Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks Announcing the Creation of a Transnational Organized Crime Task Force
Washington, DC - Monday, October 15, 2018
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, for that introduction and thank you for your outstanding leadership at Main Justice. And thank you to Patrick and Adam for being here and for taking on this challenge.
There’s a lot of great federal law enforcement leadership in this room:
- Jessie Liu, of course, our fabulous United States Attorney,
- Thomas Chittum of ATF
- Scott Hoernke of DEA
- Matthew DeSarno of FBI, and
- Patrick J. Lechleitner of HSI.
We are also honored to have a delegation of Mexican prosecutors here with us today. Thank you to:
- Ericka Ramirez Ortiz
- Hugo Guevara Puertos
- Lourdes Nava Garcia
- Maria Cristina Guzman Gutierrez
- Sonia Lopez Vivar, and
- Uri Perez.
I want to thank all of the fabulous prosecutors in this office and our local partners. You’re doing important work—and it’s especially important against criminal gangs like the cartels.
Almost one year ago, you obtained life sentences for the two hitmen with the Los Zetas cartel who murdered HSI Special Agent Jaime Zapata and attempted to murder HSI Special Agent Victor Avila. These were vicious crimes against two outstanding law enforcement officers—and you have brought their attackers to justice.
And so I especially want to thank AUSA Michael DiLorenzo, AUSA Fernando Sanchez, Trial Attorneys David Karpel and Karen Seifert, as well as AUSA Jocelyn Ballantine and former Assistant Deputy Chief Andrea Goldbarg. Great job.
And of course that case was investigated by our fabulous FBI agents with the assistance of ATF, DEA, the Marshals Service, CBP, and the State Department along with our allies in Mexico. This is a perfect example of what law enforcement cooperation looks like. And we must have more of it.
Taking on transnational criminal groups like the cartels is a priority for this President and for his administration. The same day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump ordered me to disrupt and dismantle these groups.
We have embraced that goal—and we have been faithful to it every day. That is true at Main Justice and it is true in this office.
For example, we have hammered the vicious MS-13, which is based in El Salvador.
With more than 10,000 members in the United States, this gang is the most violent gang in America today.
As the people in this room know well, MS-13 has put a special target on Washington, D.C. and the surrounding suburbs.
The people of this city remember the brutal killings of Christian Sosa Rivas and 15 year-old Damaris Reyes Rivas, from Fairfax County. Sosa Rivas was just 21 years old when his mutilated body was found along the Potomac.
And, according to testimony, Damaris Rivas was stabbed 13 times with knives and a wooden stake in the woods in Springfield. We’re also told that it was all captured on video, to show the gang leaders who had given the order back in El Salvador.
The Washington area also remembers the brutal killing of Nelson Omar Trujillo. Eight MS-13 members lured him to a park in Falls Church stabbed him to death with machetes and knives.
In that very same park, Gerson Aguilar was beheaded and buried by MS-13. A total of 13 defendants were charged for this murder.
MS-13 member Jonathan Fuentes was sentenced to 10 years in prison for helping run a prostitution ring that specialized in selling underage girls. At hotels in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia, the girls were given drugs in an effort to make them dependent on their traffickers.
In Alexandria, MS-13 member Jose Juarez-Santamaria was sentenced to life in prison for trafficking a 12-year old girl.
MS-13 members Alexander Rivas and Rances Amaya are also behind bars right now for trafficking underage girls in the Washington, D.C. area.
I could go on and on. There are countless stories of MS-13’s disregard for human dignity—and the consequences for this community. We have such prosecutions all over the country.
Last October, I designated MS-13 as a priority for our Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces—or OCDETF.
As this group knows well, these task forces bring together a broad coalition of our federal prosecutors, DEA, FBI, ATF, ICE, HSI, the IRS, the Department of Labor Inspector General, the Postal Service Inspectors, the Secret Service, the Marshals Service, and the Coast Guard.
OCDETF brings together just about every federal law enforcement agency there is. It’s the Swiss Army knife of law enforcement. And with Adam Cohen in charge, they’re going to be more effective than ever. Adam, thank you for your willingness to serve.
These agencies have diverse capabilities and jurisdictions—but they all have one mission: to go after drug traffickers and criminal organizations at the highest levels.
MS-13 sells drugs, but they are not primarily a drug trafficking organization. I have ordered OCDETF to prioritize MS-13 not because of their drug trafficking—but because OCDETF is such a powerful weapon.
OCDETF is able to hit MS-13 from all angles.
That’s why I have ordered them to prosecute MS-13 members for any violation of law we can prove whatsoever: not just our drug laws, but everything from RICO to our tax laws to our firearms laws. Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, I have told OCDETF to use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off of our streets.
Today I am announcing our next steps to carry out President Trump’s order to take MS-13 and other TCOs off of our streets.
I directed the FBI, DEA, OCDETF, and the Department’s Criminal Division to identify top transnational criminal organizations that threaten our safety and prosperity.
Based on the counsel that I have received from these experienced professionals, today I am designating the following criminal groups as our top transnational organized crime threats:
- Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, or CJNG,
- the Sinaloa Cartel
- Clan del Golfo, and
- Lebanese Hezbollah.
Today I am announcing that we are creating a transnational organized crime Task Force of experienced prosecutors who will coordinate our efforts and develop a plan to take each of these groups off of our streets for good.
The new Task Force will be led by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. I want to thank Patrick Hovakimian in his office for stepping up and taking charge of this task.
The new Task Force will be organized into one subcommittee for each of these target organizations. I am confident that he is going to be very effective in his new role.
The subcommittee on MS-13 will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. AUSA Durham has played a significant role in the FBI’s Long Island Task Force, which has arrested hundreds of MS-13 members.
The subcommittee on Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion will be led by Trial Attorney Brett Reynolds of the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. Brett has led or co-led several investigations into the Cartel that have led to indictments of some of its highest ranking members.
The subcommittee on the Sinaloa Cartel will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Sutton of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.
AUSA Sutton prosecuted several Sinaloa kingpins and led multiple international investigations targeting Sinaloa Cartel leaders, resulting in seizures of millions of dollars in drug proceeds and thousands of kilograms of illicit drugs.
The subcommittee on Clan del Golfo will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Emery of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. AUSA Emery has secured convictions against the top leadership of Clan del Golfo, including the kingpin Henry de Jesus Lopez Londoño, who commanded over 1,000 armed men for the cartel.
The subcommittee on Lebanese Hezbollah will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ilan Graff of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. AUSA Graff is overseeing the prosecution of two alleged members of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization, the first such operatives to be charged with terrorism offenses in the United States.
This subcommittee will be led and staffed by members of the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team, which is a group I created in January.
This team is composed of experienced international narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, and money laundering prosecutors who are tasked with investigating individuals and networks providing support to Hezbollah.
I have ordered each of these subcommittees to provide me with specific recommendations within 90 days on the best ways to prosecute these groups and ultimately take them off of our streets.
With the advice of these experienced professionals, the Department will be better able to follow the President’s order and dismantle transnational organized crime.
And so I want to encourage each of you to keep up the good work. Keep hammering these groups.
With this new task force in place, our efforts will be more targeted and more effective than ever.