When FedEx officials discovered the scheme, they launched their own investigation and contacted the DEA. Working together, the company and federal agents identified and tracked corrupt employees and searched the company's computer databases for records that eventually unraveled the distribution network.
Robert Bryden, vice president of security for FedEx, said that the overnight shipping business is vulnerable to criminals seeking to get their contraband delivered quickly. For years, the company has used X-ray equipment to search suspicious packages.
"FedEx handles over 3 million packages a day," Bryden said. "Our employees don't actually have their hands on these packages for very long periods at all, certainly not long enough in most cases to be able to detect something like this."
Drug agents said they believe they have effectively dismantled the Jamaican organization.
In addition to Rendon, the Mexican national, those arrested Thursday included Stacey Clarkson, who headed the group's distribution operation in New York; David Levy, who collected money for the gang in New York; Jonathan Boswell, a member of the organization based in Fort Lauderdale; and Wilza Pierre, a distributor arrested on Long Island. In addition, agents Thursday arrested FedEx drivers in New York, New Jersey and Atlanta, three customer service representatives, a company security agent and three former FedEx employees.
As for the effect of the arrests on the Arellano Felix gang, DEA agents were less than sanguine.
"With the Arellano Felix brothers as strong as they are, to them this is just one customer that they no longer have," said Michele Leonhart, special agent in charge of the DEA's Los Angeles office.