Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, head of La Familia cartel, was arrested last month by Mexican authorities as part of a crackdown on the drug gang.
The Drug Enforcement Administration arrested nearly 2,000 people in the United States as part of a 20-month strike against Mexico's La Familia Michoacana cartel, law enforcement officials said.
In a statement Thursday, DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said the strike, called Project Deliriium, netted 1,985 arrests and $62 million in a blow to the notorious cartel.
Dozens of arrests occurred in several states, including Texas, California, Georgia, Colorado, Alabama, Minnesota and New Mexico.
“Project Delirium is the second successful, strategic and surgical strike to disrupt and destroy one of the most violent Mexican cartels, La Familia,” Leonhart said.
Authorities also seized a sizable stash of drugs, including 2,773 pounds of methamphetamine, 2,722 kilograms of cocaine, 1,005 pounds of heroin, 14,818 pounds of marijuana and $3.8 million in other assets, the statement said.
The crackdown marks a strengthened effort by DEA and Mexican law enforcement officials to collaborate on a major drug trafficking organization, authorities said.
“Law enforcement officials here in the U.S., in Mexico and all around the world are cooperating at unprecedented levels. There is a willingness – like never before – to work hand in hand to fight the cartels, the criminal enterprises and the violent gangs that threaten the peace and security of people on both sides of the border,” said John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in the statement.
Project Delirium and before it, Project Coronado, were part of a sustained strike against La Familia, which has seen its leadership structure decimated over the past several months by high-profile arrests.
Last month, Mexican authorities arrested La Familia leader Jose de Jesus Mendez-Vargas, aka "El Chango" or "the Monkey."