Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mexican traffickers making New York a hub for lucrative — and deadly — fentanyl

Posted by El Profe for Borderland Beat from Washington Post
           
                  
Married couple Rogelio Alvarado-Robles and Blanca Flores-Solis were arrested in August, a few weeks after arriving from Mexico. Investigators found 213 pounds of narcotics in their apartment in the Kew Gardens neighborhood in the New York borough of Queens. (Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York)

The middle-aged couple in the station wagon went shopping at a New Jersey         Walmart on a warm night in August. They stopped for dinner at an IHOP on the way home. And  when they arrived at their apartment building in a quiet residential section of Queens, the narcotics agents ­following them got a warrant to go inside.

They found several suitcases loaded with brick-shaped bundles of what appeared to be heroin. But   lab tests determined that most of it — 141 pounds — was pure fentanyl, a synthetic and supremely dangerous opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin.

It was the largest fentanyl seizure in U.S. history. There was enough inside the apartment to kill 32 million people, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The married couple who were arrested, Rogelio Alvarado-Robles, 55, and Blanca Flores-Solis, 52, had no criminal record in the United States. They had flown to New York a few weeks earlier with Mexican passports. They had no weapons.

But they were drug cartel emissaries, investigators said, sent to broker the sale of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of narcotics, like pharmaceutical executives on a business trip.

DEA agents say recent arrests reflect an emerging pattern, as Mexican trafficking groups ­attempt to turn New York City into their Northeast distribution hub. They operate with ­quasi-corporate sophistication and an inconspicuous, transient presence, sending sales teams to deliver staggering quantities of drugs and then quietly disappear.

This year, narcotics agents have seized more than 350 pounds of pure fentanyl in New York City, 10 times as much as they did in 2016. A calculated business decision appears to be behind the boom.


   

Alvarado-Robles and Flores-Solis had 141 pounds of pure fentanyl in their Queens apartment, enough to kill 32 million people, the Drug Enforcement Administration said. It was the largest seizure of the powerful opioid in U.S. history, according to the DEA. (Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York)
 
“The cartels realize that fentanyl is much more profitable than heroin,” said James Hunt, head of the DEA’s New York Division.
 
Unlike heroin, whose raw opium base must be collected from poppy growers in remote mountain valleys, fentanyl can be made in clandestine labs using relatively inexpensive chemicals. And because it is so much more potent, it can be diluted with cutting agents to make exponentially more street-level doses, whether in powder form or ersatz pills pressed to resemble brands such as OxyContin and Percocet.

“These guys are evil businessmen, but they are still businessmen,” Hunt said. “I don’t know of any other product where you could invest $3,000 and make millions.”

More than 60,000 people died from overdoses in the United States last year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased fivefold.

According to DEA intelligence gleaned from wiretaps, about 80 percent of the fentanyl seized in the New York area appears to be linked to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. The organization remains North America’s dominant trafficking group, even as its leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, awaits trial in a maximum-security jail in Lower Manhattan. 
 
Sinaloa’s smuggling machine has carried on without Guzman, meaning his legal defense may be funded in part with profits from fentanyl sales made just a few miles from his cell.

The Sinaloa group does not bother with retail-level commerce, according to the DEA. It uses New York to deliver large wholesale shipments to middlemen, typically local Dominican traffickers. Those groups distribute to markets in New England, Pennsylvania, Baltimore and other places where the opioid crisis is raging.
Late last month, as President Trump declared opioid addiction a public health emergency, Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to a mail inspection facility at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to praise the customs agents who have intercepted fentanyl shipments arriving from China.
 
“With synthetic drugs flooding our streets, drugs are now more powerful, more addictive and more dangerous than ever,” Sessions said.

“Fentanyl is the number one killer drug in America,” he said. “And as deadly as it is, you can go online and order it through the mail.” 

But Mexican traffickers are sending fentanyl through the U.S. interstate highway system, not the postal service, and in quantities that dwarf the amounts arriving in envelopes.
 
They smuggle it across the border in fake vehicle panels or commercial loads of produce, furniture, auto parts and other cargo, driving it across the country from California and Arizona.

The loads arrive at industrial parks in New Jersey, where cartel emissaries are sent to meet the shipments and oversee wholesale transactions. Then they must figure out what to do with bricks of cash that are even bulkier than the drugs.
 
The Bronx and northern Manhattan are choice locations for the traffickers, agents say, because their proximity to major bridges and highways offers the same logistical advantages sought by any commercial distributor.
 
