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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
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  3. HSI Investigation Leads to Guilty Verdict for California Man Who Exported Meth to New Zealand

HSI Investigation Leads to Guilty Verdict for California Man Who Exported Meth to New Zealand

Release Date: May 14, 2024

LOS ANGELES — A California man was found guilty of federal narcotics and conspiracy charges May 13 for attempting to export methamphetamine to New Zealand through the use of a false-bottomed crate containing automotive parts.

This investigation was led by HSI Los Angeles, the New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Police with significant support from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Los Angeles.

“Narcotics trafficking is a global issue that requires a robust global response, and Homeland Security Investigations works with our foreign and domestic partners around the world to disrupt this illicit supply chain,” said HSI Los Angeles Special Agent Eddy Wang. “Whether the location is New Zealand or here in Los Angeles, HSI Los Angeles will hold identify and hold offenders accountable.”

Benjamin Mensah, 51, was found guilty by a jury of one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and one count of attempted exportation of methamphetamine. Mensah has been in federal custody since December 2023. From at least October 2022 and until October 2023, Mensah and others packaged, concealed and conspired to export methamphetamine to foreign countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

In March 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection deployed a narcotic-detection canine that alerted to the odor of drugs inside a shipment and, upon further inspection, contained vacuum-sealed bags weighing 580 lbs. and containing a white crystalline substance that later tested positive for methamphetamine with approximately 100% purity. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers notified Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which initiated an investigation.

580 pounds of methamphetamine from false-bottomed crate (Photo courtesy of CBP)

During the bilateral investigation, HSI special agents and investigators from the New Zealand Customs Service and New Zealand Police conducted a controlled delivery of a mock shipment to the intended destination in Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand authorities had seized an earlier, parallel shipment in February 2023 that was also destined for the same address, listed the same sender information, was declared as automotive parts, and also contained false bottoms. As a result of the controlled delivery, New Zealand authorities arrested seven individuals connected to shipments being received at that address. Each of the seven individuals arrested were found to either be members of, or have close associations with, the Killer Beez criminal organization, a violent motorcycle gang founded in New Zealand.

Through examination of shipping data, HSI special agents identified Mensah as the shipper of the 580 pounds of methamphetamine in March 2023 and, on Oct. 24, 2023, federal law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Mensah’s residence. During that search, HSI seized shipping labels and electronic devices, and the information contained those implicated Mensah in sending the March 2023 shipment.

U.S. District Judge Fernando L. Aellne-Rocha scheduled an Oct. 4 sentencing hearing, at which time Mensah will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Declan T. Conroy and Cameron C. Vanderwall of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California prosecuted this case.

Anyone with information regarding the trafficking of illegal narcotics is encouraged to call the HSI Tip Line at 877-4-HSI-TIP.

Learn more about HSI’s mission to increase public safety in your community on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @HSILosAngeles.

Last Updated: 05/15/2024
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