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Takedown Targeting International Drug Trafficking Organizations
by Federal Bureau of Investigation
February 18, 2024

A team of FBI and international law enforcement agencies conducted multiple arrests the morning of January 30, 2024 across the United States and Canada, to disrupt and dismantle an international organized crime syndicate importing and exporting massive quantities of drugs across the North American continent.

January 30, 2024 - FBI SWAT officers load into a truck after Operation Dead Hand concluded. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from FBI courtesy photo.)
January 30, 2024 - FBI SWAT officers load into a truck after Operation Dead Hand concluded. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from FBI courtesy photo.)

Eleven people indicted were arrested, including Robert Scoppa, an alleged Canadian drug trafficker with close ties to the Montreal Italian Mafia, and Guramrit Sidhu, of Canada.

The defendants allegedly conspired to traffic and import hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico through Los Angeles for export to Canada or redistribution throughout the U.S.

The investigation, known as Operation Dead Hand, examined this network of "handlers" and "dispatchers" moving these substances. The indictment alleges that Scoppa allegedly purchased the drugs wholesale from cartel-affiliated suppliers in Mexico ... then handlers ensured they were loaded onto a long-haul semi-truck. Through coordination with trucking companies, the drugs were delivered across a port of entry into Canada.

"Drug trafficking is a global problem being driven by sophisticated, organized crime groups who put profits over people’s lives," said Martin Estrada, U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, during a press conference on January 30. "Motivated by greed, these criminals destroy lives, devastate families, and wreak havoc in our community. But this case shows that we will collaborate with our international partners to bring these criminal networks to justice. Those who traffic in highly addictive and dangerous drugs will be held accountable."

The operation began in September 2022 and specifically targeted the groups' leaders.

FBI Los Angeles Supervisory Special Agent Tracy Dockery explained how the Bureau and its partners investigated the criminal organizations from a global perspective, from the source of supply to the customer base ... ultimately identifying high-ranking leadership.

“By targeting the highest level of transnational organized crime, the goal was to dismantle and disrupt the global network instead of just the network in Los Angeles that engages in these illicit activities and ultimately reduce the harm to the public that these organizations pose,” said Dockery. “Operation Dead Hand was a model case for this kind of strategy.”

The Strategy Worked

These findings and others that yielded evidence of drug trafficking resulted in two federal grand jury indictments in Los Angeles earlier in January. The indictments, which were unsealed on January 30, collectively charge 19 individuals for their alleged roles in the organized crime syndicate.

The indictments allege illicit drug trafficking activity cumulatively involving approximately 845 kilograms (1,860 pounds) of pure methamphetamine, 951 kilograms (2,092 pounds) of cocaine, 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of fentanyl, and 4 kilograms (nearly 9 pounds) of heroin. Over $900,000 in cash was seized during the investigation, as well as four weapons, including three pistols and one ghost rifle.

The estimated wholesale value of the narcotics seized was between $16-28 million ... with an even greater value in Canada.

January 30, 2024 - Drugs seized on display as part of Operation Dead Hand. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from FBI FBI courtesy photo.)
January 30, 2024 - Drugs seized on display as part of Operation Dead Hand. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from FBI FBI courtesy photo.)

The Takedown

The FBI and international law enforcement partners in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada executed multiple arrest and search warrants to target these defendants and their co-conspirators and to confiscate the trafficked drugs.

Through careful coordination, law enforcement laid out a plan to execute the warrants.

"You're talking about complex muscle movement, lots of different investigative teams working together in a variety of places throughout the duration of the investigation and then asking if they'll stick with you through the end." said Dockery. "Getting the collaborative effort in three different countries, three different states, various time zones, and asking everyone to step up in that final moment of the takedown is no small feat."

On January 30, 2024, the FBI and their partners executed simultaneous arrest and search warrants in Los Angeles and Sacramento, California; Miami, Florida; Odessa, Texas; Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary, Canada.

Out of the 19 indicted defendants, 11 were arrested, two defendants were already in state custody, and six defendants are fugitives, including three Mexican nationals who allegedly supplied wholesale quantities of narcotics to the traffickers in the U.S. and Canada.

The FBI’s domestic and international partnerships were crucial in the success of the operation.

Partners include the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (LA IMPACT), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and law enforcement authorities in Mexico. Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration also provided significant assistance.

In addition, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs; the FBI’s legal attaché offices in Mexico City, Ottawa, and New Delhi; and the FBI's field offices in Miami, El Paso, and Buffalo provided substantial assistance and support.

"One of the things that I'm most pleased with at the end is the disruption is going to be significant," said Dockery. "These are career criminals who the FBI’s been able to nab in this investigation."

This case is part of the FBI’s ongoing work with its partners to disrupt these organized criminal groups and drug traffickers.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) | Department of Justice

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