Last month, narcotics agents arrested a Mexican driver in an industrial area of the Bronx with 37 pounds of fentanyl in the back of a delivery truck. The location was not far from a hotel where, in June, they seized 40 pounds of the drug stashed in a duffel bag.
Nearly 20 pounds of fentanyl and heroin were seized from a $4,000-a-month apartment overlooking Central Park in August. The building appeared in episodes of the sitcom “Seinfeld.” (Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)
Like the couple in Queens, traffickers appear to be avoiding high-crime neighborhoods where they might be at greater risk of being robbed or detected. DEA agents in August found 20 pounds of fentanyl and heroin at a $4,000-a-month apartment overlooking Central Park. The building’s exterior had appeared in episodes of the sitcom “Seinfeld” as the apartment of the Elaine Benes character.
Inside, a Dominican drug gang was blending fentanyl and heroin in coffee grinders and stamping the drug packages with labels such as “Pray for Death,” “Uber” and “Gilligan’s Island.” As police raided the apartment, an elderly resident came outside to walk her poodle. She complained to the DEA about her neighbors’ loud music. 

“Two years ago, any one of these seizures would have been huge,” Bridget Brennan, New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor, said in an interview. “But we’ve never seen volumes like what we’re seeing now,” she said. “Not even close.”
 
The couple arrested in Queens face major drug trafficking charges. An attorney for Flores-Solis said she was not aware of any illegal activities that her husband, Alvarado-Robles, may have been involved in. His attorney declined to comment.

New York City’s homicide rate soared in the 1980s, when Colombian traffickers dominated the cocaine trade, setting up extensive distribution networks and defending them with lethal force.
 
The Mexican traffickers flooding the city with fentanyl and other drugs are different. They largely eschew violence, and they don’t carry guns. They are the sales teams — not the enforcement division — of Fentanyl Inc.

“They’re smart,” said Jimmy Arroyo, a DEA special agent who leads the team that in recent months has made several large busts linked to the Mexican traffickers. “They know that if they kill people, they will attract attention.”
 
Last year, amid an unprecedented surge of opioids into New York City, the number of homicides decreased to 335, the lowest total since 1963.

 
This is not to say the cartels are not violent, only that they are strategic. In Mexico, where they kill easily and with near-total impunity, the homicide rate is at a 20-year high. And in some major New York drug cases, prosecutors say, their U.S. trafficking partners have been forced to send relatives to Mexico as insurance in case a deal goes bad. One major heroin dealer sent his own son.
 
Although the opioid boom hasn’t led to more violence in New York, it has produced a staggering amount of death. The city had nearly 1,400 fatal overdoses last year, a 46 percent increase from 2015. Fentanyl showed up in 44 percent of 
 autopsies.

Jimmy Arroyo, a DEA group supervisor, and Erin Mulvey, a DEA special agent, work outside an apartment building overlooking Central Park where nearly 20 pounds of fentanyl and heroin were seized in August. (Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)

Heroin spiked with fentanyl — known on the streets as “fire” — had been in the city’s drug supply for years, but recent lab tests showed that doses were increasingly composed of cutting agents and pure fentanyl, which users say provides a more intense high than heroin alone.
 
It’s also shorter in duration, requiring more frequent doses to avoid crippling withdrawal symptoms.
 
Prosecutors say there are signs that the Mexican trafficking groups have started taking steps to dilute their fentanyl shipments before delivery, apparently worried that the surge in overdose deaths could harm sales. Recent seizures have found pre-mixed packages with lower and somewhat less lethal concentrations of fentanyl.
 
“The cartels have their own self-interest at heart, and if they do nothing but put out fentanyl, they will kill their customer base,” said Brennan, the special narcotics prosecutor. “From a business perspective, it’s good to send a small, compact load, but if the person receiving it is not familiar with how to dilute it, you will kill too many people and draw more law enforcement attention.”

Getting accurate test results on the composition of seized drugs now takes longer, because narcotics agents can no longer cut open packages to conduct field tests. The fentanyl is too dangerous; even a dusting of airborne powder can trigger an overdose. Narcotics agents must conduct raids using respirator masks, gloves and even full-body suits, and when they enter a “pill mill,” they increasingly find criminals wearing the same gear.
 
DEA agents say they do not think that Mexican trafficking groups will eventually take over retail-level fentanyl distribution in New York. That would require far more personnel, exposing the organization to more arrests, and therefore more informants. They prefer to continue outsourcing and remain mostly anonymous in the drug trade.
The sales representatives who reach New York, communicating with encrypted software such as Silent Circle and Signal, are typically nameless figures whom narcotics agents have never seen. And in a matter of days or weeks, they’re gone.
 
