Today, at 2:44 p.m., another in a reliable stream of press releases from the Northern District U.S. Attorney’s office landed in my inbox: twelve defendants from Salinas pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges. The federal effort boasts a name designed to be like candy for TV reporters: “Operation Money Train” (an homage to The Shield?), and the feds seized stolen cars, guns and drugs.
Of course, a quick look at the docket reveals that none of these Big Fish defendants could afford their own lawyer. And the drug amounts in question -- 1361 grams of meth (translation: 1.3 kilos), 180 grams of heroin (way less than a kilo) and 320 grams of cocaine (barely enough to keep Legal Pad staff churning out blog items through the end of the month) -– can’t be much more than a fraction of the local market. Clearly these defendants were no angels, and no disrespect to the agents who put their safety at risk, but: Why trumpet a bunch of lower level functionaries while the real captains of industry always seem to be at large?
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello declined to comment on the operational details of Money Train, but said the effort achieved “specific and general deterrence.”