DEA Congressional Testimony
March 19, 1998

DEA Congressional Testimony

Statement by:
Thomas A. Constantine
Drug Enforcement Administration
United States Department of Justice

Before the:
House Government Reform and Oversight Committee

Fiscal Budget 1999

March 19, 1998

Note: This document may not reflect changes made in actual delivery.



Mexico's Role in the Cocaine Trade

Carrillo-Fuentes Organization

Caro-Quintero Organization

Amezcua-Contreras Brothers Organization

Guzman-Loera Organization

Arellano-Felix Brothers Organization

Louisville, Kentucky (July 1997- September 1997)

National City, California (October 1996 - September 1997)

Terrell, Texas (May 1997-November 1997)


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee today to discuss the Drug Enforcement Administration's Fiscal Year 1999 budget request. Before I provide you with details of this request, I first want to take the opportunity to express deep appreciation on behalf of the men and women of the Drug Enforcement Administration for the outstanding support you have provided to us over the past several years. The resources you have appropriated for DEA help us make American communities safer, and allow us to live up to our commitments to citizens across the nation who look to the government to rid their neighborhoods of drug trafficking and drug-related violence. DEA is working both domestically and internationally to target and arrest the most significant drug traffickers operating today, and we have had a number of successes within the past year, which I will discuss in some detail later in my statement.

The drug situation in our nation continues to be an extremely serious problem, one which affects not only our major cities, but also the suburban and rural areas of our country. Despite dramatic reductions in violent crime rates in recent years, the problems of drug trafficking and abuse continue to diminish the quality of life for many of our citizens. The primary role for DEA as a law enforcement agency is to identify, apprehend, and bring to justice those individuals and organizations who are responsible for drug trafficking. The most important targets are the major organized crime syndicates based in Colombia and Mexico.

No American citizen, whether living in Topeka, Kansas or in our nation's capital, is beyond the reach of these organized crime syndicates. Drug lords in Colombia and Mexico have created an infrastructure that enables them to manage drug-trafficking on an international scale. With a network of surrogates in the United States, international drug trafficking organizations have infiltrated far too many communities around the world. They have become an occupying force in the war on drugs: sparking violent turf wars between rival drug lords, corrupting nascent political institutions in Latin and South America, and extending drug abuse and drug-related crime to communities across the United States.

Although based abroad, organized crime syndicates have a direct and deleterious impact on Americans across the country. Drug trafficking unleashes a tidal wave of drug-related crime which overwhelms our judicial system and floods our prisons. Tens of thousands of homicides, assaults, and burglaries are committed each year by criminals as a direct result of drug abuse or drug gangs. The link between crime and drugs is clear: studies show that drug users are more frequently involved in crime and are more likely to have criminal records than non-users. Data collected in 1995 from male arrestees in 23 cities shows that the percentage testing positive for any drug ranged from 51% to 83%. Despite a five year decline in national violent crime rates, law enforcement officials made a record 1.5 million arrests for drug violations in 1996. As a consequence, organized crime syndicates can augment their organizations with an unprecedented pool of criminals in the United States. They serve as a ready supply for the drug syndicates' surrogate army in the U.S. The size of this surrogate army and the members' violent commitment to maintaining the profitability of their boss' drug trafficking organization pose a serious threat to law enforcement agencies across the country.

The costs of drug-related crime come not just from expenditures associated with defending our citizens from drug trafficking and related violence, but also with treating the victims of organized crime. Drug trafficking and abuse have generated an alarming increase in the number of drug-related emergency room episodes in recent years.




All drugs















Drug-related crime and abuse exact a heavy toll on our society. Lost work productivity, juvenile delinquency, violent crime, automobile accidents, and a myriad of other social ills linked to illegal drug abuse cost our society an estimated $67 billion dollars last year, approximately $1,000 for each family of four in the United States.

The drug trafficking operations of organized crime syndicates not only generate violent crime in our communities and burden the taxpayer with the costs, but they also carry drug abuse to the very core of American society, the family. The drugs consumed by a father of three in Manchester, New Hampshire can be traced from his local dealer, to a middleman from the Dominican Republic operating in New York City, to a drug lord in Colombia. While the father pays cash for the drugs, his wife and children pay the price for his drug addiction.

The statistics are overwhelming:

  • One-quarter to one-half of all incidents of domestic violence are drug-related.
  • A survey of state child welfare agencies found substance abuse to be one of the key problems exhibited by 81% of the families reported for child maltreatment.
  • In 1996, 3.2% of pregnant women- nearly 80,000 mothers- were current drug users.

The cost to these children and to society as a whole does not stop at birth. Saving these children, and their peers who succumb to drug abuse later in their young lives, will cost society nearly a million dollars per child.

It is impossible to draw a line of demarcation between domestic drug abuse problems and international drug trafficking. The 20 dollars an American addict spends each day for crack cocaine is ultimately funneled, by an organized crime syndicate, back to a drug lord, in Colombia or Mexico. Likewise, it is impossible to distinguish between domestic and international drug trafficking. Both are dominated by the same organized crime syndicates which exist as a seamless continuum. Unlike governments and law enforcement, they do not recognize or respect international borders. Access to the most sophisticated technologies, a willingness to resort to violence, and a well-organized infrastructure enable them to transcend such barriers. Drug lords in Colombia and Mexico have established enterprises made up of networks of compartmentalized cells capable of extending drug trafficking operations into cities large and small within the United States.

The powerful drug syndicate leaders from Colombia and Mexico are merely modern day versions of the mobsters that law enforcement in the United States has fought during this entire century, except that modern organized crime syndicates are exponentially more wealthy, powerful, and violent than their predecessors. Organized crime has always been founded on these same key principles, whether it was Al Capone in the 1920's, the La Cosa Nostra families in New York in the 1950's and 60's, or today's Colombian and Mexican syndicates. Successful organized crime syndicates utilize hierarchical control, secret communications, corruption and violence to create an infrastructure that both shields them from law enforcement and facilitates their criminal activity.

