Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Cartels Next Door (4th in a series of 6): Mexican drug lords corner meth market

Posted by DD Republished from Albuquerque Journal
Thanks to BB reader Judeg99 for the heads-up on this story

Previous in 6 part series;
Part One: Cartels' Roots Run Deep in N.M.
Part Two;  Far from dead, Juárez Cartel flexes its muscles
Part Three:  ‘Mayor of Mexico’ ran a slick operation
The Anapra neighborhood of Ciudad Juárez, where cartels compete for control of local and international drug distribution. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

 By Mike Gallagher / Journal Investigative Reporter

FOURTH IN A SERIES: Once the drug of choice for outlaw motorcycle gangs, methamphetamine is now a major moneymaker for Mexican drug cartels. At one time, it was mostly “cooked” locally in seedy motel rooms or trailer parks using over-the-counter cold remedies. Now, law enforcement estimates that about 90 percent of the meth consumed in the United States comes across the border. The drug can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally. “We’re seeing meth dealers go after kids as young as 13 on social media,” said APD Deputy Chief Eric Garcia. “That’s who they’re marketing to.”

Luis Rangel-Arce
Miguel Rangel-Arce, 36, and brother Luis Rangel-Arce, 44, set up shop west of Farmington on the Navajo reservation in 2015. They were there to make money selling methamphetamine supplied by the Sinaloa Cartel.

They rented a house and recruited locals, both Navajo and Anglo, to sell the drug on the reservation and in the neighborhoods of Farmington and Bloomfield. It was a tightly run ring with five retail dealers handling direct sales to users.

But the Rangel brothers, both from Mexico by way of Phoenix, came to the attention of federal investigators because of an increase in crime and use of methamphetamine in the Shiprock area on the Navajo nation.

In 2016, the two men and others were arrested for selling methamphetamine directly to undercover officers. Authorities seized more than 2½ pounds of the drug worth a minimum of $150,000, along with 10 firearms, during the arrests.

“Methamphetamine continues to have a devastating impact on Native American families and communities,” said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez.

Martinez said the same thing a year earlier when law enforcement in the southern part of the state arrested Carlos Tafoya and 34 others in December 2015 for trafficking methamphetamine on the Mescalero Apache Reservation near Ruidoso.

The Mescalero Apache arrests also followed an increase in violent crime attributed to methamphetamine use on the reservation, including a horrific assault on a young girl by two teenage boys who were high on meth.

Joseph Ray Mendiola, 35, of Roswell, was the focus of another investigation that led to federal and state charges against 41 people. The investigation involved the FBI, DEA, State Police and local law enforcement agencies.

Investigators seized more than 16 pounds of methamphetamine from Mendiola and his associates in Roswell.

It’s the same story over and over. High-quality, inexpensive methamphetamine supplied by Mexican cartels is a problem from the reservations to the oil patch, from cities to rural New Mexico.

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant, and the crime that accompanies it is often violent – from the shooting death of a police officer in Rio Rancho to the brutal assaults on young girls in Albuquerque and the Mescalero Reservation.

Transit point

Call it meth, crystal, ice, speed or crank.

A pound of it can sell for as low as $7,200, but the average price per pound in New Mexico is around $8,000. That translates into big profits as it is broken down for users into envelopes of $25, $50 or $100.

Dealers sell to users, or “tweakers.”

Whatever name you want to use for methamphetamine, the statistics point to serious problems. Among them:

Posters at the Volver a Vivir recovery center in Ciudad Juárez warn of the dangers of taking methamphetamine or other synthetic drugs. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
  • In 2008, there were 23 overdose deaths in New Mexico attributed to methamphetamine. By 2014, there were 111 meth overdose deaths in the state.

• In 2007, a gram of methamphetamine was selling for almost $300 and the purity was about 40 percent. By 2014, the price had dropped, on a national average, to around $70 a gram, and it had an average purity of more than 90 percent.

• In 2010, federal agents seized just over 4,000 kilograms of methamphetamine along the Mexican border in the Southwest. By 2015, the amount seized increased to 16,282 kilograms. Meanwhile, the number of methamphetamine laboratories busted by law enforcement in the United States dropped more than 50 percent from 2010 to 2015, and most of those “laboratories” were capable of producing only 2 ounces or less.

The reason for the shift: About 90 percent of the methamphetamine consumed in the United States is made in Mexico.

“They are controlling more of the distribution line, the entire line from the manufacture … to the actual distribution,” said Will Glaspy, Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge, El Paso Division.

According to the DEA, traffickers employ various techniques in smuggling methamphetamine. They include human couriers, commercial flights, parcel services and commercial buses. But traffickers most commonly transport methamphetamine through U.S. border crossings in passenger vehicles with hidden compartments.

