeles for short amounts of time. The handlers coordinated the pick-up and delivery of large shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine, which were loaded onto long-haul semi-trucks destined for Canada. Wholesale quantities of fentanyl were seized as a result of the investigation. The transportation was coordinated by a network of drivers working with dozens of trucking companies who made numerous border crossings from the United States to Canada via the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, the Buffalo Peace Bridge, and the Blue Water Bridge.
The indictments allege illicit drug trafficking activity cumulatively involving approximately 845 kilograms (1,860 pounds) of methamphetamine, 951 kilograms (2,092 pounds) of cocaine, 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of fentanyl, and 4 kilograms (nearly 9 pounds) of heroin. Over $900,000 in cash was seized during the investigation. The estimated wholesale value of the narcotics seized was between $16-28 million.
"Customs and Border Protection's partnerships with international, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are a key component of our efforts to combat the transnational organized crime threat and prevent the movement of dangerous illicit drugs," said Director of Field Operations Cheryl M. Davies of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)'s Los Angeles Field Office. "CBP will continue to invest in these partnerships as we work together to keep dangerous drugs out of our communities."