Over time, law enforcement in the United States has, by attacking the communications systems of the major crime syndicates, been able to effectively counter domestic organized crime. In the past, domestic organized crime was controlled by a few leaders who lived in the United States and were within reach of the U.S. criminal justice system. Today's syndicate leaders pose a more serious threat, operating from sanctuaries in Colombia and Mexico. They are outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement and, consequently, able to command their cells operating in the United States freely and effectively.

The cornerstone of DEA's national investigative strategy, therefore, is to focus on attacking the command and control functions of the organized criminal syndicates that control virtually all of the cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine trafficking in the United States today. In addition to building cases against the leaders of international drug trafficking syndicates and their surrogates, DEA has a responsibility to protect the citizens of the United States from the violence that is attendant to the drug trade.

One of our major objectives is to lend support to those cities and towns in the United States that lack the resources to address these sophisticated and powerful drug trafficking groups. Many of the major cities in our country have recently reported dramatic reductions in violent crime. In New York City, an aggressive, zero tolerance campaign against crime has led to a sharp decrease in violent crime rates in a city once viewed as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. Unfortunately, at the same time, violent crime rates have increased substantially in many smaller cities across our country. Later in this testimony I will detail for you some of DEA's efforts to address these issues with our Mobile Enforcement Teams and our REDRUM programs.

Operations such as LIMELIGHT and RECIPROCITY, which target major Mexican drug trafficking groups operating in the United States, have a lasting effect on organized crime. The arrest of what seems to be a never ending stream of surrogates sent by syndicate leaders to the United States not only causes a steady impairment of the syndicates' ability to recruit individuals who can effectively control enormous drug distribution networks in the U.S., but, when fully exploited, also enables law enforcement to build investigations to the syndicates' highest levels. Our focus on the Cali organization's command and control functions in the U.S. enabled us to build formidable cases against the Cali leaders, which allowed our Colombian counterparts to accomplish the almost unimaginable -- the arrest and incarceration of the entire infrastructure of the most powerful crime group in history.

There have been many successes in our efforts against organized drug syndicates both here in the United States and abroad. DEA and our state and local task force partners have made more than 100,000 felony arrests for federal drug violations in the U.S. in the last four years. Many of those arrested were violent traffickers, who brought violence and destruction to the cities and towns where they ran their businesses. Their incarceration is in some part responsible for the decrease in violent crime in many of our major cities. A similarly increased focus of federal resources will likely have equal or even more demonstrable results in smaller cities.

Results against sophisticated, powerful crime leaders and their organizations are hard fought. We are pitted against a foe that has resources that rival our own. Nonetheless, recent history demonstrates that organized crime syndicates can be defeated. The Cali syndicate virtually disintegrated under intense investigative pressure. Amado Carrillo-Fuentes died trying to change his appearance through plastic surgery because of the scrutiny he was receiving from U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies. Persistent pressure all along the drug trade spectrum, in concert with complete and unfettered cooperation from our foreign counterparts, will result in successes commensurate with the resources invested.

In short, effective drug law enforcement, combined with an appropriate focus on demand reduction, and the education of our youth will work and will result in far less crime in our communities and decreased drug use by our children.

Mexico's Role in the Cocaine Trade

Trafficking groups from Mexico are a significant force in international organized crime. These organizations are no longer simply middlemen in the cocaine transportation business. With the disruption of the Cali syndicate, groups such as the Amado Carrillo-Fuentes organization, the Arellano-Felix cartel, the Amezcua-Contreras brothers, the Guzman-Loera organization, and the Caro-Quintero group have consolidated their power and now dominate drug trafficking along the U.S./Mexico border and in many U.S. cities.

Mexican traffickers now control the cocaine trade west of the Mississippi River and are making significant inroads into the cocaine market in some eastern cities, including New York; they dominate the methamphetamine trade in California, along the Southwest Border, and in states such as Georgia and Iowa. Additionally, heroin from Mexico now accounts for one-fifth of the heroin seized within the United States, up from only five percent last year.

I have, on several occasions, provided the Congress with the names of those drug traffickers in Mexico who are directly responsible for a large share of the drugs and related violence that plague our cities and towns. I believe it is critical that we keep their names on the front pages so that there is no doubt about who supplies the drugs that addict and kill our children or our resolve to bring these individuals to justice.

Carrillo-Fuentes Organization

Until July 4, 1997, when Amado Carrillo-Fuentes died in Mexico City after undergoing plastic surgery, he was considered the most powerful trafficker in Mexico. The Carrillo-Fuentes organization (ACFO), based in Juarez, is involved in the trafficking of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. The ACFO's regional bases are in Guadalajara, Hermosillo, and Torreon, where the organization stores drugs for eventual shipment into the United States. After the death of Carrillo-Fuentes, gang warfare within Mexico and in U.S. border towns escalated, consuming individuals involved in the drug trade and innocents alike. As of this date, the ACFO continues to function effectively.

Caro-Quintero Organization

The focus of Miguel Caro-Quintero's organization is on trafficking cocaine and marijuana. Miguel, with his two brothers Jorge and Genaro, runs the organization. They specialize in the cultivation, production, and distribution of marijuana, a major cash crop for many of the trafficking organizations from Mexico. This organization is believed to own many ranches in the northern border state of Sonora, from which drug smuggling operations into the United States are staged. In addition, like many of the other trafficking organizations in Mexico, they are also involved in the trafficking of cocaine and methamphetamine.

Amezcua-Contreras Brothers Organization

The Amezcua-Contreras organization is based in Guadalajara, Mexico and is headed by Jesus Amezcua, who is assisted by his brothers, Adan and Luis. Adan has continued his involvement in the organization even while in custody on weapons charges. The Amezcua-Contreras brothers' organization is the world's largest smuggler of ephedrine and clandestine producer of methamphetamine. The Amezcua organization obtains large quantities of the precursor ephedrine, through contacts in Thailand and India, which they then supply to methamphetamine labs in Mexico and in the United States.

