November 21st, 2006 13:59 EST
27 Charged in Drug Ring Operation
DEA and other law enforcement officials announced the successful results of Operation Central Hub, a federal drug investigation that charged 27 individuals with drug trafficking. Drugs seized in the investigation were valued at $15 million, and cash and assets seized totaled $2.9 million.
“Operation Central Hub targeted and successfully dismantled one of the largest drug trafficking operations ever known to operate in the State of Mississippi. It was especially significant in that agents were able to successfully trace the movement of both drugs and money from the hands of high level Mississippi traffickers into the hands of some of Mexico’s most powerful drug traffickers,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Stephen Luzinski.
The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN) initiated the investigation in April 2005, and later joined forces with DEA to jointly launch a federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation targeting multiple high priority cocaine and marijuana trafficking distribution cells operating in Hattiesburg and the Jackson metro area. The investigation also yielded criminal links to other drugorganizations operating in Dallas, Atlanta, Little Rock, Detroit, and Laredo, Texas.
Operation Central Hub also produced important connections to Mexico, revealing direct criminal links and associations between select Mississippi organization heads and Mexican drug sources of supply. Texas based organization members were found to be functioning as logistics coordinators in arranging the delivery of drug loads from Mexico to Mississippi. This same group arranged for the subsequent collection of money as payment for the drugs.
Through a coordinated multi-agency investigative attack, agents uncovered the existence of a highly sophisticated drug trafficking organization with tentacles across the United States. The drug trafficking group was found to be engaged in the transportation of large shipments of cocaine and marijuana across the border from Mexico into South Texas. Once inside U.S. borders, drug shipments were shuttled from Texas to various cities throughout the United States, including cities in Mississippi. Cocaine shipments destined to Mississippi were sent primarily via 18-wheel commercial tractor trailers operated by truck drivers employed by the Mexican drug bosses. The drug shipments were sometimes secreted in hidden compartments within the trucks or trailers or co-mingled with legitimate loads of cargo as a cover.
A second transportation method used by the organization was the use of large gooseneck trailers that were outfitted with sophisticated hidden compartments accessible only through a hydraulic remote control system. The trailers were pulled by dual wheel pick-up trucks and were capable of holding several thousand pounds of marijuana at a time. Dallas, Laredo, and San Antonio based drivers and couriers were routinely dispatched to Mississippi to meet with Mississippi cell heads and deliver the drug loads.
As part of a parallel financial investigation, agents determined that local distributors were normally provided with drug shipments on a consignment basis. Shortly after receipt, the Mexican based suppliers and Texas logistics coordinators requested cash payment for the drug shipments. Couriers traveled to Mississippi and met with Jackson and Hattiesburg area distributors to take receipt of the cash payments, oftentimes at Jackson area hotels. After receiving the money, the couriers secreted the cash loads in 18-wheel tractor trailers for eventual delivery to Mexico.
The Indictments include a range of charges which consist of the following: 21 USC 841 (a) (1) possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, 21 USC 846 conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and 21 USC 853 criminal forfeiture of drug related assets.