United States. Congress. House. Committee on the J.

Rising scourge of methamphetamine in America : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, October 26, 1995 online

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assistance from the medical community because of the impact of
methamphetamine usage. In that case, as you can see, San Fran-
cisco is up 174 percent, and it's a trend line that keeps going up,
unfortunately, from 1992 to 1993 to 1994: San Diego, 4 percent;
Los Angeles, 71 percent, and Phoenix, 174 percent. People in San
Diego and the San Francisco Bay area report that there were near-
ly 300 admissions to treatment programs. Now that's not DAWN
statistics; that's people seeking treatment for an addiction to the
drug — ^from 600 in 1998 up to last year, 3,000 admissions.

The other issue that we look at is law enforcement officers.
There's a relationship between drug usage, drug trafficking and vi-
olence. Phoenix, AZ, has indicated that the methamphetamine is


largely responsible for a 40-percent jump in homicides in 1994. In
Contra Costa County near San Francisco, police authorities have
advised that methamphetamine is involved in 89 percent of all of
the domestic dispute responses in that county. In San Diego, a bat-
tle over the control of drug trafficking and methamphetamine traf-
ficking specifically has resulted in 26 deaths as rival gangs kept
killing and retaliating, retaliating and killing. The percentage of
methamphetamine detections in arrestees, as reported in the
DUFF report, rose from 23 percent in 1991 to 45 percent in 1994.

Early this summer, the sheriff and police authorities in San Luis
Obispo, CA, came to DEA and asked for the assistance of one of
our newly formed methamphetamine. They had 13 drug-related
homicides involving the productions and distribution of meth-
amphetamine in that county. We were able to provide the team
that led to the arrest of all of the major players in the control of
the narcotics and the homicides.

In Tacoma, WA, police have advised that a half dozen homicides
were related to methamphetamine, and among other things, a pipe
bombing of the residence of one of the narcotics detectives.

The third thing that we look at is the seizures of drugs. Now this
is not empirical information, however, I have found that law en-
forcement officers do not pick out a particular drug to work on.
Usually what happens is complainants come to you, informants
come to you, with information. It's a fairly good predictor of where
the drug trafficking trend is going to.

In 1994, methamphetamine seizures by dosage units were up 88
percent over the previous year, and the purity had jumped from 46
percent to 72 percent. I've got some figures on the board that come
from the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, and in all
honesty because the focus of this trend began in California, as
many trends do, I guess, they were really a leader in advising most
of us in the law enforcement community of this great concern.
From 1990-1994, they went fi-om 2,167 pounds to last year, 14,415
pounds of methamphetamines seized. Now the 1995 figures, I'm ad-
vised, will surpass the 1994 figure. That's a 518-percent increase.
The production of methamphetamine will have an effect inter-
nationally and will not be limited only to California.

You have mentioned Florida, and we have, by the way, I believe
there's law enforcement officials here from Arizona, Oregon, and
Florida, to be able to discuss their actual experiences. The meth-
amphetamine problem is also critical in Texas, Missouri, Utah, Col-
orado, Nevada, and Arizona. I just returned from a meeting of
11,000 police chiefs in Miami, and had a chance to talk to numbers
of police officials from the west coast, and those from Wyoming, Or-
egon, State of Washington, when we talked drug trafficking with
them, one of their big areas of concern was methamphetamine pro-
duction and distribution.

And the fourth, is, I think has been alluded to, is that this is now
the venue of very powerful and well-organized traffickers. This is
not a mom-and-pop operation, as it may have been at one time —
who have developed the sophisticated skills in the transportation
and distribution of drugs. Primarily these organizations are operat-
ing out of Mexico and are dominating the methamphetamine proc-
ess. They are possibly, given the successes that we've had this sum-

mer — and we've had some very significant successes in arresting all
of the major leadership of the Cali Group in Colombia — that this
group of drug traffickers had been part of the middle operation
from Colombia more and more are showing independence and au-
tonomous operations.

You mentioned Special Agent Richard Fass who was killed in
1994 and that is obviously of concern to the DEA. The young man
with a beautiful young family had been transferred from Phoenix
to Mexico. The afternoon of his going away party, he was really
supposed to go home and pack his belongings, and there was a
need for a methamphetamine undercover operation, and he went to
that undercover operation in Scottsdale, AZ, and unfortunately,
was shot and killed. We have convicted one of the murderers. The
key conspirator unfortunately is in Mexico and has not been lo-
cated at this point in time.

