Federal agents arrested 28 suspects and seized 592 kilograms of cocaine during an overnight raid in Atlanta that dismantled one of the largest drug trafficking cells on the East Coast, the Drug Enforcement Administration said Thursday.
The raid, known as Operation Long Whine, also netted 40 pounds of methamphetamines and $8 million in cash. It was the second major seizure in the agency’s four-month-old “Money Trail” initiative to monitor drug money that passes between the United States and Mexico; The first came through arrests made in Denver and Detroit.
Among those arrested late Wednesday and early Thursday was the suspected leader of the Atlanta organization, known to law enforcement officials only as “Gotti.” DEA accuses him of orchestrating shipments from major East Coast cities to Atlanta, then back to Mexico.
Nearly $5 million in cocaine was believed to have changed hands each week, usually in small containers to avoid detection. In at least one case, DEA said, the drugs were hidden in a tractor trailer carrying pork and livestock portions.
“For drug traffickers, it’s all about the money,” DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy said in a statement. “To decimate the drug trade, we are following drug money back to its sources, targeting the laundering networks and eliminating the profits that fuel drug trafficking gangs.”
The suspects were arrested throughout the Atlanta area, but the agency didn’t immediately disclose where. Nineteen of them were illegal Mexican immigrants, DEA said.
Twenty-two suspected members of the cell were indicted Oct. 11, although officials don’t know most of their real names. Many are listed only with aliases, such as Cauliflower, Gordo, Yoli, Sope and El Sobrino. Of the 28 arrested, 19 were illegal Mexcian immigrants, DEA said.
About 200 law enforcement officers participated in the operation, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshal’s Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.