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Heroin Moves Through Dallas: Drug Cartel Distribution Routes

This week, there was a lot of news coverage over a big FBI sting where 46 federal indictments were issued across the country, charging people with smuggling drugs like heroin and cocaine on planes. Some got charged with other things, too, like money laundering — but the big deal here in Dallas was that most of the people who were arrested were from here.

That’s right: people who lived here in the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex, who worked at the airlines here, were skipping around TSA security (Transportation Security Administration) with their official airline I.D. tags to get heroin and other drugs onboard and moved to markets across the country.

Law enforcement calls this illegal drug trafficking. Those in the business call it a distribution route where the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was used to move product from Texas to places like Chicago, Newark, Phoenix, Wichita, San Francisco, and Vegas.

Is this bust going to thwart the heroin business here in North Texas? Ask any criminal defense lawyer, and I think you’ll get the same answer: Nope.

These arrests are just a part of doing business. They are calculated into the overall expense of operating a business where the product you are selling is illegal under the laws that govern the marketplace.




Drug Cartel Heroin Business in Dallas and North Texas: Manufacturers

The Sinaloa Cartel is considered the “…single largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization in the Western hemisphere.” It is an international operation, and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Joaquin Guzman Loera (”El Chapo”) was listed as number 67 on Forbes’ Most Powerful People list in 2013, and appeared as Forbes’ Billionaires List that year as well.

According to Forbes, Guzman runs a drug cartel that controls approximately 25% of all the illegal drugs coming into the United States from Mexico (thats including products other than heroin) with yearly gross revenues over $3,000,000,000.00 (that’s 3 Billion Dollars a year, not taxed).

There are other drug cartels that operate in Texas, but Sinaloa has the biggest heroin market share by far.

Drug Cartel Heroin Business in Dallas and North Texas: Distribution

As we’ve discussed before, heroin is a product moving through the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex just like lots of other products. Distribution for a business works in much the same way, no matter the product involved. The drug cartels are very savvy and smart in distribution.

Heroin is a Mexican agricultural commodity, produced from poppy fields by poor farmers happy for the income. The poppies are converted in heroin in factories there. (Another source for heroin in Texas is Columbia, but less so than Mexico.) The heroin is packaged for shipment. It’s a product ready to go.

The drug cartels have developed a system to move their product from those factories to their customers via distribution channels. These channels form a network. Working in that network are markets; sellers and resellers; and movers.

1. Markets

Markets are where the heroin can be purchased. You want to buy stocks? You look at the stock market. You want to buy organic tomatoes? You look at the local farmer’s market.

The scary thing for lots of people is the emerging middle-class market in Dallas and Fort Worth and other urban areas. The middle class customer base is growing in demand, and with it, the heroin business is moving to meet that demand by creating nearby heroin markets where these customers can feel comfortable purchasing their product.

2. Sellers and Resellers

Sellers and resellers are organizations that may buy the heroin from the Mexico source and then re-sell it or they may be pure salesman and there’s no change in ownership. Drug cartels have people throughout Texas in their sales force.

The Sinaloa Cartel is considered to be very successful in part because of its use of franchises — having franchises in place throughout Dallas and North Texas means that there is a distribution of management and control which is said to have helped the Sinaloa Cartel keep its huge piece of the heroin market after its CEO, El Chapo Guzman, was incarcerated.

Here, the drug cartels use street gangs as well as their own sales personnel to sell heroin to their customer base. Here, the Sinaloa Cartel is the manufacturer of a product, heroin, with gang organizations like the Texas Mexican Mafia, the Tango Blast, the Texas Syndicate, and other Texas gangs like operate franchises in the Sinaloa Heroin sales territories.

Explains the Texas Department of Public Safety:

The Tier 1 gangs in Texas are Tango Blast and Tango cliques (estimated >8,200 members), Texas Syndicate (>4,400 members), Texas Mexican Mafia (>5,500 members), and Barrio Azteca (>2,000 members). These organizations pose the greatest gang threat to Texas due to their relationships with Mexican cartels, large membership numbers, high levels of transnational criminal activity, and organizational effectiveness.

Forging business relationships between the drug cartel and the Texas gangs is profitable to both organizations. So much so, that gangs who were once strict rivals are finding ways to join together in distribution work for the Mexican cartel. DPS cites the example of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) members operating “… a drug ring with members of Houston Tango Blast, in association with a Mexican cartel.”

3. Movers

Movers are people that do the hard work of physically transporting the stuff. They store the product, too. UPS, Federal Express? They’re two major moving companies. Those big rigs on the freeway? Ditto.

It was the movers that got arrested in the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport sting earlier this month. And moving product via an airplane is just one way that heroin is moved from Mexico into Texas and elsewhere.

Of course, there are tunnels. The Sinaloa Cartel’s expertise in engineering sophisticated underground routes was spotlighted with the big tunnel that was built for El Chapo to use in his escape.

The drug cartels also have movers operating in jet boats, cars, trucks, and smaller general aviation planes. And the Sinaloa Cartel has earned engineering respect in addition to its cartels for its submarines that move beneath the Gulf of Mexico to bring product to the Texas shores (along with other ports).

Check out the Sinaloa’s “narco submarines” here, where it’s estimated that 30% of the illegal drugs coming into the United States are being transported.

Another brilliant way to move drugs into Texas and the United States devised by El Chapo? Catapults. They catapult the product over the border fence.

Corresponding Federal Felony Crimes Mean Felony Arrests for Business Operations

The reason that heroin is becoming so widespread in Dallas and North Texas is because a sophisticated, smart, and organized business is providing the product to those who want to buy it. Because of Dallas’ location, we’re also advantageous as a distribution hub for the heroin product to be moved elsewhere.

Law enforcement looks upon these operations as criminal enterprises.  El Chapo has risen to become the new Public Enemy Number One.

Serious felony charges can be expected to be made against anyone caught operating at any level of the heroin business: from the movers who are at the lowest end of the flowchart, the little sales representatives, on up to the mid-level sales managers (like the gangs operating heroin franchises) and the regional cartel men (distribution route managers).

We expect bigger arrests and many more joint task force investigations into the heroin marketplace here in North Texas.

Why? Because in all the strength of this organizational structure, there is the weakness of being able to study the business and learn its processes and players.

Just like Verizon studies AT&T and Apple studies Microsoft, there is the ability for law enforcement to study the Sinaloa Cartel as a business. Arrests will come.

For more information, check out our web resources drug crimes page, or  scroll through Michael Lowe’s case results.

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