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Feds Bust Iraqi-Mexican Drug Operation In El Cajon

Audio

Aired 8/19/11

Federal officials said Thursday they've taken down a drug and weapons trafficking ring involving members of a U.S. Iraqi community and a major Mexican drug cartel that was caught selling large amounts of drugs, guns and grenades.

Federal officials said Thursday they disbanded a drug and weapons trafficking ring involving members of a U.S. Iraqi community in East County and a major Mexican drug cartel. The group is accused of selling large amounts of drugs, guns and grenades.

Police in El Cajon said they arrested more than 60 people who are suspected of being affiliated with the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate based in Detroit.

Smugglers were shipping drugs provided by the Sinaloa Drug Cartel from El Cajon to Iraqis in Detroit, authorities said.

In April, a Drug Enforcement Agency undercover agent was shown a hand grenade by an immigrant and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military source.
Enlarge this image

Above: In April, a Drug Enforcement Agency undercover agent was shown a hand grenade by an immigrant and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military source.

Document

"Operation Shadowbox" Indictment

"Operation Shadowbox" Indictment

Read the indictment against one of the accused.

El Cajon and federal police say they have seized $630,000 in cash.
Enlarge this image

Above: El Cajon and federal police say they have seized $630,000 in cash.

More than 30 guns, including assault rifles, were also seized by police.
Enlarge this image

Above: More than 30 guns, including assault rifles, were also seized by police.

El Cajon police and federal agents say they have seized 18 pounds of methamphetamine, narcotics, cocaine and other drugs; more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana; $630,000 in cash; four Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs); and more than 30 guns, including assault rifles.

Steve Tomaski, assistant special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) San Diego office, described the IEDs as "small pipe bombs". He did not explain what the explosives may be used for and said the FBI is handling that part of the investigation.

A social club in El Cajon played a key role in the alleged criminal operations.

"That was somewhat of a hub for criminal activity, primarily gambling and things of that nature," Tomaski said. "It was also a safe haven for any criminal element pretty much to go in there and discuss criminal activity and conspire and plan for future crminal activity."

In April, a DEA undercover agent was shown a hand grenade by an immigrant and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military source.

The cartel linked with the Chaldeans - Sinaloa - is Mexico's most powerful drug cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who has become one of the world's richest and most-wanted men since he escaped from a Mexican prison 10 years ago. William Sherman, acting special agent in charge of the DEA's San Diego field division, said the Sinaloa cartel was supplying the drugs to the ring and the investigation resulted in the seizure of 3,500 pounds of marijuana from the cartel. The Iraqis were believed to be planning to distribute a portion of that load, Sherman said.

Officials said they believe the firearms and explosives were destined for the local market.

About half of the 60 arrested face federal charges and half face state charges. Officials said the investigation is ongoing and there could be more arrests.

Detroit and San Diego have the largest and second-largest populations of Chaldeans in the United States. Chaldeans are descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia - what is now Iraq - and many have fled to escape persecution for their Christianity.

Officials say the Chaldean syndicate has a longstanding relationship with the Sinaloa cartel. Many Chaldeans passed through Tijuana on their way to the United States, helped by Mexican migrant smugglers, authorities said.

El Cajon police have for years received complaints from neighbors and the wives of men who attended the club. The managers of the club are aware of the criminal activity and demand a cut of the money, according to authorities. Armed guards are allegedly provided during high-states card games.

The club's troubles go back more than a decade. In 1998, police seized illegal slot machines. In 2007, it was identified as a gathering spot for Iraqi narcotics distributors. In 2009, authorities started investigating the illegal sale of firearms and possession of hand grenades.

Four indictments were unsealed Thursday charging nine people with federal narcotics and weapons trafficking charges and the unlawful possession of various firearms and explosives. One of the suspects, Nofel Noel Suleyman, was also charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

Avatar for user 'CHELE'

CHELE | August 18, 2011 at 3:22 p.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

Its about time..i use to own a gun shop (wild geese gun shop) in the strip mall at 811 e.main st el cajon..in 1981-89..we use to call them the vampire people as they go to the social club at 7pm and gamble to 7am...there wives would drop them off..the was into anything to make $$$..none ever worked...jovan monsur was the big crime boss..he had a repiar shop on la mesa blvd in la mesa plus owned bussisnes all over....they was always bugging me for guns under the table which i never would do..good going el cajon pd..a bunch of great cops.....i bet ivar from
batf was involved lol....this is not a personal attack..this was facts as i told the ecpd+batf often

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Avatar for user 'FEDup'

FEDup | August 18, 2011 at 10:14 p.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

Its great to see this, lets stop giving others the right to do things Americans cant do. Everyone of them should be sent back to there original countries with a note don't come back until you can respect America and its Laws. The bad thing now is that we got to feed them and use up tax payers money for there court appointments. This is a great representation of some real winners, lock em up and throw away the keys. Godd going El cajon Police and Associates.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | August 19, 2011 at 9:51 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

@CHELE, 1989? That's over twenty years.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | August 19, 2011 at 9:54 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

Hey, FEDuppity, have you been living in a shoe box for the last eight years? We've been spending a hell of a lot more on Iraq than whatever the cost to your precious tax dollars of these nine individuals. Save your Nativist doo doo for KFMB 760.

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Avatar for user 'American_Chaldean'

American_Chaldean | August 23, 2011 at 11:52 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

Good job El Cajon PD and FBI for stopping those criminals who were trafficing drugs and guns to our safe communities.
God bless America

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