Washington, D.C. ­– This week, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta recognized individuals and initiatives of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program at the 2024 National HIDTA Awards Ceremony for their critical work to prevent overdoses and save lives by cracking down on the trafficking of dangerous drugs. 

“Members of our High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program play a critical role in supporting our whole-of-government effort to address the overdose epidemic and save lives,” said ONDCP Director Dr. Gupta. “Today, we are recognizing our brave law enforcement officials at every level of government working together to combat the trafficking of dangerous drugs and keep our communities safe. We are grateful for their service and their commitment to saving lives.”

The HIDTA Program supports the Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy by providing assistance to federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions of the United States. The President’s FY 2025 Budget will provide $290 million to support federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement working to stop drug traffickers across all 50 states. In the past year, the White House announced the designation of nine new counties to the HIDTA Program, allowing additional resources to be deployed to areas hit hardest by drug trafficking, overdoses, and poisonings.

The Biden-Harris Administration has made disrupting global illicit drug trafficking and holding drug traffickers accountable a key priority in the efforts to beat the overdose epidemic. Under President Biden’s leadership, the Administration has adopted a more comprehensive strategic approach to global drug production and trafficking and invested significant amounts of funding for law enforcement efforts to address illicit fentanyl trafficking. As a result, historic amounts of illicit drugs have been seized at our borders.  

The following awards were announced today to individuals and initiatives of the HIDTA Program for their efforts to reduce the supply and trafficking of dangerous drugs in communities across the country: 


Thomas H. Carr, Washington/Baltimore HIDTA

In 1994, Thomas H. Carr was selected as the first Executive Director of the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA, a position he has held until his retirement this year. Director Carr is recognized for his many contributions to the HIDTA Program nationwide. More than two decades ago, his vision led to the development of a system to collect outcome performance data for all 33 HIDTAs and the National HIDTA Assistance Center. The Performance Management Process system has proven foundational to the National HIDTA Program’s ability to define and measure operational success. Director Carr also has been a thought-leader and an early adopter of innovative approaches, including pioneering collaborations with public health partners. Under his leadership, the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA has served as an incubator for great ideas, including initiatives such as the Overdose Detection and Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), a real-time overdose syndromic surveillance system used to identify spikes in fatal and non-fatal overdoses.


Chicago HIDTA, Chicago HIDTA/Strike Force Group 3

Operation Brian’s Hammer is an ongoing long-term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Priority Target and Consolidated Priority Organizational Target-linked federal T-III investigation being conducted by the Chicago HIDTA/OCDETF Strike Force Group 3 (CHSF3) and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. CHSF3 is led by a Drug Enforcement Administration Group Supervisor and comprises representatives from DEA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Secret Service (USSS), Chicago Police Department (PD), the Will County Sheriff’s Office (SO) Gang Suppression Unit, Summit PD, Oak Lawn PD, Tinley Park PD, Porter County SO, Sauk Village PD, Posen PD and South Holland PD. CHSF3 is tasked with conducting long-term investigations targeting transnational criminal organizations responsible for the distribution of wholesale amounts of heroin and other narcotics into the Chicagoland area from Mexico and other source countries. Operation Brian’s Hammer has, thus far, resulted in the seizure of approximately 495 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, including the largest single methamphetamine seizure in Illinois history, 96 kilograms of cocaine, 13 kilograms of heroin, $583,000 in cash and assets and 25 arrests. This precedent-setting investigation also included the first-ever Title-III interception of two Mexico-based telephone numbers in the Northern District of Illinois. 


Northwest HIDTA, HSI HIDTA Task Force

Over the past year, Homeland Security Investigations HIDTA Task Force (HHTF) led several high-profile and unique investigations, making a substantial impact on public safety in the greater Seattle area. Over a one-year period, the task force seized over 300,000 dosage units and nearly 50 kilograms of fentanyl, 35 kilograms of methamphetamine, 60,000 dosage units of diverted benzodiazepines, 8 kilograms of heroin, 3 kilograms of cocaine, 81 firearms, over $2 million in U.S. currency and assets, and disrupted or dismantled 15 drug trafficking organizations.  These operations resulted in the arrest of over 90 individuals, including those with convictions for murder, rape, and other violent crimes, as well as the courts martial of numerous active-duty military personnel involved in drug crimes.


