El Cajon PD Press Releases > "OPERATION SHADOWBOX"

Aug 18, 2011

August 18, 2011



In November 2010, I sent a written request to the San Diego Field Division Special Agent in Charge for assistance from members of the Drug Enforcement Administrations Mobile Enforcement Team (DEA/MET) in targeting drug trafficking in the city of El Cajon. I would like to thank Acting Special Agent in Charge Bill Sherman for his assistance in this matter. Our officers had noticed increased narcotics trafficking and violent crime in certain neighborhoods of El Cajon. These crimes have been attributed primarily to Iraqi organized crime elements, and as this investigation has discovered, the Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexico-based drug trafficking organization (DTO) which supplies them.

On January 5, 2011, members of DEA/MET and our Special Investigations Unit discussed the joint operation. DEA/MET Group Supervisor Toby Byrd and El Cajon Police Department Special Investigations Unit Sergeant Mike Hook supervised the operation, and were managed by DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steve Tomaski and El Cajon Police Lieutenant Steve Shakowski. The targets of this investigation are members of an Iraqi DTO which has suspected affiliation with the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate. This syndicate began in the early 80’s in Detroit, Michigan. Crimes associated with the syndicate include murder, arson, weapons and narcotics trafficking, money laundering, fraud, theft, counterfeiting, racketeering, alien smuggling, assault, kidnapping, and armed robbery. Chaldean organized crime has historical ties to the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Mexican Mafia.

The investigation soon focused on 811 E. Main Street in El Cajon. This location houses an Iraqi social club and is a hub of criminal activity conducted by Iraqi organized crime in El Cajon. Crimes documented at 811 E. Main include: attempted murder, methamphetamine and marijuana sales, sale of diverted pharmaceuticals, gambling, resisting arrest, illegal liquor sales, and illegal sales of firearms.

Complaints have been made to the El Cajon Police Department for many years. These complainants varied and included wives of men who attend the club complaining of their family’s money being gambled away. Neighbors complained of apparent drug sales in the parking lot and suspicion of gambling, prostitution, and other nuisance activity. Complaints from club members themselves described a criminal element at the location involved in drug dealing. Intelligence indicates that people managing the club are aware of the criminal activity and demand a portion of the money received. Armed guards are allegedly provided during high stakes card games. DEA Intelligence corroborated that gambling and prostitution occur on the premises.

A 1998 El Cajon Police investigation into gambling led to the execution of a search warrant and the seizure of illegal slot machines. A 2007 DEA investigation identified 811 East Main as a gathering location for several Iraqi narcotics distributors. In September 2009, the Regional Auto Theft Task Force initiated an investigation into several subjects who conducted illegal activity at 811, including the illegal sales of firearms and possession of hand grenades.

During the course of Operation Shadowbox, from January 2011 to present, DEA/MET and El Cajon Police have purchased large amounts of narcotics, pharmaceuticals, firearms, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from subjects at 811 E. Main. Information indicates subjects from 811 arrange narcotic shipments from El Cajon to Iraqi DTO elements in Detroit, Michigan. Narcotics and firearms purchases have been made from associates of 811 in other locations around El Cajon, as well as purchases of narcotics and firearms from other distributors around San Diego County who have uncertain links with the Iraqi DTO. In April 2011, a DEA undercover operative was shown a hand grenade at 811 East Main and was told additional grenades were available, being obtained from a Mexican military source of supply.

This operation has so far resulted in 60 arrests. 30 arrests will be referred for 30 State prosecutions and charges include sales, possession for sales and conspiracy to distribute narcotics and pharmaceuticals, and possession of firearms by convicted felons. 30 arrests will be referred for Federal prosecution and charges include participation in a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, conspiracy to distribute and distribution of narcotics, marijuana, and pharmaceuticals, conspiracy to import marijuana, and possession and distribution of automatic weapons.

The investigation has resulted in the seizure of over 13 pounds of methamphetamine; over 4 pounds of MDMA (ecstasy) and pharmaceuticals including Vicodin, Oxycontin, Codeine, Xanex, and Percocet, one pound of cocaine, heroin, crack cocaine, and over 3,500 pounds of marijuana. Additional seizures include over $630,000 in US currency, 3 luxury cars, and the seizure of 34 firearms including semi-automatic assault rifles and several fully automatic firearms, and 4 IEDs. The IEDs were processed with the assistance of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Bomb Squad and the FBI.

Several identified subjects in this investigation have lengthy criminal histories including controlled substance possession and distribution, grand theft auto, burglary, resisting arrest, possession of dangerous weapons and battery. As the investigation continues, additional members of the Iraqi DTO are expected to be identified and arrested.

Last night, a search warrant was served at 811 E. Main by the El Cajon and La Mesa SWAT Teams and representatives from all of the agencies involved in the investigation. As a result of the search warrant 100 people were detained on scene and released. Over $16,000 was seized along with evidence of illegal gambling. State Department of Justice Agents were on hand to aid in the portion of the investigation dealing with gambling allegations. The offices of the San Diego County District Attorney and the United States Attorney, Southern District of California, have agreed to prosecute targets of this investigation. Intelligence indicates this Iraqi drug trafficking organization is involved in money laundering between Detroit, Michigan and El Cajon, California. Agents with the Internal Revenue Service have been contacted to assist in the financial aspect of this investigation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is involved in this investigation and will assist with enforcing firearm laws in accordance with their responsibilities. The United States Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be assisting with enforcing immigration laws on subjects with illegal immigration status.

This is an on-going criminal investigation. I would like to thank all of the law enforcement agencies involved in this process. Additionally, I would like to thank San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, as well as United States Attorney Laura Duffy and their offices for their assistance in this investigation as we prepare cases for prosecution.

PREPARED BY: Chief Pat Sprecco
DATE AND TIME: 08/18/2011 at 11:30 am
PUBLISHED BY: Lt. J. D. Arvan / Watch Commander

Pat Sprecco, Chief of Police