Recent FBI intelligence from multiple FBI HUMINT sources indicates a shift in Los Zetas recruiting methods and reliance on non-traditional associates. Past, accurate FBI reporting indicated Los Zetas previously focused its recruitment on members with prior specialized training, such as ex-military and ex-law enforcement officers, and not on US-based gangs or US persons in order to maintain a highly-disciplined and structured hierarchy. This hierarchy, which resembled a military-style command and control structure, facilitated drug trafficking operations and maintained lines of authority. However, current FBI reporting indicates that Los Zetas is recruiting and relying on non-traditional, non-military trained associates—US-based prison and street gangs and non-Mexican nationals—to perform drug trafficking and support operations in Mexico and in the United States.
The National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) assesses with high confidence that in 2009, Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) were operating in the United States in at least 1,286 cities spanning all nine Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) regions, based on law enforcement reporting. Moreover, NDIC assesses with high confidence that Mexican DTOs in at least 143 of these U.S. cities were linked to a specific Mexican Cartel or DTO based in Mexico—the Sinaloa Cartel (at least 75 cities), the Gulf Cartel/Los Zetas (at least 37 cities), the Juárez Cartel (at least 33 cities), the Beltrán-Leyva DTO (at least 30 cities), La Familia Michoacán (at least 27 cities), or the Tijuana Cartel (at least 21 cities). NDIC assesses with high confidence that Mexican DTOs will further expand their drug trafficking operations in the United States in the near term, particularly in the New England, New York/New Jersey, Mid-Atlantic, and Florida/Caribbean Regions. NDIC also believes that Mexican DTOs will maintain the present high level of availability for heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine because the conditions in Mexico and in the United States that enabled and motivated the DTOs to increase production and availability of those drugs have not significantly changed.
The intent of the Houston HIDTA Threat Assessment, produced by the Houston Intelligence Support Center (HISC), is to identify the potential impact of drug trafficking trends within the Houston HIDTA and to deliver accurate and timely strategic intelligence to assist law enforcement agencies in the development of drug enforcement strategies.
Intelligence reporting indicates that Los Zetas has expanded its criminal activities including extortion, kidnapping, and drug trafficking, into the Midwest and Southeast United States, and may be collaborating with a newly identified drug trafficking organization (DTO) to expand its role in the illicit drug trade in the Southeast. Los Zetas activities in the United States to date have largely been limited to the US/Mexico border area. The group’s expansion further into the United States could lead to increased smuggling, drug trafficking, and violent crime in the Southeast region, including East Tennessee and Georgia.
U.S. Treasury Los Zetas and Gulf Cartel Perpetrators of Mexican Drug Trafficking Violence Organizational Chart from March 2010 and July 2009.