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South Florida HIDTA

Mission Statement: The mission of the South Florida HIDTA is to measurably reduce drug trafficking, related money laundering, violent crime and drug abuse in South Florida, thereby reducing the impact of illicit drugs in other areas of the country.

General Information:
Year of Designation: 1990
Geographic Area of Responsibility:
Florida: Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties
Contact: (305) 597-1947

Threat Abstract:

The South Florida HIDTA was one of the five original HIDTAs designated in 1990. South Florida is a major international transportation nexus, accounting for 40% of the nation's trade with Central America, 35% with the Caribbean and 17% with South America. The extensive shoreline of the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys, combined with 2 major seaports and a close proximity to the Caribbean basin, make South Florida a prime target for maritime smuggling operations, particularly from Haiti. There has also been a dramatic increase in drug seizures on cruise ships using the ports in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Miami International Airport (MIA) is the busiest airport in the United States for international cargo and the second busiest for international passenger traffic. MIA is used extensively as an entry point for narcotics in bulk shipments.

Though use of cocaine and its more potent derivative, crack, remain the primary illicit narcotic of choice. The use of heroin and the so-called "designer drugs" such as MDMA (Ecstasy) is rising dramatically. Columbia is the primary source of heroin, with Miami as the primary point of entry into the United States. Suppliers will front kilos of heroin and are using their extensive cocaine distribution network for heroin distribution. Because of oversupply, the price of heroin has dropped precipitously and average street-level purity in South Florida has reached 80%. Miami is now considered a "high-demand" destination for designer drugs and is a transshipment point between the suppliers in Europe and organizations in South America. Marijuana remains readily available in South Florida. The increasing role of small grow operations and indoor hydroponics operations is adding to the drug's supply.

Primary money laundering methods include the black market peso exchange, wire transfers to U.S. bank accounts, and bulk smuggling of cash. Structuring of cash (smurfing) via automated teller machines and mortgage flipping are increasingly used. Miami is ranked third, behind New York and Los Angeles, in the number of Suspicious Activity Reports filed by financial institutions. The pervasive illicit narcotics atmosphere has manifested itself in an increase in drug-related violent crimes, while the rates for crime in general have fallen. Drug related violence among Haitian traffickers including armed home invasions, car jackings, gang warfare and homicides, has increased.

These factors combine to make South Florida a transportation and financial center vulnerable for exploitation by criminal organizations. South Florida remains as a significant command and control center for international narcotics trafficking organizations; is an international hub for drug traffickers and money launderers from Central America, South America, and the Caribbean; and has been identified as having the country's second largest concentration of Russian and Eurasian immigrants and proportionate career criminals and organized crime.

Strategy Abstract:

An Executive Committee comprised of 18 federal, state, and local law enforcement agency heads oversees the South Florida HIDTA. The same Executive Committee evaluates each initiative on a quarterly basis to ensure that fiscal and operational goals and objectives are being met and that the initiative is complying with ONDCP regulations. The South Florida HIDTA Director, Timothy D. Wagner, reports to the Executive Committee but has autonomy over most administrative issues and in ensuring the coordination between the various entities that comprise HIDTA. The Director has instituted a review process which continually analyzes all aspects of budgeting, interagency coordination, and intelligence sharing to respond to changing conditions and needs in a timely manner.

Hundreds of representatives from 62 federal, state, and local agencies are full-time participants in 23 HIDTA initiatives. These initiatives include: eight collocated multi-agency task forces, six containing an array of enforcement programs; one cooperative federal and city drug enforcement task group; one cooperative state and local street enforcement and intelligence initiative targeting known street drug sales areas; two initiatives focusing on criminally active street gangs; one separate county and municipal agencies task force focusing on the apprehension of violent fugitives; one regional intelligence center; a new interagency intelligence-focused maritime working group; a multi-agency, multi-site community empowerment program; an automated drug treatment and judicial access information management system for judges to instantaneously retrieve offender information from multiple information sources.

