Operation Zorro II



Operation Zorro II   

On May 2, 1996, federal, state and local agents successfully completed a unique Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force operation code-named "Zorro II" that targeted a Mexican-run cocaine smuggling and distribution network in the United States, in addition to the Colombian mafia with which it worked. This case was part of the Southwest Border Initiative. Since the operation began in September l995, 130 individuals from cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, El Paso, Houston and Midland were charged with offenses relating to the importation and distribution of cocaine. More than 90 court-authorized wiretaps were used in the investigation that seized 5,598 kilograms of cocaine powder, roughly three quarters of a kilogram (730 grams) of crack cocaine, and 1,018 pounds of marijuana.

The Colombian cocaine was shipped from Colombia to Mexico where the Mexican transportation and distribution organization, part of the group known as the "Mexican Federation," smuggled the cocaine across the border. Once in the United States, the cocaine waa stored in the Los Angeles area for distribution by representatives of the Colombian owners, who delivered it to wholesale and retail buyers in such cities as Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Richmond and Newark. The cash receipts were then shipped to Colombia and Mexico. Zorro II was significant in that it simultaneously dismantled both the organization that owned the cocaine, as well as a second organization that ran the transportation system.

It was the first coordinated multi-district enforcement action taken as part of the Southwest Border Initiative. Among those taken into custody were key Cali mafia figures Mauricio Gutierrez, arrested in Los Angeles and Hernan Aquilera and Pierre Remy, arrested in Miami, and the alleged organizer of the Mexican transportation network, Rafael Alapiaco, arrested in Los Angeles. Also arrested in Los Angeles was Jorge Valazquez, the alleged leader of a Chicago-based distribution network, as well as a NYC police officer and a sergeant in the National Guard.


The distribution system ended in places like Richmond, Virginia, where cocaine powder was converted into crack cocaine and sold in public housing projects. Several Richmond individuals were charged and arrested. Zorro II was unique in that over 40 state and local police agencies, the DEA, the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and seven other federal agencies across the country combined resources and expertise in this cooperative effort. Operation Zorro II demonstrated that drug trafficking is a seamless continuum reaching from Colombia through Mexico to the streets and neighborhoods of America.

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