A bulletin from the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) released to law enforcement in February 2017 describes how Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) are continuing to exploit legalized markets for the sale and distribution of marijuana. In January 2016, EPIC produced a bulletin detailing how “data provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and open source reporting” indicated that Mexican TCOs had not been adversely affected by marijuana legalization in numerous markets, noting instead “that the effort of legalization had conversely brought new opportunities for illicit profits from marijuana sales.”
(U//LES) EPIC Bulletin: Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) Continue to Profit from Marijuana Sales in Legalized Markets
In January 2016, EPIC published Intelligence Note 02303-16a, this product provided analysis of data provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and open source reporting that indicated Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) continued to operate and profit from marijuana sales in legalized U.S. marijuana markets. EPIC research further showed that legalization of marijuana in some U.S. markets had not adversely impacted TCO profitability in marijuana markets, and that the effort of legalization had conversely brought new opportunities for illicit profits from marijuana sales. As of January 2017, EPIC research indicates that TCOs continue to exploit legalized marijuana markets in the United States.
Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) pose the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them. These Mexican poly-drug organizations traffic heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana throughout the United States, using established transportation routes and distribution networks. They control drug trafficking across the Southwest Border and are moving to expand their share, particularly in the heroin and methamphetamine markets.
DEA continues to identify eight major cartels currently operating in Mexico: Sinaloa, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (New Generation Jalisco Cartel or CJNG), Beltran-Leyva Organization (BLO), Los Zetas, Gulf, Juarez/La Linea, La Familia Michoacana (LFM), and Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar or LCT); however, leadership losses for LFM and LCT over the last year have significantly degraded their operational capabilities and organizational cohesion. The attached graphic illustrates fluctuations in the areas of dominant control for Mexico’s major DTOs, most notably the significant expansion of CJNG.
In a restricted report issued in May, the DEA detailed the most recent findings from its heroin monitoring program, assessing the period from 2006 -2011. The report finds that heroin in the U.S. generally comes from two different places: South America and Mexico. If you live east of the Mississippi River, chances are that the heroin you’re buying is from South America. Heroin purchased on the West Coast is almost certainly trafficked from Mexico. Some heroin from Southwest Asia does make it to the U.S. However, the amount is minimal compared to other sources and the quality is relatively poor.
This report presents data and conclusions from the Heroin Domestic Monitor Program (HDMP) conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for calendar year (CY) 2011. The HDMP provides data on the price, purity, and geographic source of heroin sold at the retail level in 27 U.S. cities. The data contained in this report are based on actual undercover heroin purchases made by the DEA and its law enforcement partners on the streets of these cities.
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 purpose of this assessment is to explore the expansion and influence of US-based gangs abroad and their illicit operations and associations with foreign criminal organizations. For the purpose of this assessment, the term “gang” encompasses both street gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs. In addition to FBI and open source reporting, the following law enforcement agencies from the United States, Canada, Central America, the Netherlands, and United Kingdom were surveyed to obtain data for the assessment.
What information from its most recent gang threat assessment does the FBI want to keep only for the eyes of law enforcement? Thanks to the publication of the full “law enforcement sensitive” version of the assessment on the website of the California Gang Investigator’s Association, we now know the answer to that question. The full version of the document contains approximately twenty additional pages of information regarding gang threats across the U.S. including details on the incredible proliferation of Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Most of the content derived from non-public reporting sources, such as FBI field reports, concerns specific incidents that are described more generally in the public version of the document. There are also some rather startling statistics omitted from the public version. For example, the fact that 36% of law enforcement report that gangs in their jurisdiction have ties to Mexican criminal gangs and drug trafficking organizations is omitted from the public version of the report.
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.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Laredo Sector Intelligence Unit seizure of $1,757,665 of marijuana hidden in a cloned school bus from October 2009.
Emails and documents related to the ongoing investigation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “Fast and Furious”/Project Gun Runner program leaked to CBS. Includes a map of distribution routes for weapons involved in the program leading to locations throughout Mexico.
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.
Over the last few years, it has become more commonplace to see military-type weaponry such as grenades and assault rifles utilized by Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). Increasingly, many of the reported hand grenade seizures in United States are illegal, improvised grenades destined for Mexico and the DTOs. These devices have become a weapon of choice for Mexican DTOs because they are cheap, the components are relatively easy to obtain and manufacture, are easily concealable, and can kill or injure large numbers of people indiscriminately. Reports have indicated that grenade attacks originated mostly in southern Mexico around the beginning of President Felipe Calderon’s presidency in 2006, and have steadily spread northward as the conflicts between rival DTO cartels, and Mexican government’s enforcement efforts have intensified in the northern Mexican Border States.