Investigative Support Center:

The South Florida HIDTA Intelligence Center (formerly the South Florida Investigative Support Center) - a state and local-led collocated center of federal, state and local agencies to facilitate the attack and the dismantling of high-value drug trafficking and related money laundering and violent crime organizations working in and through the South Florida HIDTA region. It actively collects, analyzes and disseminates information to support enforcement initiatives. The composition, scope and dynamics of criminal organizations are made available to law enforcement in support of regional goals and objectives. The SFISC provides records checks from law enforcement and proprietary databases. It also provides asset tracking of criminal organizations and activities on an as-needed basis. It provides case support and ongoing training to all law enforcement agencies. The SFISC maintains a deconfliction clearinghouse and automated NINJAS (Narcotics Information Network Joint Agency System) for reporting field enforcement actions regarding drugs, weapons, money and warrants for investigator safety. It houses the FBI Regional Intelligence Squad (RIC) and Joint Drug Intelligence Group (JDIG), as well as the Blue Lightning Operation Center (BLOC) and Joint Task Force Six and Florida National Guard analysts. The SFISC coordinates with the Florida Intelligence Center (FIC), the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC).

Initiatives that were approved as part of the 2000 South Florida HIDTA Strategy:

  1. North Broward Drug Enforcement Unit—A locally-led, collocated multi-agency task force dedicated to the dismantling or disruption of the most significant illegal narcotics trafficking and money laundering organizations and armed groups involved in the drug trade. This task force also participates in programs designed to reduce local drug dealing, the use of drugs and the need to depend on illegal drug sales as a means of support.
  2. Southeast Florida Regional Task Force—A federally led, multi-agency drug crimes task force with twenty participating Federal, State and Local agencies. The task force is responsible for conducting multi-agency drug investigations targeting high-level drug trafficking organizations, utilizing the resources of the law enforcement agencies in Southeast Florida by pooling intelligence information and then mounting coordinated, focused investigations to identify and dismantle drug trafficking organizations. It also strives to identify, investigate and destroy local drug trafficking groups, primarily crack cocaine organizations, thereby decreasing drug-related violence in the local community.
  3. South Broward Drug Enforcement Unit—A locally led, collocated multi-agency task force that pursues, disrupts and dismantles narcotics trafficking and related money laundering and violent crime organizations. The strategy is to identify, investigate, arrest and prosecute narcotics traffickers and their organizations. It targets individuals, groups, cells, and pipelines used to conduct money laundering activities orchestrated by the cocaine cartels of Medellin and Cali, Colombia. It also houses a South Florida Organized Fraud Task Force, the Russian/Eurasian Crime Task Force, and the new initiative Transportation Conspiracy Unit.
  4. Russian/Eurasian Crime Task Force—This is collocated multi-agency task force. The two enforcement groups of FY00, Odessa, which was made up of federal, county and city investigators complemented by the National Guard, DOD and city analysts and ROC, the FBI's Russian Organized Crime squad, have merged and the single group is led by the FBI. The task force continues to target those individuals and criminal organizations whose operations directly or indirectly affect South Florida and other areas of the United States, investigating a broad range of violations including drug trafficking and related crimes, money laundering, counterfeiting, violent crime, weapons, fraud and other crimes related to drug trafficking.
  5. Miami HIDTA Task Force—This is South Florida's largest law enforcement task force. It occupies three buildings and serves as an umbrella for six federally-coordinated enforcement efforts.. Approximately 276 full-time people from 29 agencies are devoted exclusively to the enforcement areas of narcotics smuggling, trafficking, and related money laundering investigations which primarily target Colombian cartels and other major international criminal organizations and systems. The recently created anti-narcotics smuggling task force addresses the growing problem of cocaine and heroin smuggling through Miami's ports and the corruption of transportation industry employees, particularly at Miami International Airport.

    There are 6 federal prosecutors and 3 legal secretaries assigned full time, as well as a 7-person, full-service language support center. The task force is supported by a staff of 22 analysts, including 1 full-time person from FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network), a multi-agency technical support unit coordinated by the US Customs Service, and a systems administration support unit for computer system design, installation, maintenance and custom software development. A full-time forensic specialist, a graphics specialist, and a Florida National Guard supply/logistics unit provide support on site for all agencies.

