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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Major 500lb. Meth Bust Linked to Mexican Cartel

Monday, October 20, 2014
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the takedown of a transnational criminal organization based in Contra Costa County, including the arrest of 22 individuals and the seizure of 500 pounds of methamphetamine and over $700,000 in U.S. Currency.

The takedown, named Operation Road Trip, represents the culmination of several related investigations targeting California-based Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) connected to Mexico’s Sinaloa Federation drug cartel. These investigations, which were led by California Department of Justice task forces that include federal, state and local law enforcement partners, have to date, resulted in 67 arrests and the seizure of $40 million of methamphetamine and $1.82 million in U.S. Currency over the past six years.

“This operation demonstrates our continuing commitment to focus on the connection between transnational criminal organizations and organized street gangs in California,” Attorney General Harris said. “We will do whatever is necessary with our federal and local partners to dismantle these violent, insidious organizations.” 

Operation Road Trip is the merger of two long-term investigations led by the West Contra Costa County Narcotic Enforcement Team (“West-NET”) Task Force, the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (“LA IMPACT”), and associated local, state, and federal partners. During the Operation Road Trip investigation, the task forces revealed that methamphetamine from Mexico was being delivered to the Nitro gang, a DTO based in Southern California. The Nitro gang would make regular “road trips” to Contra Costa County in order to distribute to other DTOs, including the Urtiz gang based in Northern California. Over the past year, Operation Road Trip resulted in the service of 16 search warrants, the seizure of 500 pounds of methamphetamine, 1 firearm, 4 vehicles, $723,635 in U.S. Currency, and the arrests of 22 individuals for drug and firearms related violations.

In May of 2011, Attorney General Harris along with the FBI and other law enforcement partners announced the conclusion of the first of the two long-term investigations, named Operation Red Reach. This operation, a two-year coordinated sweep led by West-NET, shut down a network of local and transnational gangs, including a Nortenos gang in western Contra Costa County. The case resulted in the seizure of 135 pounds of methamphetamine, 26 illegal firearms, approximately $150,000 in U.S. Currency and federal and state convictions of 26 individuals.  Information and intelligence gained from this operation led to the identification of the Urtiz DTO.

West-NET’s subsequent investigation, named Operation Crystal Lens, revealed that the Urtiz DTO’s methamphetamine was being supplied by the Southern California-based Nitro DTO, which was also separately under investigation by LA IMPACT.

In total, the three linked investigations, Operation Red Reach, Crystal Lens and Road Trip, have resulted in the total seizure of 1109 pounds of methamphetamine, for a street value of $40,242,504, the seizure of 48 firearms, 10 vehicles, $1.82 million in U.S. Currency and the total arrests of 67 individuals for drug, and firearms related violations.

In March, Attorney General Harris called the trafficking of methamphetamine a growing threat to the state and a top priority for law enforcement in a report, Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime, which is the first comprehensive report analyzing the current state of transnational criminal organizations in California.

Transnational criminal organizations have made California the single biggest point of entry for methamphetamine into the United States, with 70% entering through the San Diego Port of Entry. The report also outlined recommendations to address this problem, which include increased funding for state anti-narcotics trafficking task forces and additional coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in combatting transnational criminal organizations. The report is available here: https://oag.ca.gov/transnational-organized-crime.

Following the release of the report, Attorney General Harris led a delegation of state attorneys general to Mexico to strengthen working relationships between the governments of both countries and enhance efforts to combat transnational crime. The delegation met with Mexican state attorneys general and federal officials to discuss the issues of drug, human and firearms trafficking, money laundering and high-tech crime.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Harris announced that the California Department of Justice will create a new anti-methamphetamine team of Special Agents based in Los Angeles funded by a $1 million federal grant. The team will be comprised of six Special Agents assigned to investigate illicit activities related to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine in California and will work in a coordinated effort with the other 18 existing California Department of Justice task forces.

The noted investigative accomplishments would not have come to a successful conclusion without the assistance and support of the following law enforcement partners: Alameda County Narcotics Task Force, Antioch Police Department, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation - Special Service Unit, California Highway Patrol, Concord Police Department, Contra Costa County Animal Services Department, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Contra Costa County Probation Department*, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office*, El Cerrito Police Department*, Fairfield Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation*, Hercules Police Department*, Kensington Police Department*, Los Angeles Interagency, Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, Pinole Police Department, Pittsburg Police Department, Richmond Police Department*, San Francisco Police Department, San Pablo Police Department, Solano County District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshal Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, Vacaville Police Department, Western States Information Network, Yolo County Narcotic Enforcement Team.

*denotes WestNET Task Force Members

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