TAMPA, Fla. -- Investigators announced drug seizures and hundreds of arrests during a national effort between the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Agency.
The six-month operation known as Project Python targeted the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, also known as CJNG. Across the country, the DEA said Project Python resulted in the arrests of more than 500 CJNG associates and 350 indictments. Investigators said the cartel is one of the fastest growing transnational criminal organizations in Mexico.
“The CJNG is the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States. Its poly-drug trafficking activities in Florida has sparked increases in the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl throughout the entire state. In addition, its propensity to engage in extreme violence to ensure the completion of its operations, intensifies the severity of that threat.” said DEA Miami Field Division Special Agent in Charge Kevin W. Carter.
Twenty five kilos of cocaine was seized in the Tampa Bay area during a traffic stop, according to DEA investigators.
"This was interdicted at one point right here in Tampa for distribution throughout Florida," said Mike Furgason, the Assistant Special in Charge of DEA's Tampa district Office.
He said it had a street value of around $2.5 million. In addition, investigators said about 14 of the indictments came out of the Tampa Bay area.
"Every role from transport, to organization, to packaging, some of these are members based outside the United States that we’ll eventually extradite or have extradited to the United States at this point," he said.
Furgason said cocaine is the leading drug identified in drug overdoses.
The DEA said in 2018 there were more than 5,500 opioid related deaths in Florida, according to the Florida Medical Examiners. The agency said fentanyl caused more deaths than any other drug, methamphetamine deaths increased, heroin remains at an alarming level and cocaine remains a top threat in Florida, determined to be the cause of over 1,600 drug overdose fatalities in Florida in 2018.
"We also see the increase in meth as well. What do we see with meth? CJNG has a stronghold on a lot of the methamphetamine laboratories. DEA intelligence indicates they have more than 100 laboratories in Mexico producing multi ton quantities of Methamphetamine that’s driven the price down in the Tampa Bay Area," Furgason said.
Methamphetamine was also seized in the Tampa Bay area investigators said can be attributed to CJNG. Investigators said the cartel is one of the most prolific methamphetamine producers in the world.
"Their impact is rapidly growing throughout the United States not just in major cities such as LA, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, they’re in smaller cities. They’re in the rural suburbs. They’re assimilating themselves into these communities so they can then distribute this product and poison the streets of the United States," said Furgason.
The DOJ and DEA announced an indictment of charges of alleged continuing criminal enterprise against CJNG's leader, Nemesio Ruben Oseguera Cervantes, also known as 'El Mencho.' A $10 million reward is offered for information leading to his arrest.
"He’s the leader of CJNG. The urgency is the fact that they are bringing this poison to the United States. They’re attacking our communities, where we live, providing this to our children, and then putting this using the money directly attributable to this back to their illegal gains and lifestyles back in Mexico," said Furgason.
Lat month, investigators said they extradicted his son, Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez, second in command, from Mexico to the United States on charges of drug trafficking and firearm use in relation to drug trafficking activities. They also arrested El Mencho's daughter, Jessica Johanna Oseguera Gonzalez, last month on financial charges related to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
“Project Python is the single largest strike by U.S. authorities against CJNG, and this is just the beginning,” said Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “This strategic and coordinated project exemplifies DEA’s mission: to disrupt, dismantle, and destroy drug trafficking organizations around the world and bring their leaders to justice. Today, DEA has disrupted CJNG’s operations, and there is more to come as DEA continues its relentless attack on this remorseless criminal organization.”