- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 20, 2005

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents arrested more than 160 people during raids yesterday and Thursday on three Mexican and Colombian drug distribution rings suspected of delivering methamphetamines in the United States to more than 22,700 buyers a month.

The raids culminated an extensive 10-month DEA-led sting investigation known as “Operation Three Hour Tour” and resulted in the seizure of 3,163 pounds of cocaine, 55 pounds of methamphetamine, 15 pounds of heroin, 9 ounces of crack cocaine and 10,000 doses of Ecstasy, DEA spokesman Garrison K. Courtney said.

Mr. Courtney said the raids, which included other federal agencies, were part of the DEA’s sustained effort to target major drug trafficking organizations. He noted that among the weapons seized were several high-powered rifles, including a 50-caliber assault rifle with armor-piercing ammunition.

“The streets from Bogota to Los Angeles are no longer a free trade zone for the criminals arrested today,” said DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy.

The three Mexican and Colombian drug transportation organizations and their U.S. distribution counterparts are known to have smuggled and distributed more than 4,000 pounds of cocaine, 20 to 30 pounds of heroin and in excess of 50 pounds of methamphetamine on a monthly basis throughout the United States, Mr. Courtney said.

A total of 27 distribution groups were targeted, he said.

These drug amounts, he said, could have provided nearly 1.81 million cocaine users, 22,700 methamphetamine users and close to 13,620 heroin users with their drug of choice every month.

The organizations are known to have been operating within the United States for several years.

Mr. Courtney said more than 65 search warrants were served during arrests in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Los Angeles, New York, New Haven, Conn., and Des Moines, Iowa. More arrests could be made, he said.

The DEA has estimated that 545 grams of methamphetamine can produce 1 pound of the product and a single gram is enough for one hit.

The arrests came a day after the Bush administration announced plans to spend $50 million to combat the growing methamphetamine epidemic, including the building of a training laboratory for police agencies and $16.2 million in grants to focus on the treatment of addicts.

The DEA has said that clandestine laboratories in California and Mexico are the primary sources of supply for methamphetamine available in the United States. Prices for the drug vary throughout different regions of the United States, ranging from $3,500 per pound in parts of California and Texas to $21,000 per pound in southeastern and northeastern regions of the country.

The retail prices, authorities said, range from $400 to $3,000 per ounce.

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