With a marijuana smuggling operation busted, the "Operation Blue Storm" effort was selected as the National Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force most outstanding regional drug trafficking case for 2012.
The Blue Storm investigation and prosecution resulted in the dismantlement of multi-state marijuana trafficking, headed up by Shannon Williams and his associates, many of whom were members of a well-known street gang, the South Family Bloods, U.S. Attorney Deb Gilg said.
The marijuana operation was responsible for the transportation and distribution of nearly 16,000 pounds of marijuana with a street value of nearly $7.75 million, Gilg said.
The operation occurred primarily between Arizona and Omaha. Gilg said the Nebraska investigation resulted in the indictment and conviction of 15 individuals and the seizure of property worth nearly $600,000.
The Nebraska prosecution led to an investigation in Arizona targeting the suppliers, which resulted in the indictment of 11 more people, Gilg said. The suppliers were directly linked to the Sinaloa Mexican Cartel.
This investigation "required an incredible amount of coordination and orchestration by federal prosecutors," Gilg said.
"The investigation's coordination and cooperation was outstanding from a number of local, state and federal law enforcement officers across the country, that dismantled a very lucrative criminal drug enterprise linked to the most powerful drug cartel in the world," she said.
An awards ceremony was held May 7 at the United States Attorney’s Office in Omaha, honoring the investigators and prosecutors involved in the case.
The award recipient agencies involved in the case included 25 investigators and prosecutors from the following agencies:
• Bellevue Police Department
• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• Internal Revenue Service
• Omaha Police Department
• Peoria (AZ) Police Department
• United States Attorney’s Office – District of Nebraska
In addition to these represented agencies in attendance, Associate Deputy Attorney General Jim Dinan, Director of OCDETF, joined the ceremony via video conference, and IRS SAC Sybil Smith and ASAC Tanya Brewer from St. Louis were in attendance, along with Sam Bertolet, the OCDETF regional coordinator, Gilg said.
The OCDETF program was established in 1982 as a multi-agency, nationwide effort to pursue intelligence-driven, coordinated multi-jurisdictional investigations of criminal organizations trafficking drugs and laundering the illicit proceeds of crime.
The OCDETF Program forms the centerpiece of the Department of Justice counter-narcotics strategy and is the platform through which the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Treasury pursue complex drug and drug-related money laundering investigations.
Through the OCDETF Program, these three federal departments use prosecutor-led, multi-agency task forces to combat high-priority national and international organized criminal organizations, Gilg said.
At the ceremony, United States Attorney Deborah R. Gilg commented, “The outstanding work done by this collaboration of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies disrupted a major tentacle of the Sinaloa Mexican Cartel to the Midwestern region. This demonstrates law enforcement teamwork at its best.”