California Drug Ring Infiltrated by Agents Using Mobile Technology
A drug task force based out of Los Angeles was able to intercept communications sent via mobile instant messenger in order to shut down an alleged cocaine distribution ring that stretched from the western U.S. into Mexico and the Caribbean all the way to eastern Europe.
Fullerton Criminal Defense Lawyer Houman Fakhimi wants to make sure that all potential clients are aware of the fact that any electronic communications may be fair game for investigators if they have the appropriate warrants.
Federal prosecutors reportedly made three arrests, though nine people are suspected of involvement, with several in the U.S. as well as Italy.
In addition to cocaine, authorities suspect domestic sales of methamphetamine were also part of the operation.
The task force started by targeting two brothers, one 27 and one 30, who they say masterminded the operation. The younger brother was arrested in Rancho Cucamonga, while the elder brother is a fugitive, believed to be possibly living in the Dominican Republic.
Authorities say about 40 kilos of cocaine was seized as part of the operation, which involved facilitation from the U.S. to have drugs shipped from Mexico and the Dominican Republic into Italy.
Investigators report that they availed themselves of not only undercover operatives, but used wiretaps to intercept text messages, phone calls and instant messages sent between the two brothers and others in the family. The two brothers are believed to have recruited the involved couriers.
The laundered proceeds from the sales were reportedly wired from the Dominican to locations in Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana.
In addition to the younger brother, a 51-year-old uncle was charged with methamphetamine possession in Seattle, while another uncle, 49, of San Bernardino was arrested on charges of assisting with recruitment of drug couriers and supplying methamphetamine.
At least six others, including a Canadian female, remain fugitives with federal warrants out for their arrests, though authorities say at least one of those individuals is expected to surrender soon.
In addition to federal drug possession charges, a number of them are also facing state charges for distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine. All are looking at a minimum of 10 years behind bars.
While state legislators have been working on legislation that would reduce penalties for controlled substance possession - including cocaine and methamphetamine - sale of these substances would remain a felony under state law.
It's worth noting that in the federal system, drug sentences are mandatory, meaning the judge has little to no discretion with regard to how long you will spend in jail if you are convicted. Additionally, there are only limited opportunities for probation if you're convicted of a federal drug crime.
That means it's all or nothing, and the attorney you choose to represent you in your federal felony case is critically important.
A federal drug defense attorney can fight to have charges dropped or at least reduced during pre-trial negotiations. At our firm, we also work tirelessly at the investigative stage to seize every available opportunity to uncover weaknesses in the government's case against you.
That could involve a lack of actual evidence or technical procedural flaws.
Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are arrested in Fullerton.
Feds tap into Blackberry Messenger to shut down alleged drug ring, May 1, 2013, By Richard Winton, The Los Angeles Times.