  6. Transportation Conspiracy Unit—A federally-led, collocated multi-agency task force with Customs, DEA and five police departments targeting narcotics smuggling and money laundering. The primary focus is internal conspiracies at Fort Lauderdale International airport, but the initiative will target the use of all types of common carriers.
  7. Monroe HIDTA Task Force—A locally-led, collocated federal, state and local task force that initiates and shares in investigations aimed at narcotics traffickers (including "mothership" operations) and money launderers. The strategy is to develop complex, long term financial and smuggling investigations to dismantle smuggling systems and identify, investigate, indict, convict and seize the assets of offenders who have profited from illicit activities. Because of the significant mothership activity being seen in Southeast Florida and the Caribbean, this task force has maintained a close working relationship with the US Coast Guard's Maritime Intelligence Center (MIC) for interdiction investigations .
  8. South Florida Impact/Fincrest—A locally-led, collocated multi-agency task force that combines federal, state and local investigations in support of the HIDTA mission. The strategy is to attack and reduce the number of high value narco-trafficking and related money laundering individuals, organizations and systems. The task force is targeting highly significant money laundering systems employed by Colombian black-market money brokers. It also attacks the illegal transportation of drug proceeds in and out of the US. The component of this task force known as "FINCREST," consists of federal and municipal law enforcement agencies and constitutes a specialized financial investigations unit focusing on the follow-up of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) generated by local banks and other financial institutions. FINCREST serves as a clearinghouse to evaluate all SARs generated in South Florida; to identify those that justify the initiation of a criminal investigation; and to coordinate with other enforcement groups investigating SARs to deconflict cases and minimize the unknowing overlap of investigations. The focus of this task force is long term investigations to trace the money back to the source and justify federal prosecution and the seizure of illicit drug proceeds.
  9. Violent Crimes/Fugitive Task Force—A federally-led, collocated multi-agency task force designed to significantly reduce the at-large population of high-impact, violent and drug trafficking fugitives. Priority is given to cases involving fugitives associated with violent drug cartels and organizations, to include Colombian and Jamaican-based trafficking organizations.
  10. Cali Cartel Enforcement Group—A collocated, multi-agency group that emphasizes intelligence, surveillance, and electronic intercepts against Cali Cartel and related drug trafficking organizations in South Florida.
  11. Gang Strike Force—A state prosecutor-coordinated, collocated multi-agency task force of state, local and federal investigators. It uses long-term, racketeering-style gang investigations to destroy South Florida's most criminally active street gangs through prosecution and imprisonment of gang leaders and members. This initiative is being greatly enhanced through the incorporation of a new unit, the "Caribbean Basin Violent Crimes Enforcement Group," targeting violent gangs of Caribbean Basin heritage.
  12. Street Gang and Criminal Organization Task Force—A collocated, multi-agency task force that focuses on violent domestic street gangs through the use of racketeering style prosecutions with a focus on Broward County.
  13. La Cosa Nostra—A collocated, multi-agency task force that targets five New York City area La Cosa Nostra families involved in drug trafficking (particularly heroin) in the South Florida area.
  14. Operation No Fear—A coalition of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that conduct two enforcement campaigns each month to target locations known for visible drug sales, crime and violence related to the drug trade.
  15. Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (FAST)—A federally-led, collocated task force with state/local participation, 20-member, 5-agency group known as FAST (Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team) that locates and apprehends major narcotics trafficking, money laundering and violent fugitives, especially those classified as career criminals.
  16. Street Terror Offender Program (STOP)—This federally-led, collocated multi-agency enforcement group is devoted to the identification of South Florida's most violent and prolific drug-involved organizations and individuals. In addition to full-time participation by ATF, MDPD, FDLE and USCG, 4 part-time county Homicide Unit investigators are involved. It also incorporates a focused effort to identify and prosecute criminal aliens involved in drugs and violence.
  17. Operation Top Heavy—A locally-led, collocated multi-agency task force with multiple federal agencies participating with the Broward Sheriff's Office targeting smuggling organizations within Port Everglades . The focus will be on large international conspiracies utilizing corrupt longshoremen to further narcotics smuggling.
  18. Public Corruption Task Force—A federally-led collocated task force focusing on corruption of public officials primarily in furtherance of narcotics trafficking conspiracies.
  19. Key West Task Force—A federally-led task force consisting of federal and local agency personnel targeting mid- level drug trafficking organizations smuggling narcotics into Key West via cruise ships.
  20. Rapid Deployment Operation—Located at the South Florida Investigative Support Center, the Blue Lightening Operation Center (BLOC) acts as the command and control facility for dissemination of intelligence, targeting information, and case analysis for the rapid deployment operations conducted by the Blue Lightening Strike Force. The strike force of over 40 federal, state, and local agencies draws from a resource of over 1,000 police officers, who are cross designated with U.S. Customs border search authority, to support drug interdiction missions off the Florida coast. The U.S. Coast Guard provides 24-hour watch and tactical/analytical support to operations through their Maritime Intelligence Center.
  21. South Florida HIDTA Joint Training Initiative—Housed at the South Florida Investigative Support Center, this initiative identifies training needs that are not being met by existing resources but essential to the success of the South Florida law enforcement counterdrug, money laundering and violent crime operations. Emphasis is placed on investigative, analytical and computer skills.
  22. Community Empowerment Crime and Drug Demand Reduction Program—The Crime and Drug Demand Reduction Program (CDDRP) targets high-risk communities having expected levels of crime, victimization, substance abuse, unemployment and violence. The fundamental strategy is to identify criminally-active individuals and groups who tear down the fabric of the community and target them for arrest and prosecution. Resources are then brought into the community to promote employment, education, youth leadership and community involvement to harden the community against the return of drugs, crime and violence. Because of the dramatic increase in violent crime among juveniles in this country, this program has a prevention focus to target the 13 to 17 year-old age group and their families. It reduced part one crimes by an average of 23%; reduced truancy, and reduced community factors that perpetuate a "drug climate". It prepared a successful grant with Youth Co-op and obtained over 100 part or full-time jobs for youth in CDDRP sites. Part of the summer job program requirement is for the involved youth to identify the most pressing needs of their community that they can affect. They are then to develop and implement corrective action strategies in cooperation with community members and law enforcement. In FY01, the program will continue to focus on only five communities with efforts ranging from focused enforcement to the development of leadership, coalitions, self-determination and self-sufficiency.
  23. Drug Treatment Program—Assists with the evaluation, placement, and treatment of criminal justice system-involved substance abusers with providing connectivity between treatment providers in the region with 'TARS' (Treatment Automated Referral System). TARS tracks the intake, placement, treatment, case management and outcome of individuals in need of substance abuse treatment. It also automates billing for services and reporting to federal and state funding sources. This program led to the development of the 'JAMS' (Judicial Access Management System)- an automated system for drug court judges to retrieve treatment and criminal justice system information related to offenders. We are continuing the transition from 100% HIDTA funding of the TARS and JAMS programs to alternate sources. Our Executive Committee has established 50% of the FY99 funding level as a maximum level of support for FY01. In FY00, funding was at 75% of the FY99 funding level.

