The Houston HIDTA is one of more than 30 HIDTAs around the country, and its focus is on the Texas coastal region. The Houston HIDTA operates 8 Enforcement Initiatives and 3 Intelligence Initiatives in this region. One of the Enforcement Initiatives in the Houston HIDTA is the Texas Coastal Corridor Initiative (TCCI). TCCI is a multi-agency task force with an area of responsibility encompassing 17 South Texas coastal counties that include: Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Calhoun, DeWitt, Duval, Goliad, Jackson, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Lavaca, Live Oak, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, and Victoria. The TCCI continues to focus investigative efforts on sophisticated DTOs responsible for the importation and distribution of vast quantities of drugs from Mexico into the United States. Due to a combination of geographic, demographic, and economic factors, the porosity of the Texas/Mexico border continues to allow a constant flow of drugs into Texas with destinations throughout the United States and Canada. Geographic proximity to Mexico, maritime and highway transportation infrastructure, and international trade continue to contribute to the use of South Texas as a major transshipment corridor and staging/distribution depot for drugs arriving from Mexico.
On Thursday, January 16, 2014, Mike Gotlieb, National Director of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking attended the January Houston HIDTA Executive Board meeting, and presented representatives of the TCCI with the 2013 Outstanding Investigative Effort Award. The 2013 accomplishments noted by Director Gotlieb include:
The TCCI generated 397 new cases, made 467 arrests, indicted an additional 176 drug traffickers subsequent to further investigation and passed 387 leads to other Law Enforcement agencies and HIDTAs. TCCI seized approximately 71,503 Kilograms (Kg) of marijuana, 497 Kg of cocaine, 172 Kg of methamphetamine, 32 Kg of Heroin, and 96 Kg of Ice. The approximate street value of the drugs seized and removed from the flow of narcotics distribution and trafficking is in excess of $104,844,481. In addition, the TCCI seized approximately $6,000,000 in U.S. currency, real property, vehicles, weapons and ammunition. Through the TCCI’s interdiction efforts, 13 drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) were identified, 11 cases were approved as Priority Targets Organizations and 2 cases were developed into and approved as OCDEFT investigations. As a result of these efforts, the TCCI disrupted or dismantled 20 DTOs in 2013, 18 of which were operating on an International scale. Current intelligence research and sharing amongst TCCI AOR agencies are developing possible new strategies to identify persons, assets and locations for future interdiction efforts.
Director Gotlieb also presented the Houston HIDTA with the National HIDTA of the Year award, and the Houston HIDTA IT Manager David Henry was presented with the award for Outstanding Effort in Information Technology.
Operation Nice Guys: This was a multi-agency PTO investigation targeting members of a synthetic cannabinoids DTO. This DTO distributed approximately 28 kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids per month from a large auto sales company and two head shops owned by members of this organization in the TCCI AOR. This DTO laundered approximately $15,000 in illicit drug proceeds per month for several years through a car dealership and used a co-conspirator to structure approximately $700,000.00 of these proceeds to pay for suspects’ real and personal properties. Investigators in this case employed several tools and techniques to include pole cameras, undercover purchases of narcotics, photo surveillance and interviews. On May 31, 2013, the members of the TCCI along with agents and officers from their parent agencies conducted 6 search warrants, resulting in the dismantlement of the synthetic cannabinoids distribution organization. This 18-month Priority Target Organization investigation resulted in the arrest of five individuals and the seizure of five kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids. Also seized were $463,827.00 in U.S. currency, personal property (vehicles) valued at $393,628.00 and real property valued at $1.26 million.