- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 17, 2002

A federal grand jury in Virginia has indicted 33 members of a suspected drug ring accused of smuggling thousands of pounds of marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines in sport utility vehicles carrying women and children and bearing "pro-family" bumper stickers.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, who announced the indictment at a press conference on Friday in Poquoson, Va., said gang members shipped the drugs through Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M., and supplied them to buyers throughout Virginia's Eastern Peninsula and the Shenandoah Valley.
Mr. McNulty said the ring diverted millions of dollars in illicit profits through several phony businesses.
"This was a sophisticated organization operating in what was considered to be a relatively safe place, but some very solid police work literally knocked them out," Mr. McNulty told The Washington Times. "This case was not about electronic wiretaps and clandestine undercover operations. It was about legwork and chasing down a lot of leads."
The arrests were part of Operation Tidal Wave, a lengthy investigation headed by the Virginia Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Task Force.
Two suspected ringleaders, both in custody, were identified as Anthony Pacheco of Albuquerque and George Haugen of Poquoson. Both were charged under the federal drug kingpin law.
Thirty of the 33 persons named in the indictment were in custody on Friday.
The 168-page indictment said that since 1996, Mr. Pacheco, Mr. Haugen and others did "unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally combine, conspire, confederate and agree with each other and with other persons" to distribute thousands of pounds of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines.
The indictment said the smugglers transported on a regular basis more than 10,000 pounds of marijuana and in excess of 40 kilograms of cocaine. It said the drug ring often used couriers to transport more than $1 million in illicit profits at any one time and that the cash often was hidden in game packages, CD-ROM discs, puzzles and magazines.
Mr. McNulty said the primary purpose of the conspiracy was to make money through the distribution of marijuana, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine in several cities in Virginia, including Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Harrisonburg and Staunton. The ring also had established drug contacts in Albuquerque, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Atlanta.
He said members of the drug ring played different roles in the conspiracy, assuming roles of financiers, organizers, managers, suppliers, brokers, distributors, transporters and couriers of drugs and money.
Mr. McNulty said gang members rented and purchased houses, apartments, town houses, condominiums, hotel rooms and vehicles as part of the conspiracy. They also set up fictitious businesses and used bank and credit card accounts, along with airline, telephone and overnight courier and wire services, to further their drug sales.
Some of the fictitious businesses were identified in the indictment as Array Consultants Ltd. Co., International Hong Kong Tailors, Duran Consulting and Markal Financial Ltd. Co., which were used to give the appearance that their illegal drug proceeds were legitimate business profits.
Mr. McNulty said gang members used "stash" locations to deliver drugs and receive cash. The stash spots were located in Norfolk, Churchville, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Poquoson, Hampton, Newport News and Gloucester County in Virginia, and in Nags Head, N.C.
He said investigators believed the drugs originated in Mexico, and that the ring used threats of abduction, kidnapping, drowning and other violence to ensure the operation's security.
"It was a further part of the conspiracy that the defendants … did employ various methods during the transportation and delivery of drugs and drug proceeds to avoid detection by law enforcement agents," he said, including the use of women and children as passengers in vehicles containing drugs and the use of license plates and bumper stickers bearing pro-family messages.


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