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Central Valley HIDTA

General Information:
  Year of Designation:  1999
  Geographic Area of Responsibility:

Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties.

    Contact: (559) 457-5040

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Central Valley California HIDTA (CVC HIDTA) is to reduce the manufacture, trafficking, and distribution of methamphetamine, precursor chemicals, and other dangerous drugs by attacking and dismantling the large-scale and often violent organizations responsible through the implementation of cooperative and innovative strategies.

The goals of the CVC HIDTA are to: reduce drug availability by disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations; to reduce the harmful consequences of drug trafficking and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the region's law enforcement organizations.

Threat Abstract:

The primary drug threat in the Central Valley is methamphetamine. The methamphetamine threat continues due to the ready availability of foreign and domestically acquired supplies of pseudoephedrine tablets, ephedrine hydrochloride and other essential precursors, chemicals and products. Large scale methamphetamine “superlabs” produce more than ten pounds during a single manufacturing process.

Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations generally operate the superlabs. Increasing quantities of methamphetamine is also produced in laboratories in the Republic of Mexico. The finished methamphetamine is smuggled across the border and ultimately into the Central Valley of California. Manufacturing methamphetamine in Mexico is considered less risky and easier to produce due to the readily availability of precursors imported from Asia and other foreign countries.

Crystal methamphetamine (“ice”) manufacturing, importation and use is increasing in the Central Valley. Ice generally has a high purity and is accordingly higher priced. Small laboratories using the Nazi or Birch production method are on the increase. The Nazi process uses Lithium metal such as found in Lithium batteries and Anhydrous Ammonia. Meth pills from Southeast Asia (“Yaba”) have been seized in the Fresno and Sacramento areas. Heroin trafficking and abuse seems to be constant or on the decline in some areas. Treatment program enrollment for heroin addiction has declined.

The demand for marijuana remains high and the use of public lands for cultivating cannabis continues at increasing levels. There has been an increase in marijuana production on public lands by Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations over the last five years in California. Five separate drug trafficking organizations have been identified as operating on National Forest Service land in California according to the Supervisor of the Sequoia National Forest and they are headquartered in Mexico. The “epidemic” of marijuana cultivation and other drug related issues in national forests poses a significant danger to the public and law enforcement. The organizations that grow marijuana are often the same ones that produce methamphetamine.

Cocaine importation, distribution and use remain steady in most areas. Cocaine supplies appear to remain high with prices constant. Cocaine sales include both powder and crack forms with crack cocaine use being greater in populated urban communities. Club drugs such as ecstasy and GHB and club drugs are gaining a user base through rave parties, and dances.

Strategy Abstract:

The CVC HIDTA Executive Board is comprised of 16 local, state and Federal law enforcement leaders in the CVC HIDTA areas of responsibility. A collaborative approach between law enforcement and prosecution agencies facilitates efforts to reduce the impact of drug production, trafficking and distribution in the Central Valley.

The Central Valley of California continues to be a major manufacturing, distribution, and transshipment area for all types of illegal drugs. Regional drug trafficking organizations produce and distribute methamphetamine and marijuana to drug markets throughout the country. Heroin, cocaine and other drugs are smuggled into the region for local consumption or transshipment to other localities in the country. Regional consumption rates vary depending on drug type however methamphetamine abuse and addiction continue at high levels. The violence associated with drug manufacturing and distribution impacts families, neighborhoods, and schools.

The environmental impact from the toxic waste produced by methamphetamine production continues to threaten the viability of regional farmlands, waterways and public areas. This pollution may last for decades. The CVC HIDTA enforcement initiatives proactively identify, target, disrupt and dismantle the drug trafficking organizations operating the California's Central Valley.

Management and Administrative Initiative: The HIDTA Management and Administrative staff consists of the Director, Administrative Assistant, and Fiscal Officer. They coordinate and administer the CVC HIDTA program and budget. The Director executes the Executive Board's directives and coordinates all initiatives and budgets which are designed to reduce the regional drug threat and meet national HIDTA goals. The Director represents both the Executive Board and ONDCP in all program affairs.

Fresno Methamphetamine Task Force: Located in Fresno, CA. this multi-agency enforcement initiative focuses on disrupting and dismantling major methamphetamine and marijuana trafficking organizations, precursor chemical suppliers, and pseudoephedrine suppliers. Their operational area includes Fresno, Madera and Merced counties.

Fresno Area Surveillance Team: This group is part of the Fresno Meth Task Force initiative and conducts surveillance, collects intelligence and investigates regional drug trafficking organizations. The unit is led by a Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor and works with state and local investigators. Investigations follow federal guidelines and are prosecuted under the federal system. The team concentrates on flexibility and pursuing wiretap investigations which increase both OCDETF and Federal prosecutions.

Joint Fugitive Task Force: This Fresno initiative is led by the U.S. Marshal's Service and was created to apprehend significant narcotic fugitives in the region. The multi-agency task force uses state and local participants to pursue narcotics fugitives. Federal and state narcotic fugitives identified by law enforcement agencies in the Central Valley are the priorities.

Sacramento Area Intelligence/Narcotics Task Force: This multi-agency investigative task force initiates major investigations of methamphetamine and polydrug trafficking organizations operating in the greater Sacramento area. It supports other investigative agencies as required and collects operational intelligence to identify methamphetamine and narcotic trafficking organizations. The task force has an intelligence component as well as a Precursor/Vendor Program to educate retailers about methamphetamine production and to collect information about precursor chemical buyers who use the non-regulated products to manufacture methamphetamine.

