Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Three Atlanta Indictments Announced as Part of Multi-State 'Operation Pay Cut' Drug Takedown

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Three federal indictments unsealed yesterday in Atlanta charge a total of 41 defendants on multiple counts relating to a large-scale drug distribution and money laundering scheme operating in the Northern District of Georgia and the Southern District of Texas.

In a news conference at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Atlanta office, U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said, "This is another case of a major cartel-related Mexican organization that processed huge amounts of illegal drugs and money through metro Atlanta to many other parts of the country. During this long-term investigation, we took away from the organization about $22 million dollars in drug money -- a record amount for an Atlanta case -- and hundreds of kilograms of the organization's cocaine and marijuana. We have now indicted dozens of its alleged members, who face long sentences in federal prison."

"Seizures such as this strike at the heart of the criminal organization by targeting the financial gain that enables their criminal enterprises to flourish," Kenneth Smith, Special Agent-in-Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Atlanta said. "This case is significant and highlights the cooperative effort of law enforcement working together under the David G. Wilhelm Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force to dismantle these dangerous organizations."

Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent-in-Charge Reginael D. McDaniel said, "Operation Pay Cut is confirmation that drug trafficking is all about the money. Seizing the dirty cash and the assets of these illegal organizations hits criminals where it hurts the most -- it deprives them of their profits."

According to the three indictments and information presented in court and other public records, this long-term, multi-agency investigation targeted a group of individuals, indicted and unindicted, who are a part of a cartel-related drug trafficking organization (DTO), which is involved in illegal drug trafficking and money laundering in and around Atlanta, South Texas and other areas. Since November 2006, law enforcement has seized approximately $22 million of drug proceeds, and approximately 223 kilograms of cocaine and more than 16,000 pounds of marijuana. Two auto sales and auto parts businesses, located in Texas, were allegedly used to launder large amounts of cash proceeds from the unlawful drug sales.

In one of the seizures, a former Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputy in Texas, Emmanuel Sanchez, was stopped on Interstate 20 in Georgia in a pickup truck hauling heavy equipment. During the traffic stop, conducted by the Georgia State Patrol, the defendant allegedly showed his law enforcement badge to the troopers in an effort to quickly conclude the traffic stop and questioning. Upon further investigation, law enforcement officers found $950,000 in cash hidden in the door and other areas of the truck. Sanchez immediately left his deputy position. In another traffic stop in Georgia, a large truck hauling livestock was pulled over, and defendants Jesus Flores Sr., and Jesus Flores Jr., were questioned. After the livestock was off-loaded, law enforcement officers located a hidden compartment under the livestock, and using the traffickers' complex pulley system under the floor, police found more than $13 million in cash in drug proceeds.

The penalties for the drug charges are a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison to life in prison, and the money laundering charges range up to 20 years in prison.

An indictment is merely a charge. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of ICE and IRS-CI, along with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; Atlanta Police Department; Georgia State Patrol Fayette County Sheriff's Office; DeKalb County Police Department; Coweta Sheriff's Office; Kennesaw Police Department; Newnan Police Department; Whitfield County Sheriff's Department; Georgia Bureau of Investigation; Clayton County Police Department; and the Marietta-Cobb-Smyrna Organized Crime and Narcotics Unit.

Assistance in this case has been provided by the U.S. Attorney's Offices of the Southern District of Texas, and the Northern District of Texas, and the District Attorney's Offices of Fulton County and DeKalb County, and the Conasauga Judicial Circuit in Dalton, Ga.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa W. Tarvin, Bret R. Williams and Jeffrey Viscomi are prosecuting the case.

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