WASHINGTON – Today, Attorney General William P. Barr and Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea announced the results of Operation Crystal Shield, a DEA–led effort targeting the command and control elements of Mexican cartels that operate major methamphetamine “transportation hubs” throughout the United States.
At a press conference in Phoenix, Arizona, Attorney General Barr and Acting Administrator Shea announced that in the first six months, Operation Crystal Shield generated more than 750 investigations, resulting in nearly 1,840 arrests, and the seizures of more than 28,560 pounds of methamphetamine, $43.3 million in drug proceeds, and 284 firearms.
“Methamphetamine is a brutal drug linked to violent crime and responsible for far too many fatal overdoses,” said Attorney General Barr. “The astounding results of Operation Crystal Shield clearly demonstrate the commitment by the DEA and our state and local partners to prevent this deadly drug from reaching the streets of our communities. Prosecuting individuals who traffic these poisons remains a top priority for President Trump and the entire Department of Justice.”
“In the months leading up to the launch of Operation Crystal Shield, communities across the United States experienced a surge of methamphetamine,” said Acting Administrator Shea. “The COVID pandemic locked down many communities and impacted legitimate businesses, but the drug trade continued. Under difficult conditions, DEA – along with our federal, state, and local partners – never stopped working as we helped stem the flow of methamphetamine onto our streets, even as violent drug traffickers sought new ways to smuggle it into the United States. The success of Operation Crystal Shield reflects the devotion of DEA and our partners to protect our communities from the scourge of drug trafficking and violent crime under any circumstances.”
U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme, for the District of Montana, expressed support for Operation Crystal Shield. “Much of Montana’s meth comes through these hubs cities and is driving our violent crime. Stopping these large quantities in California and Arizona will make meth harder to get and more expensive in Montana. When meth traffickers do get through, law enforcement officers across our state are committed to arresting and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law,” U.S. Attorney Alme said.
Recent Montana cases include:
- A Mesa, Arizona man was sentenced in July 2019 to 10 years in prison on meth trafficking charges after law enforcement seized 34 pounds of meth in a suitcase he brought to Billings.
- A Billings resident was sentenced in August to eight years in prison on trafficking charges afer law enforcement found six pounds of meth in her home and another residence. The defendant admitted that she and another person had just returned from Phoenix and Las Vegas where they had picked up the meth.
- A Florida man pleaded guilty on Sept. 9 to trafficking charges after a traffic stop west of Billings led to 78 pounds of meth being seized from his vehicle, which had been rented in Las Vegas, NV.
DEA launched Operation Crystal Shield on Feb. 20, 2020, after identifying nine major methamphetamine trafficking hubs: Atlanta, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Diego, and St. Louis. Together these nine cities accounted for more than 75 percent of the methamphetamine seized by DEA in 2019. Under this operation, DEA directed enforcement resources to these cities where methamphetamine is often trafficked in bulk and then distributed across the country, and partnered with other federal, state, and local law enforcement to interdict these shipments and target the transportation networks behind them.
Operation Crystal Shield leveraged existing DEA initiatives that target major drug trafficking networks, including the Mexican cartels responsible for virtually all of methamphetamine trafficked into and within the United States. From FY 2017 to FY 2019, DEA domestic seizures of methamphetamine increased 127 percent from 49,507 pounds to 112,146 pounds. During the same timeframe, the number of DEA arrests related to methamphetamine increased by nearly 20 percent.