21 Defendants Convicted During Three-Year Investigation Into Drug Trafficking and Criminal Activities Led by Inmates Inside State Prison Walls Using Contraband Cell Phones

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

OKLAHOMA CITY – A three-year investigation into an Oklahoma prison-based drug trafficking organization has resulted in 21 defendants being convicted across multiple federal cases.  The wrap-up of this investigation and prosecution is jointly announced by Robert J. Troester, United States Attorney, Edward Chavez, DEA Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office, Christopher Altemus, IRS Criminal Investigations, Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office, and Wade Gourley, Chief of Police, Oklahoma City Police Department.

Public records reflect that over the course of this investigation, federal, state, and local law enforcement identified and targeted a drug trafficking organization run by Todd Mathew Strand, who was an Oklahoma Department of Corrections inmate already serving a 30-year state sentence for prior drug trafficking activity.  Strand, with the assistance of fellow inmate Hugo Gonzalez, Jr., ran his operation from inside state prison using contraband cell phones.  The pair then relied on a network of distributors and couriers on the streets to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and collect proceeds from those sales.  Further, Strand and his organization gathered firearms (often in exchange for drugs), with at least some of those firearms intended to be exported to Mexico.  In one instance, a search of a storage facility controlled by one of Strand’s associates resulted in the seizure of 13 assorted assault rifles, shotguns, parts, and ammunition that had been gathered for exportation to Mexico.

Crimes for which the defendants were convicted include drug distribution, drug conspiracy, money laundering, maintaining drug-involved premises, and illegal firearms possession.  Strand also ordered acts of violence, including acts against his own associates, during the course of the conspiracy.

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In the end, Strand was sentenced to serve 384 months (32 years) in federal prison. Strand’s second in command, Gonzalez, Jr., was sentenced to serve 264 months (22 years) in federal prison.  Numerous other defendants with roles ranging from mid-level dealers and couriers to significant drug traffickers received sentences between 192 months and 36 months.  Collectively, the 21 defendants received sentences of more than 187 years in federal prison.  In addition, law enforcement seized approximately 46 pounds of methamphetamine and heroin, more than 50 firearms, and $35,000 in drug proceeds.

“This sprawling drug trafficking operation was primarily operated by inmates using contraband cell phones from inside state prison walls,” said United States Attorney Robert J. Troester.  “Thanks to the dedicated work and coordinated efforts of law enforcement, this drug trafficking network was stopped, and 21 defendants will collectively serve more than 18 decades in prison. I commend each of our law enforcement partners who worked together with prosecutors to achieve this outstanding result.”

“Drug trafficking, on our streets and in our prisons, impacts the safety and security of all of our lives,” said Eduardo A. Chavez, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Dallas/Oklahoma.  “These convictions and prison terms should send a strong message to others that drug trafficking and its related violent crimes are not welcome here. DEA and our partners will continue to identify, disrupt, and destroy, these criminal organizations that choose to distribute drugs.”

“The laundering of illegal drug profits is as important and essential to drug traffickers as the very distribution of their illegal drugs,” said Gerardo Gomez, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Dallas Field Office. “Without these ill-gotten gains, the traffickers could not finance their organizations. The significant sentencings in this investigation should send a clear message to would-be criminals—you will be caught, and you will be punished. We, along with our law enforcement partners, and the United States Attorney’s Office, continue to do our part to put drug traffickers in jail or in this case, keep them in jail.”

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“This case demonstrates just how dangerous and determined some criminals can be,” said Wade Gourley, Chief of the Oklahoma City Police Department. “We are thankful to have law enforcement partners as committed as we are to the safety of the residents who depend on us all.”

This investigation was spearheaded by the DEA with assistance from numerous other law enforcement partners, including the Oklahoma City Police Department, the IRS Criminal Investigative Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Sallisaw Police Department, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, the Moore Police Department, the Edmond Police Department, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office, and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

These prosecutions were part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Snyder and Jason Harley prosecuted these cases.

Reference is made to public filings for more information.