Washington/Baltimore HIDTA, Investigative Support Center

In 2023, the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA Investigative Support Center (ISC) identified critical investigative gaps and provided cutting edge technology to HIDTA initiatives related to blockchain analysis and monitoring “patterns of life” through open-source intelligence. Through expert analysis, the ISC presented actionable products that significantly contributed to interagency data sharing. It provided data integration best practices that are replicated across the region to break down agency silos to conduct network analysis. The ISC established a Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC) with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and expanded PenLink data sharing with other HIDTA ISCs and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. From October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023, the ISC opened 1,961 cases, linked 57 overdoses to a source of supply, and provided detailed analytical support for 116 cases. It also produced eight detailed quarterly threat reports for the region that provided intelligence on all drug related threats, including overdoses and violence.


Appalachia HIDTA (AHIDTA), Appalachia Parcel Interdiction Task Force

Formed in 2019, the Appalachia Parcel Interdiction (API) Task Force maintains a high level of productivity and demonstrates its incredible value to the National HIDTA Program.  The API Task Force is a highly specialized enforcement group comprising detectives from the Louisville Metro Police Department, Kentucky State Police, and Homeland Security Investigations. The unit concentrates primarily on parcel interdiction, post-interdiction investigations, and information sharing. Post-interdiction investigations, referred to as “forwards,” occur when a seized parcel is identified as part of an ongoing investigation by another agency. At the request of that agency, the API Task Force will send or “forward” the seized contraband, which is often used in a controlled delivery. The number of “forwards” by the API task force has increased dramatically, further contributing to the disruption and dismantlement of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) throughout the country. The information-sharing component of the task force is often accomplished through the development and use of the Parcel Interdiction Portal (PIP) developed by the AHIDTA Investigative Support Center. Though created specifically for the Appalachia Parcel Interdiction Task Force, PIP is now a national database for interdicted parcel information.


Rocky Mountain HIDTA, West Metro Drug Task Force & Western Colorado Drug Task Force

From August 2022 to August 2023, the West Metro Drug Task Force conducted a drug trafficking organization (DTO) investigation with significant collaboration with the Western Colorado Drug Task Force that resulted in the arrests of 34 suspects and the total combined seizures of 412 pounds of methamphetamine, 356,350 fentanyl pills, 22 pounds of fentanyl powder, 3 kilograms cocaine, 1 pound of heroin, two pill presses, and 30 firearms. This impactful investigation was ultimately successful in the dismantlement of the DTO, which is linked to the Sinaloa Cartel because of the close working partnership of two task forces unselfishly coordinating and deconflicting with each other to achieve the maximum enforcement results in alignment with HIDTA goals and principles. 


New England HIDTA, Jack Foster, Program Coordinator, Overdose Response Strategy

Jack Foster has served as the New England HIDTA Overdose Response Strategy (ORS) Program Coordinator (PC) since 2020, following his retirement from the Massachusetts State Police (MSP). More than a coordinator, PC Foster is considered the nucleus of the New England ORS program, providing essential support to all ORS teams in terms of administration, team building, problem solving, peer support, and recommendations to further enhance and highlight the work of individual team members. Under his leadership, the New England HIDTA ORS has engaged in timely information sharing, and provided operational support to HIDTA initiatives and local, state, and federal partner agencies throughout New England. PC Foster has also taken a leading role in establishing of a Prevention Program for New England HIDTA, attending Intelligence Subcommittee meetings, and advising and educating senior leaders in the Intelligence, Public Health and Public Safety communities throughout New England.


