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Tag: DEA

Barr Struck Deal with Mexico to Release Ex-Defense Minister for Senior Cartel Leader

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, former Mexican defense minister.

By Steve Neavling

Mexican authorities agreed to arrest a senior cartel leader in exchange for Attorney General William Barr dismissing drug trafficking charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.

The deal, first reported by Reuters, sheds more light on an unusual decision that drew criticism from some in Congress and the State Department, as well as former DEA agents.

“Mexico committed to collaborate with the United States in the capture of a primary objective,” a source told Reuters

Daniel Millan, spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, responded, “what we agreed was to maintain a united front against crime and cooperation that respects the sovereignty of each country.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman denied both countries had a deal. 

Last week, multiple news outlets reported that Mexican officials were so incensed with the arrest of Cienfuegos that they threaten to remove the DEA from the country.

The unidentified cartel leader is suspected of trafficking large quantities of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that kills tens of thousands of Americans a year. 

DOJ to Allow Local, State Police to Wear Body Cameras During Task Force Arrests

Body cams, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department has reversed its ban on body cameras, saying state and local law enforcement may wear the devices during some joint operations with federal law enforcement. 

The move comes after some police officials have said the ban violates their public accountability policies. The DOJ had worried body cams would reveal the identities of undercover agents.

Under the change announced Thursday, federally deputized officers may activate body cams while serving arrest warrants or making other planned arrest operations while on a federal task force. 

“After spending a substantial amount of time examining this issue, assessing the results of the pilot program, and taking into account the interests and priorities of all the law enforcement agencies involved, I am pleased to announce that the department will permit the use of body-worn cameras on our federal task forces in specific circumstances,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement.  “The Department of Justice has no higher priority than ensuring the safety and security of the American people and this policy will continue to help us fulfill that mission.”

The Justice Department’s task forces include the ATF, DEA, FBI and U.S. Marshals Service. 

The task forces launched a pilot in January 2020 to allow local police to use body cams. Those include the Houston Police Department, Detroit Police Department, Wichita Police Department, Salt Lake City Police Department and Park City Police Department. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke in favor of the ban reversal. 

“The FBI values the collaborative efforts of our state, local, and tribal partners, as they are integral to the success of our common mission to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution,” Wray said in a statement. “We hope this program will enable us to further expand these efforts and build upon deep-rooted relationships within our communities.”

Ex-DEA Spokesman Sentenced to 7 years in prison for Posing As CIA Operative in Elaborate $4 Million Fraud Scheme

Garrison Kenneth Courtney. Photo via Alexandria Sheriff’s Office.

By Steve Neavling

A former DEA spokesman to seven years in prison Wednesday to posing as an undercover CIA operative to defraud government contractors out of more than $4 million.

Garrison Kenneth Courtney, who served as a DEA spokesman between 2005 and 2009, pleaded guilty in June to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.

Prosecutors said the 44-year-old Florida resident posed as a covert CIA officer serving on a highly classified task force, whose mission was to enhance the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the U.S. government.

No such task force existed, and Courtney had never worked for the CIA.

“Courtney’s brazen and salacious fraud was centered on the lie that he was involved in a highly-classified intelligence program and that he was a covered CIA officer engaged in significant national security work,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney in the Eastern of Virginia, said in a statement.

“In fact, Courtney never worked for the CIA, the supposed classified program did not exist, and Courtney invented the elaborate lie to cheat his victims out of over $4.4 million,” Terwilliger said.

As part of the scheme, Courtney convinced several public officials that he was a CIA operative and told them they had been chosen to participate in the program, using “those officials as unwitting props falsely to burnish his legitimacy,” prosecutors said. The government officials unwittingly repeated those claims to the companies, giving his scheme an air of legitimacy.

The investigation was carried out by multiple law enforcement agencies.

Terwilliger had faced up to 20 years in prison. 

‘Operation Legend’ Nets Nearly 5,000 Arrests in 9 Cities, Barr Announces

Attorney General William Barr, via DOJ.

By Steve Neavling

Nearly 5,000 people have been arrested across nine cities as part of “Operation Legend,” an anti-crime initiative launched by the Justice Department in July, Attorney General William Barr announced Tuesday. 

Since the operation began on July 8, federal authorities and their local partners have arrested 267 murder suspects and seized roughly 16 kilos of fentanyl, 200 kilos of methamphetamine, 30 kilos of cocaine, and more than $7.3 million in drug proceeds.

Of those arrested, 1,124 have been charged with federal offenses. More than 600 have been charged with firearms offenses, and 440 have been charged with drug-elated crimes. 

The operation involves more than 1,000 agents from the ATF, DEA, and FBI, along with the U.S. Marshals Service, in nine cities: Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis, Kansas City and Indianapolis. The operation is named in honor of LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy who was fatally shot while he was sleeping in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City.

To see a breakdown by city, click here.

DEA’s Violent Crime Operation Leads to 1,500+ Arrests

DEA evidence from Project Safeguard. Photo via DEA.

By Steve Neavling

A DEA operation to combat violent crime has netted more than 1,500 arrests and seized 2,135 firearms since it was launched in August, the agency announced Tuesday. 

