Entries in Drug Ring (4)


Camp Pendleton Marines Charged in $1 Million Drug Ring

KGTV(CAMP PENDLETON, Claif.) -- Fourteen active and former U.S. Marines were among 64 alleged perpetrators of an illicit military weapons and drug trafficking ring busted Thursday by California authorities.

Law enforcement made 50 early-morning arrests during a sweep in San Diego County to round up the suspects charged with stealing and selling the goods.

Authorities said they had made the largest dent in an "organized crime network" in more than three years.

"Through solid investigative work and collaboration this task force effectively shut down a large organized crime network committing numerous felonies," said Dave Jones, the state's insurance commissioner.

The investigation began as authorities looked into numerous stolen vehicles in the San Diego area, according to the district attorney.

Seven active-duty Marines, one Navy sailor, and seven former Marines were arrested as part of the bust, according to the district attorney.

The suspects are accused of stealing and selling military equipment from Camp Pendleton in Southern California, including Kevlar helmets, high-capacity magazines, night-vision goggles, gas masks, and bullet-proof vests, according to the San Diego County district attorney's office.

The sting, dubbed "Operation Perfect Storm," also netted 92 stolen vehicles, methamphetamines and ecstasy, and 10,000 rounds of ammunition and high capacity magazines. The value of the stolen goods was estimated at $1 million, according to authorities.

According to the DA's office, law enforcement officials set up an undercover storefront location in San Diego County and, after infiltrating criminal groups throughout the county, invited them to sell stolen goods at the storefront location.

The alleged criminals were then videotaped trying selling stolen vehicles, weapons, and drugs to undercover detectives.

Authorities presented evidence to a grand jury over an eight-day period, including testimony from more than 90 witnesses.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigates alleged crimes in the military, was involved with the operation and worked with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the San Diego Auto Theft Task Force on the case, according to the district attorney's office.

Suspects face up to 25 years in state prison.

Nineteen of the defendants faced arraignment in San Diego Superior Court Thursday, while 31 others that were arrested posted bond and will return for arraignments at a later date. Police are still seeking 14 of those indicted.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


DEA: American Airlines Workers Smuggled Cocaine into Miami, New York

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the latest arrests of U.S. airport workers on drug smuggling charges, authorities charged that two rings of nearly 50 corrupt employees at Puerto Rico's main airport smuggled thousands of kilograms of cocaine onto commercial flights bound for mainland U.S. cities, including Miami, Orlando and New York.

One ring, allegedly led by Maribel Rodriguez Fragoso, a.k.a. La Flaca or "the Skinny Woman," was made up of workers for a baggage handling and maintenance company at San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, and allegedly brought cocaine-stuffed backpacks and suitcases into cities up and down the East Coast between 2010 and 2012. The other, allegedly led by American Airlines employee Wilfredo Rodriguez Rosado, included American Airlines workers and is charged with smuggling more than 9,000 kilos of the white powder between 2000 and 2009.

The DEA arrested 36 people Wednesday morning, and unsealed indictments charging a total of 45 individuals with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). In addition to arrests in Puerto Rico, a DEA official says three American Airlines employees were arrested in the mainland U.S. -- two in Miami and one in Dallas.

The DEA alleges members of the La Flaca ring used their company's baggage vehicles to take suitcases stuffed with cocaine and place them directly on commercial flights. The ring would also allegedly bring cocaine into airport employee-only restrooms, where ring members would hand backpacks full of cocaine to drug couriers who would then board planes. The ring allegedly shipped cocaine to Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Orlando, among other cities.

The American Airlines ring was disrupted by the DEA in 2009 in an operation called Heavy Cargo. Twenty-three people, including nine American Airlines employees, were indicted, and Rodriguez and 21 others pled guilty. According to authorities, members of the ring transported suitcases full of cocaine from the American Airlines cargo area and onto American Airlines flights bound for such cities as Newark, New York, Miami and Orlando. The DEA Wednesday announced indictments of 20 more individuals who were allegedly involved in the smuggling ring.

The arrests come 13 years after the DEA's Operation Ramp Rats, in which the agency busted 59 individuals, most of them American Airlines employees, for alleged involvement in drug smuggling at Miami International and JFK. While some workers were acquitted, dozens were convicted or pled guilty. More recently, the DEA brought drug smuggling charges against airline or airport workers in 2007 and 2010.

