FBI: “Twenty-Six People Indicted in Drug Trafficking Conspiracy in Toledo”

August 25, 2014

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 21, 2014 released the following:

“Twenty-six people were indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to bring large amounts of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to Toledo from Arizona, California, Illinois and Mexico, law enforcement officials said.

The 55-count federal indictment was announced by Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland office, Toledo Police Chief William Moton and Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp.

“Heroin abuse is an epidemic in our community that takes lives and destroys families,” Dettelbach said. “We will continue to target drug traffickers while also working to reduce demand and get treatment for those who need it.”

“This is another example of the international drug trafficking connections that are plaguing our communities with danger and heroin,” Anthony said. “The FBI will continue collaborative law enforcement efforts to combat these violent organizations.”

“Through the working relationship that has been developed between the Toledo Police Metro Drug Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation we have become more efficient in targeting the mid- and upper-level heroin dealers in Toledo and surrounding communities,” said Toledo Police Chief William Moton. “These arrests are a byproduct of this successful collaboration. The City of Toledo and surrounding areas are the benefactors of these efforts as the spread of heroin has the potential to deteriorate the standard of living in our community.”

Those indicted are from Toledo unless otherwise noted. They are:

Alejandro Garcia, 44; Regina Navarro, 36; Osvaldo Perez, 60; Sean Machaterre, 31; Dicki Isom, 33; Federico Perez, 25; Daryl Mickles, Jr., 31; Keith Hubbell, 30; David Berrera, Jr., 40; Santos Flores, 34, of Oregon, Ohio; Juan Montano, 35; Daniel Montano, 26; Yousvani Gacita, 34; Davi Mata, 32; Willie Edward Smith, 38; Juan Rivera, 34; Paulo Gonzalez, 27; Abdul Shabazz, 39; Davalon Brown, 28; James Munoz, 37; Victoria Santellana, 31; Daniel Barboza, 38; Anthony Rudess, 42, of Curtice, Ohio; Eric Mays-Clausen, 41; Randolph Kemp, 53, and Jacqueline Jaquez, 40.

The defendants conspired between 2010 and this month to bring large shipments of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to Toledo for distribution. Garcia obtained the drugs from suppliers in Arizona, California, Illinois and Mexico and then distributed the drugs to mid-level dealers in the Toledo area. Those dealers, in turn, distributed the drugs to other dealers, according to the indictment.

The indictment details scores of transactions and drug sales that took place in Toledo, including locations at Ravine Park Village, Graham Street, Berry Street, North Ontario Street, Bronson Street, Sylvania Avenue, Westfield Park Mall, Main Street, Starr Avenue, Heatherdowns Road and other locations.

Three people—Garcia, Kemp and Isom—face additional charges of being felons in possession of firearms.

Prosecutors are also seeking to forfeit more than $6,800 in cash, six firearms, nine automobiles and homes at 1509 Navarre Avenue and 625 Parker Avenue in Toledo.

This indictment is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the Metro Drug Task Force, made up of members of the Toledo Police Department and the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas P. Weldon and Michael Freeman.

If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the court after a review of the federal sentencing guidelines and factors unique to the case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


To Smuggle More Drugs, Traffickers Go Under the Sea

September 10, 2012

The New York Times on September 9, 2012 released the following:

“By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and THOM SHANKER

KEY WEST, Fla. — For more than 24 hours last September, a Coast Guard helicopter and speedboat pursued drug traffickers and their contraband across the Caribbean Sea. Finally they caught up with the improbable vessel, the latest innovation in the decades-old drug war. It was a submarine.

The low-slung, diesel-propelled vessel, painted a dark shade to blend with the water, was believed to be carrying several tons of cocaine. But after the submersible’s crew scuttled the vessel and abandoned ship, the Coast Guard was able to salvage only two 66-pound bales of narcotics.

This is the new challenge faced by the United States and Latin American countries as narcotics organizations bankroll machine shops operating under cover of South America’s triple-canopy jungles to build diesel-powered submarines that would be the envy of all but a few nations.

After years of detecting these craft in the less trafficked Pacific Ocean, officials have seen a spike in their use in the Caribbean over the last year. American authorities have discovered at least three models of a new and sophisticated drug-trafficking submarine capable of traveling completely underwater from South America to the coast of the United States.

The vessel involved in the September chase was an older model that was only semi-submersible. That model presents a silhouette above water barely larger than a kitchen table, but requires a snorkel to bring in air for the diesel engine, which has a range of about 3,000 miles. The three newer, fully submersible vessels already captured were capable of hauling 10 tons of cocaine and, by surfacing at night to charge their batteries off the onboard diesel engine, could sail beneath the surface all the way from Ecuador to Los Angeles.

With the use of these craft on the rise, American officials say they fear that the trafficking networks are moving away from so-called fast boats, the high-powered fishing and leisure boats that can carry about a ton of cocaine and are easier to spot, to semi-submersible and fully submersible vessels that can surreptitiously carry many more tons of drugs, which are unloaded in shallow waters or transported to shore by small boats.

More troubling for American officials is their belief that these vessels could be used by terrorists to transport attackers or weapons, though they emphasize that no use of submersibles by militants has been detected.

Drug networks historically were organized to combine the tasks of production, transportation and distribution, and they have seen little reason to cooperate with terrorists. But these new advanced submarines are built in some cases by independent contractors who may be more willing to sell the vessels to anybody offering the right price.

“These vessels are seaworthy enough that I have no doubt in my mind that if they had enough fuel, they could easily sail into a port in the United States,” said Cmdr. Mark J. Fedor of the Coast Guard, who commands the cutter Mohawk, the 200-foot vessel whose fast boat and helicopter interdicted the submersible in the Caribbean last September.

In addition to the Coast Guard ships and aircraft patrolling the seas, the American effort includes a sophisticated command center that combines intelligence from across the United States government and from nations in the region, which are increasingly cooperating to battle cocaine trafficking.

This growing American counternarcotics effort is part of a larger shift to new missions for the nation’s security and intelligence agencies after a decade spent focused on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That mission to sort and analyze intelligence on drug trafficking and then coordinate the response occurs around the clock behind the walls of an interagency task force in Key West, which sent the intelligence report to Commander Fedor’s ship and coordinated its response.

