Operation No Trace targets arms smuggling

When US authorities noticed an increase in cartel violence using US-sourced firearms, Homeland Security Investigations and US Customs and Border Protection created Operation Without a Trace, a unified effort focused on purchasing, transporting and the illicit distribution of firearms, firearms components and ammunition from the United States to Mexico, said Joseph Lestrange, deputy director (acting) of the transnational organized crime division of HSI.

Operation Without a Trace is in federal partnership with HSI, CBP, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Government of Mexico. Intelligence, interdiction and investigations have identified and dismantled criminal organizations dealing in firearms and seizing drug money, authorities said.

Lestrange pointed out that straw purchases at gun stores, gun shows and online, person-to-person sales often serve as the start of the supply chain, where guns are funded. by the proceeds of drug trafficking.

“The collaboration and information sharing between ATF, HSI and CBP and the Government of Mexico has been essential in this partnership in our efforts to identify key suspects, intercept them at the US border and, through the through investigations, bring the co-conspirators to justice, ”he said. .

Information and intelligence from foreign national sources has given rise to seizures and arrests.

“Since its inception in November 2019, Without a Trace has resulted in the opening of more than 500 criminal investigations, conducted 140 search warrants, 400 criminal arrests, the seizure of more than 1,100 firearms, 4,300 magazines and 680 000 cartridges in addition to 28 million dollars. in US currency, ”Lestrange said.

The firearms seized included .50 caliber, military-style rifles, machine guns, assault rifles, automatic pistols, among others.

“To put it in more relevant terms, that’s 1,100 fewer guns in the hands of cartel members to commit acts of violence in Mexico. That’s over 680,000 fewer bullets flying through the streets of Mexico towards a loved one or family member. Every time we prevent a high powered rifle like the ones you see on the table … from entering the hands of the cartel members, we are reducing their ability to potentially outmatch the Mexican authorities who are fighting with us against transnational organized crime and drug traffic. organizations, ”Lestrange said.

He added, “Although Operation Leave No Trace is a national effort, we have come to Laredo, Texas, to recognize the exceptional work being done in this city in partnership not only with our federal partners, but also without state partners and local.

Timothy Tubbs, Special Agent (Acting) in charge of HSI San Antonio, highlighted a few cases of firearms and ammunition seizures in the Laredo area. Tubbs said authorities will continue to work together to reduce gun smuggling.

“Mexican organized crime groups use firearms to wage deadly and bloody wars against rival criminal groups and government agencies, as well as to extort civilians,” said Timothy Tubbs, Special Agent (Interim) in charge of HSI San Antonio. “There is no safe hiding place for anyone who smuggles firearms illegally into Mexico. Homeland Security Investigations agents will relentlessly pursue illegal gun traffickers anywhere, every day, at any time with our law enforcement partners.

Authorities are encouraging the community to report cross-border arms trafficking by submitting information to www.ice.gov/tips or by calling 1 (866) 347-2423 from the United States and Canada, or 1 (802 ) 872-6199 from any country. in the world. Tips are completely confidential.

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