drug-cartel-mapA California to Nebraska methamphetamine trafficking ring was dismantled by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Nebraska-based law enforcement over an 18-month period. The drug ring was tied to Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa drug cartel who had been sending large amounts of meth from California to the Midwest.

An investigation that began in 2013 of a mid-level drug dealer has led to the arrest of 20 people along with $35,000 and 12 pounds of methamphetamine. Prescription drugs and marijuana were also confiscated by authorities. Though larger busts have been made, the DEA are calling this recent bust a major blow to the drug trafficking organization. Members of the cartel are also linked to burglaries and murders.

“We totally dismantled the organization from the higher-ups in California to the criminal users in Omaha,” says Mike Sanders, the assistant special agent in charge at the DEA’s Omaha office. Not only did it take out the major players but also the low level criminals committing crimes in the community.”

Tactics including undercover officers, wire intercepts and controlled buys, were used to build a case against traffickers to track the meth trail back to the Sinaloa cartel. In late 2014, investigators seized 5 pounds of meth being transported from California to Omaha. The DEA noted that these cartels and their proxy groups in the U.S. is nothing new. The recent Omaha bust highlighted the continued incursions by Mexican cartels and their movement away from the border states into urban areas in the Midwest.

In 2011, a Justice Department report found Mexican-based cartels were operating in roughly 1,000 U.S. cities between 2009 and 2010. The report also noted a move from marijuana to other drugs including cocaine, meth, as well as human trafficking operations. “Just about every meth seizure we have here – in Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa – in the past three years has had ties to the Mexican cartels,” Sanders said.

Cartels such as Sinaloa have become major dealers in U.S. cities due to their ability to produce a cheaper and more pure form of meth in large quantities. They have mad such accomplishments by hiring professional chemists to work in law enforcement officers are describing as super labs. “A few years ago with meth made here in the U.S. it would be brown and just look dirty,” Sanders said. “The cartels, however, make it so pure and so good that the meth is clear. It looks like ice.”

The cartels have moved away from the border states due to an up-scaled law enforcement effort. “The main reason for moving to these areas is that the police in cities and along the border have become much more sophisticated in fighting the cartels,” said George W. Grayson, an expert on Mexico’s drug war and a politics professor at the College of William and Mary. “When you don’t deal with that type of crime day in and day out you’re not going to have the expertise in combating the cartels.”

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