Several cartels are shipping methamphetamine in a liquid form to smuggle into the United States in soft drink cans and bottles. Once in the United States, the methamphetamine is transformed into a powder through standard chemical filtration methods.

Like other drugs, much of the meth that arrives in Albuquerque doesn’t stay here. The city is a transit point for drugs going on to Denver, Chicago and elsewhere.

The compartmentalization of the cartel operations and the use of independent contractors make it difficult for law enforcement to track supply lines.

“I don’t see a lot of people on this side of the border that have complete knowledge of the whole distribution chain,” Glaspy said.

One person picks up the methamphetamine in Culiacán, Sinaloa, and takes it to Juárez. Someone else smuggles it through the port of entry into El Paso to a stash house in Albuquerque. It then gets moved by another courier to a stash house in Denver or a city in the Midwest. Then a different person will pick it up and take it to a distributor.

“And that is a lot of what we’re seeing in the United States is that the Mexicans are looking to, well, they’re controlling more of the market,” Glaspy said.

Internal struggles

As with other illegal drugs, the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels are major players in the meth racket.

But competition for control of methamphetamine production in Mexico has always been heated and a new power player – the New Generation Jalisco Cartel – has emerged recently.

The first Mexican trafficking organization to start producing the drug on an industrial scale was based in the Mexican state of Colima and was called the Colima Cartel.

Founded by Jesus Amezcua Contreras in 1988, the Colima Cartel replaced outlaw motorcycle gangs in the United States in producing methamphetamine, then partnered with the biker gangs for distribution.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Colima Cartel controlled the importation of chemicals from Europe – later China and India – used to make methamphetamine. The Colima Cartel then sold its “surplus” to the Sinaloa Cartel.

But the rise of the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, in the bordering state of Jalisco, has led to fierce fighting in the state of Colima.

The New Generation Jalisco Cartel is the newest of the six major cartels operating in Mexico.

Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, who now heads the New Generation syndicate, was convicted in federal court in San Francisco in 1994 and sentenced to three years in prison for conspiracy to distribute heroin. He was deported to Mexico after his release from prison and worked as a police officer in the state of Jalisco, where the Milenio Cartel was active producing methamphetamine.

The Milenio Cartel and the Colima Cartel were then partners in the Sinaloa Cartel. But in 2010, one of the leaders of the Milenio Cartel died and another was arrested by Mexican federal law enforcement. That led to a fight over control of narcotics trafficking in the states of Jalisco and Michoacan.

“El Mencho” came out on top, heading what is now called the New Generation Jalisco Cartel.

He set about expanding the cartel’s operations and took on rivals like Los Zetas and the Knights Templar.

That expansion was noted for its violence, willingness to kill local and state government officials and taking on federal police in ambushes and gunfights, including shooting down helicopters.

In 2016, the Sinaloa Cartel began sending men and arms to aid the Colima Cartel in its fight with the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, which smuggles drugs into the United States through Tijuana, Juárez and Nuevo Laredo.

It is considered a major player in methamphetamine trafficking but also is involved in heroin, cocaine and marijuana smuggling.

The cartels import chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine from India, China and the Philippines. The chemicals are delivered to Mexico’s western ports including Manzanillo in the state of Colima.

The Colima Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel and the remnants of the Beltran Leyva organization also manufacture and traffic methamphetamine, using ports like Guaymas to bring in the chemicals from overseas. The Juárez Cartel gets it supplies from other cartels, primarily New Generation Jalisco.


Unlike most other illegal drugs, methamphetamine is a synthetic, manufactured in a laboratory.

It does not rely on a plant as its main source of chemicals like heroin and cocaine, and production isn’t affected by drought or floods.

And there are a lot of ways to make meth.

One way involves the use of the common cold remedy pseudoephedrine or ephedrine as a precursor chemical. Making methamphetamine using pseudoephedrine is fairly simple, and the U.S. government in the 1990s passed tough laws and regulations governing its production and distribution.

As a result, production began to head south in the 1990s to Mexico, where pseudoephedrine was easy to get. Around 2005, Mexico imported 80 metric tons of ephedrine from China when the country’s basic need was 4 metric tons.

Mexico, at the urging of the U.S., began restricting imports of pseudoephedrine, and China began restricting exports.

That caused the cartels to move to more complex manufacturing techniques that revolve around the chemical P-2-P, prompting the United States and United Nations to restrict production, exportation and importation of P-2-P around the world.

Unfortunately, there are lots of ways to make P-2-P, and most of those involve very common industrial chemicals and solvents – a lot of them considered poisonous.

It is difficult to control international trade in these chemicals, because they are used to make everything from aspirin to pressure-treated wood.

In 2010, the Mexican government seized 110 methamphetamine laboratories, and most were using some form of the P-2-P method of making methamphetamine.

