In October of 2009, James Capra, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Dallas Division, invited media to a press conference so he could show off the massive haul from a long-in-the-works bust involving the Mexican drug cartel known as La Familia: 220 pounds of methamphetamine, 4.5 kilos of cocaine, $660,000 in cash and dozens of machine guns. The feds and other law-enforcement officials said they'd nabbed some 1,100 people around the country during an operation known as Project Coronado; 84 of them were taken into custody in and around Dallas, a major distribution hub for drugs brought in from Mexico -- Michoacan, specifically, La Familia's home base. Six months later, Ricardo Hernandez-Cruz, a.k.a "Rica," a 37-year-old who handled the merch, pleaded guilty to meth trafficking.
Since then La Familia, which, per Time, attempts to mask its infamous, well-documented brutality behind quasi-religious camouflage, has overhauled its operations, at least from the looks of the latest heads-up from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
A Dallas federal grand jury this week indicted 16 more members of La Familia, all of whom were arrested December 14 in Tyler and Dallas. Some were nabbed in rural Tyler, at the so-called "ranch" of Sergio Renteria Echeverria, otherwise known as "Trippa," the 30-year-old who Capra and U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña say is the "cell-head" who "concealed large amounts of drugs" on the premises. They also say he maintains another residence in Richardson, on Midway Drive, which the feds will seize if he's convicted.
This time around, authorities say they got about $700,000 in cash, 20 pounds of meth, one kilo of cocaine and 70 firearms. They also discovered a meth conversion lab in Duncanville. It's not just shipping the drugs to Dallas-Fort Worth; La Familia is now manufacturing them locally.
According to the government, this investigation into La Familia's doings on U.S. soil has been going on since '06; that '09 bust was part of that. But it's like cutting off the head of a hyrda:
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While the LFM cartel itself is based in Michoacan, the investigation identified several LFM distribution cells throughout North Texas. Intelligence obtained from the investigation revealed that after leaders of the LFM were arrested, replacement leaders, or "cell-head leaders" were assigned to continue the distribution of narcotics in the Dallas area and to other parts of the U.S.
Since the LFM Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation began, agents with DEA Dallas have arrested more than 100 defendants on federal charges and seized approximately $7.6 million in cash and assets, approximately 900 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than 85 kilograms of cocaine, approximately one kilogram of heroin and numerous firearms.