The intelligence report, based on surveillance from a Coast Guard plane over the Caribbean and intelligence tidbits from nations in Latin America, said the submersible had left Colombia headed for Honduras.

Although the craft was 300 miles away, the Mohawk was the closest American vessel to it. So Commander Fedor immediately ordered his 100 crew members to direct the ship off Honduras to intercept the craft.

Cocaine-filled submarines and semi-submersible crafts “are the Super Bowl of counternarcotics,” Commander Fedor said. “When you hear one is moving, you say: ‘Wow. Game on.’ ”

After a day’s travel, the cutter got within a few miles of the craft and deployed the cutter’s fast boat and a helicopter.

Commander Fedor said that as they approached the submersible he was on the radio with the intelligence task force, getting up-to-the-second information on what the submersible was doing. He had similar conversations two weeks later as his ship was chasing another sophisticated submersible and had to fire on it to stop, a mission also set into motion by the intelligence fusion center in Key West.

Inside the command center, officially known as Joint Interagency Task Force-South, the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State and Defense are joined by intelligence agencies and liaison officers from more than a dozen nations to analyze threads of information on drug trafficking. The 600-person task force is in charge of cuing ships, aircraft and counternarcotics units on the ground for interdiction missions up and down the hemisphere.

The task force’s commander, Rear Adm. Charles D. Michel of the Coast Guard, said that drug interdictions for 2012 are already up more than 50 percent from a year ago. He attributed that to a counternarcotics coalition assembled at Key West that is trying innovative and aggressive measures to cut off drug traffickers leaving South America.

The current mission, called Operation Martillo, focuses on setting up interdiction “boxes” in two zones off the coast of South America where the drugs start their voyage, and two more just offshore of the favored transshipment points in Honduras and Guatemala, where the drugs are divided up into smaller shipments and harder to track.

Admiral Michel said that while the task force consists mostly of Americans, the end game is “getting to prosecution,” which requires working “by, with and through the local partners” in Central and South America.

In 2011, interdiction missions coordinated by the joint task force captured 129 tons of cocaine en route to the United States — more than five times the cocaine seized over the same period by operations in the United States, where agents and officers stopped about 24 tons of the drug.

Even so, three-quarters of potential drug shipments identified by the task force are not interdicted, simply because there are not enough ships and aircraft available for the missions. “My staff watches multi-ton loads go by,” Admiral Michel said.

Joint Interagency Task Force-South has been one of the United States government’s best-kept secrets, although it does exhibit a flair for dramatic symbolism — if you know what to look for.

Whenever the headquarters contributes intelligence to guide a mission that successfully interdicts a large cache of cocaine, a flag is raised in the yard. On the banner is a large image of a cocaine snowflake with a larger red “X” across the center.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Five Individuals Charged in Alleged Connection with Death of a Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol Agent; $1 Million FBI Reward Announced

July 9, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on July 9, 2012 released the following:

Individuals Charged Are Allegedly Responsible for Death of Agent Brian Terry

TUCSON, AZ— The indictment charging five individuals involved in the death of United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was unsealed today in Tucson, Arizona, and a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest of four fugitives was announced by Department of Justice officials.

According to the indictment, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, and Lionel Portillo-Meza are charged with crimes including first-degree murder, second-degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery, use and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. A sixth defendant, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, is charged only with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.

The 11-count third superseding indictment (Case Number: CR-11-0150-TUC-DCB-BPV), which was handed up by a federal grand jury in the District of Arizona on November 7, 2011, alleges that on December 14, 2010, five of the defendants (Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, and Lionel Portillo-Meza) engaged in a firefight with Border Patrol agents. During the exchange of gunfire, Agent Terry was shot and killed. The indictment alleges that the defendants had illegally entered the United States from Mexico for the purpose of robbing drug traffickers of their contraband. In addition to the murder of Agent Terry, the indictment also alleges that the five defendants assaulted Border Patrol Agents William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza, and Timothy Keller, who were with Agent Terry during the firefight.

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy said, “Agent Terry died in the line of duty while protecting his country. But he was more than a federal agent—he was a son, a brother, a co-worker, and a friend to many. The indictment unsealed today reflects the progress our dedicated law enforcement team has made piecing together this complex murder case. But there is more work to be done and we will not rest until we bring justice to the family of Brian Terry.”

“United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry made the ultimate sacrifice in December of 2010, while protecting our border,” stated James L. Turgal Jr., FBI Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Division. “Today’s announcement is an important step forward in the pursuit of justice for Border Patrol Agent Terry and his family. It is our hope that the publicity surrounding this case will lead to information concerning the whereabouts of the remaining four fugitives. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to pursue those individuals responsible for the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.”

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes has been in custody since his arrest the night of the shooting. Rito Osorio-Arellanes has been in custody since December 12, 2010, when he was arrested by Border Patrol agents on immigration charges. The indictment is being unsealed today in order to seek the public’s assistance in locating the fugitive defendants.

This case is being prosecuted in federal court in Tucson by attorneys from the Southern District of California, Special Attorneys Todd W. Robinson, David D. Leshner, and Fred A. Sheppard. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona is recused. This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

An indictment is a formal charging document and defendants are presumed innocent until the government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Wanted Posters
Ivan Soto-Barraza
Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes
Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga
Lionel Portillo-Meza”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Mexican Cartel Hides Millions in Horse Races, U.S. Alleges

June 12, 2012

The New York Times on June 12, 2012 released the following:

“By GINGER THOMPSON

Newcomers rarely make it into the winner’s circle at the All American Futurity, considered the Kentucky Derby of quarter horse racing.

Yet in September 2010, a beaming band of men waving Mexican flags and miniature piñatas swept into Ruidoso, N.M., to claim the million-dollar prize with a long-shot colt named Mr. Piloto.

Leading the revelry at the track was Mr. Piloto’s owner, José Treviño Morales, 45, a self-described brick mason who had grown up poor in Mexico. Across the border, Ramiro Villarreal, an affable associate who had helped acquire the winning colt, celebrated at a bar with friends.

As for the man who made the whole day possible, Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, he was living on the run, one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the world.

