Mexican Cartels Secure Distribution Networks

A cocaine bag, ready for distribution. (Photo by Zaira Cortés via El Diario)

A cocaine bag, ready for distribution. (Photo by Zaira Cortés via El Diario)

Second part of the series “Mexican Cocaine Drug Lords Quietly Take NY Streets

The presence of Mexican drug dealers in New York City is not a recent occurrence. This was confirmed in 2009 when the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York pressed charges against the Federación de Sinaloa cartel for international drug trafficking.

Upon the Federación’s split, two new organizations emerged: the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltrán-Leyva Brothers’ Cartel. Of the people involved with the two groups, only Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada remains to be arrested.

While cocaine and heroin are generally imported from Central and South America, federal authorities know that methamphetamine is being produced in rural areas of New York and New Jersey.

An informant under the alias “El Rosa” told El Diario that, in a Long Island location he would not specify, drug dealers from the Mexican state of Morelos are making methamphetamine in laboratories like the ones depicted in the TV series “Breaking Bad.”

According to federal authorities, crystal meth frequently comes from Mexican cartels, and is distributed through networks set up in New Jersey and New York.

However, El Rosa knows the cocaine trade better. “You can get a kilo of coke for $35,000 and sell it for up to $50,000,” said the informant.

“Minor distributors start out with less than an ounce. They cut it with aspirin and Tylenol, and then resell it,” explained El Rosa. “If you want to buy more than half a kilo, they have to know you. You can’t buy just once; it needs to be every so often, as you sell your supply and need more. They seek you out.”

According to documents from the Northern District of Illinois Attorney’s Office regarding the case of twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, Sinaloa Cartel associates, the price for a kilo of cocaine fluctuates depending on geographic location. In Guadalajara, it costs $18,000, while in Chicago it sells for $30,000.

The same happens in the street. El Rosa said that cocaine comes cheaper if the customer picks it up in person. “They can deliver, but it’s going to cost you.”

Quality greatly affects price. The informant said that one ounce of high-quality cocaine can go for $1,300. “If they want to sell it to you for less than $900, don’t buy it; it’s garbage.”

Like a transnational consortium, Mexican cartels create alliances with other powerful mafias in order to distribute drugs in Canada, Europe and U.S. cities.

Bloodthirsty Mexican groups Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel have links with Italian mafia organization ‘Ndrangheta, that includes the Coluccio and Aquino families in New York, according to law authorities. The alliance allows for the drugs to reach Europe.

In recent months, a Brooklyn federal court sentenced members of the powerful organization La Cosa Nostra, led by the Rizzuto and Bonanno families, to prison for trafficking cocaine and marijuana to Canada and for their links with the Sinaloa Cartel.

The “contacts” and customers of these capos are not always fellow Mexicans. Last June, U.S.-born Peter “Penthouse P” Hardie, 34, one of the major drug traffickers on Long Island — he operated around Bay Shore, Central Islip and Brentwood — was sentenced to 15 years in prison. District attorneys said that he was connected to “notorious Mexican and Colombian cartels.”

“The main narcotics in New York have always been heroin and cocaine,” said DEA spokeswoman Erin Mulvey. Moreover, according to the Department of Justice, Mexican cartels are the leading distributors of methamphetamine, and they opt to operate out of rural areas in Long Island and New Jersey.

Therefore, I-95, I-87 and I-90 become the main access routes for transporting the drugs, using cargo trucks from legitimate businesses.

DEA records suggest that traffickers of Dominican descent are also associating with Mexican cartels.

Back in May, Dominicans Edualín Tapia and Guillermo Esteban Margarín were arrested in Hartford, Connecticut, hauling 50 kilos of cocaine and 20 of heroin. The merchandise had been brought in through New York to be sold in northern Connecticut.

“These arrests show that New York is ground zero when it comes to heroin distribution networks aimed at supplying the Northeast. Also, that it is Mexican smugglers who benefit from selling this poison,” said James J. Hunt, DEA special agent-in-charge.

Sophisticated “narco-operation”

El Diario obtained documents revealing the intricate net built by Mexican drug cartels to smuggle cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and then to U.S. cities.

Document 346 of case 09-CR-383 — supplied to El Diario by Randall Samborn, public information officer for the Northern District of Illinois’ Attorney’s Office — states that, throughout the last decade, drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán imported cocaine from Central and South America. To bring the merchandise into Mexico and the U.S., the capo made use of his own private convoy, comprised of Boeing 747 airplanes, submarines, cargo trains, trucks and cars, as well as underground tunnels to carry the drug.

The city of Chicago serves as a center of operations and distribution to supply New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Los Angeles and Vancouver, according to the sworn statements made by twins Pedro and Margarito Flores.

Mulvey said that the drugs are frequently transported from Chicago to New York in secret compartments inside cargo trucks.

In his testimony, Margarito Flores detailed how cargo airplanes transported cocaine from Bogotá, Colombia, as part of shipments of clothing disguised as humanitarian missions.

After landing in Mexico City International Airport, the narcotics were unloaded in front of Mexican authorities who looked the other way and whom Flores described as “El Chapo’s contacts.”

The Flores brothers would then transport the drug to Chicago in trucks and trains through a legal logistics company serving as a front. The secret compartments located at the top of cargo trucks were also used to hide the cash from the sales.

The twins would receive between 1,500 and 2,000 kilos per month, and communicated with El Chapo through coded language via cellular and satellite phones and computers. “The Smoke” was a term used to name Mexico City.

Controlled traffic

In order to fight the illegal drug trade, federal agencies apply strategies such as allowing the entrance of a controlled amount of narcotics, infiltrating agents inside groups, and recruiting informants.

In 2006, the Mexican press reported on the supervised traffic of 129 kilos of cocaine belonging to El Mayo Zambada from Phoenix, Arizona, to New York after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents successfully infiltrated the Sinaloa Cartel thanks to a valuable informant recruited in San Diego, California.

The operation helped the Mexican army to locate and take down José Lamberto, “El Verdugo,” three years later. Lamberto was a confidant to El Mayo Zambada.

The New York ICE office declined to comment further to El Diario on the case, saying that, for operational and security reasons, they do not discuss their law enforcement techniques and tactics.

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