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FBI Helps Bust Major International Smuggling Operation


Photograph of John PistoleOn Monday, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole joined officials from the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies in announcing twin investigations that targeted a major international crime ring attempting to smuggle counterfeit currency, weapons, drugs, and cigarettes into the U.S.

"As of today, [the] cycle of crime stops," said John Richter, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The operation was the result of parallel undercover investigations on opposite shores—"Operation Royal Charm" in New Jersey and "Operation Smoking Dragon" in Los Angeles, California. A total of 59 individuals from around the world were arrested in 11 locations in the U.S. over the weekend; 87 people were also charged.

To help arrests suspects in the New Jersey case, conspirators here and overseas were invited to a wedding on a yacht docked outside of Atlantic City. They were sent real invitations, but the wedding was a ruse. Several individuals were arrested when they showed up for "transportation" to the ceremony.

A few specifics from the investigations:

Operation Royal Charm: six indictments, 57 individuals charged, and seizures of more than $3.3 million in counterfeit currency, $2 million in counterfeit cigarettes, 36,000 ecstasy pills, and nearly a half-kilo of methamphetamine.

Operation Smoking Dragon: four indictments, 30 individuals charged, and seizures of more than $1.2 million in counterfeit currency. The defendants also allegedly smuggled billions of counterfeit cigarettes worth more than $40 million, with an additional $9 million in potential lost taxes.

In the investigations, FBI agents posed as drug traffickers, arms traffickers, and other underworld criminals. Our partners included the U.S. Secret Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the Department of Labor's Inspector General, and several state and local law enforcement agencies.

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