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US arrests 600 Mexican cartel members in one of the largest ever raids

In social media posts, CJNG shows off its military-grade fire power, some of which is illegally bought in the U.S. (Social media photo via Courier-Journal/TNS)
March 15, 2020

More than 600 Mexican cartel members were arrested during an interagency operation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), making it one of the largest arrest operations in history.

 

The agencies announced the results of the plan, called Project Python, at a press briefing on Wednesday, saying the DEA-led operation spent the last six months monitoring the activities of those they arrested, The Hill reported. In total, there were 600 Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) arrests and 350 indictments, as well as a significant seizure of money and drugs in the nationwide raid on Wednesday, the agencies said. According to one report, the agencies seized 15,000 kilos of meth and nearly $20 million.

“Project Python marks the most comprehensive action to date in the Department of Justice’s campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately destroy CJNG,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said in a statement.

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“CJNG is one of the fastest-growing, transnational criminal organizations in Mexico, and among the most prolific methamphetamine producers in the world,” DEA leaders said in the written statement.

Benczkowski cited an executive order President Donald Trump signed on Feb. 9, 2020, that directed federal law enforcement “to thwart transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations, including criminal gangs, cartels, racketeering organizations, and other groups engaged in illicit activities that present a threat to public safety and national security.”

“When President Trump signed an Executive Order prioritizing the dismantlement of transnational criminal organizations, the Department of Justice answered the call and took direct aim at CJNG. We deemed CJNG one of the highest-priority transnational organized crime threats we face,” he said. “And with Project Python, we are delivering results in the face of that threat for the American people.”

Project Python is the single-largest strike by U.S. authorities against the CJNG, Dhillon said in a written statement. The operation was aimed at mid- to high-level associates of the CJNG in the United States, rather than the high-profile targets, officials said.

Investigators will use the data they collected in Project Python to “identify and map out the cartel’s logistical nodes and pathways,” Benczkowski said.

“This operation is one of the largest, concentrated actions against a single criminal organization in many years,” Dhillon said. “By removing mid- and high-level members, we inhibit CJNG’s ability to regenerate and to continue to threaten our communities and neighborhoods with their deadly drugs.”

The cartel is active in major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta, the agencies said. The DOJ and DEA also announced a superseding indictment on charges against Nemesio Ruben Oseguera Cervantes, also known as “El Mencho,” the leader of CJNG, for allegedly continuing criminal enterprise.

“This is just the beginning,” Dhillon added.