In June, when Arroyo’s team seized 40 pounds of pure fentanyl at the Umbrella Hotel in the Bronx borough of New York, they arrested Carlos Ramirez, 25. He wore thick glasses, shorts and sneakers. He looked like he was in town for a comic book convention, not a massive fentanyl deal.



Carlos Ramirez, 25, appears in security camera footage at the Bronx hotel where he was arrested in June. He is accused of having 40 pounds of pure fentanyl in a black duffel bag. Ramirez had stayed at the hotel on previous occasions, telling staff members that he was from the state of Sinaloa, home to Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel. (Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York)

Prosecutors say he arrived from Lakeland, Colo. But a clerk at the hotel who remembered Ramirez said she spoke to him in Spanish. He had stayed there on other occasions before his arrest, she said, telling her he was a pipe fitter in New York for construction jobs. He asked her for advice on where to eat, and what clubs to go to. He told her he was from Sinaloa. 
 
“It was strange,” the clerk said. “I never saw him wearing any work clothing.”

26 comments:

  1. The wife said she was not aware of any illegal activities her husband was involved in. C'mon.
    I'm sorry to sound cruel but they both should do some serious time because thats a serious amount of dope. Are they going to co-operate, snitch off some far away dealer, to get off like the capos seem to do?
    I hate to see a seemingly good couple go down but i don't see legalization for heroin coming down the pike. Hell even marijuana is practically legal in california and our natl forests are packed with illegal pot grows and the govt does almost nothing about those, except for photo ops.
    Of course filling up prisons with dope dealers and users isn't the answer, but what is the answer?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If we want to reduce ODs then LEGALIZATION will do just that!

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    2. Grandpa and grandma were pushing a lot of dope!

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    3. Yeh, probably she's telling the truth and the whole thing was her gig.

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    4. 8:30 OPIATES have been very legaL since Big Pharma got laws enacted by greasing all the squeaky wheels that needed greasing, what you got was wholesale murdering, overdoses, some deadly, (200 000) trafficking, addiction, illegal opioid sales, increased Heroin consumption when insurances and the government refuse to keep supplying their addicts...
      --Subcontracting of legal amd illegal opioids production and distribution...

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    5. Legalization just facks up everything, 50 Shades of Worse

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  2. Too bad they can’t be executed but a few consecutive life sentences will be just as nice. Welcome to America scum!

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    Replies
    1. Mexico is part of "America", right?. Only in the USA, do the people think they are America, and the rest of the people in central,south america, are not americans?
      Mexicans are more "american" than many US"A" citizens would like to believe.
      Maybe you meant, "Welcome to the USA." But say it right because alot of people laugh at the ignorance of norte americanos, amigo.

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    2. Could have killled 32,000,000 people holy fu@k!!! I agree, they should seek the death penalty.

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    3. 11:58 no big fish got nabbed, wonder why?
      These fall guys and their arrest is made worthless, but the fentany may still get home to the hands of the free and the brave, no big deal, after all, it made it through the wall.

      Delete
  3. They look pretty down and out in the photos . Hold your chin up . You are fixing to get awarded a life time in the good old usa . Your jury will be selected pool from a pool that has been hearing and seeing the fruit of your labor . I don't mean landscaping either

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    Replies
    1. Temporary visas until the roaches die and are deported in Glad trash bags to the Mexican Embassy. LMAO

      Delete
  4. NYC heroin addict here for 29 years. Yes I work, and generally function. Anyway this Fentanyl shit is like everywhere now, and a royal pain in the ass. Never even came close to OD in all my time.... till 2 weeks ago. Knew the stuff was fent soon as poured it out- but choice between going to work in withdrawal, and rolling dice..... guess what I chose. Now minus 1 2017 Chevy pickup- I wrapped around a tree. Thank God I didn’t kill anyone!! Just legalize it already, long as narcotics are contraband it will continues to drive a ruthless black market. This shit only showed up here bout 2015, and if you are addicted you notice the difference immediately. But people will keep dying cause the retarded war on drugs marches on!! The federal gov’t and this idiot running this country can’t even pull it together to legalize marijuana.... let alone handle this shit. It really is an epidemic, I have never seen as many young junkies as I do now. It scary, and I been around the block a time or 2, bottom line is fent SUCKS!!

