- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2006

Task forces in New Orleans and Houston have arrested nine persons and seized more than 100 pounds of cocaine, 4,000 Ecstasy tablets, weapons and more than $100,000 in a massive post-Hurricane Katrina narcotics investigation.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge William J. Renton yesterday said the lengthy investigation by agents and law-enforcement officers assigned to DEA task forces culminated Thursday with six arrests in Slidell, La., and three in Houston.

“This is the largest cocaine seizure affected by law-enforcement authorities since Hurricane Katrina, and is the single-largest seizure of cocaine destined for local distribution in the history of Saint Tammany Parish,” said Mr. Renton, who heads the agency’s New Orleans field division.

Mr. Renton said the collaborative effort by federal, state and local law enforcement is designed to prevent drug traffickers from regaining their markets in the New Orleans area.

Those arrested included four displaced Hurricane Katrina victims who previously lived in New Orleans: Everett Payne, 34, now of San Antonio; Marlo Davlin Thomas, 30, now of Houston; Joseph Degreat, 32, now of Highland Cross, Texas; and Nakosha Smith, 26, now of Slidell.

Mr. Renton said after investigators seized $50,000 from Willie Lee White, Jr., 53, of Houston in a traffic stop outside the Slidell house, a search of the residence resulted in the seizure of 110 pounds of cocaine, 4,000 tablets of MDMA (Ecstasy), five pounds of high-potency marijuana, a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol with an obliterated serial number, a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol, a .357 revolver, a money counter, and $60,000 in cash.

Within hours of making those arrests and seizures, he said, DEA agents and task force officers in Houston searched two residences, where more suspected drug dealers were arrested. He said when agents approached the house, Jose Angel Gonzalez, 22, was spotted at a window holding an assault rifle, although he later was found hiding in some insulation in the attic.

In Houston, Mr. Renton said, agents also seized wholesale quantities of cocaine, MDMA and marijuana, as well as two rifles, an AK-47 and an AR-15, with more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, 10 fully loaded magazines and three semi-automatic pistols.

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