Mr. Treviño, a younger brother of José Treviño, is second in command of Mexico’s Zetas drug trafficking organization. Thin with a furrowed brow, he has become the organization’s lead enforcer — infamous for dismembering his victims while they are still alive.

The race was one of many victories for the Treviño brothers, who managed to establish a prominent horse breeding operation, Tremor Enterprises, in the United States that allowed them to launder millions of dollars in drug money, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials. The operation amounted to a foothold in the United States for one of Mexico’s most dangerous criminal networks, the officials said.

Using Miguel Ángel Treviño’s cash, José Treviño’s legal residency and Mr. Villarreal’s eye for a good horse, Tremor bought a sprawling ranch in Oklahoma and an estimated 300 stallions and mares. The Treviño brothers might have kept their operation quiet, given the criminal connection, but their passion for horses and winning apparently proved too tempting. In the short span of three years, Tremor won three of the industry’s biggest races, with prizes totaling some $2.5 million.

The business was “so far out there it’s hard to believe,” said Morris Panner, a former prosecutor who handled drug cases. “Maybe they were using some kind of perverse logic that told them they could hide in plain sight, precisely because people wouldn’t believe it or question it.”

The Justice Department moved against Tremor on Tuesday morning, dispatching several helicopters and hundreds of law enforcement agents to the company’s stables in Ruidoso and its ranch in Oklahoma. Jose Treviño and several associates were taken into custody and were charged later in the day, authorities said.

Miguel Angel Trevino and another brother, Omar, were also charged. The two remain at large in Mexico. Omar Trevino is also a high-ranking member of the Zetas and an F.B.I. affidavit filed in United States district court describes him as participating in the money laundering.

The affidavit said the Zetas funneled about $1 million a month into buying quarter horses in the United States. The authorities were tipped off to Tremor’s activities in January 2010, when the Zetas paid more than $1 million in a single day for two broodmares, the affidavit said.

The New York Times became aware of Tremor’s activities in December 2011 while reporting on the Zetas. The Times learned of the government’s investigation last month and agreed to hold this story until Tuesday morning’s arrests.

The brothers’ activities on either side of the border made for a stark contrast. One week in May began with the authorities pointing fingers at Miguel Ángel Treviño for dumping the bodies of 49 people — without heads, hands or feet — in garbage bags along a busy highway in northern Mexico. The week concluded with José Treviño fielding four Tremor horses in a prestigious race at Los Alamitos Race Course, near Los Angeles.

By then, Mr. Villarreal’s story had come to a fatal, fiery end. Not long after the 2010 victory at Ruidoso, he was detained by the Drug Enforcement Administration and reluctantly agreed to work as an informant. Five months later, his charred remains were found in a burnt-out car on the highway outside Nuevo Laredo.

The buzz around Tremor’s winnings and acquisitions began three years ago, when José Treviño bought an estimated $3 million in quarter horses, including one named Number One Cartel.

Since then he has worked with breeders, trainers and brokers considered pillars of the business. Tremor Enterprises did not always put its name on the horses it owned or the races they ran, presumably to avoid the attention of tax collectors and law enforcement authorities, according to federal agents.

But people inside the financially struggling industry do not need written records to tell them who is doing business with whom. And some of those insiders acknowledged that the subject of José Treviño’s identity, and where he got his money, was treated like so many taboos: people did not ask many questions, either because they did not care, or did not want to know.

“Everyone knows who José Treviño is,” one trainer said. “But all they cared about was whether his checks would clear.”

A Drug Organization Ascends

Made up of rogue members of the Mexican military and police, the Zetas were a protection force for the powerful Gulf Cartel before they set out on their own in 2010. Their ascendancy ignited a spate of massacres and assassinations of elected officials, police chiefs, journalists and others, which turned organized crime from a law enforcement problem to the No. 1 national security threat for Mexico’s fragile democracy.

Miguel Ángel Treviño, known as Zeta-40, or just 40, was never in the military. But he became useful to the Zetas for his experience moving contraband across the border.

Law enforcement authorities said the Zetas have been able to rapidly expand their reach beyond Mexico’s borders with the United States and Guatemala. And while other Mexican drug organizations prefer to keep themselves and their money close to home, the Zetas have established outposts as far as South America and West Africa.

“The Zetas are particularly adroit at spreading their tentacles across borders,” said Michael S. Vigil, a former senior official with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He added that the gang’s extensive intelligence and operational capabilities allow it to take control of new territory so quickly that it is difficult for law enforcement to keep up.

Their primary stronghold is Nuevo Laredo, one of North America’s busiest border-crossings and Mr. Trevino’s hometown.

He had grown up there in a large family with six brothers, including José, and six sisters, American authorities said. Like most local residents, the Treviño family treated the border as a kind of imaginary line.

Law enforcement authorities knowledgeable about the family said the siblings learned the tricks of moving easily between the United States and Mexico, using temporary visas and border-crossing cards to start families, buy properties and do business in both countries.

Court records lay out the nature of the brothers’ turn to crime, which dates back at least two decades. In 1995, an older brother, Juan Francisco Treviño, was sentenced on charges of conspiring to smuggle hundreds of pounds of marijuana into the United States.

On the witness stand, Juan Francisco described himself as a struggling entrepreneur who had tried to make a go of a small construction company, Treviño Masonry, but later went into trucking.

Prosecutors argued that those businesses were fronts for the Treviños’ smuggling activities, citing a raft of lapsed business licenses, false identification documents and suspicious wire transfers.

The defendant was sentenced to 22 years in prison, and remains incarcerated. José and Miguel Ángel Treviño were implicated in the case, but were never prosecuted for lack of evidence, said authorities involved in the investigation.

It is unclear whether the two brothers parted ways at that point or continued collaborating. Miguel Ángel Treviño’s rise through the ranks of the Zetas is well known. Jere Miles, an expert on the Zetas at the Department of Homeland Security, said that among the Mexican underworld, Mr. Treviño had gained the notoriety of a cult figure, one who has escaped unscathed from several gun battles against the law, makes deals with no one and seems unafraid to die. Dismembered bodies, dumped by the dozens, have become his calling card.

He also manages the organization’s money, according to George Grayson, a professor at the College of William and Mary who has written a book about the Zetas.