Guzman-Loera Organization

Although he is now incarcerated in Mexico, Guzman-Loera is still considered a major threat by law enforcement in both the United States and Mexico. His brother, Arturo, has assumed the leadership role and the organization remains active in Mexico, along the Southwest border, in the Western and Midwestern regions of the U.S., as well as in Central America. The group transports cocaine from Colombia into Mexico and the United States for the remnants of the Cali and Medellin Cartels. The organization is also involved in the smuggling, storage, and distribution of Colombian cocaine, Mexican marijuana, and Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin.

Arellano-Felix Brothers Organization

Benjamin Arellano-Felix is the head of this trafficking organization that operates in Tijuana, Baja California, and parts of the States of Sinaloa, Sonora, Jalisco, and most recently, Tamaulipas. Benjamin coordinates the activities of the organization through his brothers: Ramon, Javier, and Francisco. The Arellano-Felix organization, the most violent of the Mexican trafficking organizations, reportedly was involved in the murder of Cardinal Posadas-Ocampo at the Guadalajara Airport in 1993. The United States recently filed a provisional arrest request and placed Ramon Arellano-Felix on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list. The Mexican Government has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the Arellano-Felix brothers.

DEA Organized Crime Enforcement Strategy: To accomplish our mission, we have developed a plan through our Strategic Management System (SMS), which sets forth the agency's strategic goals and objectives over a five-year time frame. This strategic plan, which is conducted in accordance with the stated goals contained within the Strategic Plans of the Department of Justice ((DOJ) and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), outlines the agency's blueprint to identify, arrest and prosecute major drug traffickers while combating the violent crime which inevitably accompanies their activities. Examples of programs designed to meet DOJ/ DEA goals are the Southwest Border Initiative, the Caribbean Corridor Initiative, and OCDETF operations.

DEA's strategic plan provides the basis for the development of detailed annual budgets and performance plans. DEA has revised its internal budget formulation process to ensure that budget requests and annual performance plans are explicitly linked to strategic goals. This linkage ensures a clear focus on direction and results and enables activities to be viewed within the framework of overarching goals. The close linkage among strategic planning, budget formulation, and annual performance planning is the cornerstone of DEA's approach to implementing the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).

This strategy is demonstrated in Operation RECIPROCITY and LIMELIGHT, cases which clearly prove the interrelation between high level traffickers headquartered in Mexico and their organizations in many U.S. cities. The Amado Carrillo-Fuentes organization was deeply involved in a sophisticated drug operation that stretched from Mexico to New York, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Tucson, and other parts of the U.S. At one point, several independent and seemingly unrelated investigations were being conducted in Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, and New York. Eventually these separate cases were combined under the umbrella investigations known as RECIPROCITY and LIMELIGHT.

Most investigations that ultimately lead to the leadership of international organized crime rings begin with a seemingly routine event in the United States. For example, two troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety stopped a van with New York plates on Interstate 30. They became suspicious when they learned that one man was from New York while the other was from El Paso, and they were not well acquainted. Neither man owned the van and their stories conflicted regarding where they were going and where they had been. The troopers found 99 bundles of money hidden in the vehicle's walls.

It took three hours to count the $1.3 million they had found. As the officers continued their search, they discovered another $700,000, bringing the total to $2 million. On December 3, 1996, after receiving an anonymous call, the Tucson Police Department and drug task force officers raided a warehouse containing 5.3 tons of cocaine. On December 13, 1996, the same Texas troopers stopped a northbound tractor trailer and seized 2,700 pounds of marijuana. Follow-up investigation connected this interdiction to their previous seizure of money, to the cocaine warehouse in Tucson, and to ongoing investigations in Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, and New York.

All of these investigations provided our Special Agents and federal prosecutors with the key to investigating the operations of the Amado Carrillo-Fuentes organization. This powerful Mexican syndicate was apparently using U.S. trucks and employees to transport huge amounts of cocaine to various U.S. destinations. The resulting investigation, Operation LIMELIGHT, secured 40 arrests, the seizure of $11 million in cash, 7.4 tons of cocaine and 2,700 pounds of marijuana. A parallel investigation, Operation RECIPROCITY, resulted in the seizure of more than 4,000 kilos of cocaine, almost 11,000 pounds of marijuana, over $7 million in cash, and 48 arrests. Evidence gathered in this investigation revealed that one driver alone had transported over 30 tons of cocaine into the United States and had returned over $100 million in drug profits to Carrillo-Fuentes in Juarez, Mexico.

Mexican transportation groups have clearly added the East Coast to their sphere of influence and now deliver cocaine directly to New York City and other East coast markets. This role was once reserved for traffickers from Colombia and the Dominican Republic. These two operations, like their successful predecessors, Zorro I and Zorro II, show that law enforcement can strike major blows against foreign drug syndicates by targeting their command and control functions.

Another example of DEA success against the domestic operations of the major Mexican trafficking groups was the recent indictment, by a federal grand jury in San Diego, of 10 members of the Logan Heights Gang on charges of serving as paid killers for the Arellano-Felix organization. The hallmark of many of the Mexican trafficking groups, most notably the Arellano-Felix organization, is their use of violence as a means of intimidation against potential witnesses and organizational rivals in both Mexico and the U.S. The indictment charges the members of this gang with acting as body guards and participating in missions to eliminate adversaries of the Arellano-Felix organization. This indictment proved to be an important step in our Southwest Border efforts against the Arellano-Felix group and was instrumental in ridding this San Diego neighborhood of some of its most violent offenders.

Through our domestic drug investigations and with the assistance of our country office in Mexico, DEA has been able to build cases that have led to the indictment of the leaders of every major drug trafficking organization in Mexico. More than one-half of the priority requests for provisional arrest for extradition filed by the Department of Justice are for major drug traffickers. None of the leaders of the major drug syndicates were arrested in 1997.

