- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Federal investigators touted an Oklahoma-based task force on Monday that targets criminals who abuse the U.S. financial system, saying it has netted hundreds of arrests and shows that their focus on disrupting criminal enterprises in the region is working.

Officials with Homeland Security and the U.S. attorney’s office held a news conference in Oklahoma City to discuss goals for 2014. They said they want to continue targeting the infrastructure of criminal enterprises, dismantling such operations in a way that another leader can’t easily emerge if the original is arrested.

They also reflected on progress made by the Green Twister Financial Task Force, a partnership among federal and local law enforcement in Oklahoma City. It targets criminals laundering funds through the U.S. financial system to support their criminal operations. Since its inception less than three years ago, it has made 416 arrests and seized $7.3 million in cash, said David Marwell, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations.

“Going after them and ill-gotten gains is really who we are and what we do,” said Marwell, who supervises agents in 128 counties in Oklahoma and north Texas. “They operate on greed and they do it for the dollar.”

Through the task force, the agencies have also seized narcotics, firearms, motor vehicles and an aircraft.

“You can’t just arrest the guy in charge because someone else will come in and take his place. You have to look at the infrastructure and the financial side,” Christopher Miller, the resident agent for the Oklahoma City office of Homeland Security Investigations.

“We’re proud of the statistics,” added Sanford C. Coats, the U.S. Attorney for western Oklahoma. “I think the work stands on its own merit.”

Both Coats and Miller emphasized the need to not only prosecute the person committing the criminal act, but to take down the infrastructure that makes committing their crimes possible.

“We have to look at it from a holistic standpoint,” Marwell said.

Coats said he expects seizures in the state will be “as much or more than usual in 2014.”

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