The trail of public information on José Treviño goes cold until 2009, when he began buying expensive racehorses.

“From all appearances, he looked like anyone else interested in quarter horses,” said one person in the industry who knows José Treviño. “But he had a massive amount of money, with no good explanation where it came from. And he had a family name that made a lot of people wonder.”

New Player at the Track

As much as Tremor was a money-laundering operation, the Treviño brothers’ quarter horse venture allowed them to mix business with pleasure. Horses have long been considered a status symbol in Latin America and drug traffickers have been among the region’s most avid collectors.

Law enforcement officials said quarter horse racing was one of Miguel Ángel Treviño’s favorite pastimes, and even while living on the run, he has managed to keep control of several ranches and racetracks in Mexico and Guatemala where he holds match races, known as parejeras.

But Mexican horse racing — like so much else in that country — has been battered by the violence of the drug war. Many Mexican breeders have moved their operations to the United States, where they could buy horses with better bloodlines and compete for bigger prizes, without fearing for their lives.

“Much of the growth in American quarter horse racing is due to those guys,” said one industry expert, referring to the influx of breeders and buyers from Mexico. “They have spent a lot of money. And it’s made a big, big difference.”

The races, centered in the Southwest, pit scrappier, less expensive horses than high-end thoroughbreds in contests that can be over in less than 20 seconds.

To get in on the action at American tracks, Miguel Ángel Treviño needed someone he could trust to pick a winner. For that, he turned to Mr. Villarreal.

Mr. Villarreal was an unlikely horseman, the socially awkward son of a bookkeeper and teacher known for his build and bottomless appetite as “El Gordo,” or “Fatso.” He began attending auctions as a child, and developed an uncanny ability to spot horses that may not have come from the best lineage, but whose stride or attitude suggested an exceptional capacity for speed.

Mr. Villarreal’s parents said he started buying horses as a teenager, mostly borrowing from relatives and friends. Still, he never seemed to have enough to purchase the kinds of horses that could compete for major prizes. Nor did the strikingly effeminate man ever develop the social skills needed to fit into the macho world of breeders and trainers.

In some ways, said one friend, he stopped trying. For awhile, he named his horses after runway models — like Campbell, as in Naomi, and Elle, as in Macpherson — because he was captivated by women’s fashion.

Mr. Villarreal got his big break in 2006, when he cobbled together $10,500 to buy a colt at an auction at Los Alamitos, records show. He took the horse to Mexico, named it “El Sicario” — which means “The Assassin” — and entered it in the parejera circuit, where it began to beat younger, better-rated competitors.

“That horse got 40’s attention,” said one of Mr. Villarreal’s friends. “He told Ramiro, ‘I want you to buy horses for me.’ ”

He did not hesitate, the friend said. “This was his chance to live his dream.”

Mr. Villarreal’s father, who is also named Ramiro, saw it slightly differently.

“If someone like that asks you to do something,” the elder Mr. Villarreal said, “Are you going to tell him no?”

Soon, the younger Mr. Villarreal’s name began appearing on the lists of the top buyers at auctions in California, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. His first champion was Tempting Dash, which won more than $600,000 in 2009, set a track record during the Texas Classic Futurity and gave Tremor its first victory in a million-dollar race.

No matter how successful, Mr. Villarreal always showed deference to his boss, calling him “Papi.” When Miguel Ángel Treviño wanted to see Tempting Dash for himself, Mr. Villarreal drove the horse, along with dozens of others, to Mexico.

Getting back was more complicated. To avoid inspections, quarantines and other procedures required for bringing livestock into the United States, Mr. Villarreal had trainers sneak the horses back across the border, herding them just after dawn through the Rio Grande.

“My son used to tell me that his biggest blessing was also his curse,” said Mr. Villarreal’s father. “He would tell me, ‘My problem is that I am good at what I do, so a lot of people ask me to help them. Some of those people are good. Some of those people are bad.”

‘A Great Moment’

As much as Miguel Ángel Treviño relied on Mr. Villarreal, he needed his brother, José, to be the face of his fledgling American horse business.

José Treviño, the clean-cut father of three, with a small tattooed Tremor logo on his hand, almost always attended races with his family at his side. He often credited his success to a combination of divine intervention and dumb luck.

“After a win, he always says that he’s been blessed with an ability to pick the right horses and run them in the right races,” said one person who met him. “He’s always humble. He’s the kind of guy who knows what he doesn’t know, who seems eager to learn, and who isn’t shy about asking for advice.”

At the start, José Treviño seemed reticent in the spotlight, avoiding reporters by pretending he did not speak good English. But the more races he won, the more comfortable he seemed with cameras and microphones. People who knew him said he never sought out the media, but never refused to talk when they called.

And they called often.

“That was awesome, that was awesome,” José Treviño said, beaming before reporters in November 2009, after Tempting Dash won the Texas Classic Futurity. “We were expecting him to run big, but we weren’t expecting something like this, to break the track record like this.”

The following year, when the colt named Mr. Piloto won the All American Futurity in Ruidoso, N.M., racing writers called it the “biggest upset in All-American history,” and marveled at how Mr. Treviño, with a “green-as-grass” horse, could beat competitors with better qualifying times and world-class jockeys.

Then last year, a sorrel filly named Separate Fire swept the Ed Burke Futurity at Los Alamitos, Calif., delivering José Treviño his third race where the top prizes were worth $1 million — a record.

“We’re down-to-the-ground people,” he humbly told Track Magazine after the race last July. “This is a great moment, one we are going to enjoy for a long time. But I think you have to take it as it comes and don’t let it change your life.”

Still, his life did change. Tremor’s winning streak allowed him to hire the most respected jockeys, trainers and sales associates in the business. Last year, said people who know him, José Treviño moved his family from a modest suburban house in Mesquite, Tex., where he said he worked in the construction industry, to a large ranch outside Lexington, Okla.

The 70-acre ranch, Zule Farms, is named after his wife, Zulema, a former secretary who told people that she kept the books for Tremor. A person familiar with the ranch said that Mr. Treviño had converted a manure-filled cattle barn on the property into a breeding facility, with state-of-the-art labs and special stalls where mares are implanted with embryos.

Across the quarter horse industry, people started to whisper about where he was getting his money.

