“Operation Green Venom” . . . Multi-Agency Muscle Strikes Like Snake, But Justice Wheels Grind Slow
A bit of history:
In October 2010 a sweeping takedown of an alleged multi-state marijuana trafficking (transported from Florida and California to the greater New York area) ring nets more than 50 arrests. This alleged criminal activity occurs from the early 1990s to 2010.
At a press conference following these arrests U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Southern District of New York, makes this announcement:
[We] have successfully shut down a major pipeline for marijuana distribution in New York. This successful operation was . . . a partnership among federal, state and local law enforcement.
This is the first time the public becomes aware of “Operation Green Venom” – a nasty operational name for a long-term, proactive investigation by a coordinated task force of government agencies.
Headed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), “Operation Green Venom” includes the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as other government agencies in New York and New Jersey.
Some more history:
The investigation doesn’t stop.
In August 2012 Mr. Bharara announces the unsealing of a 40-count Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) indictment. It charges 9 of the original defendants with participating in a massive racketeering organization:
[These defendants] were part of a sweeping [federal criminal] enterprise that has blood . . . on its hands and trafficked in tons of marijuana, laundered millions of dollars, and obstructed justice. Thanks to [“Operation Green Venom”], we are now able to bring them to justice.
These alleged crime-ring members are accused of selling tons of marijuana, perpetrating murder and other violent acts, transporting and laundering millions of dollars, obstructing justice, committing perjury, and engaging in firearms offenses.
The RICO indictment seeks $25 million in forfeiture. This equals the estimated gross proceeds generated by the defendants from their alleged activities – plus the appraised value of at least 9 properties in New York and Florida, and over $500,000 in cash and jewelry seized by government authorities.
Still more history:
The investigation goes on.
In March 2014 a new indictment is unsealed. ICE issues this news release:
The leader of a massive racketeering organization was charged . . . in a 48-count indictment with 10 murders, 10 attempted murders, marijuana trafficking, money laundering, and other charges.
[This] was filed . . . in connection with “Operation Green Venom.”
What’s going on? Why did this take so long?
One answer must be the refinement of the investigation itself – as new evidence is compiled, its focus becomes clearer, more targeted:
• First, the original arrests of “more than 50”
• Then, an indictment zeroing in on a specific “9”
• Finally, a new indictment targeting the alleged marijuana kingpin himself (in federal custody since his October 2010 arrest)
Note: 5 of the “9” have already pleaded guilty to multiple murders, marijuana trafficking, money laundering, and firearms offenses.
With their publicized success the government agencies involved in “Operation Green Venom” – a title one might associate with a hit movie or book – may be patting themselves on their collective back. (And, maybe, on ensuring “Operation Green Venom’s” continued shelf life.)
But one has to wonder: Why was a defendant in custody for nearly 4 years while authorities continued to refine its case?