Fayette helps big drug takedown: $23M

Wed, 10/29/2008 - 2:29pm
By: The Citizen

Regional law enforcement officials announced today the seizure of $22 million in cash and 41 people indicted in an investigation of a drug cartel that was caught twice transporting drugs and cash through Georgia.

Though none of the incident occurred in Fayette County, the sheriff’s office has one agent assigned to the task force that conducted this investigation, officials said.

In one of the seizures, a sheriff’s deputy from Hidalgo, County, Tex. was pulled over on Interstate 20 by the Georgia State Patrol and flashed his badge “in an effort to quickly conclude the traffic stop and questioning,” officials said.

Police found $950,000 in cash hidden in the door and other areas of that suspect’s truck, which was hauling heavy equipment at the time.

In another traffic stop in Georgia, a large truck carrying livestock was pulled over. Police found $13 million in cash from drug proceeds in a hidden compartment under the livestock.

The operation, conducted by the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency and the Internal Revenue Service, also netted 223 kilograms of cocaine and more than 16,000 pounds of marijuana, officials said.

The 41 indicted people are all tied to the same drug trafficking cartel that has been working around metro Atlanta, south Texas and other areas, officials said.

Two auto sales and auto parts businesses in Texas were allegedly used to launder “large amounts of cash proceeds from the unlawful drug sales,” officials said.
U.S. Attorney General David E. Nahmias said the indicted persons face long federal prison sentences.

The money was a key part of the operation, said Kenneth Smith, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Atlanta.

“Seizures such as this strike at the heart of the criminal organization by targeting the financial gain that enables their criminal enterprises to flourish,” Smith said.

Or, as IRS Special Agent in Charge Reginael D. McDaniel said, “Seizing the dirty cash and the assets of these illegal organizations hits criminals where it hurts the most - it deprives them of their profits.”

The investigation was a product of the David G. Wilhelm Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, staffed by a number of law enforcement agencies and named after the federal ICE agent Wilhelm, who was living in Peachtree City when he was killed in 2005 by Fulton County Courthouse escapee Brian Nichols.

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