Federal authorities seized enough fentanyl to kill more than 14 million people following an investigation that covered Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia. The busts resulted in the arrests of 35 people and the seizure of distribution quantities of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base. Investigators also found weapons and cash during a three-day operation.
“This massive interdiction of narcotics, which included enough fentanyl to kill over 14 million people, is proof positive of the power and strength of federal, state, and local law enforcement collaboration,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a written statement. “This operation, through its seizure of scores of kilograms of illicit narcotics, saved lives in the Eastern District and elsewhere. Any day where we can do that is particularly meaningful and impactful. An incredible thank you to our dedicated law enforcement partners and prosecutors.”
A 106-count federal indictment unsealed on August 29 brings charges against 39 co-conspirators for various alleged criminal acts including conspiracy, armed drug distribution, money laundering, felon in possession of a firearm, interstate travel in furtherance of a racketeering enterprise, and illegal re-entry by a previously deported illegal alien. The multi-agency investigation, dubbed Operation Cookout, involved the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force including investigators from the DEA, IRS, Homeland Security Investigations, the Virginia State Police, and other local law enforcement agencies.
The 108-page indictment details the operation of the conspiracy including dozens of storage facilities, and nearly 100 cell phones used to control the flow of narcotics.
On November 7, 2018, one of the suppliers called suspect Stacy Labaniel Cephas to discuss a distribution problem in Mexico, according to the indictment. The supplier told Cephas that the Mexican cartels “are having a dispute and they are killing off some of the drug smugglers.” The supplier referred to those smugglers as “mules.” The dispute revolved around trying to control the flow of cocaine to New York City. The supplier advised that a kilogram of cocaine in New York City could soon cost $40,000.
Breitbart Texas reports extensively on these types of battles that occur throughout the Mexican drug distribution states located in border states and coastal regions of that country.
The indictment alleges that on multiple occasions in 2018, suspect Damarcus Mackie ordered and received packages of fentanyl that suppliers mailed via the U.S. Postal Services from Shanghai.
The distribution network allegedly brought drugs from Mexico into California. The conspirators then moved the drugs through the Texas Panhandle region as indicated by various intercepted telephonic messages, the indictment states. From there, the traffickers would move the drugs to various locations in Virginia.
Count 15 of the indictment identifies Kimberly Yvonne Massenburg, a/k/a “Quantan,” as being a convicted felon in possession of two 9mm handguns. Numerous other conspirators are also alleged to have possessed firearms during the furtherance of their drug trafficking enterprise.
Count 106 of the indictment identifies Ramiro Ramirez-Barreto a/k/a “Edward Lee Tijema,” “Ramon Ramirez Tapia,” and “Morelos,” as being an illegal alien who immigration officers previously deported on October 1, 2014.
“The narcotics organization identified by our team reached far and wide, spanning state lines and crossing all the way to and from our southern border,” said Michael K. Lamonea, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Norfolk. “This indictment, and the 106 counts within, demonstrates clearly that the dangerous and illegal smuggling operations from the border limitlessly stretch into the United States and reach directly into our neighborhoods and communities.”
The indictment alleges that the co-conspirators would purchase and receive narcotics from suppliers located in Mexico, California, and New York and the transport the drugs to the Eastern District of Virginia. The smugglers allegedly used hidden compartments in personal vehicles, couriers, tractor-trailer rigs, trucks, and recreational vehicles, according to information obtained from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. The drugs would be moved to distribution houses in the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area. The drugs allegedly include heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and cocaine base. From these distribution points, the drugs would be moved to points-of-sale locations in Newport News, Hampton, Suffolk, Carrolton, Yorktown, Lawrenceville, South Hill, and Richmond.
“The DEA will continue to prioritize operations like this one, which target the criminal organizations that bring dangerous drugs and violence into our communities here in Virginia,” said Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division. “We stand united with our outstanding federal, state, and local law enforcement counterparts in this endeavor.”
In total, officials seized 24 firearms, 30 kilograms of fentanyl, 30 kilograms of heroin, five kilograms of cocaine, and more than $700,000 in cash, officials stated.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Face