Tulsa Prosecutor Announces Wide-Ranging Drug Bust
TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Fifteen people face federal charges and more than $1 million in cash has been seized as a result of an undercover investigation that led to alleged cocaine suppliers in Central America, authorities said Friday.
U.S. Attorney Layn Phillips, who coordinated the two-month probe, said it was the largest undercover narcotics operation in the history of the Tulsa office.
″We’re talking about an organization that moved ton quantities (of cocaine) on a monthly basis,″ he said at a news conference. ″We’ve disrupted a very large organization that spans a very large part of the United States.″
Phillips said the organization allegedly supplied cocaine to the Southwest and Midwest from the West Coast.
Phillips said 13 people were charged in Tulsa federal court with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, and two others were charged with conspiring to import marijuana into Florida from the Central American nation of Belize.
Seven of those charged were under arrest Friday, Phillips said.
Phillips identified the alleged ringleaders of the cocaine-trafficking organization as Gabriel Franco Carvajal, 37, of Peru and Boris Olarte, 24, of Colombia. Both were arrested in Panama on Wednesday, he said.
Carvajal and Olarte were flown to Miami, where they appeared before U.S. Magistrate Samuel Smargon. The magistrate ordered them held without bond pending a hearing Tuesday on pre-trial detention sought by the government.
Phillips said Olarte and Carvajal offered to sell undercover agents 1,200 pounds of cocaine they alleged was part of a stockpile of thousands of pounds at an airport warehouse in Colombia.
Phillips said investigators opted not to send a plane to Colombia to seize the drugs because the undercover agents were told the warehouse was guarded by elements of the Colombian Air Force.
The investigation started in September with surveillance of suspects at a Tulsa apartment complex and spread to other states, Phillips said. He said 35 pounds of cocaine was seized from a mini-storage locker in Denver on Oct. 16.
In addition, $150,000 in currency was seized from a Denver safety deposit box and $90,000 was seized in Tulsa, Phillips said.
The investigation ended with what Phillips called a ″reverse undercover″ sting operation, in which the government rented a San Clemente, Calif., mansion for one day and undercover agents posed there as middlemen for drug suppliers.
When suspects arrived to inspect cocaine the government had obtained in previous seizures, they were arrested and $800,000 in cash was confiscated, Phillips said.