The Increasing Significance of the Caribbean: While it is true that the majority of cocaine entering the United States comes across the U.S.-Mexican border, traffickers are reactivating their trafficking routes in the Caribbean. Colombian trafficking organizations dominate drug trafficking in the Caribbean. DEA has identified four major organizations based on the northern coast of Colombia that have deployed command and control cells in the Caribbean Basin to funnel tons of cocaine to the U.S. each year. Colombian managers, who have been dispatched to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, operate these command and control centers and are responsible for overseeing drug trafficking in the region. These groups are also directing networks of transporters that oversee the importation, storage, exportation, and wholesale distribution of cocaine destined for the continental U.S.

Many Colombian groups, particularly those who have risen to power since the Cali syndicate's fall, have returned to the traditional Caribbean routes to move their product to market. As these Colombian groups re-establish their ties with their Caribbean confederates, increasingly larger shipments transit the Caribbean. Seizures of 500 to 2,000 kilograms of cocaine are now common in and around Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The incarceration and death of the leaders of the Cali drug syndicate were the antecedents for the most significant change in the wholesale U.S. cocaine trade in the last two decades. This change has become particularly evident over the last 12 months. Just a few years ago, Miguel Rodriguez-Orejuela and his powerful Cali syndicate controlled as much as 80% of the cocaine distributed in the U.S. He completely controlled every phase of the drug continuum, from manufacturing to distribution in cities and towns throughout the United States as varied as Chicago, Illinois and Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

In the last year, however, criminals from the Dominican Republic have emerged as the dominant force in the wholesale cocaine and heroin trade on the East Coast of the U.S. Battered by the aggressive application of our organized crime enforcement strategy and the arrests of the syndicates' leadership in Colombia, many new Colombian drug traffickers have sought to pull back from the Cali syndicate's traditional modus operandi of ruling a monolithic organization and exercising complete control of the drug continuum: from cultivation and production, to the wholesale marketing of both heroin and cocaine. Instead, they have chosen to franchise a significant portion of their wholesale heroin and cocaine operations. The Dominican trafficking groups, already firmly entrenched as low-level cocaine and heroin wholesalers in the larger Northeastern cities, were uniquely situated to assume a far more significant role in this multi-billion-dollar business.

Trust, the essential ingredient in forging a successful business relationship in the drug underworld, had already been established between Dominican and Colombian traffickers through relationships formed during hundreds of smuggling ventures in the Caribbean and through their long established relationships in New York, Newark, and Boston. From the northeast to Charlotte, North Carolina, well-organized Dominican trafficking groups are, for the first time, controlling and directing the sale of multi-hundred kilogram shipments of cocaine and multi-kilogram quantities of heroin. Their influence is now spreading beyond the big city landscape into the smaller cities and towns along the East Coast.

New England is now faced with numerous gangs from the Dominican Republic selling multiple kilogram amounts of cocaine and smaller amounts of heroin. For example, DEA and the Hartford Connecticut Police Department recently arrested 40 members of a Dominican trafficking group responsible for the sale of thousands of bags of heroin brought into Hartford from New York City. In New Haven, Connecticut, one Dominican trafficking group was responsible for about 90% of all the heroin being sold in the city. These groups have also participated in a variety of other crimes ranging from robbery to muggings, creating their own crime wave in the process.

This sea-change in the wholesale heroin and cocaine markets is not unique to New York and New England. The Philadelphia area also is saturated with Dominican traffickers looking to claim a larger portion of these markets, and the Washington-Baltimore area routinely receives heroin shipments from New York-based Dominican groups. The Dominicans' reach even extends into southern states. In July 1997, a group of Dominican traffickers were arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina after an investigation revealed they were transporting heroin from New York City to supply guests at private "rave" parties in the Charlotte area.

At the same time, the increase in the flow of cocaine and heroin en route to the United States through the Caribbean has brought a new wave of drug abuse and attendant violence to the Caribbean. In 1984, prior to the invasion of major drug trafficking organizations, homicides in Puerto Rico numbered 483. In the ensuing decade, this number nearly doubled, reaching 868 in 1996. Today, approximately 70% of the homicides in Puerto Rico are drug-related.

In order to address the rapid growth of drug trafficking and violence in the Caribbean region, in FY 1998, Congress provided DEA with a total of 60 Special Agents and $34.2 million to build upon our successful Southwest Border Strategy and expand our operations into the Caribbean Corridor In FY 1999, we are requesting an additional 42 Special Agents and $5.6 million to enhance our domestic offices in major cities along the East Coast which are suffering from the influx of violent trafficking groups based in the Caribbean. With the addition of these resources, DEA will be in a position to more fully meet the challenge of the Colombian and Mexican drug trafficking groups operating along our southern frontier.

Heroin from Colombia and Mexico: The relatively recent influx of high quality, cheap heroin from Colombia and Mexico is a significant law enforcement and public health issue. During the past several years, South American heroin has accounted for the majority of DEA heroin seizures. In 1994, 32% of the heroin samples tested were of South American origin; in 1995, the total was 62%. In 1996, South American heroin continued to dominate the market, representing 52% of heroin seizures in the United States.

Cheap, high quality heroin-- the average purity of South American heroin in 1996 was 72.2%-- continues to dominate East Coast markets including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. The availability of South American heroin is not, however, limited to the Northeast; Orlando, Florida, for example, has been especially hard-hit by the drug. In 1995 and 1996, 48 individuals in this city died of heroin overdoses.

The most dramatic drug related statistical increase in 1996 was in the amount of Mexican-produced heroin seized in the United States. Mexican heroin accounted for 20% of all heroin seized in the U.S., a fourfold increase from 1995. Colombian and Mexican heroin accounted for almost three-quarters of all the heroin seized in the U.S. during 1996. The emergence of Mexico in 1996 as the second most common source of heroin is consistent with the expansion of the cocaine and methamphetamine distribution networks of the major Mexican organized crime syndicates.