The initiative, nicknamed Project Safeguard, also seized 162 nearly $24 million in assets and more than 6,100 kilograms of illicit drugs, including 158 kilograms of fentanyl.  

The operation comes at a time when violent crime is increasing in many cities. 

“Drug trafficking and violent crime are inextricably linked,” DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea said in a statement. “From the extreme levels of violence in Mexican cartels, to the open air drug markets in American cities, drug traffickers employ violence, fear, and intimidation to ply their trade.  Neighborhoods across our country are terrorized by violent drug trafficking organizations that have little regard for human life, and profit from the pain and suffering of our people. Along with our law enforcement partners, DEA is committed to safeguarding the health and safety of our communities.”

Assisting the DEA in Project Safeguard are federal, state and local agencies, including the ATF and the U.S. Marshals Service. The project has three priorities: Target violent drug trafficking organizations, prosecuting firearms traffickers, and capturing violent fugitives.

“For decades, New York has been a major distribution point for drug traffickers with drug-related crime following in its footsteps,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan, New York Division said. “With rising crime rates, DEA has reinforced investigations into local drug gangs and networks that threaten public safety and instill fear in our neighborhoods while continuing to identify and investigate major drug trafficking organizations responsible for supplying illicit drugs to New York.” 

Instructors at DEA Training Academy Accused of Racial Discrimination

By Steve Neavling

Instructors at the DEA’s Training Academy have come under scrutiny following a rash of recent complaints about racial discrimination, The Associated Press reports.

In one case, an instructor is accused of calling a Black recruit a “monkey” and taunting others by making “monkey noises” on a loud speaker at the firing range. 

“We were like, ‘It’s 2019. That shouldn’t even be a thing that we’re dealing with,'” Derek Moise, a white trainee, said. “Everybody knows what those sounds and noises stand for.”

The complaints come as the DEA struggles to diversify its ranks. 

The DEA “has received a string of recent complaints describing a culture of racial discrimination at its training academy in which minorities are singled out, derided with insults and consistently held to a higher standard than their white counterparts,” The AP wrote, citing records and interviews with former recruits and law enforcement officials.  

In another case, an instructor said a Black recruit’s skin color made him a perfect candidate to work undercover. 

Hispanic recruits also leveled complaints about racial discrimination. 

Only 8% of the DEA’s special agents are Black, and 10% are Hispanic. 

“DEA takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and will not tolerate discriminatory behavior of any kind,” the agency said in a statement. “DEA is committed to recruiting, retaining and promoting a workforce that reflects the diversity of our country and the people we serve.”

DEA Makes Largest Meth Bust in Its History – 2,224 Pounds

The DEA’s biggest methamphetamine seizure. Photo via DEA.

By Steve Neavling

The DEA on Wednesday announced the biggest methamphetamine seizure in American history: 2,224 pounds of the drug recovered in California.  

The Oct. 2 bust took place at stash houses in Riverside County that were connected with the Sinaloa cartel, The Los Angeles Times reports. The DEA also seized 13 pounds of heroin and 893 pounds of cocaine.

The announcement came just three days before CBP announced its second largest methamphetamine seizure on Oct. 9 at the Otay Mesa Port Entry in San Diego. CBP officers seized more than 3,100 pounds of methamphetamine, along with 64 pounds heroin, 29 pounds of fentanyl powder and 37 pounds of pills. 

Together, the seizures “are more than enough to provide a dose of meth for every man, woman and child in the United States and Mexico,” Timothy Shea, acting administrator of the DEA, said Wednesday at a news conference.

Authorities have seen a dramatic increase in methamphetamine seizures near the border. Last year, meth overdoses rose 25%, Shea said. 

New York Pharmacist Sent Cocaine in a Greeting Card To DEA Agent, Prosecutors Say

By Steve Neavling

A New York pharmacist is accused of sending powdered cocaine in a greeting card to a DEA agent after discovering his business was under investigation, the Justice Department said. 

The idea was to disrupt the investigation, but the plan failed. 

Dimitrios Lymberatos, 34, is charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice for seeking to “interfere with the investigation through intimidation,” acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss of the Southern District of New York said in a statement.

“Lymberatos’s misguided message was received loud and clear – and he now faces the possibility of a lengthy prison term for his potentially harmful attempt to obstruct law enforcement,” Strauss said. 

The DEA began investigating the pharmacy in November 2019 over discrepancies in a registration application, delaying his ability to receive authorization to dispense controlled substances.

Frustrated with the impact on his pharmacy, Lymberatos hired a private investigator to learn more about the DEA investigator. After discovering the agent’s home address, he sent her a greeting card with several packets of cocaine. 

When the agent received the card and found white powder inside, she alerted law enforcement and went to the hospital for a toxicology screening. 

Prosecutors say the motive was to create “fear” for the agent’s “physical safety, and to create trouble for the Investigator by causing her to come into possession of an illegal controlled substance.”

“One of our own diversion investigators was allegedly targeted simply for doing their job, and as such, Mr. Lymberatos’s alleged actions as a pharmacist and licensed professional were completely unconscionable,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan said. “Thankfully, due to the diligent work of our Tactical Diversion Squads, he will be brought to justice.”