Since 2010, most of the methamphetamine tested by DEA laboratories has been made using the P-2-P method.

Mike Gallagher provides additional background and insights about the New Generation Jalisco Cartel in a video interview.

 NEXT IN 6 PART SERIES;  Despite cartel ban on local sales, Juárez meth use surges


  1. Artesia, nm is a big city for meth

    1. Cuz that is one of the wealthiest cities

  2. For future reference meth exists in cd Juarez among the U.S. because it is perhaps the cheapest of all fucking drugs drug users can buy and get a thrill. No sophistication whatsoever unlike the coke that users used to claim was the caviar of the drug war.

    1. Err..........ya...that amost makes sense..Gracias for that profound bit of nonsense..

    2. 3:10. I suppose it's nonsense that people like cheap shit? Coke used to be the drug of choice for those that could afford it also. Any idiot can buy meth period. It is more nonsense that it gives a high greater than other harder drugs I, assume. Its just the hipster popular drug now.

  3. Way off topic but word is bouncing around that Dr. Jose Manuel Mireles has passed away. Can anyone on BB confirm that?

    1. @11:19 Can you give me a source or link, or tell mo more about "word is bouncing around".
      Your help will be appreciated.

  4. Beginning to feel disgruntled and pointless to continue to read the scale and epidemic continually infesting our communities. Heartbreaking and no end in sight of eradication. Not pointing the finger on one country for the issues which confronts many , but family values and morals which begins from home. This problem rooted from lack of upbringing. Today's responsibilities should not rely on policing and educators to implement upbringing but family. Everything starts from the home .
    Strong and strict enforcement is necessary to protect citizens from these criminals from destroying communities. Swift and severe consequences should be implemented to those who engage and manufacture such activities.
    Exemplifying a No Tolerance policy and deterrent for others to follow.
    Nevertheless my wife States it best : u can't defeat stupid babe , u will never win.

  5. A pound of Meth in LA is $3000. Idk where $150000 for 2 1/2 came from.

    1. You answered your own question, different cities different price.

    2. They said worth 150K min, calculated by the potential 'dose' count.

    3. 1 partmeth + 99 parts baking soda...
      The US government needs to set up some protection for the meth consummer, how about a secretary in charge of drug quality?

    4. Police and the media always do that shit. They estimate the price based on someone selling all 2 1/2 pounds for full price. So they just say 'well a point is ten bucks so 2.5lbs is worth minimum 150k'

      Police do it to make their bust seem like a huge hit and the media do it for headlines and articles.

  6. Thanks dd, always appreciate the work you do. Excited too read the next part.

  7. All drugs suck cause em make u believe u r better happier funnier than u really r n makes u stop trying to really be good happy and funny

  8. Meth is some nasty shit and everybody thinks its great cause it makes ladies horny, but it turns them into whores. With meth we are turning ourselves into a nation of mothers daughters and sisters of whores and we dont even care cause on our next high even that feels fine.

    1. Great point on the sex angle .... You put it crudely, but I can't argue against the point you make.

  9. This is what drew me to BB in the first place. I have smoked weed my whole life. I dont any longer. I met a chick on the streets and tried to save her. Usual story lost the kids, etc...
    Well after 2 years of drama I dropped her when she said she was delivering small packages for her "mom". Her mom wasn't selling tamales. The only way I got out of that one was I keep my shit real clean. I don't ever mess with meth, never have. Well she threatened my dumb ass, but I had nothing to fear cause I never, ever tried meth. Her nxt guy sure did, they're still together, and the streets of this little city are awash with drama and meth/crack. Thank you BB reporters for your more honest portrait of the drug world. It is no joke, and its easy for unwitting fools to get caught up. Oh yeah, my dad was a cop and he told me to stay away from dope. Thank you Dad!

    1. Good account. I'm glad you listened to your dad. It is encouraging to see that "good" parenting works on "some" kids.

  10. BB, down here in MX for the last few days I had trouble opening the website. Then I used a VPN, masking my IP as being in the US, and it opened right up. What's the deal??

  11. I can't find anything on Dr mirles . I looked, nothing but old shizzle.

  12. Here is something cool that I can tell you about Fort Bliss,Tx. And some of the ranges that extend well into New Mexico: The conexes are buried into the ground so as 2 resemble sand mounds. Satellite imagery could never show you this. Nor could Google or any other search engine you care 2 use. You'd have 2 be literally right in front of them before you realize what you're looking at. Everything matches the terrain. But hey remind yourselves that I'm a fake soldier. The 1 that will always tell you that ILLEGAL DRUGS WILL ALWAYS BE WRONG 4 YOU. - Sol Prendido

  13. If a pound of meth sells for an average of $8,000, how is 2½ pounds worth over $150,000? Even if you broke that 2½ down and sold it point for point ($100/gram) it would only bring in $112,000. The Albuquerque Journal's editor must have taken the day off when this article was proofed.

