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DEA Uncovers Massive Cockfighting Arena


NASHVILLE, TENN. –-- Eleven individuals were arrested in Nashville this month and 41 in total over a two-week round-up as part of ‘Project Reckoning, Phase II’ - a multi-agency law enforcement effort led by the DEA that targeted the Mexican drug trafficking organization known as the Gulf Cartel. The operation led agents to a group of drug traffickers who ran a large gambling enterprise in Tennessee that included a massive and intricate cockfighting enterprise which one federal official called the “largest” he has ever seen in the United States.

In addition to the arrests in Tennessee, 30 other people were charged in the following states: Texas, Mississippi, Nevada, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.

Phase I of ‘Project Reckoning’ culminated in September of this year and led to the seizure of $60 million in drugs, and 175 arrests. It also led to the indictment of several alleged leaders of the Gulf Cartel including the following federal fugitives: Ezequiel Cardenas-Guillen, Heriberto Lazcano-Lazcano, Jorge Eduardo Costilla-Sanchez, Miguel Trevino Morales, Omar Trevino, Juan Reyes Mejia-Gonzalez, Hector Manuel Sauceda Gamboa, Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, Mario Ramirez-Trevino, Samuel Flores-Borrego, and Gilberto Barragan.

The 11 defendants were arrested in Nashville on December 5 and they face a variety of drug trafficking charges including conspiracy to distribute marijuana and various federal gambling violations.

The Gulf Cartel is responsible for the transportation of multi-ton quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana from Colombia, Guatemala, Panama and Mexico to the United States, as well as the distribution of those narcotics within the United States. The Gulf Cartel is also believed to be responsible for laundering multiple millions of dollars in criminal proceeds.

To date, Project Reckoning Phase I and Phase II has resulted in the arrest of 621 individuals and the seizure of approximately $71.2 million in U.S. currency, 17,329 kilograms of cocaine, 1,291 pounds of methamphetamine, 19 pounds of heroin, 57,243 pounds of marijuana, 258 vehicles, and 224 weapons.

The investigative efforts in Project Reckoning Phase II were coordinated by the Justice Department’s Special Operations Division, the DEA, FBI, ATF, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Marshals Service and attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. Significant assistance was also provided by a coalition of international investigative agencies spearheaded by DEA offices located in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Italy with assistance from foreign counterparts in each of those countries.



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