What I've tried to do in making my presentation is to look at it
chronologically. And I think we begin with the chemical issue,
which gives us a sense of the complexity of the business.

The chemical supplies that play a very important role are eohedr
rine and nspuHop phf drinp Thprp's two sources of supply: The do-
-m«Stic cTfemical industry, from which ephedrine and
pseudoephedrine are diverted and the international chemical mar-
ket which feeds the methamphetamine production in Mexico and
eventually the United States. I think Congressman Schumer men-
tioned — or yourself. Congressman McCollum — ^beginning in 1990,
U.S. laws drastically reduced the availability of chemicals from do-
mestic sources. By 1992, traffickers in Mexico had identified for-
eign sources of supply which could be imported directly into Mexico
for the manufacture of methamphetamine which was then smug-
gled into California. The sources were major legitimate manufac-
turers in the Czechoslovakian Republic, India, and China, who
would then sell to brokers in Switzerland and other countries who
in turn arranged for transportation in Mexico. These traffickers
have been able to import over 170 metric tons of ephedrine in a lit-
tle over a year. This would make approximately 140 metric tons of

Simultaneously, the traffickers discovered a loophole in the U.S.
law, a law controlling ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as chemicals:
it did not extend to the pill or tablet form which contained these
chemicals. West coast methamphetamine traffickers, in collusion
with people who posed as legitimate businessmen but were just
equally as criminal or corrupt, discovered that they could order
hundreds of pounds of these tablets from mail order supply houses,
most of which were located on the east coast of the United States.
Our investigation has shown that many of these suppliers were
well aware of the purpose for which these pills were being pur-
chased. In a single case in Pennsylvania, records show that almost
91 tons of these pills were sold to traffickers in less than 2 years.
These two sources, both foreign and domestic, account for the huge
volume of chemicals essential for this traffic.

The major change has been the sophisticated drug mafias from
Mexico. This is in many ways our most troubling development. This
has happened in the recent past. A brief history of the involvement
of these trafficking organizations is probably worthwhile.


As you can see, there's two charts — we try to make them color-
coded, but I bet they're difficult to read. But they really stretch
from West to East along the border from Tijuana over to the
Brownsville area of Texas. Traffickers from Mexico have been in-
volved in the drug trade since the early 1970's. Thev've got well es-
tablished networks as they're smuggling their goods over a 2,000-
mile land border for years. Beginning in heroin and marijuana, at
one time they supplied and transported these days to the United
States and had no rival.

During the mid-1980's, major drug traffickers, including Raphael
Caro Quintero, were responsible for the bulk of the marijuana en-
tering the United States. This is an important week for us in DEA.
We call it "Red Ribbon Week," just to commemorate one of our
DEA agents, Kiki Camerena who was kidnapped by traffickers in
Mexico, taken to a location in a rural area and tortured repeatedly.
A physician came in to keep him alive so they could torture him
longer and interview him, and eventually murder him. This was
after he had done some damage to the Caro Quintero network.

During the 1980's, as cocaine was coming to the United States,
much of our efforts were focused on the Florida and the Caribbean
region, and we were fairly successful in limiting drug trafficking.
The major mafia heads from Colombia recognized this and they es-
tablished a relationship with the traffickers from Mexico. This has
become a very substantial business enterprise as they subcon-
tracted loads of cocaine originally on a unit price of 2,000 pounds
f)er kilo. Increasingly, the traffickers from Mexico saw that they no
onger needed a per unit price but were willing to take one-half of
the load of the cocaine for themselves and transport the other half
to the United States and turn it over to Colombian groups within
the United States.

These traffickers and these cartels, or mafias, in Mexico, have
learned a great deal about technology, a great deal about business,
and how to highly control the cells of the operation. They have be-
come equally as sophisticated as the mafia from Cali, and have the
potential, I think, to become equally as powerful in the future.

These groups, the Caro Quintero group, the Garcia Abrego, the
Arellano Felix, and the Amado Carillo Fuentes organization along
with the Amezcua brothers, dominate the trafficking scene today
and are heavily involved in methamphetamine production and traf-
ficking. These major groups have over the past 3 years replaced the
former Hells Angel-type outlaw motorcycle gangs as the predomi-
nant methamphetamine producers and traffickers and distributors
in California and the United States.