The City of Plano, Texas has suffered an epidemic of heroin abuse, an epidemic whose origins can be traced to the distribution of extremely pure Mexican heroin in the community. After fourteen Plano teenagers and young adults died using uncut Mexican heroin, DEA worked with the Plano Police Department to establish an ad hoc task force to identify the suppliers of this Mexican black tar heroin. In November 1997, a major heroin distributor from Mexico and his four associates were arrested by the task force. These drug traffickers did not "cut" their product to reduce its purity. As a result, the heroin supplied by this organization was between 50% and 76% pure and, consequently, killed several teens experimenting with the drug for the first time.

Mexican heroin has been available in the U.S. for many years, but the situation in Plano clearly illustrates the seriousness of the growing Mexican heroin problem. International organized crime groups from Mexico are directly supplying American communities with high purity heroin. In addition, the average size of Mexican heroin seizures has increased significantly, with some reflecting in the multi-kilogram range. These increases in seizure size reflect an increased availability of the product. Increased purity and availability will spread the scourge which has devastated Plano to other communities, large and small, across the country.

While heroin produced in Mexico dominates the marketplace in the western U.S., heroin produced and controlled by Colombian groups is marketed aggressively throughout the Northeast, and more recently, the Midwest. These two areas of the country easily contain the largest portion of the heroin addicted population in the U.S. New York City, with roughly half of the country's heroin addict population, continues to be the largest heroin market in the United States. As a result, traffickers have made the city the most significant heroin importation and distribution center in the country.

In June 1997, DEA was able to strike a major blow against the New York City heroin operations of the Gamboa organization, a Colombian crime syndicate responsible for significant heroin and cocaine trafficking in the United States. The Gamboa syndicate was using South American smugglers to import eight kilograms of heroin per month for its drug cell operating in New York City. In August 1997, a DEA investigation led to the arrest of Milton Gutierrez, the head of the New York City cell, and nine members of his organization and the seizure of 1.8 kilograms of heroin and $65,000 in assets.

Cases like this clearly illustrate increased heroin use in the United States. Coupled with the drug's low cost and deadly levels of purity, this is clearly cause for concern. Additional resources provided to DEA in FY 1999 will allow us to continue to build upon our five-year heroin enforcement strategy, working to halt the continuing spread of this dangerous drug across the United States.

The Spread of the Domestic Methamphetamine Market: Known on the street by names like "crank" and "speed," methamphetamine is a dangerous stimulant which possesses addictive qualities similar to those of crack cocaine. According to statistics from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the U.S. experienced a 209% increase in the number of methamphetamine-related emergency room episodes between 1990 and 1995. Following a brief drop during the first half of FY 1996, total methamphetamine episodes skyrocketed by 71% during the second half of the year.

Today, DEA is taking part in more methamphetamine-related arrests and is seizing more clandestine laboratories per year than ever before in our 25-year history. Since FY 1993, DEA arrests in methamphetamine-related investigations have consistently risen. Methamphetamine arrests increased by 45% in one year, rising from 3,920 in FY 1996 to 5,780 arrests in FY 1997. During FY 1997, DEA was involved in the seizure of more methamphetamine laboratories (1,272) than in the three previous fiscal years combined (combined total = 1,256).

The illicit manufacturing of methamphetamine can occur anywhere an operator can set up laboratory equipment (e.g., motel rooms, apartment complexes, industrial areas, farms, a neighbor's house, etc.) to synthesize the product. The caustic, flammable, and explosive chemicals required by "cooks" to produce methamphetamine endanger the lives of not only criminals, but innocent neighbors as well. The potential environmental damage caused by one clandestine laboratory can place an entire community at risk.

Methamphetamine trafficking and production in the U.S. is currently divided between the thousands of small, independent organizations, who run "mom-and-pop" laboratories and the major Mexican syndicates networks who produce methamphetamine in super laboratories in Mexico and California. Both groups are producing more methamphetamine than ever before. However, it is the emergence of the Mexican syndicates and their growing domination of methamphetamine production and distribution that has redefined the methamphetamine problem in the U.S.

The Mexican syndicates' dominance of the methamphetamine market can largely be attributed to two factors. First, Mexican organized crime has established access to enormous quantities of the precursor ephedrine from wholesale sources of supply on the international market. Second, these criminal groups regularly produce unprecedented quantities of high-purity methamphetamine in Mexican and Californian super labs. As previously indicated, the Amezcua-Contreras brothers' organization, operating out of Guadalajara, is the world's largest smuggler of ephedrine and clandestine producers of methamphetamine. The Amezcua organization obtains large quantities of precursor ephedrine through contacts in Thailand and India, which they then use to make methamphetamine for subsequent distribution to Mexican trafficking groups operating in major U.S. population centers.

Operation META: For the last several years, the influence of Mexican organizations trafficking methamphetamine in the United States has increased dramatically. Operation META demonstrated just how extensive their involvement in the methamphetamine trade is. This multi-agency wiretap investigation targeted traffickers associated with the Amezcua brothers' methamphetamine trafficking organization, a syndicate which supplied its U.S. cells with methamphetamine, precursor chemicals, and cocaine.

Investigations based on these wiretaps revealed that Amezcua cells manufactured methamphetamine in Los Angeles; in fact, during the META raids, operating methamphetamine labs were discovered near a day-care center and in an equestrian center where riding lessons were being conducted. This is typical of the disregard organized crime syndicates have for the safety and well-being of the American public. The laboratories discovered were capable of producing more than 300 pounds of methamphetamine.

Drug traffickers along the border, such as those associated with the Amezcua Organization, have a major impact on the drug trafficking and violent crime situation throughout the United States. The Southwest Border Strategy brings together many federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors' offices in a coordinated effort to target major drug traffickers operating along the southwest border of the United States. Operation META, an OCDETF investigation conducted as part of this strategy, resulted in more than 100 key arrests.

