$1.6 Million and Multiple Kilos of Cocaine and Crystal Methamphetamine Seized During Course of Year-Long Investigation
ATLANTA—Fourteen defendants have been indicted for drug trafficking and money laundering crimes after a multi-agency investigation, announced United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, and the David G. Wilhelm Organized Crime Drug Enforcement (OCDETF) Strike Force. On July 25, 2012, a federal grand jury returned two indictments charging a total of 14 defendants. The indictments were unsealed on Wednesday, August 1, 2012, in conjunction with a sweep aimed at arresting those charged. Today, United States Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman conducted a detention hearing for one group of defendants and ordered that each defendant be detained.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the takedown and the case, “This office and the Wilhelm Strike Force target the most significant drug trafficking organizations in the district with the goal of reducing drug trafficking not only in the state of Georgia but the other parts of the country that these organizations touch. The indictment of these 14 defendants is a step toward making Atlanta a safer community.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Harry S. Sommers said, “This investigation is a true example of the multi-agency Strike Force concept working as it was designed and demonstrates the effectiveness of working together to achieve the ultimate goal of bringing the members of a major drug trafficking organization operating in the Atlanta area to justice.”
Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “The Southeastern region of the U.S. and the metropolitan Atlanta area in particular continue to serve as a destination and distribution point for the international based drug trafficking organizations. The FBI continues to dedicate numerous investigative resources to the Wilhelm Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force in an effort to aggressively pursue these criminal enterprises who prey on our communities and to identify, apprehend, prosecute, and dismantle them so that they are no longer a threat.”
“IRS-Criminal Investigation is proud to be an integral part of the David G. Wilhelm OCDETF Strike Force,” stated Donald B. Yaden, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. “It is our goal as financial investigators to assist our law enforcement partners in dismantling drug trafficking organizations at every level.”
“The Wilhem Strike Force provides for a highly resourced, team-centered approach that allows participating agencies to focus on the large-scale, transnational criminal organizations responsible for moving commercial quantities of narcotics across the United States,” said Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta. “This case is a prime example of how effective federal law enforcement agencies can be when we work together to share our investigative expertise, tools and experience.”
“Firearms are a tool of the trade that enable drug traffickers to perpetuate their criminal activity. ATF works with its law enforcement partners at every level to sever the linkage between guns and drug organizations,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Scott Sweetow. “This indictment reiterates our combined dedication to stamping out violent criminals and drug traffickers through aggressive federal investigations and prosecutions.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: In January 2011, federal law enforcement officers began investigating a Mexican cocaine and marijuana drug trafficking organization operating in the metro Atlanta area. The organization allegedly used several distributors, brokers, and couriers to distribute wholesale quantities of cocaine and marijuana onto the streets of Atlanta and elsewhere, including defendants Nicholas Jackson and his “right-hand-man” Darren Dunlap. During the course of the investigation, approximately eight kilograms of cocaine, 75.6 kilograms of marijuana, and $800,000 in cash were seized.
As a result of this investigation, the following individuals were charged with offenses including conspiracy to traffic cocaine and marijuana and launder drug money:
■Alejandro Maldonado, a/k/a “Patino,”41, of Mableton, Georgia;
■Eduardo Renteria-Maldonado, a/k/a “Quinni,” 26, residence unknown;
■Jay Hernandez-Santana, a/k/a “Borrego,” 32, of Mableton, Georgia;
■Jose Luis Cano-Pacheco, age unknown, of Conyers, Georgia;
■Aly Lozano, a/k/a “Yanez,” 40, of Alpharetta, Georgia;
■David Gomez, a/k/a “Marcos,” 37, of Atlanta, Georgia;
■Nicholas Jackson, 38, of Norcross, Georgia;
■Darren Dunlap, 45, of Decatur, Georgia; and
■Jesus Uriel Celis-Pineda, a/k/a “Eustorgio Echeverria-Sanchez,” 50, residence unknown.
Defendant Darren Dunlap has not yet been arrested and remains at large. Anyone with information about his whereabouts should contact the U.S. Marshals Service 24-hour number 1-877-WANTED2 (1-877-926-8332) or the DEA Atlanta Field Division at 404-893-7000.
With regard to the second indictment, during the investigation of the group charged in the first indictment, OCDETF agents and prosecutors began to follow evidence of a related Mexican crystal methamphetamine drug trafficking criminal organization also operating in the metro Atlanta area. The following individuals were charged with offenses including conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine and launder drug money:
■Ivan Najera-Suazo, 30, of Mexico;
■Domingo Najera-Perez, 60, of Mableton, Georgia;
■Rogelio Benetiz, a/k/a “Roy,” 26, place of residence unknown;
■Alejandro Santana, 45, of Mableton, Georgia; and
■Luis Santabanas, a/k/a “Neco,” age unknown, of Austell, Georgia.
A detention hearing for the defendants arrested in this case will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 8, 2012, before United States Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman.
Defendants Ivan Najera-Suazo and Alejandro Santana have not yet been arrested and are believed to be in Mexico. Anyone with information about their whereabouts should contact U.S. Marshals Service 24-hour number 1-877-WANTED2 (1-877-926-8332) or the DEA Atlanta Field Division at 404-893-7000.
The investigation and prosecution of this case is a coordinated effort through the David G. Wilhelm OCDETF Strike Force, which is composed of special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); and the United States Marshals Service (USMS), working with other state and local law enforcement agencies.
Assistant United States Attorney Skye Davis is prosecuting the case.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following website: www.justthinktwice.com.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Information Office at USAGAN.Pressemails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.