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
WASHINGTON – 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.”
Locally, the DEA Washington Division - with an area of responsibility that covers the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia - reported that since May 2022, their intelligence and operational efforts resulted in 158 investigations directly linked to the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels. So far, and in partnership with local, state, and federal partners, these investigations have led to the arrest of 240 criminals and the seizure of 98 lbs. of fentanyl powder, 224,450 fake pills, 126 lbs. of methamphetamine, 569 guns and over $4,500,000. The analysis of the modus operandi of these Drug Criminal Organizations revealed that they are using social media and Encrypted apps in over 50 of these investigations.
“Drug trafficking and violent crime is a major problem in many neighborhoods across the DMV and affects the very foundation of our families and communities. Every time we take illegal drugs and firearms off the streets, we save lives,” mentioned Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Washington Division. “The Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels are doing everything they can to increase their profits at the cost of the lives and safety of our citizens. I’m very grateful for the hard work of the DEA teams and our law enforcement partners, with whom we were able to make these arrests and seizures from these violent drug trafficking organizations”.
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.”