- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More than 130 people have been arrested nationwide and hundreds of thousands of dollars seized as part of “Operation Black Gold Rush,” an international undercover investigation that targeted the trafficking of black tar heroin in the United States.

Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher, who heads the Justice Department’s criminal division, and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chief Karen P. Tandy said the multistate investigation resulted in arrests in 15 U.S. cities and 10 indictments in eight federal judicial districts — with more than 17 kilograms of black tar heroin seized in separate raids.

“As this operation demonstrates, the Department of Justice is as committed as ever to eradicating the flood of illegal and dangerous narcotics like black tar heroin,” Mrs. Fisher said. “Law enforcement across the country will continue to work diligently to shut down these operations and keep our neighborhoods free of the poison being spread by these criminals.”

Mrs. Tandy said Operation Black Gold Rush exposed a network of more than 100 illegal aliens who controlled a pipeline of heroin operating from Nayarit, Mexico, to Nashville, Tenn., and at least 14 cities in between. She said the arrests by DEA agents across the country had “ruptured that pipeline, stopping the flow of heroin to our streets.”

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said the investigation began in November with a single seizure of heroin, and DEA agents reached out to state and local law-enforcement agencies for assistance.

He said suspected members of the drug-trafficking organization charged in the indictments are accused of importing and distributing 10 to 15 kilograms of black tar heroin monthly from Mexico into the United States. The narcotic can be sold on the street for more than $3 million.

Mr. Payne said the organization is accused of using illegal aliens as couriers, part of a “call-and-deliver” system of drug distribution in which a buyer could have heroin delivered to the front door. The illicit proceeds are thought to have been laundered by the organization’s financial managers using a combination of wire remitters and bulk currency transport, he said.

Agents have seized more than $380,000 in cash, Mr. Payne said.

Indictments in the case were returned in Indiana, where 13 persons were charged with conspiracy to distribute 1 kilogram or more of heroin. Additionally, 15 others were charged in Indiana, and 28 were arrested and indicted in Ohio, 47 in Tennessee, seven in Colorado and 11 in North Carolina.

Operation Black Gold Rush targeted suspected drug traffickers in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville, Tenn.; Indianapolis; Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio; Denver; Los Angeles and Riverside, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, Greenville, Charleston and Florence, S.C.; and Phoenix.

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