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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Cleveland, Ohio: Cartels Seek To Gain Control Of Northeast Ohio Drug Trade Through Price, Availability

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

This map, from a report by the U.S. Justice Department, shows the way Mexican cartels and their intermediaries often deliver drugs into the United States.

For years, Mexico’s two most powerful cartels have worked to control the illicit drug trade in Northeast Ohio through price and availability.

They use low-level couriers to haul large amounts of cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine here. They also utilize financial conduits to launder the proceeds and local distributors to dole out their products, records and interviews show.

In many ways, they have cornered the market on the supply chain of the region’s narcotics underbelly. What had once been diversified has seemingly become more focused. And the tragedy of it plays out daily: Overdose deaths across the region have climbed, a move prompted by cheaper, more powerful drugs. Drug-related violence has also increased. Addictions have climbed as well, as have social-welfare costs.

The Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels have brought a level of sophistication to the business streams and routes that have been in place since Prohibition, when bootleggers smuggled alcohol north, authorities say.

“Those cartels are trying to take over every area in the United States, every city, every county, every village,” said Mike Vigil, a retired chief of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and who worked as an undercover agent and a supervisor in Mexico.

The cartels’ fight to gain control has offered new fodder for Ohio Republican candidates running for U.S. Senate, who have scrambled to echo the platform of former President Trump and claim the need for a completed wall at the Mexican border. That, they say, will keep out the drugs.

To some, the candidates have a valid concern: In the past three years, the DEA and FBI have seized large shipments of drugs in Northeast Ohio that were linked to Mexico’s most powerful cartels.

But some drug experts question whether a border wall will stem the flow into the United States. The reason, they say, is that the vast majority of large shipments flow not near the wall, but through legal ports of entry, many of which are so overwhelmed with traffic that authorities struggle to keep up.

“The cartels are smart enough to realize that you can’t check every vehicle,” Vigil said. “They don’t go to the ports of entry that [have little traffic]. They go to the busiest.”

Bryce Pardo, the associate director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corp., said few traffickers attempt to enter by other means.

“Yes, you might see a person with a large package in the middle of the desert, but the majority of [drugs] enter the United States through ports of entry,” Pardo said.

Authorities said the Sinaloa cartel, one of the oldest and most violent networks in the world, has long held a stronghold in the Midwest, including Ohio and Michigan. It has used Chicago as a key distribution hub, according to law enforcement officers.

The Jalisco cartel, Sinaloa’s chief rival, has been linked to the March arrests of three men who are accused of bringing more than 1,100 pounds of cocaine to Cleveland and storing it in a warehouse on Carnegie Avenue. The ring shipped more than $13 million in proceeds back to Mexico, according to prosecutors and court records.

In July 2020, the DEA arrested a money launderer and accused her of collecting nearly $200,000 in drug proceeds from Cleveland and shipping it to a Mexican bank. Federal records show an informant believed that the conduit had ties to the Jalisco cartel.

The bases of power

The forces that poison Cleveland and the region thrive thousands of miles away. Their bases of power, once located on the west coast of Mexico, have spread across the country’s 31 states and Mexico City.

Federal DEA reports show the Sinaloa is the most established cartel in Mexico, exporting cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, heroin and marijuana into the United States through its control of northwestern regions of Mexico.

The Congressional Research Service, which provides analysis to lawmakers, said the cartel is frequently regarded as “the most powerful drug trafficking syndicate in the Western Hemisphere.”

Its position rose with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who led the cartel’s growth. A federal jury convicted him in New York of running a criminal enterprise, and he was sentenced to life in prison in 2019.

Its chief competitor, the Jalisco New Generation, has emerged as one of the fastest growing cartels in Mexico, according to DEA reports, as it has manufactured and distributed methamphetamine and fentanyl and exported cocaine and heroin. Formerly known as Los Mata Zetas, it has used violent attacks on police and its rivals in Mexico to expand.

“These [cartels] maintain drug distribution cells in cities across the United States that either report directly to leaders in Mexico or report indirectly through intermediaries,” says a 2020 DEA report on threat assessments.

“The cartels dominate the drug trade influencing the United States market, with most cartels having a polydrug market approach that allows for maximum flexibility and resiliency of their operations.”

The routes to Cleveland

For years, cartels have used the same routes from Mexico into Cleveland for most drugs they manufacture and export. There are, however, minor exceptions.

Take cocaine.

In most cases, it is exported from Colombia or a nearby neighbor via ships or planes to Mexico in an unfinished form, according to interviews and DEA reports. In many cases, the drugs are delivered to Mexico’s west coast, where the cartels offload it, package it and prepare it for shipment to the United States.

The drug organizations put it in semitrailers bound for a port of entry. If the semitrailers hauling the drugs go through the Southwest border in California or Arizona, they often will take highways to Interstate 80 into Chicago, where the contents are repackaged and prepared for Midwest cities.

From there, trucks use the main arteries into Ohio, including the state’s turnpike, which is a primary route for traffickers, according to a Justice Department report.

Drugs passing through ports of entry in Texas follow similar routes, though couriers have been known to drive loads directly to Northeast Ohio, according to interviews and reports.

Fentanyl and methamphetamine follow similar routes, with the exception that the cartels often obtain the precursor chemicals to produce the drugs from other countries. Once packaged in Mexico, the drugs are shipped to the ports of entry.

Most containers of drugs are stashed in hidden compartments of vehicles or buried amid furniture and legal containers in semitrailers. The contents often are wrapped tightly in various forms of packaging to prevent the odor from attracting attention from law enforcement, in the event the trucks are stopped.

Cartels have used false fuel tanks to hide methamphetamine and false bottoms in various containers to hide other drugs. Many loads are hauled by drivers who have ties to the cartels and know about the contents, according to interviews and court records.

The push has caused many to question the Mexican government’s priorities and the inability to stem the flow of the drugs.

“The volume of dangerous drugs entering the United States from Mexico and violent crime within Mexico fueled by [cartels] remain alarmingly and unacceptably high,” said a U.S. State Department report released last year.

The report says Mexico needs to strengthen its investigations and prosecutions of “the most significant criminal actors” and fight widespread corruption.

But authorities suggest that could take years, if not decades. To many, the fight against the cartels is a losing one.



  1. I read this exact same story on a different site earlier today. Are you recycling news stories?

    1. BB for the most part gathers articles from different sources. Rarely do they write their own stories. Only 3 contributors that actually go above and beyond are HEARST, Iztli and SocalJ. MX was good as well.

    2. CuernaVaca Mijo
      Why you think there is s Credit Line given at the end of each article. As far as 11:02 goes, you forgot to mention the translations that are done, Sol depicting what the Manta says. Putting in more hours, while Hearst vacationed in Cancun.

    3. Sol held it down after Chivas left.
      Not Rubio NYC red panties

  2. 10:07 I read this shit HERE, but thanks for your illustrious comment pinchi cochaburras...
    Any broke ass addict without money can still find a pusher, law enforcement can't do crap until they make sure where the big cash stash at.

  3. Blacks runs this state..Mexicans don't mess with them

    1. It's called supply and demand blacks buy and sell coke to sell to their own people as crack or heroin and the whites use meth: what else is new Don't blame the Mexicans supply and demand

  4. Maybe it can be partially controlled but never fully stopped.

  5. The US government could supply drugs to everybody that wants them, in controlled environments, protect them from overdosing and reduce their expense in drug trafficking fights by about 90% while terminating the black market trafficking of opioids.


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