Arizona HIDTA, Strategic Planning and Enforcement Action Reform

During fiscal year (FY) 2023, the Strategic Planning and Enforcement Action Reform (SPEAR) task force, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, initiated multiple Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigations and implemented a new streamlined indictment and prosecutorial process in Arizona, which has resulted in significant prosecutions. These prosecutions have led to the disruption and dismantlement of violent and high-level drug trafficking and money laundering cells affiliated with transnational criminal organizations operating in Arizona and abroad. The task force’s collaboration and prosecutorial model have led to significant convictions and achievements and resulted in the seizure of 7.2 million fentanyl pills and 26 kilograms of fentanyl powder in FY 2023, enhanced federal prosecutions in the state of Arizona, and designed an effective enforcement strategy that could be adopted and implemented on a national level.


San Diego Imperial Valley HIDTA, Imperial Valley Drug Coalition, Major Mexican Traffickers Task Force Group 53

This investigation focused on one of the most prolific Mexico-based money launderers working for major Mexican drug cartels on a contract basis. Working on its own, and with other money laundering organizations (MLOs) and cryptocurrency brokers located in Central and South America, the target of this investigation laundered at least $50 million in illicit proceeds related to drug trafficking. Investigators assess that, through this MLO, the Sinaloa Cartel and to Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) launder $1 to $1.5 million each week. Using corroborated evidence and testimony along with a comprehensive financial investigation, investigators identified and targeted several U.S. bank account structures this MLO used to launder funds. Significant investigative outcomes to date include the arrest and extradition of key associates of a Consolidated Priority Organizational Target and a high-level money launderer connected to CJNG. In addition, they have worked collaboratively to sanction several members of this MLO on the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control list.


South Texas HIDTA, Laredo DEA HIDTA Task Force

The City of Laredo, Texas, and surrounding areas experienced 17 overdose (OD) deaths in the year 2020, 21 OD deaths in the year 2021, and 41 OD deaths in 2022, causing increased alarm to the community. After meeting with the Laredo Chief of Police, Webb County Sheriff, Webb County District Attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and other law enforcement leaders within the community, the Laredo DEA HIDTA Task Force created a HIDTA Overdose Task Force Initiative to combat the rise in OD deaths. Through this initiative, a group composed of DEA, Laredo Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and the Webb County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) was created and tasked to combat the rise in overdoses in Laredo and the surrounding communities. In 2023, preliminary data indicate that overdose deaths were on track to decrease by 35 percent. In addition to investigations, the Laredo DEA HIDTA Task Force has also collaborated with prevention and treatment organizations such as Serving Children and Adults in Need (SCAN) and Myke’s Purpose to raise awareness of the dangers of fentanyl.


Oregon-Idaho HIDTA, Metro Safe Streets Task Force

Starting in 2019 and continuing through 2022, the Metro Safe Streets Task Force conducted a racketeering investigation into the Hoover Criminal Gang, which resulted in the seizure of 44 firearms, controlled substances, and approximately 38 indictments for the Hoovers or Hoover associates for charges including Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Conspiracy, Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) murder, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, and felon in possession of a firearm. In September 2022, investigators completed a seven-week racketeering trial of two Hoover members, Ronald Rhodes, aka “Big Fly,” and Lorenzo Jones, aka “Low Down.” The trial included over 120 witnesses, including six cooperating defendants, and hundreds of exhibits. Both defendants were convicted of RICO Conspiracy and VICAR murder. In October 2023, Rhodes and Jones were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Arizona HIDTA, Public Health/Public Safety Initiative – Juvenile Justice Project

Policy makers in Arizona noted an alarming increase in overdoses among youth involved with the juvenile justice system in Yuma County, which sits along the U.S. border with Mexico. The Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts learned about the work the Arizona HIDTA was doing to prevent and reduce youth fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths and initiated a statewide Juvenile Justice Project. The project focused on educating youth and their families about the risks of fentanyl, the importance of carrying naloxone, and understanding the Good Samaritan Law, which protects individuals who call for help when there is an overdose. To date, the juvenile justice programs in all 15 Arizona counties have been trained and are implementing fentanyl education for parents and youth. Families also receive training on naloxone and a take-home kit with naloxone as part of a safety plan. In addition, the Good Samaritan Law training helped save one young man’s life. Since the program started, the number of youths under 18 overdosing from fentanyl has declined 66 percent, with an 18 percent decrease in the past calendar year. Overdose deaths from fentanyl have dropped from a high of 57 youths in 2020 to 15 in 2023.