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    1. I had a little surgery 2 weeks ago, the anesthesiologist wanted to give me versed, with propofol and/or fentanyl. I wanted to bolt. versed no prob, propofol ok but i think versed is enough I don't need much is what I am told, but Fent I said NO WAY. it has become the boogie man to me. So doc asked , why? I said, never had it and am scared of it. I know that is crazy but please try the versed alone, and i gave her the op report from another surgery to convince her. I told her they are talking about taking fent off the market. she claims that would be a mistake because it is a good drug given and used properly. For surgery, post surgery and terminal illnesses.

      In the balance, I was given only versed. which she said "worked like a dream, just a little went a long way".

      but i am still scared of fent

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    2. Chivis,

      Do not forget reefer madness... Fentanyl in a medically controlled and distributed fashion is not deadly. I recently had surgery and was given 25mcg shots of Fentanyl throughout the incision points.

      Considering the amount of pain I was in post surgery, I could not have imagined the surgery without it..

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    3. I do remember. and I agree my fear is irrational, especially after my doc says is would be a shame for the drug to be removed from market. It is like many other things, it is not the drug that is the problem.

      Paz

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    4. The most addictive drugs work very good, that is why it is better to stay away from them, it may fix you for a while but then you are in very deep shit.
      pharmaceuticals may have even been the original reason of the problems anyway, they are famous on the US for fixing one thing and facking up ten others.
      You really have to watch your step when it comes to "medications", if it's not bleeding or broken leave it alone.
      Here wishing you all the best Chivis.

      Delete
  5. I think whoever wrote this article had a little to much to drink or maybe a little Fen themself.
    "These guys are evil businessmen,but they are still businessmen."
    These guys are almost identical to big pharma opiate companies. The only difference is 1 does it "legally" and the other doesn't. Theres hardly any difference imo.

    "Sinaloa’s smuggling machine has carried on without Guzman, meaning his legal defense may be funded in part with profits from fentanyl sales made just a few miles from his cell.
    Hasn't this been reported everywhere that there is hardly any way for Chapo to use drug proceeds for his lawyer fees??

    "Fentanyl is the number one killer drug in America,” he said. “And as deadly as it is, you can go online and order it through the mail.”
    Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't prescription drug overdose #2 behind suicide as far as deaths in the USA now??
    "They seized 40 pounds of the drug stashed in a duffel bag"
    How do they "stash" drugs in a duffel bag??"

    "She complained to the DEA about her neighbors’ loud music"
    Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but when my neighbors play loud music, I usually call the dea also.

    "Heroin spiked with fentanyl — known on the streets as “fire”
    "Fire isn't a term for fent dope. Its a term to describe good H. Most users if they had to choose would pick H over F and its not even close. Idk why its always reported like Fen is some super great, sought after drug. It isn't. The thing thats surprising is that the cartels still haven't figured out that a brick of H with the perfect balance of idk, maybe 5% F, 95%H- Is close to the perfect combo. But I'm sure theres no real way to make sure its consistant throughout. And either way, it'll sell. So it's kind of irrelevant I guess.

    "Narcotics agents must conduct raids using respirator masks, gloves and even full-body suits, and when they enter a “pill mill,” they increasingly find criminals wearing the same gear."

    A "pill mill" is a term for a doctors office thats known for pushing pills. This makes no sense. The term they were looking for was "heroin mill."

    "He wore thick glasses, shorts and sneakers. He looked like he was in town for a comic book convention, not a massive fentanyl deal."

    This and the comment that " they prefer to stay "anonymous" is retarded. Besides rappers and dumbass people driving around with 26" wheels on their dodge charger posting pics of their 2000$ "trap money" on instagram, afaik most people are trying to AVOID going to prison. And people that are involved with the drug trade at levels like these people, usually are pretty intelligent people. Theres a reason they get to that high of a level. This article seems like it was written by someone with little intelligence, who's goal is getting into the dea after being a cop for 10 years. The same people who arrest you for having 3 grams of weed, and think theyre kicking ass fighting the drug war- and making any progress. While they've been losing since before the drug war even started. And it's worse now then it ever has been in the history of the united states.


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  6. Oh, and another thing. That "able to kill 32 million people" comment.. It sounds like they come up with these numbers like they do with the value of these busts. Like they throw a dart at the board without looking. Wherever it lands, is the number they put out. I'm not sure what the number it could have killed, but to say 32 million, means it wouldve killed more then the a bomb. Sounds like more bs go figure

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  7. Hoping very soon America goes full duterte on the scum.

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  8. @1:29 The irony of your statement is Duerte is an addict himself...And he's addicted to.....Fent is his drug of choice if I remember right.. Conflict of interest? Hypocritical???

