In the wake of a heroin and opioid epidemic spreading across our nation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announces the results of an elite and specialized drug enforcement team.
Since 2012, the LASD Domestic Highway Enforcement Team has quietly dedicated itself to disrupting the operations of the drug cartels who are pushing their product from Mexico into Los Angeles County as well as northern California, into Oregon, Washington and in some cases, reaching the Canadian border.
The initial three-month pilot of a highway enforcement team in 2012 seized illegal narcotics with an estimated street value of $8,141,240. This proved to be the tip of the iceberg and a full-time LASD DHE Team was formed along with a partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
The partnership enabled the LASD and two federal agencies to provide resources and information gathering to combat the national criminal drug trade enterprise, which is still plaguing communities throughout the United States.
“The drug epidemic involving heroin, fentanyl and other illicit substances is ever-present and is directly reaching into our neighborhoods and schools in areas throughout Los Angeles County,” said LA Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
“It is destroying families, cutting young susceptible lives short, and causing irreparable harm to our peaceful and productive society,” McDonnell said. “We must all work collaboratively to attack this problem from every possible angle and on every conceivable level. Thousands of pounds of illegal drugs and ill-gotten money are traversing our interstates, highways and local streets every day, creating a literal pipeline of destruction for our youth and communities.
“The Domestic Highway Enforcement team is working closely and successfully with local, state and federal partners in the identified High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area to stop the steady flow of drugs before they get to local dealers, and recover illicit funds that are headed to further the illegal drug enterprise,” McDonnell said.
“The importance of this mission cannot be overstated,” he said. “It is one of the few ways we can have a dramatic and substantial impact on drug traffickers and truly make a difference in the protection of the public from these harmful substances and this dangerous organized crime.”
“The FBI continues to devote resources to supplement those of our local and federal partners in the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,” said Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.
“Combatting the escalating drug epidemic currently affecting Americans nationwide is a shared responsibility,” Delacourt said. “The FBI benefits from our partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which provides real-time intelligence regarding drugs, and other contraband coming into southern California.
“The FBI also shares that information appropriately with our partners nationwide to determine potential linkage to activity in other areas, including organized criminal activity that poses additional threats to the United States or U.S. interests abroad,” Delacourt said.
“Our country is facing a devastating drug crisis – heroin and fentanyl trafficking have been on the rise, and communities across the United States are being ravaged by opioid use and overdoses,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge David J. Downing.
“A key component to combatting this crisis is intercepting the drugs before they reach street-level distributors that push them into our neighborhoods,” Downing said. “DEA’s partnership with the LASD Domestic Highway Enforcement team affords us the ability to interdict the flow of these deadly substances as they transit our highways and enables us to investigate further up the drug supply chain, closer to the ultimate source.”
Domestic Highway Enforcement team’s five-year results (December 2012 – December 2017):
• Arrests: 1116
• Marijuana: 4,280.5 lbs.
• Marijuana (Edibles): 6,789 Edibles, 168 drinks, 212 vapes of THC
• Hashish: 74 lbs. 9 oz.
• Cocaine: 647 lbs. 6 oz.
• Heroin: 218 lbs. 15 oz.
• Fentanyl: 18 lbs 6 oz.
• Methamphetamine: 2,254 lbs. 7 oz.
• Pills: 25,477 pills, 1,492 ml. of codeine
• Stolen Property: (20) i-Phones, (96) Stolen Checks, (63) Stolen Identities, (1,650) Gallons Diesel Fuel, (2) Gambling video machines, (57) Pirated movies
• Stolen Cars: 28
• Fugitives: 11
• Handguns: 60
• Rifles: 13
• Exploited Children: 6
• Seized Cars: 95
• Hidden Compartments: 161
• US Currency: $9,082,778.00
However, 2015 through 2017, the LASD DHE Team has seen an alarming uptick in emerging crimes such as an increase in the amount of Fentanyl seized. This is in direct correlation to the heroin and opioid epidemic that is killing an estimated 160 people a day across the nation.
Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that mimics the effects of heroin but is much cheaper to buy. This synthetic opioid is manufactured and sold by the drug cartels for the purpose of causing addiction much faster, which creates more of a demand for narcotics such as heroin. In 2017 alone, the team has seized approximately nineteen pounds packaged Fentanyl in its pure form.
The following are just some examples of recent LASD DHE seizures, theft recoveries and lives saved from human trafficking:
* Large Heroin/Fentanyl/Cocaine seizure: In 2017 a deputy stopped a vehicle. The deputy later searched the vehicle and found a hidden compartment built into the rear seat. The compartment had been secured with an electronic latch. Once accessed, the compartment was initially identified as containing 38 lbs. of cocaine and 8 lbs. of heroin. Lab results indicated the seized load actually contained, 11 lbs. of fentanyl, 27 lbs. of cocaine and 8 lbs. of heroin. (This case is ongoing in the Federal system.)
* Large Methamphetamine seizure: In 2017, a deputy stopped a vehicle containing two females. The vehicle registration was expired as of 2014. In the roof liner the deputy found a hidden compartment had been fabricated. Once accessed, the compartment was found to contain 56 lbs. of methamphetamine and 6 lbs. of cocaine.
* Human Trafficked female juvenile: In 2012 a vehicle containing a male and female was stopped. The male driver was arrested for possession of narcotics. The female advised she was a runaway juvenile from Reno, Nevada and had been human trafficked, and forced to perform sexual acts throughout the San Francisco Bay area (prostitution) by the male. The male created a website for her on a known massage site using a photo of some random female who resembled the girl. The male was in the process of transporting her to Ontario, California, in order to perform sex with a high-paying client when the DHE team stopped their vehicle. The female was rescued from her captor and her mother was advised her daughter was safe.
* Fraudulent Credit Cards: In 2017, a deputy stopped a vehicle. Several occupants were detained and a search of the vehicle was conducted. 136 fraudulent credit cards were located. Fraudulent California ID cards matching the names on the cards were also found. These cards are used to purchase merchandise from high-end stores, stealing from unsuspecting business owners. Charges filed by Commercial Crimes Bureau.
These and other seizures indicate that the cartels and other criminal enterprises may be expanding their criminal operations to include the sex trafficking of minors and other forms of human trafficking and other emerging crimes such as fraud.
The full-time interdiction team received additional formal training from the National Criminal Enforcement Association.
The first two full years of seizure statistics (2013 and 2014) were some of the highest in the nation for Highway Interdiction teams and the team was recognized by the NCEA as the National Highway Interdiction Team of the Year.