Chicago HIDTA, Chicago HIDTA Violent Gang Conspiracy Group

Operation Bullpen is a long-term federal T-III investigation targeting a violent faction of the La Familia Stones Street Gang. This investigation was conducted by the Chicago HIDTA Violent Gang Conspiracy Group (VGCG) in cooperation with the Chicago Police Department (PD) Narcotics Division & Detectives Bureau and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. VGCG is led by a Drug Enforcement Administration Group Supervisor and is composed of representatives from the DEA, the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Burbank PD, the Chicago PD, the Chicago Heights PD, the Darien PD, the Hazel Crest PD, and the Hickory Hills PD. VGCG is tasked with identifying and investigating drug trafficking organizations and presenting for prosecution those individuals and organizations who commit crimes relating to illicit drug trafficking, specifically focusing on long-term conspiracy investigations. As a result of Operation Bullpen, VGCG conducted eight federal T-III intercepts, 54 undercover controlled purchases of cocaine, crack cocaine, and pharmaceuticals from armed gang members, and numerous state and federal search warrants. Operation Bullpen has resulted in the arrest or indictment of 11 extremely violent members of the La Familia Stones Street Gang, including much of the gang’s top leadership. In addition to removing some of Chicago’s most violent criminals from the community, investigators seized 4 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of crack cocaine, 127 pounds of marijuana, 1,453 grams of diverted pharmaceuticals, $62,000 in cash/assets, eight handguns, including one used in a homicide, two AR-15 rifles, several extended high-capacity magazines, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.


Atlanta-Carolinas HIDTA, Triad Initiative, Task Force Group 65

The HIDTA Triad initiative opened an investigation to target a local money launderer and, through this operation, Task Force Group 65 coordinated two dozen drug and money leads to multiple DEA offices across the United States and abroad. Investigators worked with DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD) to support Pen Registers, T-IIIs, and intelligence reports, highlighting HIDTA’s collaboration between state, local, and federal partners to combine assets and resources to develop a significant investigation with meaningful results. Since its inception, the investigation has resulted in 87 arrests (including one that prevented an orchestrated robbery), over 100 pen registers, 85 Title-III intercepts, and asset seizures valued at $5.7 million. This investigation resulted in the dismantling of multiple Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating in the Middle District of North Carolina.  During fiscal year 2023, this case yielded 19 arrests, 51 kilograms of cocaine, and currency seizures totaling $1.1 million.


New Mexico HIDTA

The New Mexico HIDTA has exhibited adaptability and resilience in executing its mission even in challenging circumstances. Strength in the face of adversity embodies the New Mexico HIDTA. The HIDTA leverages an intelligence-driven investigative approach combined with aggressive prosecution to disrupt and dismantle international and domestic drug trafficking organizations operating on both sides of its 180-mile border with Mexico. In 2022, the HIDTA dismantled or disrupted 96 DTOs, including 19 international and 14 multistate organizations. HIDTA initiatives seized illegal drugs with an estimated wholesale value of $69 million and nearly $9 million in cash and assets, yielding a return on investment of $8.29 million.

Strong and decisive leadership at the regional level is essential to the overall success of the National HIDTA Program. The leaders of the New Mexico HIDTA have demonstrated thoughtfulness in embracing new strategies and approaches while maintaining a commitment to its enduring drug enforcement mission. For example, in 2022, the HIDTA volunteered to serve as a pilot region for a prevention initiative focusing resources on underserved and high-risk areas. The executive leadership of the New Mexico HIDTA has consistently acted with integrity and forthrightness in guiding the program through challenges and evolving threats.


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