DEA Operation Last Mile Tracks Down Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartel Associates Operating within the United States
Reveals That Social Media Platforms Play Significant Role in Cartels’ Ability to Get Fentanyl and Methamphetamine into American Communities
CHICAGO – Today, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced the results of a year-long national operation, “Operation Last Mile,” targeting operatives, associates, and distributors affiliated with the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels responsible for the last mile of fentanyl and methamphetamine distribution on our streets and on social media.
DEA’s top operational priority is to defeat the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels—the two drug cartels based in Mexico that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl and methamphetamine that is killing Americans. In Operation Last Mile, DEA tracked down distribution networks across the United States that are connected to the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels. The Operation shows that the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels use violent local street gangs and criminal groups and individuals across the United States to flood American communities with huge amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine, which drives addiction and violence and kills Americans. It also shows that the Cartels, their members, and their associates use social media applications—like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat—and encrypted platforms—like WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Wire, and Wickr—to coordinate logistics and reach out to victims.
Nationally, Operation Last Mile comprised 1,436 investigations conducted from May 1, 2022 through May 1, 2023, in collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and resulted in 3,337 arrests and the seizure of nearly 44 million fentanyl pills, more than 6,500 pounds of fentanyl powder, more than 91,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 8,497 firearms, and more than $100 million. The fentanyl powder and pill seizures equate to nearly 193 million deadly doses of fentanyl removed from communities across the United States, which have prevented countless potential drug poisoning deaths. Among these investigations, more than 1,100 cases involved social media applications and encrypted communications platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Wire, and Wickr.
“The Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels use multi-city distribution networks, violent local street gangs, and individual dealers across the United States to flood American communities with fentanyl and methamphetamine, drive addiction, fuel violence, and kill Americans,” said Administrator Milgram. “What is also alarming—American social media platforms are the means by which they do so. The Cartels use social media and encrypted platforms to run their operations and reach out to victims, and when their product kills Americans, they simply move on to try to victimize the millions of other Americans who are social media users.”
As part of the yearlong operation targeting 48 Sinaloa and Jalisco cartel operations throughout Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, the DEA Chicago Field Division seized 126 pounds of fentanyl powder and 223,755 fake pills, equivalent to 3,337,709 deadly doses. DEA Chicago Field Division agents also conducted 173 arrests while seizing 904 pounds of methamphetamine, 738 guns and $5,756,330 in assets.
“Operation Last Mile is an important step towards dismantling every part of the drug trafficking networks responsible for killing Americans at record rates,” said Sheila G. Lyons, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division. “This enforcement operation should send a clear message to the those in our community facilitating the work of the cartels, the Chicago Field Division will continue to pursue you in order to protect the safety and health of our communities throughout Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.”
Operation Last Mile is an example of DEA’s network-based approach to take out Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartel members and associates in the United States and across the globe, stop fentanyl, and save American lives. In April 2023, the DEA and our federal partners announced the indictment of 28 members and associates of the Sinaloa Cartel operating in Mexico, China, and Central America, including the leaders of the Cartel known as the “Chapitos.”