Wednesday, November 1, 2017

2017 Drug Threat Report:RCQ leads Sinaloa, Mexico greatest heroin source, 6 major cartels

By Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat information from 2017 Drug Threat Report-DEA-

The United States 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment has been made public.  The 182 page comprehensive report covers twenty sections.  I am currently reading and condensing parts of the report that will likely be Borderland Beat readers’ points of interest.  I will post those and the full report in the days to come.  

Some standout points:

Mexico is the provider of heroin to the United States, followed by Colombia to a much lesser degree.

Rafael Caro Quintero is leading the Sinaloa Cartel along with El Mayo Zambada

Regional and national-scale gang alliances, such as prison-based gangs, are closely associated with Mexican TCOs, and have expanded their control over the drug-tracking conducted by criminal street gangs in their respective territories.

Zetas: Juan Gerardo Treviño-Chávez is leading the cartel

BLO: Fausto Isídro Meza-Flores, alias Chapo Isidro remains a subgroup with BLO, and BLO subgroups depend on alliances with CJNG, Zetas and Juárez to access drug corridors.  Details of these and more ahead.

Mexican TCOs maintain the greatest drug tracking influence in the United States, with continued signs of growth and expansion. By controlling lucrative smuggling corridors, primarily across the SWB, Mexican TCOs export significant quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and possibly fentanyl into the United States annually. Once these illicit drugs are smuggled into the U.S., they are delivered to user markets in the United States through transportation routes and distribution cells that are managed or influenced by Mexican TCOs.

Over the past several years, Mexican TCOs have expanded their sphere of influence into dierent regions of the United States, including the New England area. These TCOs are moving to expand their share of the market, especially in heroin and methamphetamine.

The most significant illicit drug threat posed to the greater Chicago area is by Mexican TCOs, which dominate the wholesale supply of methamphetamine, cocaine, Mexican-grown marijuana, and heroin in this area. At this time there do not appear to be any viable competitors to Mexican TCOs for control of the wholesale drug supply to the Chicago area. To move drug shipments to Chicago, Mexican TCOs employ intermediaries who oversee shipments across the SWB, and facilitate sales to wholesale and mid-level clients.

Mexican TCOs based along SWB states are the principal suppliers of crystal methamphetamine to the Washington DC region. These Mexican TCOs control the transportation of methamphetamine to the area, and dominate distribution at the wholesale level.

Mexican TCOs are the most prominent wholesale heroin sources of supply throughout the state of Georgia.

click on image to enlarge
Most Significant Mexican TCOs Currently Active in the United States

The drug tracking landscape in Mexico is in constant flux with new organizations emerging as oshoots from previously established TCOs. As of 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assesses the following six Mexican TCOs, as depicted in Figures 3-8, hold the greatest drug tracking impact on the United States: Sinaloa Cartel, Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG), Juarez Cartel, Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas Cartel, and Beltran-Leyva Organization. Each of these TCOs maintains drug distribution cells in designated cities across the United States that either report directly to TCO leaders in Mexico or indirectly through intermediaries. While the Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios or LCT) is still regarded as a viable TCO in Mexico, DEA assesses it does not have a major impact on the drug tracking landscape within the United States. The following is a background on each of the six major Mexican TCOs, with examples of their drug tracking impact on distinct U.S. cities [click on image to enlarge]


Mexico is the U.S. Market predominant source
Heroin from all four source areas (Mexico, South America, Southwest Asia, and Southeast Asia) is available to varying degrees; however, analysis of DEA heroin indicator programs data, production and cultivation estimates, investigative information, and seizure data indicates Mexico is the predominant source of heroin in the United States. South America is the second most common source of heroin. Smaller amounts of Southwest Asian (SWA) heroin are available in certain U.S. markets, but, despite high levels of production in Afghanistan, comparatively little SWA heroin is available in the United States. Most SWA heroin supplies markets in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Southeast Asian (SEA) heroin has rarely been available in the United States in the past decade, since production in the Golden Triangle (the traditional Southeast Asian poppy-growing region of Burma, Laos, and Thailand) declined significantly overall since 2000. In 2010, heroin production in Burma began to increase again, but current production is still below 2000 levels. Mexico and, to a lesser extent, Colombia dominate the U.S. heroin market because of their proximity, established transportation and distribution infrastructure, and ability to satisfy heroin demand in the United States.

Heroin Overview-The most deadly threat due to fentanyl

Heroin poses a serious public health and safety threat to the United States. Overdose deaths, already at high levels, continue to rise. The increasing adulteration of heroin with analogues of the highly-potent synthetic opioid fentanyl and other synthetic opioids has exacerbated this situation. Poppy cultivation and heroin production levels in Mexico, the primary source of heroin for the U.S. market, continue to increase. The heroin supply in the United States, particularly white powder markets in the eastern United States, is highly pure, inexpensive, and increasingly adulterated with fentanyl. This high purity finding is attributed to laboratory testing which shows it to be both highly-refined and less diluted when comparing what is a reasonable amount of dilution for street-level heroin, typically 40-50% in many East Coast markets. It is unclear how much market share fentanyl has gained from heroin, as the two markets are so intertwined. However, some heroin indicators suggest fentanyl is significantly impacting market share and, in a few markets, even supplanting the heroin market. Heroin-involved overdose deaths are high and increasing across the United States, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest. Heroin-involved overdose deaths more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2015, with the most recent data indicating that heroin was involved in 12,989 American deaths in 2015. While the size of the heroin user population is smaller than other major drugs, heroin is highly deadly to its users. For example, the population that currently abuses prescription pain relievers is approximately 10 times the size of the heroin user population; however, the number of opioid analgesic-involved overdose deaths is approximately twice that of heroin-involved deaths. Heroin is now commonly adulterated with fentanyl, making it even more deadly to its user population.


The United States has seen substantial increases in heroin availability in the last seven to 10 years, which has allowed the heroin threat to expand to unprecedented levels. Rapid increases in heroin production in Mexico (see Production section) since 2015 have ensured a reliable supply of low-cost heroin, even in the face of significant increases in user numbers.Eleven of the 21 domestic DEA FDs ranked heroin as their number one drug threat in 2016; another six FDs ranked heroin as the second greatest threat to their areas (see Figure 34). Additionally, 44 percent of 2017 National Drug Threat Survey respondents nationwide reported heroin was the greatest drug threat in their area, more than for any other drug. The DEA field divisions with the highest percentage of respondents choosing heroin as the greatest drug threat are in the Northeast and Midwest: Philadelphia FD (84.2%), New Jersey FD (84.2%), New York FD (76.9%), New England FD (65.0%), Detroit FD (64.2%), Chicago FD (54.6%), and Washington FD (47.2%). A high percentage (46.1%) of respondents in the Seattle FD also reported heroin as the greatest drug threat (see Figure 35).A significant increase of fentanyl in many U.S. heroin markets has not yet aected heroin availability, most likely because fentanyl is often mixed into heroin when sold for illicit use. Reporting from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies indicates heroin availability continues to increase throughout the United States. Availability levels remain highest in the Northeast and in areas of the Midwest. These regions are white powder heroin markets and have historically had higher heroin use levels than other regions of the country.