Due to methamphetamine's increasing popularity in the West and its rapid spread eastward, an increasing number of independent trafficking and production networks are also being established. They feed the habits of customers typically found outside the Mexican syndicates' predominant areas of influence. These independent networks, which have proliferated in the Midwest, and more recently on the East Coast, are selling to users in rural areas, middle class suburbs, and on college campuses. Surging demand and increased profit margins are driving increased drug production, and luring more traffickers and chemists into the methamphetamine trade. Often, a minimal investment of $500 can yield profits as high as $4,000 to $18,000.

Fifty percent of the clandestine labs seized by DEA in FY 1997 were located in the Midwest. States like Missouri, which four years ago experienced negligible clandestine laboratory activity, have become full-fledged production centers. Just last month, DEA, in cooperation with state and local law enforcement, seized its first major clandestine laboratory in the city of St. Louis.

States as far east as Georgia, Kentucky, and New York are also beginning to see the effects of growing methamphetamine production and distribution. In August of 1997, DEA, in cooperation with the FBI and the Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force, arrested Mexican national Enrique Ochoa-Montanez and seized approximately 35 pounds of methamphetamine and $14,000 in cash from a hotel in northern Kentucky. In December 1997, DEA's Atlanta Field Division was involved in the seizure of 10 pounds of methamphetamine being shipped via Federal Express from California, Texas and Mexico. The methamphetamine seized was linked to the drug trafficking operations of the Amezcua-Contreras Organization. Just last month, DEA Agents, again in cooperation with state and local law enforcement, arrested four people and seized 25 pounds of methamphetamine in Marietta, Georgia. This seizure-- $500,000 worth of methamphetamine-- had been manufactured in Mexico and was intended for distribution in the Atlanta area.

Marijuana Eradication: DEA is ardently striving to halt the continuing spread of marijuana trafficking and distribution across the United States. Marijuana is the most widely used and readily available drug in the United States and the only drug of abuse grown within our borders. Today, increasing numbers of our vulnerable, school age children have been misled to believe that use of marijuana is not harmful and that it should be used for medicinal purposes. In most instances, the call for the use of marijuana as a form of medical treatment is only a thin disguise, used by those who advocate the legalization of marijuana and other drugs. Although, in many circles, marijuana use continued to be viewed benignly, research suggests that the drug is harmful and is a gateway to the use of cocaine, heroin, and other drugs.

In 1997, DEA continued to improve upon the effectiveness of its marijuana eradication efforts across the country, spending $13.6 million to support 88 state and local agencies that participated in our Domestic Cannabis Eradication and Suppression Program (DCE/SP). Funding increases in 1997 allowed these state and local agencies to enhance their already aggressive eradication enforcement activities and resulted in the eradication of 3,827,133 cultivated outdoor plants, 221,396 indoor plants, and 136,990 pounds of processed bulk marijuana. In addition, this program led to 17,070 arrests, and the seizure of 4,713 weapons and $39,562,165 in assets.

Through these efforts, we have made significant headway in curbing the availability of domestically grown marijuana. Operational plans submitted by the 88 state and local law enforcement agencies participating in the DCE/SP indicate that the aggressive eradication efforts undertaken by the states have caused the outdoor cultivators to move their operations indoors, abandoning their larger outdoor plots for the safety/concealment of smaller, limited indoor cultivating areas. This has made marijuana cultivation harder to detect.

Mobile Enforcement Teams: Addressing the Issue of Violent Crime: DEA's Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) program was initiated in 1995 in response to the growing problem of drug-related violent crime that plagues neighborhoods and communities throughout our nation. The MET program represents the most ambitious domestic enforcement program that we have ever undertaken to attack drug-related violence in America. Through January 1998, our MET program was responsible for the completion of 122 deployments which resulted in 5,428 arrests and the seizure of 871 pounds of cocaine, 269 pounds of methamphetamine, 36 pounds of heroin, 726 pounds of marijuana, and $7.9 million in assets.

At the request of a police chief, sheriff, or district attorney, a MET (comprised of eight to twelve DEA Special Agents) works in concert with local police to remove violent drug offenders from the community. It is DEA's goal to ensure that the state and local officials requesting the MET deployment feel completely comfortable in inviting the agency into their community. DEA does not seek credit for its MET deployments, but instead encourages state and local officials to handle all press relations and media events surrounding the deployments as well as to take full credit for the accomplishments of the MET.

DEA's METs are primarily investigative in nature. Their mission is to dismantle drug organizations by securing the conviction and incarceration of those individuals dealing drugs and engaging in violence within a community. Evidence developed in the narcotics investigations may also be used to prosecute the same individuals for related crimes including murder, assault and/or other acts of violence.

It is important to recognize that the MET Program was designed to target violent drug trafficking organizations (as identified by the requesting agency) which contribute significantly to increases in the level of violence in a particular community. The two factors which provide the highest measure of effectiveness by a MET deployment include: a) whether the MET successfully dismantled the targeted organization identified in the initial assessment, and b) whether the requesting agency and the community are satisfied with the enforcement effort and/or assistance provided by the MET.

The positive or negative outcome of these two primary factors are clearly outlined in the post-deployment reviews which are required six months after the completion of each MET deployment. These two factors, along with arrest and seizure statistics which document the number of violent drug traffickers removed from the streets, and pre and post-deployment area crime statistics, provide the most accurate measurement of the effectiveness of a MET deployment that can be obtained.

