Celtic Cobra Team Honored with OCDETF National Award

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Today, United States Attorney Chad E. Meacham presented the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces National Award for Significant Contribution to Public Safety and Security to prosecutors and agents who worked Operation Celtic Cobra.

Celtic Cobra, which lasted from 2011 to 2019, led to the indictment of 60 individuals who trafficked drugs and laundered money for a number of drug cartels, including La Familia Drug Cartel, Los Caballeros Templarios, Cartel Nueva Generación de Jalisco, Los Zetas Cartel, Gulf Cartel, Puro Tango Blast Prison Gang, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, and Los Paisa’s Prison Gang. 

At one point, undercover agents identified four people who used their positions of employment at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport to bypass security to smuggle what they believed to be kilogram amounts of methamphetamine onto commercial airlines.  At one point one defendant even agreed to smuggle inert explosives onto cross-country flights.  These four defendants put the flying public at grave risk.

Over the course of the operation, the U.S Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office, the Dallas Police Department, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division seized approximately 50 firearms, $855,513.00 cash, $400,000.00 in real and personal property, 1,025 kilograms of methamphetamine, 12 kilos of cocaine, and 33 kilos of heroin. 

All but three of the 60 defendants were captured; all 57 captured defendants pleaded guilty. One defendant received two life sentences in prison for drug trafficking and several defendants received maximum sentences for money laundering.

Award recipients included:

Assistant U.S. Attorney George Leal

Assistant U.S. Attorney John de la Garza

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kull


FBI Special Agent Robert Benton

FBI Special Agent Joseph Mathews

The OCDETF program was established in 1982 in order to attack and reduce the supply of illegal drugs entering the United States and to diminish violence and other criminal activity associated with the drug trade.  The OCDETF program works with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to identify, disrupt, and dismantle, drug traffickers and drug trafficking networks.