United States Attorney Trent Shores announced that 17 law enforcement agencies will receive $2 million in seized funds from the drug operation Killa Gorilla. U.S. Attorney Shores also highlighted the essential work performed by the men and women of law enforcement and thanked them for their service to the people of Oklahoma. The announcement came at a press conference held on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the Broken Arrow Police Department.
“It is a privilege for me and my team to work daily with these agents and officers. Law enforcement is an honorable profession. These brave men and women embody a dogged, unrelenting spirit. They face obstacles and impending danger, providing for the safety of our communities. They have my gratitude and respect,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “Operation Killa Gorilla is just one example of the essential collaborative work officers and agents are performing to disrupt the sale of illegal drugs in the Northern District of Oklahoma. Criminals do not get to keep their ill-gotten gains. It is only appropriate that the forfeited funds go back to the departments to supplement needed training, equipment and other public safety initiatives.”
Eight law enforcement agencies from Oklahoma will each receive a portion of the seized money. The $2 million was seized from profits made by the defendants from the illegal sale of synthetic cannabinoids, also known as K2 or Spice. The IRS, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and five Texas law enforcement agencies will also receive a portion of the funds for their work in the operation.
The Department of Justice and Department of the Treasury Asset Forfeiture Programs remove the tools of crime from the criminal organizations, deprive wrongdoers of the proceeds for their crimes, recover property that may be used to compensate victims, and deter crime. An ancillary benefit of asset forfeiture is the potential to share federal forfeiture proceeds with cooperating local law enforcement agencies through equitable sharing.
These monies supplement and enhance, not supplant, appropriated agency resources. Oklahoma law enforcement agencies receiving seized funds are:
Broken Arrow Police Department- $255, 716
Cherokee Nation Marshal Service- $85,000
Claremore Police Department- $85,000
Owasso Police Department- $85,000
Rogers County Sheriff’s Office- $225,716
Sapulpa Police Department- $262, 716
Tulsa Police Department- $262, 716
Army National Guard- $19,893
“This is an important victory for communities of the Tulsa metropolitan area. Not only were the criminals prosecuted for their crimes, but the government has seized a significant portion of their illegal proceeds through asset forfeiture,” said Kevin Caramucci, IRS Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office. “The role of IRS Criminal Investigation is to follow the money so we can financially disrupt and dismantle these criminal organizations. This investigation is a great example of local and Federal law enforcement working together to stop a criminal activity that is causing harm to our communities.”
“Today serves as a great reminder to any and all drug traffickers operating in Northeastern Oklahoma. The DEA will not tolerate your actions and will work tirelessly with our state, local, federal, and tribal law enforcement counterparts to arrest you and seize your illicit funds derived from drug trafficking and/or money laundering. This case is the perfect example of the importance of joint investigations and how leveraging each other’s resources while working toward a common goal can result in tremendous success and keep the citizens of Oklahoma safer,” said John P. Scott, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, DEA Oklahoma District.
In 2013, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Tulsa metropolitan area police departments began their own investigations in response to systemic problems in their communities resulting from the sale and use of synthetic cannabinoids. Area officers and agents discovered the drug was being sold out of smoke shops, owned in part by John James, operating on Indian Land. The Drug Enforcement Administration and IRS were notified and joined the Bureau of Indian Affairs in launching the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Operation Killa Gorilla. The investigation’s name reflected the name one of the propriety brands manufactured by one of the defendants.
During the investigation, the DEA agents and task force officers assigned from local police departments conducted additional undercover purchases of the cannabinoids and executed search and arrest warrants. The IRS and financial analyst U.S. Attorney’s Office analyzed the money trail. The final defendants pleaded guilty in August 2017.