Over time, our MET deployments have resulted in significant decreases in crime rates in targeted communities across the country. For example, following our MET deployment to El Cajon, California and subsequent arrest of members of the "Orphans" street gang, there was a 66 percent reduction in overall reported area crime and an 87 percent reduction in reported violent crime. Following our MET deployment to Pinal County, Arizona and the dismantlement of the area's "Bloods" and "Crips" street gangs, calls for police service in the targeted areas dropped 60 percent and overall crime dropped a remarkable 43 percent in the six months following the deployment. Other recent examples of successful MET deployments include:

Louisville, Kentucky (July 1997- September 1997)

This MET deployment was requested in response to a significant increase in narcotics trafficking and related violence occurring in the City of Louisville and surrounding communities, spurred by the operations of a large scale cocaine trafficking organization operating in the region. In April 1996, the violence associated with the operations of this trafficking group culminated with the murder of a DEA cooperating source. Immediately following the completion of DEA's MET deployment to Louisville, the media reported a 9 to 10 percent drop in area crime rates compared to the same period in 1996. In the particular section of the city where the MET concentrated its efforts, cocaine seizures increased by 40 percent, marijuana seizures increased by 60 percent and felony crimes were reported to have decreased by 21 percent.

National City, California (October 1996 - September 1997)

This MET deployment was requested to assist National City in its efforts to address increasing violent criminal activity associated with members of the Old Town National City Gang (OTNC). The primary drugs distributed in the National City area are methamphetamine and heroin. At the conclusion of the deployment, 41 individuals were arrested, including 14 OTNC targeted members and associates. The deployment effectively dismantled the notorious OTNC gang and revealed a connection between the OTNC and Mexican trafficking organizations. As a result of the overwhelming success of this deployment, the Mayor of National City, California officially proclaimed October 7, 1997, as "DEA MET Day."

Terrell, Texas (May 1997-November 1997)

DEA's Dallas MET was requested to assist local law enforcement in Terrell in their efforts to address an epidemic of drug-related violence generated by three major crack cocaine distribution organizations operating in the area. These included the Keith Jackson Organization, the Robert Holliness/Maceo Haslip Organization, and Rebecca and Steward Womack group. The MET deployment resulted in federal and state charges being brought against 105 defendants for conspiracy and distribution of crack cocaine-- equaling roughly one percent of the total population of the city of Terrell. With the exception of two remaining fugitives, all of the primary MET targets were arrested and each of the three trafficking organizations were effectively dismantled. The residents of Terrell and their City Council were extremely pleased with the effectiveness of the operation and expressed their gratitude to DEA officials.

By combining the efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the MET initiative is making a difference in neighborhoods throughout the United States by restoring a sense of peace and order to communities formerly plagued by drug trafficking and its attendant violence. Today, we have a total of 23 METs, established in 19 of our 20 domestic field divisions, with the exception of our newly established Caribbean Division. Of our 19 field divisions, four divisions have two METs each, including Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, and Houston.


In FY 1999, we are requesting a total of 7,917 positions (3,692 Special Agents) and $1.26 billion. This request represents an increase of 508 positions (257 Special Agents) and $63.9 million over our FY 1999 base budget. Program enhancements for FY 1999 are contained within two strategic funding initiatives:

Initiative I -- Attack International Organized Crime through the Expansion of DEA's Overseas Presence

Within our first strategic initiative, we are requesting a total of 37 positions (17 Special Agents) and $8.7 million to work with our foreign drug enforcement counterparts in building cases against the leaders of international drug trafficking networks that have a direct impact on the U.S. This strategy will be accomplished by opening new offices overseas, adding personnel to existing foreign offices, and where necessary, making security improvements to our overseas locations.

New offices will be opened in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Trinidad-Tobago, and DEA will expand its existing presence throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and Asia by adding Special Agent and support personnel in Ponce; St. Thomas; St. Croix; Barbados; Curacao; Jamaica; Haiti; the Dominican Republic; and Manila, Phillippines. In addition, a total of five analyst positions for Mexico and an additional five positions and $1.1 million are requested to support enforcement programs coordinated in our foreign offices.

Initiative II -- Attack International Organized Crime's Domestic Drug Distribution Networks

Through our second strategic initiative, we are requesting a total of 471 positions (240 Special Agents) and $53.1 million to fund a comprehensive approach to drug law enforcement within the United States by: (1) augmenting our resources in domestic locations affected by Caribbean-based drug trafficking organizations; (2) emphasizing the growing role of methamphetamine and heroin investigations in the U.S.; (3) improving federal, state and local law enforcement coordination across the country; and (4) providing the support infrastructure necessary to bolster agency operations throughout the U.S.

A total of total of 70 positions (42 Special Agents) and $5.6 million are requested to enhance DEA domestic offices in cities that are being detrimentally affected by the influx of violent trafficking groups based in the Caribbean. DEA's implementation of the Caribbean Corridor Initiative coincides with its ongoing, and very successful, Southwest Border Strategy. These target the command and control functions of criminal organizations that import drugs across the Southwest border for distribution throughout the U.S. In an attempt to address the burgeoning flow of cocaine and heroin through the Caribbean Corridor, DEA's FY 1998 appropriation provided the agency with 20 Special Agent positions for its Caribbean Field Division and 40 for its Miami Field Division.

DEA will direct these new resources against the Colombian cell managers' command and control functions and the network of Dominican traffickers sent to the U.S. to control the wholesale distribution of cocaine and heroin throughout the East Coast. Personnel enhancements will provide DEA with an increased ability to build prosecutable cases against the Colombian syndicates' leadership, while simultaneously allowing the agency to target their surrogates from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico who comprise the ever growing labyrinth of distribution networks on the East Coast.

Funding for the Caribbean Corridor Initiative will enable DEA to focus resources on major groups trafficking through Puerto Rico. For example, Alberto Orlandez-Gamboa, closely associated with the Urdinola-Grajales family, controls the distribution of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into New York and New Jersey. While safely based in Colombia, Gamboa controls a syndicate which conceals drug shipments in containers of fruits and vegetables shipped to the U.S. through Puerto Rico. In March 1997, DEA arrested principal members of the Gamboa organization in Puerto Rico and seized over 600 kilograms of cocaine and $3 million in assets. In another investigation, one conducted against Celeste Santana, DEA determined that Santana's organization controlled a transportation group which used a cadre of criminals at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport to smuggle cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York.