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  9. I liked the article alot, my dad always told me that they dont smuggle cut, well maybe they do now?

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  10. I'm wondering if Rodrigo Duterte has the right idea after all?

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  11. FIY, Fentanyl is not a mere t0 times as strong as Heroin as your article faultoly states, it is about INE THOUSAND times more potent. Dosing it goes in MICROgrammes, that is MILLIONTH of grammes, and that is why it is so dangerous: it is impossible stuff to handle in its pure form, as even trace amounts that get airborne will kill you for instance, and just some particleson your skin too. Be cause of this exceptionally potent nature, it is also dangerous for its users: it has to be cut with hundreds of times of inert material like milk sugar, cafeine, or other cutting agents, but that being the case, it then has to be mixed for several days nonstop in a tumbler just to make sure that there are no spots in the load that are still made up of more concentrated amounts of the active ingredient. If you would be a user, you would have to rely on your dealer / supplier doing that right. If this is screwed up somewhere, you have no way to know, and you will not be able to tell whether or not there is any spots in the amount in your package that are too high concentrations. Again, a near-invisible amount will kill you. THAT is primarily why so many people that use it die of overdoses of the stuff. Also, many opiate (heroin) users do not know that have received a powder that contains Fentanyl as an active ingredient instead of Heroin, of which people that have developed a high tolerance might be able to shoot up to a half gramme at once into their veins every so many hours and consider that still within what they would think of as a regular dose. (This too would depend on how much that Heroin would have been 'stwpped on', of course.) So, there is a significant difference, the one substance kills with an amount that is the size of a grain of salt if that, the other may take a small teaspoon as a regular dose for some. Then, there even is a form that is ten times stronger than regular Fentanyl, and that is Carfentanil. Something else, the fact, that they would stash several hundred Kilos AT ONE PLACE (and with such farty, suspicious looking, unsophisticated people no less, and in their own home) shows you how stupid these cartwls are - or how desperate, maybe. As if you would be able to sell a tenth of that weight in ten years time, given how strong it is and how little of it thus is needed for actual street amounts one sells once it has been cut and with that has become 'week enough to handle' (hopefully). Absolute morons those people. They are totally egoistic, and it is their boundless greed that makes them lose touch with reality and with any feeling for what is reasonable, workable, and what still would be making sense, too.

    ReplyDelete
  12. FIY, Fentanyl is not a mere 50 times as strong as Heroin as your article faultoly states, it is about INE THOUSAND times more potent. Dosing it goes in MICROgrammes, that is MILLIONTH of grammes, and that is why it is so dangerous: it is impossible stuff to handle in its pure form, as even trace amounts that get airborne will kill you for instance, and just some particleson your skin too. Be cause of this exceptionally potent nature, it is also dangerous for its users: it has to be cut with hundreds of times of inert material like milk sugar, cafeine, or other cutting agents, but that being the case, it then has to be mixed for several days nonstop in a tumbler just to make sure that there are no spots in the load that are still made up of more concentrated amounts of the active ingredient. If you would be a user, you would have to rely on your dealer / supplier doing that right. If this is screwed up somewhere, you have no way to know, and you will not be able to tell whether or not there is any spots in the amount in your package that are too high concentrations. Again, a near-invisible amount will kill you. THAT is primarily why so many people that use it die of overdoses of the stuff. Also, many opiate (heroin) users do not know that have received a powder that contains Fentanyl as an active ingredient instead of Heroin, of which people that have developed a high tolerance might be able to shoot up to a half gramme at once into their veins every so many hours and consider that still within what they would think of as a regular dose. (This too would depend on how much that Heroin would have been 'stwpped on', of course.) So, there is a significant difference, the one substance kills with an amount that is the size of a grain of salt if that, the other may take a small teaspoon as a regular dose for some. Then, there even is a form that is ten times stronger than regular Fentanyl, and that is Carfentanil. Something else, the fact, that they would stash several hundred Kilos AT ONE PLACE (and with such farty, suspicious looking, unsophisticated people no less, and in their own home) shows you how stupid these cartwls are - or how desperate, maybe. As if you would be able to sell a tenth of that weight in ten years time, given how strong it is and how little of it thus is needed for actual street amounts one sells once it has been cut and with that has become 'week enough to handle' (hopefully). Absolute morons those people. They are totally egoistic, and it is their boundless greed that makes them lose touch with reality and with any feeling for what is reasonable, workable, and what still would be making sense, too.

    ReplyDelete

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