The intent of this bulletin is to provide Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) with a general knowledge of ambush tactics used by the Tijuana Cartel against Mexican LEOs in Tijuana, Mexico. The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Officer Safety Bulletin dated October 3, 2010, outlining Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations’ (DTOs) and San Diego street gangs’ use of Tijuana Cartel tactics in San Diego County, identified a need for a more comprehensive review of cartel tactics used south of the U.S. border.
Transnational organized crime refers to those self-perpetuating associations of individuals who operate transnationally for the purpose of obtaining power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption and/or violence, or while protecting their illegal activities through a transnational organizational structure and the exploitation of transnational commerce or communication mechanisms. There is no single structure under which transnational organized criminals operate; they vary from hierarchies to clans, networks, and cells, and may evolve to other structures.
CBP BorderStat drug seizure information was used to evaluate seizure statistics in relation to the arrest or death of key DTO personnel. The drug seizure data was collected from January 2009 through January 2010. This data was analyzed to determine if the arrest or death of key personnel had a direct impact on the flow of U.S.-bound drugs. This research indicates that there is no perceptible pattern that correlates either a decrease or increase in drug seizures due to the removal of key DTO personnel.
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.
In 2009, the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) assessed that Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) were operating in the U.S. in at least 1, 286 cities spanning nine regions. Moreover, NDIC assesses with high confidence that Mexican DTO’s 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. Due to the rise in violence throughout the Southwest Region and Mexico, members of the Cartels, their associates and their families have been suspected of moving into many U.S. cities along the border. As a result, agencies are requesting information on ways to identify those involved with drug trafficking organizations. The information included in this report is not set in stone as many of these criminal organizations are dynamic and will alter their methods and trends frequently to avoid detection by law enforcement.
The San Diego Law Enforcement Center (SD-LECC) convened an analytical task force in Spring 2010 to address the question: “What does cross-border kidnapping in San Diego look like?” Intelligence Analysts from Chula Vista Police Department, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis analyzed statistical, investigative and open source intelligence from local law enforcement agencies, FBI, DHS, ICE, CBP, DEA and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs to prepare this assessment. There is strong evidence—based on intelligence gathered from traditional and alternative sources, such as banks, hospitals, citizen interviews, wiretaps and private consulting firms—that kidnappings in the San Diego area are widely underreported. Consequently, this assessment offers a strategic baseline only; there is insufficient data to support a definitive study of cross-border kidnapping tactics and techniques. This assessment is intended to support law enforcement executives and practitioners in their efforts to collect additional information and combat this problem.
The powerful confederation of Mexican DTOs known as the Sinaloa cartel controls the majority of Mexico’s marijuana and methamphetamine production and distribution, as well as cocaine trafficking from South and Central American producers into the United States across the U.S. southwest border. The Sinaloa cartel conducts business with powerful U.S. gangs that largely control local drug distribution. As one of the most powerful cartels operating in Mexico, it has expanded operations throughout western Mexico and attempted to take control of new plazas from weaker organizations.* Arrests of high-level members have not fractured the cartel or caused infighting—as was the case with several of its rivals—likely because of the cartel’s stable revenue sources, decentralized structure, family-based culture, and geographic breadth, which all contribute to its preeminence.
This Homeland Security Assessment examines threats to U.S. border security emanating from the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders Arizona and a small section of New Mexico. It discusses drug and alien smuggling, border violence, and Mexican federal, state, and local government capabilities to confront organized crime. This is the fifth of six planned assessments on current threats to homeland security arising in Mexican states along the U.S. border. It is intended primarily for working-level analysts and operators engaging in homeland security-related activities and concerned with pertinent developments in Sonora and nearby U.S. territory.
In Mexico, the violence generated by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in recent years has been, according to some, unprecedented. In 2006, Mexico’s newly elected President Felipe Calderón launched an aggressive campaign—an initiative that has defined his administration— against the DTOs that has been met with a violent response from the DTOs. Government enforcement efforts have had successes in removing some of the key leaders in all of the seven major DTOs. However, these efforts have led to violent succession struggles within the DTOs themselves. In July 2010, the Mexican government announced that more than 28,000 people had been killed in drug trafficking-related violence since December 2006, when President Calderón came to office.
Postings of popular songs about drug traffickers are the most prevalent cartel-related content found in YouTube, the third most-visited social networking website in Mexico. Direct threats among cartels are less prevalent but hold a significant following, while videos honoring police killed in action register a low viewing record. Some sectors of Mexican society have also turned to the video-sharing site to express their anger at the violence brought by the ongoing drug war.
(U//FOUO) Texas-Mexico Border Security Carnage Update, July 2010.