“There’s no way all the money he’s putting into that ranch came from being a brick mason. It’s just not logical,” said a person familiar with Zule Farms.

Nor were José Treviño’s operations always transparent. Records show that on at least a couple occasions, he had other people sign for the company’s major purchases. One deal was signed by a teenager who looked like he was not yet old enough to drive. The other was handled by the scion of a prominent quarter horse family, Tyler Graham, who stunned a packed auction house in Oklahoma by agreeing to pay a record $875,000 for a broodmare named Dashin Follies.

At the time of the sale, Mr. Graham said he was buying the horse on behalf of a client he would only identify as “a Mexico resident.” Shortly afterward, records show, he turned the horse over to Tremor. Mr. Graham has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

An industry expert who attended the auction said the sale prompted more rumors. But he said sketchy deals are not uncommon in an industry where payments are made in cash and records are notoriously — even deliberately — unreliable.

“If someone walks into an auction with hundreds of thousands of dollars, and refuses to give his name, no one is going turn him away,” the industry expert said. “What they’ll tell him is, ‘We’ll register the horse in any name you want.’ ”

A Mysterious Death

As José Treviño’s prominence grew in the quarter horse community, so did Miguel Ángel Treviño’s place in the drug trade. By the end of 2010, he had helped lead a brutal expansion so deep into Mexico that the Zetas became not only a priority for Mexico’s security forces, but also an enemy that inspired other drug organizations to join forces and fight.

Miguel Ángel Treviño’s control over drug warehouses and hit squads across the border also compelled United States authorities to offer a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

At the same time, Mr. Villarreal was falling out of favor with Tremor. He was in debt because the Treviño brothers barely paid him enough to cover travel costs, friends said. Mr. Villarreal began padding his expenses, prompting Miguel Ángel Treviño to suspect him of skimming money from Tremor, the friends said.

In September 2010, Mr. Villarreal was traveling to a horse auction in Oklahoma when he was detained by D.E.A. agents during a layover at a Houston airport. A spokesman for the agency refused to comment on its relationship with Mr. Villarreal.

But several law enforcement officials familiar with the case said agents held him for up to six hours, questioning him about his ties to Miguel Ángel Treviño. Before releasing him, the agents confiscated Mr. Villarreal’s cellphone and computer, and ordered him to meet with them a few days later.

When Mr. Villarreal returned, the agents said he could either work for them as an informant or face being prosecuted himself, according to the officials. The D.E.A. wanted Mr. Villarreal to help track Miguel Ángel Treviño’s whereabouts and then lure him into the United States.

Mr. Villarreal pleaded that he was too nervous to pull off the ruse, adding that Miguel Ángel Treviño would never trust him enough to follow him across the border.

But the D.E.A. insisted and a beleaguered Mr. Villarreal relented, the officials said.

At least once, Mr. Villarreal tipped off his handlers when Miguel Ángel Treviño went to a racetrack in Nuevo Laredo.

“Mexican authorities took pictures of 40, but they didn’t try to arrest him,” said one of Mr. Villarreal’s friends. “They told Ramiro that they were afraid too many people might get killed. Ramiro told them if they waited any longer, he was going to get killed.”

Sometime around the end of that year, Miguel Ángel Treviño summoned Mr. Villarreal to a meeting. Mr. Villarreal’s friends recounted the following incident as he had described it to them.

A pickup point was arranged in Laredo, where Mr. Villarreal was blindfolded and then driven into the Mexican desert by gang members.

Minutes dragged as Mr. Villarreal waited for Miguel Ángel Treviño to arrive. He saw two vats filled with a liquid he presumed to be acid, one of the trafficker’s preferred methods for disposing of bodies.

“Where’s Papi?” he asked the men.

“Don’t worry,” they answered. “He’s coming.”

Miguel Ángel Treviño arrived about an hour later in a car with more lieutenants and an unknown man, who was also wearing a blindfold.

The trafficker hugged Mr. Villarreal and asked, “You’re not screwing me, are you, Gordo?”

“No, of course not, Papi,” Mr. Villarreal answered.

Saying he would be back “in a minute,” Miguel Ángel Treviño walked over to the unknown man, took off his blindfold, shot him in the head and ordered his men to dump the body in one of the vats of acid.

Mr. Villarreal passed out. He told his friends he did not know how long he was unconscious, but when he awoke Miguel Ángel Treviño was slapping him in the face and laughing.

“What’s wrong, Gordo?” he joked. “You can’t handle seeing me kill someone? Next time, I’m going to have you do it.”

“No Papi,” Mr. Villarreal said. “I don’t want there to be a next time.”

The drug trafficker got back into his car and drove away. Mr. Villarreal was taken back to Laredo and immediately got in touch with the D.E.A., imploring the agents to release him from their agreement.

“When I met him he was a complete mess; profusely sweating, gangrene in one leg, and barely able to walk,” said a former law enforcement official. “He was in between a rock and a hard place: either stay in the United States and risk going to prison, or go back to Mexico and risk getting killed.”

In the end, Mr. Villarreal, 38, continued informing for the D.E.A. and in March, Miguel Ángel Treviño summoned him to another meeting.

On March 10, 2011, Mr. Villarreal’s car was found incinerated outside Nuevo Laredo. There was so little left of him that authorities took DNA samples from the ashes to identify his remains.

One federal law enforcement official said some agents believed his death was an accident, but acknowledged that no investigation was conducted.

Mr. Villarreal’s father said he had little hope of ever finding the truth. Asked who he thought was behind Mr. Villarreal’s death, the round, balding man looked over at his wife, tears streaming down her cheeks, and echoed a refrain heard from so many Mexican crime victims. “If we ask questions, we could be the next ones to die, so for us, this is a closed chapter.”

Whispers of a “mob hit” spread across the quarter horse industry. In March, law enforcement agents even raided Tremor’s stables at Los Alamitos racetrack. But none of it seemed to slow down Tremor’s business.

Last weekend, at Los Alamitos, a Tremor colt named Mr. Ease Cartel ran the second-fastest qualifying time for a million-dollar race scheduled for June 24. When Jose Trevino’s daughter was married recently, guests included well-known figures in the industry and Track magazine covered the “big event” on its Web site.

