- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

More than 400 federal, state and local drug agents armed with search and arrest warrants swept through seven cities yesterday in a massive undercover investigation, arresting 67 persons and seizing heroin, marijuana, cocaine and crack cocaine valued at more than $5 million.
Acting Drug Enforcement Administration chief John B. Brown III said the seven-month undercover probe, known as Operation Deja Vu, netted arrests in New York City, Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y.; Springfield, Mass.; and Newark, N.J. The agents also confiscated more than $438,000 in illicit drug profits.
Mr. Brown said undercover officers, beginning in July, targeted violent heroin and cocaine trafficking groups operating primarily in the Northeastern United States and in Puerto Rico, as well as Colombia.
He said DEA and Customs Service agents identified heroin and cocaine transportation routes that originated in Medellin, Colombia, passed through South America and then proceeded to Puerto Rico, where the drugs would be shipped to the continental United States.
"Typically, the drugs would make their way from a port to New York City," Mr. Brown said, noting that DEA agents in New York became aware of the distribution hub in late July and then identified numerous domestic wholesalers who received and distributed the drugs in smaller, northeastern cities.
More than 120 search and arrest warrants were served in the citywide sweeps, along with four separate arrest warrants by DEA and U.S. Customs Service agents in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Colombian National Police Heroin Task Force officers also executed six search warrants across Colombia.
Mr. Brown said wholesale drug distributors used customized vehicles fitted with sophisticated hidden compartments to transport narcotics and money between the New York hub and lesser-populated cities, including Buffalo, Rochester and Springfield.
On a daily basis, he said, the distributors including the Del Luiza Boys, a longtime Buffalo drug gang used weapons and physical violence to protect and expand their narcotics empire. Enforcers for the distribution rings are believed to have been involved in murders, shootings, home invasions and violent robberies that have left multiple victims in their wake, he said.
"Most, if not all of the organization members were predicate felons, with histories of violence and drug dealing," Mr. Brown said. "Some of the subjects were out on bail for narcotics violations, and at least one target was distributing cocaine, while wearing an electronic monitoring device."
He said a close-knit network of DEA-led task force officers worked over a seven-month period to dismantle the drug network. Working with state and local law enforcement officials, the undercover officers seized more than $130,000 in cash, 10 kilograms of cocaine and 500 grams of heroin in four separate vehicle stops on the customized vehicles.
The undercover operation involved members of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and was coordinated by the Special Operations Division, a joint enforcement program comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, Customs and the Internal Revenue Service, as well as lawyers from the Justice Departments criminal division.

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