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US Authorities Arrest 59 in Alleged Asian Criminal Enterprise

U.S. law enforcement authorities say 87 individuals have been indicted and 59 arrests have been made on charges related to international conspiracies to smuggle counterfeit currency, weapons and drugs into the United States.

Undercover agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) posed as smugglers, arms traffickers, drug dealers and as associates of organized crime to defeat efforts by Asian criminal enterprises to import an array of illegal items into the United States.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John Richter says the arrests were the result of two parallel undercover investigations on the West and East coasts of the United States called Operations Royal Charm and Smoking Dragon.

"This essentially was an organization that was willing to be a one-stop shop for illegal goods," said Mr. Richter. "We seized more than $4 million of highly deceptive currency, what some call loosely super-notes. It is the largest seizure of its kind. We did it before it could enter circulation and before it could do any damage to our economy."

Mr. Richter says law enforcement authorities seized 36,000 ecstasy pills and other drugs, along with hundreds of millions of counterfeit cigarettes. He says the organized crime group was planning to smuggle large amounts of weapons into the United States.

"We charged members of this organization with arms trafficking, and with conspiring to import more than a million dollars worth of weapons, including silenced pistols, silenced submachine guns, assault rifles and other weapons including rocket launchers," added Mr. Richter.

One of the more unusual aspects of this case was the use of a fake wedding to lure suspects from various countries to come to the United States where they were arrested.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie of the District of (the U.S. Northeastern State of) New Jersey says phony invitations were sent out around the world to members of the alleged organized crime group.

"The male and female [undercover] agents who were in the invitation supposed to be married had been working on the investigation for a lengthy period of time, had represented themselves as being romantically involved to the people they were involved in this operation with," said. Mr. Christie. "Eventually when it came time to bring this investigation to a conclusion, the idea of staging a wedding in order to bring these people to New Jersey to be able to apprehend them was developed. The people came into Atlantic City, New Jersey expecting that they were going to a wedding and instead they were arrested."

Investigators would not name the nationalities of those arrested in the case, saying some are U.S. citizens.

The Justice Department says the plants that allegedly manufactured the counterfeit cigarettes are in China.