“If he had been some thug, or the stereotypical person you’d expect to be in a drug cartel, then maybe people wouldn’t have accepted him and done business with him,” a former trainer said of José Treviño. “But he’s a really nice guy, so none of us wanted to believe he could have anything to do with the killing going on in Mexico.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Vallejo-Based Rappers Arrested as Part of Major Investigation of Alleged Drug Trafficking Throughout the United States

April 25, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on April 24, 2012 released the following:

“SACRAMENTO, CA—A number of arrests have occurred in a major federal investigation into drug trafficking throughout the country, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to court documents, agents arrested a total of 25 individuals in Vallejo, Stockton, Fairfield, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, and Oklahoma City. Some of those arrested are Vallejo-based rappers and associates of an entertainment label known as Thizz Entertainment.

Vallejo Police Chief Robert Nichelini stated, “This is another example of partnership that exists between the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Vallejo Police Department to improve the safety of our community and reduce the level of violence associated with drug dealing. We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California in coordinating the investigation and prosecuting the persons involved in such a complex and dangerous criminal enterprise.”

During the investigation, agents seized approximately 45,000 MDMA pills, approximately four pounds of crack cocaine, a half-pound of heroin, and $200,000 in suspected drug proceeds. Agents also forfeited 230 acres of property valued at approximately $1 million as part of the investigation. As part of last Thursday’s takedown, agents executed three federal search warrants and seized approximately five pounds of marijuana, a loaded firearm, a 2010 Audi A6 with an estimated value of $60,000, and an Audi S5 with an estimated value of $50,000. Agents seized $67,238 in Vallejo and $6,831 in Sacramento for a total of $74,069 during the service of the federal search warrants.

According to the criminal complaints, the DEA-led investigation uncovered a network of drug distributors working in the Crest neighborhood of Vallejo, along with individuals transporting large quantities of drugs outside of California to realize a larger profit. A number of the subjects of the investigation performed as rappers under the entertainment label known as Thizz Entertainment. The origins of Thizz Entertainment can be traced back to the notorious Vallejo-based robbery crews known as the Romper Room Gang. The primary activities of the Romper Room Gang included armed bank robberies, drug trafficking, and murder. The Romper Room Gang was active throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. However, as a result of Vallejo police investigations with the assistance from federal law enforcement, many Romper Room Gang members were convicted of federal crimes and incarcerated for several years in the state and federal prison systems.

Some of the individuals charged in the criminal complaint are alleged to be former members of the Romper Room Gang. According to the complaint, Thizz Entertainment started in 1999 as a record label promoting and producing rap artists from the San Francisco Bay Area, primarily from the Crest neighborhood of their hometown of Vallejo. The name Thizz Entertainment originates from the term “thizz,” which is slang for the drug MDMA (also known as ecstasy). In many songs by artists on the Thizz Entertainment label, the lyrics glorify and promote the use and distribution of MDMA pills.

The complaint alleges that the targets of this investigation engaged in large-scale drug trafficking while also releasing rap albums under the Thizz Entertainment label. During the conspiracy, agents uncovered trafficking of MDMA, cocaine, cocaine base, heroin, Oxycodone, and marijuana, in violation of federal law. The complaint details drug shipments sent from the Vallejo area to Oklahoma City; Jamaica; Queens, New York; Atlanta; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The following individuals were charged with multiple counts of drug trafficking in the two federal criminal complaints:

Michael Lott, performs under the name “Miami the Most”

*Major Norton, performs under the name “Dubee”

*Lawrence Kennedy Nelson

Gaylord Franklin, performs under the name “Geezy”

Clifford Bullock

*Narco McFarland, Sr.

Latroy Cunningham

*Eric Robinson

Dante Barbarin

*Eileen Knight

Beshiba Cook

Bruce Thurmon, performs under the name “Little Bruce”

Damian Peterson

Mikel Brown

**Nicholas Ramirez

*Ung Duong

*Phat Nguyen

*Marcus Davis

**Tiffany Brown

Andre Cawthorne

*Michael Smiley

*Anthony Young

*Anthony Payton

*Arrested and detained in custody except where noted released.

**Arrested and released.

A preliminary hearing has been set for May 4, 2012.

This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the DEA Sacramento District Office, the Vallejo Police Department, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department, and the Sacramento FBI Safe Streets Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Jason Hitt is prosecuting the case.

This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.

When prosecuted in federal court, drug traffickers typically receive much harsher sentences. In addition to the longer sentences imposed, unlike state court prisoners who are released early on parole, there is no early release on parole in the federal system.

The charges are only allegations. Each of the defendants listed is presumed innocent, unless and until proven guilty.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


U.S. Widens Role in Mexican Fight

August 26, 2011

The New York Times on August 26, 2011 released the following in print:

“By MARK MAZZETTI and GINGER THOMPSON

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican police to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States, according to senior administration and military officials.

Mexican commandos have discreetly traveled to the United States, assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. The Drug Enforcement Administration provides logistical support on the American side of the border, officials said, arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.

Officials said these so-called boomerang operations were intended to evade the surveillance — and corrupting influences — of the criminal organizations that closely monitor the movements of security forces inside Mexico. And they said the efforts were meant to provide settings with tight security for American and Mexican law enforcement officers to collaborate in their pursuit of criminals who operate on both sides of the border.

Although the operations remain rare, they are part of a broadening American campaign aimed at blunting the power of Mexican cartels that have built criminal networks spanning the world and have started a wave of violence in Mexico that has left more than 35,000 people dead.

Many aspects of the campaign remain secret, because of legal and political sensitivities. But in recent months, details have begun to emerge, revealing efforts that would have been unthinkable five years ago. Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, who was elected in 2006, has broken with his country’s historic suspicion of the United States and has enlisted Washington’s help in defeating the cartels, a central priority for his government.

American Predator and Global Hawk drones now fly deep over Mexico to capture video of drug production facilities and smuggling routes. Manned American aircraft fly over Mexican targets to eavesdrop on cellphone communications. And the D.E.A. has set up an intelligence outpost — staffed by Central Intelligence Agency operatives and retired American military personnel — on a Mexican military base.

