Operation Pisces, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's huge, two-year undercover effort, was an intelligence coup that revealed the inner workings of the drug trade from Colombia to the United States. When the case ended in 1987, officials had arrested 220 drug dealers and seized $28 million in cash and assets and more than 11,000 pounds of cocaine in Southern California. Here is an illustration of the flow of drugs and money between Colombia and Los Angeles, and some of the main players.
Colombian drug dealer. Arrested with 10 other Colombians at one of three Orange County stash houses April 4, 1986. 1,600 pounds of coke, $728,225 in cash seized. Sentenced to 14 years in state prison. JORGE RESTREPO Colombian drug dealer, money launderer. Arrested near LAX with 65 pounds of coke on March 24, 1987; 1,660 additional pounds seized at a stash house in Rowland Heights. Sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. LEOPOLDO PILOTO Cuban drug dealer, worked for Jesus Zapata. Arrested at Piloto's stash house in Sylmar on Dec. 4, 1986. 1,300 pounds of cocaine and $191,000 seized. Sentenced to 18 years in federal prison. HUGO OBANDO CHOA Former M-19 guerrilla in Colombia. Key lieutenant in charge of smuggling and distributing thousands of pounds of cocaine per month to operatives in Los Angeles. Eluded arrest; whereabouts unknown. JESUS ZAPATA College-educated accountant. Key lieutenant in charge of laundering $17 million a week in drug profits from Los Angeles to banks in Panama and Miami, where cash is converted to Colombian pesos. Arrested in May, 1987, at Miami International Airport after officials expelled him from Panama and forced him on a plane to Florida. Sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. PABLO ESCOBAR Controls the major drug cartel out of Medellin, Colombia. Oversees 20 to 30 top lieutenants who ship cocaine into the United States through Mexico to Los Angeles and into Miami by sea and air, laundering profits back to Colombia through banks in Panama and Miami. Thought to control major portion of L.A. cocaine trade. Never arrested but indicted in Operation Pisces.