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DEA veteran: They’re taking over drug distribution from local dealers and gangs

Joe Biden delivers remarks on the American Rescue plan's pension protection, Wednesday, July 6, 2022, at Max S. Hayes High School in Cleveland, Ohio. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

At the heart of the deadliest drug epidemic in American history are two powerful transnational criminal organizations notorious for drug-trafficking and violence – and their influence is growing dramatically under the Biden administration, a veteran Drug Enforcement Administration agent and fentanyl expert tells WND.

According to a new DEA report, Mexico’s Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels are not only operating fentanyl, methamphetamine and other illicit drug markets in all 50 American states, but they are also taking over the distribution of these substances from local drug dealers and gangs.

“The Sinaloa Cartel is one of Mexico’s oldest criminal organizations, and one of the most violent and prolific polydrug-trafficking cartels in the world,” the report states. Likewise, it reveals, “the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or Jalisco Cartel, is one of Mexico’s most powerful and ruthless criminal organizations, and another key driver of fatal drug poisonings in the United States.”

Drug overdose deaths reached 107,543 in the United States in 2023. An estimated 74,202 deaths – nearly 70% – were attributed to synthetic opioids, specifically fentanyl, in 2023. And Derek Maltz, a former head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division, in an interview with WND affirms that Mexican cartels are largely responsible.

On May 25, suspected top assassin of the Sinaloa cartel, Néstor Isidro Pérez Salas, was extradited from Mexico to the United States. He was known as one of the cartel’s sicarios, or contract killers. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said Salas “was responsible for the murder, torture and kidnapping of rivals and witnesses who threatened the cartel’s criminal drug trafficking enterprise.”

Maltz told WND he is not surprised about the influence and infiltration of Mexican cartels within the U.S., considering the evolution of drug cartels through the decades. Dating as far back as the 1970s, he said, Colombian cartels were widely recognized mass distributors of cocaine. As the number of cartels increased, so did the work of federal law enforcement in America, including high profile extraditions.

“Cartels had to move their products to different markets where the risk of getting caught and extradited was minimized,” he told WND. “What they did was turn over the wholesale business of the cocaine trade to the Mexican cartels.”

In the mid-to-late ’90s, Maltz said, Colombian cartels started getting involved with “white heroin,” a very pure form of heroin. And once again, to avoid apprehension and extradition, this powerful opioid was turned over to the Mexican cartels. He also noted how Mexican cartels had already established a market for distribution deep inside the United States.

According to Maltz, “Ninety percent of all the drugs coming into America were coming across the southwest border.” Mexican cartels were literally “blitzing America with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine,” he explained. And all the while, he added, “they were also setting up command and control infrastructure all over the country in major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Boston, Houston and Phoenix.”

In the years to follow, he said, distribution networks spread from America’s large cities to establish a presence in nearly every corner of the continental United States.

“With the addition of fentanyl, Mexican cartels have dominated the drug business in America over the last several years,” Maltz pointed out. The addictiveness of fentanyl was “a game changer,” he said. “But the biggest game changer for the Mexican cartels has been the wide-open border policies” of the Biden administration.

On the left, a lethal dose of heroin; on the right, a lethal dose of fentanyl (Photo: New Hampshire State Police Forensic Lab)

On the left, a lethal dose of heroin; on the right, a lethal dose of fentanyl (Photo: New Hampshire State Police Forensic Lab)

Maltz warned, “Mexican cartels have taken advantage of the vulnerabilities and the weaknesses and they’re sending their operatives into the country to solidify their presence in all states.”

It’s an uphill battle for law enforcement, Maltz said, noting that the cartels are “smarter” now than in the past, changing their communication patterns and using encrypted apps to evade law enforcement. They’re also using increasingly sophisticated Chinese money-laundering services.

But most alarming, Maltz said, “there’s a gap between the good guys and the bad guys that’s growing.” Although law enforcement is “doing tremendous work” and seizing record amounts of drugs at the border and around the country, he said, “the production of drugs in Mexico is overwhelming right now.”

“A tsunami of deadly drugs coming into America has been created, and law enforcement doesn’t have the resources to stop it,” he lamented. “Law enforcement is also losing their experience and workforce pretty fast because of the working conditions, having to do more with less.” In the opinion of this DEA veteran, “They need more support from politicians and communities.”

Maltz added: “The whole ‘defund the police’ movement and anti-police movement in America is actually causing a lot of experienced law enforcement leaders to leave. This is what I would consider the perfect storm for America in regard to more crime, more drugs and less law enforcement resources. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

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