Feds bust ring trucking $16-28 million in drugs from Mexico to Canada

Red and blue lights on police car

 Ten people were arrested in multiple cities earlier this week concerning two federal indictments charging members of an organized crime syndicate who allegedly conspired to traffic and import hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and other controlled substances from Mexico through Los Angeles for export to Canada or re-distribution throughout the United States.

Arrest and search warrants were executed Tuesday, Jan. 30 by a coalition of international law enforcement partners in various cities, including Los Angeles; Sacramento, California; Miami; Odessa, Texas; and the Canadian cities of Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary.

In addition to those arrested, two defendants were already in state custody, and seven defendants are fugitives, including three Mexicans who allegedly supplied wholesale quantities of narcotics to the traffickers in the United States and Canada.

The investigation, known as “Operation Dead Hand,” resulted in two federal grand jury indictments returned under seal in Los Angeles earlier this month.  The indictments, which were unsealed today, collectively charge 19 individuals for their alleged roles in the organized crime syndicate, including Mexico-based suppliers who brought large quantities of narcotics into the United States, United States distributors, a Canadian who led an exportation organization, Canadian-based semi-truck drivers who operate in the United States, and a large-scale Canadian trafficker and Italian organized crime figure, Robert Scoppa, whom investigators allege was purchasing massive quantities of drugs on a wholesale basis.

“Today’s charges and arrests across North America reflect the Justice Department’s close coordination with our Mexican and Canadian partners to disrupt international narcotics trafficking,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “These cases provide yet another example of how our agents and prosecutors work side-by-side to uncover and dismantle organized criminal networks peddling and profiting from deadly drugs.”

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Investigators developed information indicating the organized crime group used Canadian “handlers” and “dispatchers” who travelled from Canada to Los Angeles for short amounts of time. The handlers coordinated the pick-up and delivery of large shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine, which were loaded onto long-haul semi-trucks destined for Canada. Wholesale quantities of fentanyl were seized as a result of the investigation. The transportation was coordinated by a network of drivers working with dozens of trucking companies who made numerous border crossings from the United States to Canada via the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, the Buffalo Peace Bridge, and the Blue Water Bridge.

The indictments allege illicit drug trafficking activity cumulatively involving about 1,860 pounds of methamphetamine, 2,092 pounds of cocaine, 44 pounds of fentanyl and nearly 9 pounds of heroin. Over $900,000 in cash was seized during the investigation. The estimated wholesale value of the narcotics seized was between $16-28 million.

An 18-count indictment returned on Jan. 4 charges 10 defendants for their roles in an organization that allegedly began operating on an unknown date and continued to on or about March 2023.  The charges in the indictment allege two drug trafficking conspiracies; conspiracy to import cocaine; drug exportation conspiracy; distribution/possession with intent to distribute controlled substances; possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and being a felon in possession of ammunition.

A 23-count indictment returned on Jan. 3 charges nine defendants for their roles in a related criminal enterprise that allegedly operated from at least September 2020 through February 2023.  In addition to a drug trafficking conspiracy, the indictment alleges a drug exportation conspiracy and substantive counts of distribution/possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.