- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) — More than 400 officers and agents made 67 arrests Thursday in an international operation targeting violent cocaine and heroin gangs.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said the joint effort, "Operation Deja Vu," was aimed at loosely associated gangs in the northeastern United States, Puerto Rico and Colombia.

The DEA said the operation began last July.

"Working together, DEA and the United States Customs Service identified this organization's heroin and cocaine transportation routes that originated in Medellin, Colombia, passed through secondary South American countries, and onward to Puerto Rico," the DEA said in a statement.

From Puerto Rico the heroin or cocaine would be shipped to the continental United States.

"Typically, the drugs would make their way from a port to New York City," the DEA said. "DEA New York agents became aware of this distribution hub in late July, and identified numerous domestic wholesalers who were receiving and distributing the narcotics in smaller, northeast United States cities."

Local DEA task force agents in those cities then initiated investigations into their section of the distribution network.

"The targeted wholesale distributors used vehicles fitted with sophisticated hidden compartments to transport narcotics and money between the New York hub and lesser-populated cities including Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y, and Springfield, Mass.," the DEA said.

"On a daily basis, these violent organizations, including the 'Del Luiza Boys' — a gang very familiar to Buffalo law enforcement — used weapons and physical violence to protect and expand their narcotics empire," the DEA statement said.

"Enforcers" from this and other gangs "have been involved with murders, shootings, home invasions, and violent robberies that have left in their wake multiple victims and neighborhoods in terror," according to the DEA.

Some of the suspects arrested Thursday had been released on bail for earlier narcotics charges, "and at least one target was distributing cocaine, while wearing an electronic monitoring device."

Officers and agents in the northeastern United States seized over $130,000, 10 kilograms of cocaine, and 500 grams of heroin in four separate vehicle stops.

Thursday, the 400 members of the task force executed 60 arrest warrants and 29 search warrants in New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Springfield and Newark, N.J.

DEA and Customs agents in San Juan, Puerto Rico, executed four arrest warrants, and Colombian National Police Heroin Task Force officers executed six search warrants across Colombia.

More information on the operation is available on the DEA Web site at dea.gov.

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