FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 1997

CRM (202) 616-2771 TDD (202) 514-1888

METHAMPHETAMINE AND COCAINE RINGS DISRUPTED IN OPERATION META

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a unique collaborative law enforcement effort, federal, state and local authorities have arrested 57 persons involved in the manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine. The arrests, which began in the early morning hours of December 4, 1997 and ended late last night, were made as part of Operation Meta, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) operation, designed to take down multiple organizations dealing in methamphetamine and cocaine on a national scale. Charges have been filed in Los Angeles, California; Dallas, Texas; and Greensboro, North Carolina. "Operation Meta, which began this May and has now resulted in a grand total of 100 arrests, is just the latest step in implementing the National Methamphetamine Strategy we announced in April of 1996," said Attorney General Janet Reno at a press conference in Washington. Among those arrested were Rafael Anguiano-Chavez, the key Mexican trafficker who heads the Los Angeles-based Anguiano organization, Carlos Javier-Martinez, who runs the day-to-day operations of the Anguiano organization, and Daniel Virgen who heads a Dallas-based wholesale drug distribution organization. In North Carolina, individuals involved in the wholesale and retain distribution of cocaine were also arrested. "These arrests are the result of an unprecedented effort to shut down methamphetamine labs and disrupt the meth trade," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "We are sending a clear message to the meth merchants. We will find you, we will charge you, and we will shut you down." Reno noted that the operation's success highlighted the importance of cooperation and information sharing by law enforcement, activities that were encouraged by the Administration's National Methamphetamine Strategy released in April of 1996. Last year, President Clinton signed the Methamphetamine Control Act, strengthening criminal penalties for methamphetamine trafficking and establishing new controls over precursor

chemicals. During the enforcement action in Los Angeles yesterday morning, a methamphetamine laboratory located across the street from a daycare center and close to two schools was dismantled. Fifteen gallons of methamphetamine was cooking when officers arrived at the lab. According to a federal criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles-based Anguiano organization was responsible for the importation from Mexico of the chemicals needed to manufacture methamphetamine, the actual manufacture of the methamphetamine in locations in the greater Los Angeles area, and the distribution of the final product to wholesale methamphetamine customers across the U.S. Virgen's Dallas-based, poly-drug organization obtained methamphetamine from the Anguiano organization and used the methamphetamine as payment to obtain cocaine from a separate Dallas-based cocaine organization. Operation Meta's reach continued down the distribution chain to reach the mid and lower level retail cocaine distribution networks based in North Carolina that obtained their cocaine from the Dallas cocaine organization. Since the inception of Operation Meta in May of 1997, more than 80 persons have been charged with offenses relating to the manufacture of methamphetamine and the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. 133 pounds of methamphetamine, 90 gallons of methamphetamine solution, 1100 kilograms of cocaine, and 1300 pounds of marijuana have been seized as part of the operation. In addition, the investigation has netted $2 million in U.S. currency and several firearms. Among Operation Meta's most notable efforts were the dismantling of three clandestine methamphetamine laboratories and the seizure of chemical solutions capable of producing more than 500 pounds of methamphetamine. According to the Justice Department, the Anguiano organization obtained at least some of the chemicals necessary to the production of methamphetamine from the Mexico based Amezcua-Contreras organization. Once the chemicals were imported into the U.S. in Southern California they were transported to clandestine laboratory locations in the greater Los Angeles area where various members of the Anguiano organization participated in the actual methamphetamine "cooks." During the course of the operation, law enforcement officials in California raided three of the organization's clandestine laboratories, including one located twenty feet from a public equestrian center and another located across the street from a child care center. During the course of the raids, investigators discovered that the Anguiano organization is utilizing an innovative method to

disguise the strong chemical odor produced during the methamphetamine "cook" process. Justice Department officials declined to discuss the method, which could be used by other methamphetamine manufacturers to avoid detection. Once "cooked" the methamphetamine was hidden in vehicle compartments and transported to the Anguiano organization's wholesale customers. Vehicles were also used to transport drug money back to Mexico. Attorney General Reno said the coordination and support provided by the Criminal Division's Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and Office of Enforcement Operations, and the Special Operations Division -- the Drug Enforcement Administration's, United States Customs Service's and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's combined investigative coordination center for major narcotics investigations -- were critical to the enforcement actions taken in this case. Reno noted the invaluable and essential cooperation and coordination with over 35 state and local police agencies, the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, U.S. Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Services, Border Patrol, and the Internal Revenue Service across the country. In addition, Reno praised the federal prosecutors in the field who worked with these federal, state and local investigators: the U.S. Attorneys offices in the Central District of California, the Middle District of North Carolina and the Northern District of Texas. "The operation was dangerous, it was difficult, and it took meticulous planning and coordination," Reno said. "And to the merchants of meth, we make this pledge: Your days are numbered. We will not tolerate your threat to our children and our neighborhoods, and we are not going to let methamphetamine spread across America the way crack did in the 1980s." Copies of press releases that have been issued by jurisdictions in which cases were indicted, as well as copies of the charging documents, can be obtained through the Justice Department Public Affairs Office. ###