Ten reputed leaders of Mexican drug trafficking cartels are among 43 defendants charged in indictments unsealed today in Chicago and in Brooklyn that allege the import and distribution of more than 32,500 kilograms of cocaine and sales topping $5.8 billion, Justice officials say.
Several government officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of the Northern District of Illinois, and acting Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart, said the indictments strike at sophisticated networks that used an array of transportation means to funnel cocaine and heroin into the United States for distribution.
The criminal activity alleged in the indictment reportedly spans two decades. More than 32,500 kilograms of cocaine were seized, including 3,000 kilograms in Chicago, where eight indictments were unsealed today. More than $22.6 million—most of the money was seized in Chicago in 2007 and 2008—is subject to forfeiture in the United States, officials said.
“This is not a fight that we in the United States can afford to watch from the sidelines. The stakes are too high and the consequences are too real for us,” Holder said at a news conference today at the Justice Department. Holder said the Mexican government is waging an “historic” battle against narcotics trafficking. Holder praised the administration of Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico.
Holder, responding to questions from reporters, said the indictments are not symbolic and dismissed any criticism that nothing has changed in the fight on international drug trafficking since Holder was the deputy attorney general under the Clinton administration.
“I think that actually things are different. We have a Mexican administration that is committed to fighting drug cartels in a way that is unprecedented,” Holder said. “This is an ongoing struggle. But I don’t think that the fact that it is an ongoing struggle necessarily means that it’s one that we cannot win.” Leonhart said the “big difference” now is cooperation with Mexico.