Outcomes:

Through constant budget analysis and cost savings measures, the South Florida HIDTA has been able to add three new task forces while maintaining a static budget for three years. Two of the new initiatives concentrate on stemming an endemic and pervasive narcotics trafficking problem at seaports in South Florida, while the other task force focuses on public corruption with a narcotics nexus. Major inroads have been made at Miami International Airport with a major task force investigation disabling "internal smuggling conspiracies" through arrest of over seventy persons employed by airlines or related service industries. Further cost savings measures will enable the South Florida HIDTA to initiate a task force focused on a growing designer drug problem in MiamiDade County and Miami Beach.

The South Florida Investigative Support Center, now called the South Florida HIDTA Intelligence Center (SFLHIC), is undergoing a complete "reinvention" to enhance effectiveness and bring South Florida HIDTA into better compliance with the guidelines set forth in the General Counter-Drug Intelligence Plan (GCIP). Intensive strategic planning has set a clear direction for the SFLHIC to better coordinate the intelligence gathering and dissemination within the South Florida HIDTA and to other HIDTA's with common interests to South Florida.

Participating Agencies:

Federal: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Internal Revenue Service, National Parks Service, United States Attorney's Office, United States Border Patrol, United States Coast Guard, United States Customs Service, United States Department of State, United States Marshal Service, United States Postal Service, United States Probation Office, United States Secret Service, Department of Defense JIATF-E, and Department of Defense Joint Task Force Six

State: Florida Department of Banking and Finance, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Revenue, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Marine Patrol, Florida National Guard

Local: Aventura Police Department, Bal Harbour Police Department, Broward County Sheriff's Office, Coconut Creek Police Department, Cooper City Police Department, Coral Gables Police Department, Coral Springs Police Department, Dade State Attorney's Office, Davie Police Department, Delray Beach Police Department, Florida City Police Department, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Hallandale Police Department, Hialeah Police Department, Hollywood Police Department, Homestead Police Department, Indian Creek Police Department, Key West Police Department, Lauderhill Police Department, Lighthouse Police Department, Margate Police Department, MiamiDade Police Department, Miami Police Department, Miami Beach Police Department, Miami Springs Police Department, Miramar Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff's Office, North Lauderdale Police Department, North Lauderhill Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, Oakland Park Police Department, Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, Pembroke Pines Police Department, Plantation Police Department, Pompano Beach Police Department, Sunrise Police Department, Wilton Manors Police Department

Information is provided by the South Florida HIDTA.

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