Feds dub I-44 an 'illicit pathway' for drug trafficking
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Thursday, March 07, 2013
3/07/13 at 4:03 AM
The regional head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's investigations division said Wednesday that Tulsa's Interstate 44 is an equal part of a "holistic approach" to shutting down cartel drug trafficking in Oklahoma and to the Mexican border.
David Marwell is the Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations for north Texas and Oklahoma.
Marwell said his office participates in everything from information gathering in Tulsa to operating "controlled deliveries," in which drug shipments are seized at the Mexican-U.S. border and then a ruse operation finishes the delivery to catch the buyer.
Tulsa is "an illicit pathway," Marwell said. "The fact of the matter is there are many illicit pathways."
Marwell and other local Homeland Security Investigations officers invited local media to learn more about their organization on Wednesday, granting some access to the normally closed-door agency.
Carl Rusnok, an agency spokesman, said Homeland Security Investigations is the second largest federal investigative branch with a budget of about $6 billion. But Rusnok would not say how many of its staff work in the Tulsa area or the state.
Paul Steenson, the Tulsa office's agent in charge, said many of his office's work hours are spent on drug smuggling.
"It's very prolific for the size of Tulsa," Steenson said. "It's very similar to Oklahoma City."
The federal investigative unit works closely with Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, which assigns deputies to work on cases, Marwell said.
The relationship began when the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office attained U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement certification for holding ICE inmates at the Tulsa Jail due to a high-rate of illegal immigrants committing crimes in the area, Steenson said.
"They are critical to us getting our job done," he said.
Homeland Security Investigations is under the organizational umbrella of ICE, which is under Homeland Security.
Marwell said the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office is a large part of their mission in Tulsa.
"We can't do our job without local participation," he said.
In addition to drug smuggling, a major part of the investigative agency's work goes into human trafficking, local gangs, weapon smuggling and other areas the general public doesn't normally associate with ICE, Marwell said.
Under former President George W. Bush, Marwell said the agency's efforts were spent on deporting illegal immigrants in bulk.
"Under our current policy, we are going after the employers who are bringing these people in and not rounding up the illegal aliens," he said. "Our direction on that is to essentially concentrate on those that are creating the most havoc in our society - the criminals."
Original Print Headline: Drug feds focus on I-44 channel
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367