"DEA will continue to dismantle these organizations that think they can blatantly use legitimate entities to carry out their smuggling operations," said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Caribbean Division, Pedro Janer.

DEA Deputy Administrator Thomas M. Harrigan said Wednesday, "Americans have a right to expect the highest integrity from those they entrust with their safety, and DEA is committed to protecting that trust. Wednesday's arrests at one of the nation's busiest airports reflect our relentless commitment to working with our partners to aggressively fight drug trafficking, not only at our nation's points of entry, but at source, transit, and arrival zones throughout the world."

The defendants in both cases are facing a minimum term of 10 years to life if convicted on all charges.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Investigation Finds Alleged Phony Church DarkSide in Full Swing

Owner Glenn Hudson (ABC News)(DALLAS) -- Teens at a Dallas youth dance club run by an Internet-ordained minister say it has made a positive impact on their lives and helped them stay off drugs, even though drug dealers do get in.

In an investigation by ABC affiliate WFAA, teens were interviewed outside a club formerly known as DarkSide that the city has sued to shut down.

The after-hours club is now called Fenix Project and it attracts around 500 teens nearly every weekend from Dallas, Wylie and other North Texas cities.

"I would consider a lot of people here my family," a teen named Brittany told WFAA. "I don't live with my parents. All the people I have met here are people who have helped me in the outside world. They all take care of me."

Owner Glenn Hudson says he helps youth and those who are disadvantaged, but Dallas officials suggest his ministry is more like a church of swing than of God.

The city attorney's office has slapped Hudson with a lawsuit for allegedly running two phony churches -- The Playground and the DarkSide. It says one was a club for swingers with condoms and porn stars, and the other a rave dance hall venue where hard core drugs were sold to teens.

It alleges both operations are "positively pure fraud" and wants them shut down, according to Melissa Miles, assistant city attorney.

"They wrapped themselves in a religious organization," she said.

Hudson, who does not face criminal charges -- only the civil lawsuit intended to halt his activities -- told city officials that he was ordained with Universal Life Church and said his work is legitimate.

Owners say the club is an outreach ministry, trying to steer young people in the right direction.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Feds Arrest Ten in First-Ever 'Bath Salts' Bust

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ten people were arrested on Tuesday by federal agents and charged in the first-ever federal prosecution dealing with "bath salts," a dangerous new designer drug that has been linked to emergency room visits and deaths across the country.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said a Seattle-area supplier led the ring and shipped the bath salts to a handful of New York City head shops. The bust was the first for a recently developed New York-based DEA task force targeting bath salts, a group of substances sold in convenience stores and head shops that mimic the effects of cocaine or ecstasy.

"This is so new to us," said DEA spokesman Rusty Payne. "In the last year it's just taken off in the U.S. -- we've never seen anything like it."

"Bath salts are one of the latest designer drugs to reach our shores, and they have proven to be a public health and safety menace with dangerous, and sometimes deadly, consequences," said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where nine of the arrests were made.

"Bath salts" were the subject of a June 3 ABC News 20/20 investigation that found that despite being linked to several deaths, bath salts have been sold in stores and online with little oversight.

"Bath salts" have spurred approximately 2,500 calls to poison control centers nationwide since 2010, and have been connected to four deaths so far this year, including a 23-year-old Florida man and a 51-year-old woman in West Virginia.

The 26-year-old who authorities say is the "bath salt" ring's supplier, Miguel Ashby, was arrested in Washington State and charged with distribution of controlled substances. If convicted he could serve 20 years in prison.

The other nine defendants were employed at New York City head shops, including Addiction NYC, Tattoo Heaven, Crazy Fantasy Tattoo and Smoking Culture, and were arrested on charges related to either distribution of controlled substances, receipt of misbranded drugs, or delivery of misbranded drugs.

Authorities were able to charge the alleged drug ring under the Federal Analog Act, which allows any chemical that is "substantially similar" to a controlled substance to be treated as a controlled substance. Spokesman Rusty Payne said the DEA had invoked the Analog Act "for other drugs," but the new case marks the first time it's ever been done with bath salts.

There is no federal ban on all bath salt products, but more than 35 states have banned at least some of the chemicals commonly found in the drugs. Louisiana put an emergency ban on the drugs immediately after Dickie Sanders' death. In late April, New Jersey banned the manufacture, sale or possession of bath salts, and in May New York followed suit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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