Drug Bust Hits La Familia

DEA says Austin a hub for cartel work

The Drug Enforcement Administration on July 21 announced a record number of arrests as part of an operation aimed at crippling the La Familia drug cartel, which the agency says is the largest exporter of methamphetamine to the U.S. The busts, part of a 20-month nationwide operation dubbed Project Delirium, ended with nearly 2,000 arrests in 13 states (including more than two dozen people in the Austin area), the seizure of $62 million in U.S. currency, more than a ton each of meth and cocaine, more than 7 tons of pot, more than 1,000 pounds of heroin, and some $3.8 million in other assets, according to the DEA. "Project Delirium is the second successful, strategic and surgical strike to disrupt and destroy one of the most violent Mexican cartels," DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a press release. Austin, the DEA says, has served as a hub for La Familia's drug distribution network. The intel for this recent operation was developed during the course of a 2009 investigation into La Familia; in June, Mexican authorities arrested the cartel's leader, José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, aka "El Chango," charging el jefe with conspiracy and distribution of drugs. Will the recent arrests have any impact on drug trafficking in the U.S.? The feds made more than 1,000 arrests and seized thousands of pounds of illicit drugs during their 2009 attack on La Familia but it remains an open question.

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