  14. Seriously why post this lomg ass stories that are not news stories that dont have anything to do with whats actually happening in mexico. All the stuff happening in sinaloa in baja and in tamaulipas and you guys posting bullshit stories. There have been arrests murders. C'mon guys

    1. @3:52 In answer to your question "why", some people are interested in how Mexico got to what's happening in Mexico today. Sometimes it helps to know a little history to fully understand what is happening today.

    2. You, my friend, seem mentally challenged. I read great relevance to Mexico in the story. Years ago, I predicted that Mexicans would one day become major consumers of the poisons sold to the stupid gringos up north.

      Mexico was shitting in its own nest and now has a huge problem way beyond alcohol, mota, and glue for the masses.

      Sad, another nail in Mexico's coffin?

      DD: Great posting ...IMO, it is extremely relevant to BB.

      keep up the good work.

    3. 1:21 History is the whole of old stories, and we need more old stories and old wives tales to know why shit is the way it is, and we ain't seeing enough of it.
      --pendejo comments belong in the middle of the Rio Grande, below the waters at the deepest point, tied with a concrete piece to the neck of the commenter.
      Thanks to dd for his works, and all, and to the other reporters, but tops to La Chiva Loca and El Buggs Bunny and the others that were here when it was lonely and there were no comments because nobody read the Borderland Beat.
      Now we have even some of the worst pendejos reading us, that is a blessing, thanks to the skunks too. 😇 the donal'

  15. Michoacanos cook the purest meth. Mencho gave chapo the Asian conection but now that chapo is long gone Is keeping it. That's why every body wants to fu#k with Mencho, including cds..

    1. 4:04 la Chapa Guzman was above La Nacha Coronel, or at the very least almost equal partnership, then la mencha arrived, chased by las mariposas michuacanas, and he is now the boss of his outfit. After "the mexican government took down la nacha and los cuinis", classic by the book takeover.

  16. Don't alarm these donald trump supporters. All you will hear is "build that wall" lol like that's going to do anything lol the next president will see all the defects in the economy and will tear it down like the Berlin wall... Mexicans in the u.s are like women. Can't live with them but DEFENETLY can't live without them.. lmao. real spit

  17. Damaso has spoken he did not flip on zambada or the menores (Los chapitos). There was never any meeting and mayo was never there to begin with. Los chapitos along with their sicarios rolled to damasos territory and once they tried to get stopped by damaso people to see who it was bc they didn't recognize the vehicles that's when chspitos began shooting back and bc of that damaso sicarios repelled the attack. He's saying Ivan, alfredo n guano are power sick they think they are above mayo. The chapitos are stealing gas, extorting ppl, asking for piso. There's code in the cartel and you have to obey it. Chapito started the whole mess killing damasos ppl so the real traitors r Los chapitos not Los damaso. It is said that who's ever are with the chapitos is not bc they like them it's more bc of fear. The new cartel is cartel Del Pacifico which includes Los gallos, Los 12s, Los 28, gente de zalasar, la rana, Los Aquiles led by Los damasos.

  18. Meth was rampant in the 1980's . I don't know who let the genie out of the bottle then but it curbed Columbian cocaine use significantly . There were cooks everywhere . You could go to the scientific chemical outlets and buy the chemicals . As long as you didn't have every ingredient in possession at the same time . Burrito Brothers in fort worth . They even gave out t shirts . Cant remember if it was Aldridge scientific supply or a scientific supply on Aldridge in San Antonio . Often time you were buying it straight from the feds and being tracked . Wouldn't illegal so they weren't breaking the law selling it . Lots and lots of labs were busted . Then they outlawed possession of some of the main ingredients and the 72 hour cook almost disappeared . Then they let another genie out . Wouldn't anything new . people knew how but , when uncle festers cookbook came out it started all over again . I have always suspected the government was more involved than most would like to believe .

    1. Hey everyone...Remember the popular TV series that started in 2008, called "BREAKING BAD"? It was about aNew Mexico high school chemistry teacher with cancer who got into making high quality meth. There were some episodes that had Mexican connection issues. Just saying.

      Thanks DD... good articles that chronicle where we have been with respect to the meth epidemic in Mexico and USA.

  19. In the beginning of the article, it says authorities seized a little over a kilo of meth worth 150,000$ the hell did they come up with that number??? Is that 150k/key australian prices??? Same article says a totally different number for a gram

  20. Thats why all of new mexico people seem like people from The Hills Have Eyes movie. They are all tweekers anywhere in New Mexico you go you see nothing but meth users. Its so sad


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