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2004 National HIDTA Program Award

Central Valley California HIDTA - Sergeant Fred Links

At first glance Sergeant Fred Links looks like a football star and Marine Corps advertisement. The fact that he is a boat builder, World Champion speed boat racer, and a heart attack survivor isn't apparent. Nor does one see that Fred has been awarded two Silver Stars and three Bronze Stars for Bravery by his department. What is clearly evident is that he is charismatic, radiates confidence and has a clear dedication to law enforcement and the HIDTA mission. He is a 25 year veteran of the Sacramento County Sheriffs Department and is married to a Sheriff's Sergeant who's assigned to the Sex Crimes Unit. Fred is Commander of the HIDTA's Sacramento Area Intelligence Narcotics Task Force (SAINT) initiative that was awarded “Outstanding HIDTA Task Force Cooperative Effort” last year. SAINT became operational in 2000 has been under Sergeant Links' leadership for most of that time. The task force consists of 12 individuals from 8 different local, state and Federal agencies. The mission of the SAINT is the identification, arrest and prosecution of major methamphetamine manufacturers, drug distributors and chemical suppliers. SAINT members are cross trained as clandestine laboratory specialists able to dismantle methamphetamine laboratory sites.

This past year SAINT members seized 151 pounds of cocaine, 46 pounds of methamphetamine, 132 pounds of marijuana and over $700,000 in drug proceeds. They initiated 54 investigations and disrupted or dismantled 16 major drug trafficking organizations. On September 23, 2004, a 17 month SAINT investigation into a Sacramento-area “ice” or crystal meth producing and distributing DTO concluded. Investigators were led to the DTO's Canadian ephedrine suppliers who smuggled the precursor into the U.S. The Ice was shipped to Hawaii and Minnesota as well as distributed throughout CA. Twenty four search warrants led to 27 arrests. There was 20 pounds of meth seized, $130,000 cash, 18 guns, 12 vehicles and 10 children placed into protective custody. In Canada, the RCMP determined that the DTO imported thousands of pounds of ephedrine. Two thirds of it went to an outlaw motorcycle club in Canada and one third to Sacramento. The RCMP arrested 54 individuals, seized 80 pounds of methamphetamine, seized 2,620 pounds of ephedrine powder, 1.6 million ephedrine pills, 2 kilograms of cocaine and $3 million Canadian currency.

Use of Innovation in Supervising Investigations - Sergeant Links and SAINT members relentlessly pursue DTOs operating in the Sacramento, Northern and Central California regions. Fred uses unique approaches to investigations. One has been to target the essential chemicals, equipment and precursors used in labs. He uses reverse undercover operations, financial investigations, complex conspiracy investigations as well as targeting of rogue chemical suppliers. He relies heavily upon the application of technology. Each Title III investigation is complex and demanding, requiring long hours of work and coordination. His recognition of the sophistication and countermeasures used by DTOs has fostered his technical investigative approach. SAINT operates pen registers and dialed number recorders to collect telephone call activity. This year to date, SAINT initiated 9 Title-III investigations into major DTOs. Because Fred understands the value of case analysis, all data is provided to the on-site ISC intelligence analyst who has the latest versions of analytical software and robust computer systems. Another innovation is Fred's Precursor Vendor Program (PVP). Under PVP, an investigator acts as a liaison to local businesses such as tack and feed stores that sell products used in meth laboratories. Businesses are encouraged to voluntarily report information regarding the buyers of products that might be used to manufacture methamphetamine. PVP data is researched and analyzed to disclose links to meth labs. Research may also identify if a conspiratorial relationship exists between chemical retailer and DTOs.

Innovation and investigative experience still lead to arrest situations where confrontation is often an element. Fred received one Bronze Star for Bravery when he led the “entry team” on a search warrant. He was confronted by an armed suspect preparing to fire on officers. Fred physically subdued him and neutralized the danger. Another of his Bronze Stars for Bravery was awarded for his involvement in a pursuit of a fleeing suspect armed with an AR 15 who fired on officers then fled into a brushy area. Fred was a member of the SWAT team that entered the wooded area eventually located the suspect and took him into custody.

Leadership and Direction - Over 10 years ago Fred helped develop and organize one of the most recognized tactical entry courses in California, “Round Hill Tactical Entry Training.” He's demonstrated his innovation and dedication through his commitment to this program that improves officer safety. He developed training methods and techniques to improve safety skills. He's the lead instructor, advisor, and tactical guru of the program. Round Hill uses on-site, hands-on scenarios encountered by major narcotic and other plainclothes specialized enforcement units. Fred has instructed and coordinated over a thousand students from hundreds of agencies on how to operate during these high-risk situations, ensuring that cops stay alive. Fred is one of California's recognized experts in high-risk officer safety situations.

Fred leads by example and has demonstrated his abilities in countless situations. He was awarded a Silver Star for Bravery after he entered a two-story apartment complex that was engulfed in fire. He searched for victims and at one point was pinned in by fire on the second floor. He escaped by running through a wall of flames and jumped from the second story to a roof and eventually to the ground. He returned to the building to rescue a man paralyzed by fear and then carried the man to safety. His other Silver Star for Bravery was received when Fred wrestled with an armed suicidal man in an attempt to save him from self-destruction. As Fred struggled to control the violent person, three rounds were fired from the assailant's shotgun. He saved the man from himself.

Commitment to the HIDTA Program and Law Enforcement - Collocation and collaboration are part of Fred's philosophy. He recognizes that drug enforcement is often not a localized issue and task forces must think globally to be successful. His approach is one of complete cooperation with all agencies as their assistance may be needed at some future date in return. This interactive policy led SAINT to participate in 3 OCDETF investigations this past year involving agencies in California, several other states and Canada. Meth producers in California use Canadian suppliers of Pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. One of SAINT's long-term investigations involved an Asian-based international group that moved drugs from Canada to the Sacramento area. Drug proceeds were electronically transferred to an Asian country. The multi- agency investigation led to the seizure of meth precursors. Laboratory locations were identified and the products seized. Drug supplies were impounded and many distribution groups in Sacramento County and the surrounding area were disrupted and dismantled. This example of a collaborative effort typifies Sgt. Links' requirement of SAINT members to assist other local and federal agencies. They've helped 29 other agencies to conduct investigations within the SAINT area of responsibility this year. SAINT investigations are international and multi-state in nature. This year their operations have spanned from Canada to Mexico and from Minnesota to Hawaii.

Sergeant Fred Links is a true leader in the HIDTA's efforts to combat drug trafficking organizations and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement. He is the consummate professional and has received no less that 90 letters of commendation, recognition, appreciation, outstanding employee awards and unit citations. Sergeant Links should receive ONDCP's recognition as “Outstanding Task Force Commander.”

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Last Updated: February 7, 2005