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Rangel Says Drug Bust Doesn’t Prove Administration Effectiveness

September 10, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The chairman of the House Committee on Narcotics says the government’s announcement that it broke up a major international drug cartel fails to prove the Reagan administration is stemming the flow of drugs into the United States.

″One bust does not a national policy make,″ Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said in a statement Wednesday. ″We expect unprecedented amounts of cocaine, marijuana and heroin to come into the country. Production is up in all drug- producing countries.″

Attorney General Edwin Meese III called a news conference Wednesday to announce the arrest of 29 people and the seizure of more than 70 tons of marijuana and nearly one ton of cocaine in five cities.

Meese said Drug Enforcement Administration agents acted as middlemen in distributing marijuana and cocaine to Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, New York and West Palm Beach, Fla., in the year-long investigation code-named ″Operation Intruder.″

The operation ended Tuesday with the last of the arrests, the drug seizures and the confiscation of $1.35 million in cash and $650,000 in property, Meese said.

Among those arrested, Meese said, were three Colombians whom he described as ″major movers in the cartel.″ He said two of the three flew to Miami after they were told they would be paid for their efforts there. The third lives in Miami.

Rangel, in a statement, criticized Meese for referring to ″big names″ among the 29 arrested.

″There are always ″big names,‴ Rangel said. ″Next month, there will be other big name dealers.″

Meese discounted such criticism, saying that the administration is making it ″more costly and more difficult for drug traffickers to operate in the United States than ever before.″

And the attorney general called the bust ″one of the more significant drug cases we have had.″ He acknowledged, however, ″We don’t know the exact effect this will have on the street.″

Meese said the $2 million cost of the operation, which involved more than three dozen federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, was paid for with the drug traffickers’ money.

DEA Administrator John C. Lawn, appearing at the Justice Department news conference, said the Colombia-based drug-trafficking organization has been operating for at least 10 years.

Lawn said drug smugglers in Colombia and the United States offered DEA undercover agents more than $2 million to take the marijuana from Colombia to the United States, unload it into warehouses rented in Texas, then distribute the drugs by truck to traffickers and buyers in Atlanta, Denver, Detroit and West Palm Beach.

The DEA administrator said the ship used to transport the marijuana was leased by the cartel earlier this year. It sailed to the northern coast of Colombia in late July and was loaded with 128,500 pounds of marijuana. The ship then sailed to islands in the western Caribbean, where it was met by a fresh crew of DEA agents, who then sailed the ship to Port Isabel, Texas.

In Texas, agents unloaded the marijuana on Aug. 5 and stored it in already- rented warehouses, Lawn said. During the next few weeks, he said, about 50,000 pounds were sent by truck to Atlanta, another 50,000 pounds to Denver and 15,500 pounds to West Palm Beach.

In a second part of the operation, traffickers based in Detroit flew an airplane on Sept. 3 from Miami to Colombia and then to Detroit with a load of 18,000 pounds of marijuana and 1,300 pounds of cocaine.

DEA agents again unloaded the drugs, stored them in a Detroit-area warehouse and seized them at the same time they arrested nine people, Lawn said. The nine, he said, had planned to take the cocaine to New York City.

All of the marijuana delivered to the other cities also was seized, as were another 13,000 pounds still under guard in a Port Isabel warehouse, Lawn said.

He identified the three Colombian ″major movers,″ who were arrested in Miami, as Gustavo De La Vega of Cartagena, Joaquin Solano of Santa Marta and Rafael Javier Calvo, a Colombian with a Miami address.

Lawn said that among the others arrested were Justin ″Doc″ Adams of Denver, identified as the primary broker for the Denver and Atlanta negotiations; and Alejandro Cerna of Boca Raton, Fla., identified as the key figure in the trafficking negotiations in Detroit and West Palm Beach.