HOUSTON - A total of 47 people are now in custody following the return of a 43-count indictment alleging drug-trafficking and related crimes in the Houston and Galveston areas. The case will be prosecuted in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas.
U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick made the announcement along with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy, Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Chief Vernon Hale of the Galveston Police Department (GPD), Special Agent in Charge Designee Brett Rovey of Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation (CI) and Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfredo Perez of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).
The arrests are the culmination of 31-month Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation (OCDETF) dubbed Operation Wrecking Ball.
“This operation is the result of countless hours of hard work by officers and agents from many different agencies,” said Patrick. “OCDETF is uniquely able to marshal resources for complex cases. The Department of Justice is committed to disrupting the work of international cartels and other drug trafficking organizations. This case also is reinvigorating my office’s commitment to Galveston. For the first time in decades, we have a full time prosecutor on the island who is focused on cases that will have a local impact in Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston and Matagorda counties.”
During the law enforcement operation today and yesterday that spanned multiple jurisdictions and states, authorities took a total of 43 people into custody. They join the four individuals who were previously in custody. Nine are considered fugitives and warrants remain outstanding for their arrests.
“Today’s enforcement operation marks the culmination of a 3 ½ year investigation targeting one of the largest suspected drug organizations seen in Southeast Texas in decades,” said Glaspy. “The success of this investigation was possible only because of the many law enforcement agencies dedicated to protecting our communities in the greater Houston/Galveston area from those who prey on them.”
The indictment, which was returned in November 2018 and unsealed today, alleges the defendants engaged in a variety of cocaine and heroin transactions. Some also allegedly conspired to commit money laundering and illegally transferred money to avoid reporting requirements.
The charges allege the crimes occurred between Feb. l, 2016, and April 19, 2018. According to the indictment, the drugs were smuggled into the United States from Colombia and Mexico. Heroin and Cocaine was then distributed through Houston to Atlanta, Georgia; Buffalo and New York, N.Y.; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Norfolk, Virginia.
The indictment also seeks forfeiture of any illegal proceeds of the alleged crimes. To date, approximately $3.1 million has been seized.
Those arrested are expected to make initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Edison in Houston beginning at 10:00 a.m. March 21, 2019.
The DEA conducted the investigation along with HSI, Houston Police Department, IRS-CI, USMS, GPD and Galveston County Sheriff’s Office with assistance of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Cusick is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.