Deja Vu All Over Again
It happens every few months, like having to use the plunger on
a sluggish toilet. The DEA holds a press conference and claims to have broken up
a major drug ring, and then the press prints every word as though the press were
Moses and the DEA were a burning bush.
Not only are the press reports unhindered by fact-checking,
they are absolutely unencumbered by logic. There is also clearly no reason for
the press to apply reason. Why ever would the DEA--and especially Janet
Reno--ever mislead us?
So, once again, the DEA has "wiped out" (and I quote)
"one of the largest drug distribution networks in the United States."
This amounted to 94 people in the US and Mexico. Ninety-four. "One of the
largest drug distribution networks in the United States." Hmmmm. So the
$350 billion worth of drugs every year that make it from all parts of the world
to every city in the United States with a population greater than five takes
place with "networks" of fewer than 94 people? Amazing. But, of
course, Janet Reno would never mislead us, would she? So I guess drug running
must really be a mom and pop enterprise after all.
And, of course, if "one of the largest drug distribution
networks in the United States" is no more, we can expect the street price
of drugs to skyrocket, can't we? I mean, that is what happens when supply is
reduced "significantly" and yet demand remains the same, isn't it?
Funny, though, how street prices have never gone up so much as a penny and
wholesale prices so much as a peso after these DEA announcements. In fact, the
more of these DEA announcements we hear, the more the potency of street drugs
goes up and the price goes down. Whatever could be going on here? Surely the DEA
is not pulling our collective chain. Criminals just aren't good businesspeople,
That the DEA wants to keep itself in business is
understandable. Who wants a real job where one has to work, after all? As
a journalist, however, what I don't understand is why the press treats DEA press
releases with the same respect it treats advertising copy--not a word gets
changed or challenged, ever.
Ah, well. I do hope you enjoy this latest installment of the
fictional adventures of the DEA Chronicles. And tune in again in a couple
months, when once again the DEA will take several years to arrest less than 100
people who were running "one of the largest drug distribution networks in
the United States."
Los Angeles Times
Arrests 'Wipe Out' Huge Drug Ring, DEA Reports
part of Mexican Juarez cartel, shipped cocaine, marijuana for U.S. distribution,
By ESTHER SCHRADER, Times Staff Writer
September 23, 1999
WASHINGTON--Dealing a substantial blow to one of the largest drug
distribution networks in the United States, authorities Wednesday said that they
have arrested 94 people who allegedly were shipping and selling cocaine and
marijuana throughout the Northeast, the Midwest and Southern California.
The arrests, which included three of the ring's
top leaders, were made in the United States, the Dominican Republic and Mexico
beginning in March 1998, authorities said. During the operation, which spanned
two years, U.S. agents seized 12 tons of cocaine, 4,800 pounds of marijuana, $19
million in U.S. currency and $7 million in assets belonging to leaders of the
The syndicate is a key U.S. distribution network
of Mexico's Juarez cartel, until two years ago controlled by Amado Carrillo
Fuentes, authorities said. Carrillo, once the most powerful drug trafficker in
Mexico, died in July 1997 after plastic surgery, apparently intended to disguise
his features from authorities.
"By targeting the cartel's importation,
transportation and distribution network, we have substantially hindered [its]
ability to move cocaine and other drugs into and around this country,"
Atty. Gen. Janet Reno told reporters Wednesday.
Run by Mexican nationals, the syndicate used
Dominican and Colombian gangs to move the cocaine throughout the United States,
authorities said. The cocaine was grown and processed in Colombia and shipped by
speedboats and container ships to the Mexican resort city of Cancun, where drug
lord Alcides Ramon Magana, one of the leaders of the Juarez cartel, controlled
its shipments to the United States, authorities said.
Drug Enforcement Administration officials said
that the syndicate transported the cocaine across the U.S.-Mexico border, then
transferred it to tractor-trailers in McAllen, Texas, and shipped it to
distribution centers across the country. The cocaine was wrapped in plastic
bags, often emblazoned with a logo of the "Roadrunner" cartoon
character, and covered with shipments of watermelon and cilantro to conceal it
The magnitude of the drug seizures and the number
of arrests--which took place in San Diego, New York, Miami, Philadelphia and
Chicago, among other cities--strike a major blow to the increasingly pervasive
influence of Mexican drug syndicates in the United States, officials said.
Mexican-run drug organizations account for about
30% of the cocaine distributed in this country and as much as three-quarters of
the cocaine that reaches the United States comes through Mexico, authorities
"We have been able to wipe out an entire
drug-trafficking ring," said Donnie Marshall, acting administrator of the
DEA. "We effectively dismantled it from top to bottom, from Mexico to the
streets of the United States."
Those arrested, including Mexican and Dominican
nationals, face charges ranging from drug distribution and conspiracy to money
laundering. More than 20 additional arrests of low-level distributors connected
with the ring are expected in the next few days, Reno said.
The ring was allegedly headed by Arturo Arredondo,
whose $3-million estate on the outskirts of McAllen was seized when he was
arrested in mid-August and later charged with possession of cocaine with intent
According to authorities, Arredondo used
refrigerated trucks from his produce business to transport the cocaine
shipments. He allegedly controlled an intricate network of traffickers who
distributed and sold drugs down to the wholesale level. The same trucks that
transported the cocaine northward were used to ship hundreds of millions of
dollars in cash proceeds back to Mexico, officials said.
Arredondo's luxuriously appointed house featured a
life-sized movie poster in the front hallway depicting actor Al Pacino
brandishing a weapon as the violent drug dealer in the movie "Scarface,"
Another alleged ringleader who was taken into
custody was Jorge Ontiveros-Rodriguez, a Cuban native and U.S. citizen who
headed the organization's Southern California drug distribution network based in
San Diego, authorities said. He was arrested two weeks ago as he left his San
Diego home and faces weapons-related charges.
The head of the ring's Chicago branch, Jesse
Quintanilla, was arrested in May 1998 while leaving his house with a duffel bag
containing several hundred thousand dollars in cash, authorities said. In all,
officials said that they confiscated $6.2 million in cash from Quintanilla.
According to records Quintanilla kept, he distributed 14 tons of cocaine in the
Chicago area and grossed $22 million in a single five-month period last year,
Since August, Dominican officials have arrested
two other alleged high-ranking operators of the organization, identified as
Julio Ramos and Jose Luis Diaz, who oversaw drug warehouses in New Jersey.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mexican authorities
arrested an alleged top lieutenant of the drug ring, Jaime-Aguilar Gastelum, in
The investigations and raids were carried out by
joint task forces of federal, state and local law enforcement officers.