“There has always been a willingness and desire on the part of the United States to play more of a role in Mexico’s efforts,” said Eric L. Olson, an expert on Mexico at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “But there have been some groundbreaking developments on the Mexican side where we’re seeing officials who are willing to take some risks, even political risks, by working closely with the United States to carry out very sensitive missions.”

Still, the cooperation remains a source of political tensions, especially in Mexico where the political classes have been leery of the United States dating from the Mexican-American War of 1846. Recent disclosures about the expanding United States’ role in the country’s main national security efforts have set off a storm of angry assertions that Mr. Calderón has put his own political interests ahead of Mexican sovereignty. Mr. Calderón’s political party faces an election next year that is viewed in part as a referendum on his decision to roll out this campaign against drug traffickers.

Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns walked into that storm during a visit to Mexico this month and strongly defended the partnership the two governments had developed.

“I’ll simply repeat that there are clear limits to our role,” Mr. Burns said. “Our role is not to conduct operations. It is not to engage in law enforcement activities. That is the role of the Mexican authorities. And that’s the way it should be.”

Officials said Mexico and the United States began discussing the possibility of cross-border missions two years ago, when Mexico’s crime wave hit the important industrial corridor between Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo. To avoid being detected, the Mexican police traveled to the United States in plain clothes on commercial flights, two military officials said. Later the officers were transported back to Mexico on Mexican aircraft, which dropped the agents at or near their targets.

“The cartels don’t expect Mexican police coming from the U.S.,” said one senior military official. None of the officials interviewed about the boomerang operations would speak publicly about them, and refused to provide details about where they were conducted or what criminal organizations had been singled out.

They said that the operations had been carried out only a couple of times in the last 18 months, and that they had not resulted in any significant arrests.

The officials insisted that the Pentagon is not involved in the cross-border operations, and that no Americans take part in drug raids on Mexican territory.

“These are not joint operations,” said one senior administration official. “They are self-contained Mexican operations where staging areas were provided by the United States.”

Former American law enforcement officials who were once posted in Mexico described the boomerang operations as a new take on an old strategy that was briefly used in the late 1990s, when the D.E.A. helped Mexico crack down on the Tijuana Cartel.

To avoid the risks of the cartel being tipped off to police movements by lookouts or police officials themselves, the former officers said, the D.E.A. arranged for specially vetted Mexican police to stage operations out of Camp Pendleton in San Diego. The Mexican officers were not given the names of the targets of their operations until they were securely sequestered on the base. And they were not given the logistical details of the mission until shortly before it was under way.

“They were a kind of rapid-reaction force,” said one former senior D.E.A. official. “It was an effective strategy at the time.”

Another former D.E.A. official said that the older operations resulted in the arrests of a handful of midlevel cartel leaders. But, he said, it was ended in 2000 when cartel leaders struck back by kidnapping, torturing and killing a counternarcotics official in the Mexican attorney general’s office, along with two fellow drug agents.

In recent months, Mexico agreed to post a team of D.E.A. agents, C.I.A. operatives and retired American military officials on a Mexican military base to help conduct intelligence operations, bolstering the work of a similar “fusion cell” already in Mexico City.

Meanwhile the Pentagon is steadily overhauling the parts of the military responsible for the drug fight, paying particular attention to some lessons of nearly a decade of counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. At Northern Command — the military’s Colorado Springs headquarters responsible for North American operations — several top officers with years of experience in fighting Al Qaeda and affiliated groups are poring over intelligence about Mexican drug networks.

One officer said, “The military is trying to take what it did in Afghanistan and do the same in Mexico.”

That’s exactly what some Mexicans are afraid of, said a Mexican political scientist, Denise Dresser, who is an expert on that country’s relations with the United States.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to greater American involvement,” Ms. Dresser said. “But if that’s the way the Mexican government wants to go, it needs to come clean about it. Just look at what we learned from Iraq. Secrecy led to malfeasance. It led to corrupt contracting. It led to torture. It led to instability. And who knows when those problems will be resolved.””

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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49 Indicted, 373 Illegal Firearms Taken off Streets in Undercover Storefront Operation

June 30, 2011

U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of Georgia on June 29, 2011 released the following press release:

“Operation ATL Blaze,” an ATF and APD Operation, Nets Convicted Felons, Parole Violators, and Burglars Who Trafficked Firearms, And Sold Drugs and Stolen Merchandise to Undercover Agents

ATLANTA, GA – Federal and state grand juries have indicted 49 people on firearms, drug trafficking, and theft charges relating to a storefront sting operation operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Atlanta Police Department. The storefront sting targeted convicted felons and other dangerous criminals who traffic guns in high-crime areas of Atlanta. Federal and state officials announced the arrests at a news conference this afternoon at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building in Atlanta, while the federal defendants appeared today before United States Magistrate Judge Janet F. King. The defendants indicted in Fulton County will make appearances in state court later this week.

Sally Quillian Yates, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia; Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard; Gregory K. Gant, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Chief George Turner of the Atlanta Police Department; and Beverly Harvard, United States Marshal for the Northern District of Georgia, disclosed the sting operation and the indictments, which were handed down after a seven-month undercover storefront operation initiated by ATF in late 2010.

United States Attorney Yates said, “This undercover operation was strategically aimed at felons and violent criminals who are flooding our streets with illegal guns. ATF, working together with APD, operated an authentic-looking fencing operation that succeeded in taking almost 400 firearms from the hands of criminals. This was a proactive, not reactive, approach to law enforcement to get guns out of the hands of criminals. The Atlanta Police Department, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, and the United States Marshals Service have been critical partners in this endeavor and we believe that our citizens are safer now that these guns and criminals are no longer on our streets.”

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said, “Law enforcement officials in Fulton County have devoted considerable time and resources attempting to reduce burglaries in our County. Through our cooperation, communication and the Burglary Task Force, we have in the last two years reduced burglaries by over 15%. We applaud our federal partners for their innovative and outstanding efforts. The District Attorney’s Office believes this federal and local partnership is a key measure in our fight to rid our communities of illegal weapons and drugs.”

