Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Posts Tagged ‘cocaine’

Arrests in Mexico-Los Angeles-Denver Cocaine Ring

Monday, February 13th, 2012

It does make for a nice headline: “Feds Make Largest Mass Drug Arrest in Colo. History.”

On February 9, 2012 federal and state authorities announced that they had arrested more than 80 people in connection with a long investigation of a drug ring that connected Mexico, Los Angeles, and Denver.  Arrests were also made in Mexico and Los Angeles, although most of the action took place in Colorado.  Several dozen kilos of cocaine were seized along with a much smaller quantity of meth and a dozen firearms.

This was a large-scale investigation that appears to have started in 2010, and that involved numerous local law enforcement agencies as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

Not surprisingly, the people who ran this investigation and coordinated the arrests were proud of what they had done.  U.S Attorney John F. Walsh convened a press conference at which he tried to make the case that this was a  blow to drug dealers:

“This is a big deal for Colorado. It sends a clear message to people bringing drugs and selling, and that is, ‘Your day will come,’” Walsh said.

This is language that you often hear at press conferences. The headlines are impressive as are the images of police officers standing in front of seized firearms.  I can’t tell you how many of these “record-setting drug arrests” news conferences I have seen over the years.  The amount of drugs seized in Denver certainly wouldn’t be a record here in Los Angeles.

More importantly, too little attention is paid to the fact that these kinds of records are set fairly regularly, and that these press conferences are especially popular during election years.  To be sure, federal prosecutors like Mr. Walsh don’t have to worry about being elected; they are appointed by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate.  But the same cannot be said by local district attorneys; there is a tendency to hold these press conferences as part of an effort to show voters that something is being done about drugs.

But even some of the officials who were involved in this operation tacitly acknowledged that these arrests aren’t going to make a lasting impact on the availability of drugs.  One local prosecutor was unusually candid:

“Adams County District Attorney Don Quick said the bust means that the supply side of the drug chain has been hit but the problem will never truly be resolved until agencies focus on the demand side.”We need to get our kids early so this demand doesn’t exist. If there’s always going to be a demand, there’s always going to be a supply,” Quick said. He said 80 percent of people sitting in jail currently are connected to drug use in some way.”

There is also another interesting and often overlooked aspect of these “record-setting” drug busts.  During the course of the arrests a dozen children were taken out of their parents homes and most likely handed over  to the foster care system. These children are also harmed by how our society has decided to address the real problems caused by cocaine and other drugs.

It is only a matter of time before some other federal prosecutor convenes a press conference to showcase a record drug-related arrest.  For the foreseeable future, that means that I will be plenty busy trying to defend those who have been arrested and who face lengthy prison sentences in federal jails.

 

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Cocaine Related Arrests at LAX

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was on February 2 the scene of  high-profile drug smuggling arrests. Two Spanish nationals, mother and daughter, were stopped allegedly carrying up to ten pounds of cocaine.  According to the local NBC affiliate, the pair were here just for a stop over, and were scheduled to fly to Australia.

One of the most troubling aspect of the press coverage of this story is that, following their arrests, the mother and daughter provided authorities with incriminating information, including that they had previously received money in exchange for transporting packages.

It is perhaps too much to ask two people who are unfamiliar with American law and culture, and who undoubtedly must have been feeling an enormous amount of fear and anxiety, to know that they shouldn’t speak to authorities without first speaking to a lawyer.  It appears that federal agents paid attention to the two because they had an unusual travel pattern, including short recent trips to Panama and Columbia.

Because of the quantity of cocaine that was seized, and because they were arrested at LAX by federal officials, they are facing federal charges. And that means they are facing much higher potential sentences than they would in the California state system.  Here, each may be facing up to a 40-year sentence. And in federal prison, a forty-year jail sentence means that you almost certainly going to be in prison for more than 30 years.

There is no other way to put it–the federal system is different. Most crimes are state crimes; as a result relatively few lawyers are experienced in defending cases in federal court, which has different prosecutors, judges, juries, and rules than California state courts.

It is impossible to tell from the press coverage just how damaging the statements made to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will prove to be, but I am certain that people who are arrested for drug crimes, especially ones facing federal charges, are better off talking to a lawyer before they make any statements to the authorities. And that’s true whether you are arrested or just being asked to appear for an interview with the FBI, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), The Secret Service, IRS, or any other federal agency.

 

 

 

 

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