A total of 223 positions, including 100 Special Agents and $24.5 million are requested to implement a comprehensive approach for targeting and investigating methamphetamine trafficking, production and abuse across the U.S. As I previously testified, the emergence of the Mexican syndicates and their growing domination of methamphetamine production and distribution has redefined the methamphetamine problem in the U.S. In order to attack these syndicates as well as address the growth of "mom-and-pop" clandestine laboratory operations across the country, we are requesting 156 positions (100 Special Agents) and $13.7 million for the additional investigative resources necessary to target major methamphetamine trafficking organizations operating in the U.S. The primary purpose for these resources is to establish a sufficient level of Special Agent investigative strength to significantly reduce methamphetamine trafficking and production and ultimately have an impact on the drug's availability on the streets of our communities.

Many state and local law enforcement agencies, where emerging methamphetamine markets and producers are taking hold, lack the requisite training and experience to investigate and dismantle clandestine laboratories. In fact, a survey conducted at DEA's Methamphetamine Conference suggested that two-thirds (64%) of state and local law enforcement were having difficulties conducting methamphetamine investigations. Although roughly half attributed their problems to limited personnel, others cited financial constraints, poor intelligence resources, and an overall lack of knowledge of the hazards associated with clandestine laboratories.

In an effort to address this problem, DEA has, to date, trained and certified a total of 2,016 state and local officers in clandestine laboratory investigative techniques. In our FY 1998 appropriation, we received a total of $4.5 million in reimbursable funding through the COPS Methamphetamine Program for additional clandestine laboratory training for state and local officers. With this funding, DEA anticipates training approximately 1,000 new state and local officers over the next two years. (Note: This funding was not part of DEA's direct appropriation, but was included in DOJ's COPS Program appropriation).

Included in DEA's FY 1999 methamphetamine program enhancement is a total of $392,000 to continue work to establish a National Clandestine Laboratory Database (NCLDB) at DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center. The NCLDB will give federal, state, and local drug law enforcement centralized intelligence on all clandestine laboratory seizures by collecting, storing, and processing information from approximately 3,000 law enforcement agencies located throughout the U.S. This database will provide a true national perspective on the clandestine laboratory problem, based on the information on laboratory operations received from all levels of law enforcement.

Currently, DEA, through the Department of Justice's Assets Forfeiture Fund (AFF), is the sole federal law enforcement agency funding clandestine laboratory cleanup projects. In FY 1996, DEA was provided $2 million from the AFF to pay for clandestine laboratory cleanups. However, in response to the significant increases in clandestine laboratory activity, DEA obligated more than $4 million over the course of the year, a 100% increase in expenses. In FY 1997, DEA spent $7.1 million on clandestine laboratory cleanups, as methamphetamine activity in the U.S. continued to increase.

In FY 1998, DEA anticipates requiring approximately $9.6 million for clandestine laboratory cleanups. During FY 1998, we will receive a one-time $5 million reimbursement of funds from the COPS Methamphetamine Program for state and local clandestine laboratory cleanups. However, this funding must be used strictly for state and local clandestine laboratory cleanups; it cannot be used to offset the ever-increasing number of DEA case-derived clandestine laboratory seizures and related cleanups. DEA is therefore requesting a total of $4.1 million in direct program funding for FY 1999 to supplement anticipated agency resources. This being the case, along with the uncertainty of AFF funding from year to year (AFF funding decisions are based on the total value of assets seized each year and in light of competing requests), DEA will continue to need to supplement its own base program funding for clandestine laboratory cleanups in the years to come.

In FY 1999, DEA is also requesting 148 positions (95 Special Agents) and $12.9 million to combat heroin trafficking, production, and distribution networks operating in the U.S. These additional positions are critical for DEA to maintain a heightened capability to address the growing availability of heroin in cities and towns, like Plano, Texas, across the country.

An additional 28 positions (3 Special Agents) and $7 million are requested to improve cooperative drug law enforcement operations at the federal, state, and local level through enhanced coordination, information sharing and the minimization of duplicate efforts. This classified project, initiated in 1991, has been an immensely successful cooperative venture between DEA, the FBI, and the Department of Justice's Criminal Division. It must continue to expand to provide unique real time intelligence data to federal counter-drug efforts. A classified briefing properly detailing this request can be scheduled for appropriately cleared individuals.

A total of 2 positions and $3.1 million is requested to establish an alternate backup site for DEA's Network Control Center (NCC). The purpose of a backup site is to prevent a worldwide "shut down" of DEA's communications due to a catastrophic event at DEA's primary NCC. Failure to provide an alternate site for the NCC potentially jeopardizes all agency-wide operations.

Finally, as a separate program initiative, we are requesting an increase of $2.1 million for our Drug Diversion Control Fee Account (DDCFA).

This enhancement request includes $500,000 for the purchase of computers, technical equipment and contract support to address our drug diversion case workload, as well as funding for expansion of DEA's Computer and Drug Forensics Programs. In addition, $1.6 million will be used for contract support, hardware, and software to re-engineer our Automated Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) and Controlled Substances Act Systems (CSA).

Again, Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you and the committee for your continued support. I want to assure you that I am making every effort to ensure the additional resources you have given to DEA are applied in the most effective and efficient manner. I also want to assure you that the men and women of DEA are working tirelessly to bring to justice those responsible for the spread of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine in our country.

As we saw with the Cali crime syndicate in 1995, effective drug law enforcement requires a commitment to years of painstaking investigation. The leaders of the powerful criminal groups who direct drug trafficking in our country issue their orders from the safety of sanctuaries in Mexico and Colombia. Without the complete cooperation and support of the governments in these countries, we cannot possibly hope to achieve the maximum benefit from the resources provided.

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to update you on the status of our drug efforts within the United States and detail DEA's FY 1999 request for resources. I would be happy at this time to take any questions you may have regarding current agency operations or our requested program enhancements.

USDOJ.GOV Privacy Policy Contact Us Site Map