In a statement, ATF Special Agent in Charge Gregory Gant said, “Operation ‘ATL Blaze’ was a bold joint operation designed to protect our communities by removing violent criminals involved in armed drug trafficking and the unlawful use and possession of firearms in the city of Atlanta. The types of crimes these defendants were involved with directly threatens the stability of our communities and dreams of our youth. The city of Atlanta cannot afford to be without the hopes of any of its citizens; therefore we must do all we can to keep every one of them safe and protected. Every neighborhood deserves to be a safe neighborhood. This aggressive law enforcement collaboration sends a clear message that those individuals who threaten the very fabric of our communities will be dealt with.” ATF was also represented at today’s news conference at the federal building by ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Pearce.

“This operation is a direct result of the collaborative efforts with our federal law enforcement partners that I strongly support and encourage,” said Atlanta Police Chief George N. Turner. “Crime knows no borders, and recognizes no uniforms or agency insignia; neither should our efforts to combat those who seek to traffic in criminal activity such as the kind we have witnessed over the past several months in Operation ATL Blaze.”

United States Marshal Beverly Harvard said, “Law enforcement must employ varying tactics to make our cities safer and remove criminal elements from our communities. The United States Marshals Service is committed to partnering with other federal, state and local criminal justice agencies and removing from our streets those who play a role in wreaking havoc in our communities through illegally peddling firearms.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the indictment, and evidence in court: The storefront operation, called “ATL Blaze,” was located on Campbellton Road in Southwest Atlanta, and operated as a smoke shop, selling clothing, tobacco and tobacco-related products. Undercover agents, posing as store managers and employees, put out the word on the street that they were interested in buying firearms and drugs. Weapons traffickers, drug traffickers, and convicted felons began approaching the undercover agents about buying guns, drugs, and stolen property.

In some instances, the defendants told the undercover agents information that helped solve and prevent other crimes. For example, a defendant told the agents that he and others burglarized a store while wearing masks in order to defeat the store’s video surveillance system. ATF relayed this information to Peachtree City Police officers, who were able to arrest the individuals responsible for the burglary. On another occasion, some of the defendants approached the undercover agents about committing a home invasion robbery of a drug dealer, and, in order to prevent a violent crime from occurring, six defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury and arrested two months ago for conspiring to rob the drug dealer and carrying and possessing firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence. Among those indicted, 10 defendants sold contraband to the undercover agents while they were either on bond for a pending charge, on probation, or on parole.

The weapons taken in off the streets during the operation include 257 handguns, 60 rifles, 46 shotguns, and 10 sawed-off shotguns.

The 49 defendants were indicted on charges ranging from conspiring to commit a home invasion robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of an unregistered sawed-off rifle, possession of a stolen firearm, unlawful dealing in firearms without a license, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute and aggravated identity theft.

Those indicted by federal grand juries and arrested today, or already in custody, and their charges include (most from Atlanta except where indicated):

  • MICHAEL ALLEN, 22, Conspiracy to Unlawfully Deal in Firearms and Unlawful Dealing in Firearms
  • RONALD ALLEN, 29, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (6 counts)
  • TIMOTHY ANDERSON, 22, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (16 counts), Possessing Cocaine with the Intent to Distribute (2 counts), and Possessing Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Crime
  • CALVIN BARBER, 26, Conspiracy to Unlawfully Deal in Firearms, Unlawful Dealing in Firearms, and Possessing a Firearm with an Obliterated Serial Number
  • KELVIN CANTY, 23, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (5 counts)
  • DENELLION DAUGHTERY, 27, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (8 counts) and Possessing Heroin with the Intent to Distribute (2 counts)
  • ANTONIO JAMAL DAVIS, 26, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon
  • JEVON FLEETWOOD, 19, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery Affecting Interstate Commerce and Possessing a Firearm During a Crime of Violence
  • TRAYONTEY FRANKLIN, 20, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery Affecting Interstate Commerce and Possessing a Firearm During a Crime of Violence
  • MAYA GATES, 31, Conspiracy to Unlawfully Deal in Firearms, Unlawful Dealing in Firearms, and Possession of an Unregistered Sawed-off Shotgun
  • COURTNEY HALL, 26, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (2 counts)
  • RICKY HILL, 23, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (8 counts)
  • SIGMUND JACKSON, 31, College Park, GA, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon
  • NAPOLEAN LAMAR, 22, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery Affecting Interstate Commerce and Possessing a Firearm During a Crime of Violence
  • BRIAN MOSELEY, 20, Decatur, GA, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery Affecting Interstate Commerce and Possessing a Firearm During a Crime of Violence
  • EMANUEL POWELL, 41, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (6 counts) and Possessing a Firearm with an Obliterated Serial Number
  • TREIVAUGHN AKEEM PURDUE, 22, Jonesboro, GA, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (8 counts)
  • JAMES SELLERS, 28, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (2 counts)
  • MACEO THOMAS, 42, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (2 counts)
  • DARRIUS TOWNS, 25, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery Affecting Interstate Commerce and Possessing a Firearm During a Crime of Violence
  • DARIUS WEBB, 25, Conspiracy to Unlawfully Deal in Firearms and Unlawful Dealing in Firearms
  • BRANDON WILLIAMS, 24, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery Affecting Interstate Commerce and Possessing a Firearm During a Crime of Violence

Those indicted by state grand juries and arrested today, or already in custody, and their charges, include:

JARVIS JONES, 34, Atlanta, GA, Trafficking in Cocaine (2 counts), Sale of Cocaine (2 counts)

KALIPH G. JONES, 22, Villa Rica, GA, Theft by Receiving Stolen Property (2 counts)

RODNEY DEMETRIUS MARION, 29, Forest Park, GA, Trafficking in Cocaine (9 counts), Sale of Cocaine (9 counts), and Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony (2 counts)

JOSHUA SMITH, 22, East Point, GA, Theft By Receiving Stolen Property

PEYTON DESHUN WELDON, 18, Atlanta, GA, Theft by Receiving Stolen Property (2 counts)

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Atlanta Police Department. Assistance in this case has been provided by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Social Security Administration.

Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Brown, Phyllis Clerk, Brent Grey, Nekia Hackworth, Teresa Hoyt, Joseph Plummer, Greg Radics, Stephanie Gabay-Smith and Jill Steinberg are prosecuting the cases.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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