Southern Tri-County Drug Task Force: This multi-agency task force is headquartered in Bakersfield, CA. and includes an intelligence component and an investigative component. Task force members investigate all aspects of methamphetamine trafficking, including the acquisition of precursor chemicals, manufacturing, distribution, and money laundering. They also investigate and prosecute the drug trafficking organizations that cultivate marijuana growing on public lands in the region. The task force employs Title III investigations of drug trafficking organizations. Their operational area is Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties.

Stanislaus-San-Joaquin Meth Task Force: Task force members conduct long term investigations of regional and national drug trafficking organizations involved in the acquisition of precursor chemicals, and the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine and other illegal drugs. The initiative is located in Modesto and has an on-site intelligence analyst. Investigations are coordinated through the deconfliction services provided by the Los Angeles Clearinghouse. The initiative operates the Precursor Vendor Program in Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties.

Training Initiative: Training programs are presented throughout the Central Valley HIDTA region to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of drug enforcement investigators and intelligence analysts. Technical and specialized training programs are offered in each year and all programs are coordinated with the National HIDTA Assistance Center. This initiative falls under the Investigative Support Center.

Investigative Support Center:

The intelligence initiative is a multi-agency, collocated element with a central office in Fresno. The intelligence center is comprised of two sub-units: an investigative support unit and a technical support unit. The investigative support unit includes intel analysts with local law enforcement backgrounds. The California National Guard also supplies analysts to the unit. This unit provides support for phone toll investigations, ad hoc post-seizure analysis, suspect and organizational profiles, and graphic support for investigations and prosecutions. ISC personnel also prepare narcotic intelligence analysis, trends assessment, statistical analysis, threat assessments, quarterly and annual statistical and performance reports and the CVC HIDTA's annual strategy and budget. The ISC also provides analytical support with on-site personnel for the investigative initiatives in Sacramento, Modesto and Bakersfield. In addition, the ISC provides investigative and intelligence training for the HIDTA and area LEAs. Deconfliction is provided by the Los Angeles County Regional Criminal Information Clearinghouse, with funding for two analysts supplied by the CVC HIDTA. The technical unit features an equipment pool, which makes equipment available for use by HIDTA task forces and other valley agencies, and computer support. Supervision for this initiative is provided by a DEA Intelligence Unit Supervisor.

Participating Agencies:

Federal: Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

State/Local: Bakersfield Police Department; California Department of Justice-Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement; California Highway Patrol; California National Guard; California Youth Authority; Delano Police Department; Fresno County Sheriff's Department, Fresno Police Department, Kern County Sheriff's Department; LA County Regional Criminal Information Clearinghouse; Madera Sheriff's Department; Merced County Sheriff's Department; Modesto Police Department; Porterville Police Department; Sacramento Co. Probation Department; Sacramento County Sheriff's Department; Sacramento Police Department; San Joaquin Co. Sheriff's Department' Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department; State of California- CALMMET; Stockton Police Department; Tulare County Interagency Narcotic Enforcement Task Force and the Tulare County Sheriff's Department.

Significant Achievements:

In March 2003 the Sacramento Area Intelligence Narcotics Team (SAINT) concluded an OCDETF investigation into a multi-national organization that imported marijuana, ice and ecstasy into the US from Canada, the Netherlands and Southeast Asia. Cocaine was funneled through California north into Canada. The DTO imported approximately 50,000 ecstasy pills, 500 pounds of marijuana and 50-75 pounds of ice into the US each month. Drug proceeds were sent to Vietnam. A Vancouver B.C.-based Asian DTO coordinated shipments of MDMA from the Netherlands to China, where hundreds of pounds of “ice” (meth) and ephedrine were added to cargo ships bound for the Port of Vancouver. The Vancouver Chapter of an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang facilitated unloading of the maritime cargo to stash locations in the Vancouver area. The OMG then smuggled ice, marijuana and ephedrine south from Canada into Washington, Oregon and California. and cocaine north from the US into Canada. Agents served 15 search warrants and arrested 19 subjects for federal drug, conspiracy and money laundering. SAINT seized over $1.5 million in cash, real property, luxury vehicles and other assets.

For several months in late 2003 a series of violent home invasion robberies occurred. The Stanislaus San Joaquin HIDTA task force was pressed into service to pursue the violent meth violators who assaulted several women shot a man. The task force set up a 24/7 surveillance on the suspects some of whose members were connected to the Aryan Brotherhood, a notorious and violent prison gang. After 29 days of day and night surveillance, the suspects drove to a rural home and parked out of view of the surveillance units. Soon afterwards a call to emergency dispatch reported a home invasion robbery at the location. A pursuit ensued and ended with the suspects fleeing the vehicle. Shots were fired at the police and a gun battle ensued. Eventually 11 suspects were arrested and charged with various felonies.

The Stanislaus San Joaquin Meth Task Force was asked to watch several locations where the murderer of a Pittsburgh California Police Department detective might appear. A small red car containing a person matching the suspect's description was eventually located. The suspect saw the arrest team approaching and took a gun from his car. As he ran from his vehicle he fired at a HIDTA supervisor. The bullet shattered the windshield, ricocheted off the steering wheel, and lodged in the headliner approximately 3 inches from the supervisor's head. Other agents engaged the suspect in a firefight and he was killed.

In November 2003, the Stanislaus San Joaquin Meth Task Force investigated a methamphetamine precursor smuggling and manufacturing organization. They distributed drugs California, Washington, Nevada, and Oklahoma. Pseudoephedrine pills from China were smuggled from Canada. Eventually search warrants were served on 12 businesses and residences resulting in the arrest of 31 subjects. Four meth labs and over 40 pounds of finished meth were seized. They also seized forty pounds of meth in solution, over 70 pounds of red phosphorous, (capable of producing 350 lbs of meth), over 80 pounds of iodine crystals (capable of producing 48 lbs of meth), and 480,000 Pseudoephedrine pills.

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Last Updated: January 31, 2004