Unlike the cocaine business where the traffickers have to relv on
Peruvian peasants to grow and harvest the coca leaves and Colom-
bian laboratory operators to turn the coca leaves into coca paste
and then cocaine, these individuals no longer have the need for a
middleman, or a source of cocaine. They are their own operation.
Within the United States, methamphetamine is being distributed
by numerous organizations who are supplied by these traffickers.
It's difficult for us at the present time to separate the business into
clear domestic and international sectors. As far as we're concerned,
it's a seamless continuum in which both sectors are interdepend-
ent. The outlaw biker groups and traditional gangs such as the


Bloods and the Crips, often old-time moonshiner groups from the""
Southeast, depend on traffickers from Mexico to manufacture and
to transport the methamphetamine.

A brief overview of the trafficking patterns from Mexico to the
United States illustrates the complexity that we have. The
Amezcua brothers organization controls the smuggling of ephedrine
and pseudoephedrine and methamphetamine. Comprised of three
brothers, this organization operates in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Ti-
juana, and CoHma, Mexico. They operate through a series of cells
much like the old Colombian cocaine operation in the State of Cali-
fornia. The Carrillo Fuentes organization, known as the Juarez
Cartel and the Juan Garcia Abrego group. There is $1 million re-
ward placed on Juan Garcia Abrego and he is on the top 10 wanted
FBI list — have been implicated in methamphetamine trafficking. In
Las Cruces, NM, there was a seizure of 1,500 kilograms of meth-
amphetamine. We learned that these groups are distributing mari-
juana, cocaine, and methamphetamine to Atlanta, Chicago, Okla-
homa City, and Seattle from Juarez, Mexico.

The Carillo Fuentes organization also has ties to laboratories in
Phoenix, AZ, and is believed capable of supplying several hundred
pounds to ton quantities of methamphetamine.

Phoenix is also the location of the network of Caro Quintero who
we believe also supplies hundred pound to ton quantities of meth-
amphetamine. This is not limited to solely the border area with
New Mexico. Our Atlanta division reports that methamphetamine
is brought into Atlanta. It is then turned over to what I call old
time moonshiners in the rural areas of north Georgia, Kentucky,
and Tennessee. These individuals then control the distribution in
suburban Atlanta and the rural areas of all of those States and are
associated with many of the biker gangs. The San Francisco DEA
office has also identified methamphetamine as their major concern
with outlaw motorcycle groups distributing it after it is obtained
from the sources in Mexico.

Let me tell you what our response has been to this to date. We're
working with State police. State narcotics units, county sheriffs,
city police departments and town police departments in trying to
go after each link of the organization. First, target the production,
arrest the lab operators, the traffickers and shut down the chemi-
cal companies who are supplying the chemicals needed to produce
the methamphetamine. As we have looked, as I have said, the lead-
ership in the west coast has been substantial, we have learned a
gxeat deal and have worked very closely with them. They have
been hard hit by this particular problem.

Just Tuesday of this week, DEA combined with State and local
law enforcement in Riverside County, CA, to arrest 15 people and
to seize over $7 million in cash and assets as well as 1,500 cases
of pseudoephedrine. These companies have distributed an esti-
mated 80,000 pounds of ephedrine already.

The problem of the labs is one which we are watching closely to
determine whether the control and enforcement measures we are
pursuing, such as limiting ephedrine and pseudoephedrine from en-
tering our country, will force the trafficking organizations to move
most of the manufacturing sites, the laboratories, to locations out-
side of the United States. I can't tell you yet whether that is going


to occur. We get reports of two different trends. One is that these
trafficking groups think it's easier to make the drug in Mexico and
smuggle it across as methamphetamine; others that it comes across
as ephedrine and is manufactured. As we work closely with the
FBI in a major international investigation on traffickers, which I
will mention in more detail later, we will target both sides of the

Since May of this year, we have seized 25 metric tons, which
would be about 20 tons of methamphetamine, from three major
rogue chemical companies. We believe that these chemicals would
be used to manufacture methamphetamine and the companies are
subject to a seizure and criminal prosecution. In the Valley Forge
area of Pennsylvania, the Clifton Pharmaceuticals Co. was identi-
fied as a manufacturer of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine tablets
and supplied these products to several other companies who in turn
provided them to clandestine lab operators. Clifton Pharma-
ceuticals purchased about 35, 34 metric tons of ephedrine and
pseudoephedrine in the early winter of this year. When the ma^ac^
pharmaceutical company was raided, the seized products filled (_55,
( y^- by 3-foot semitr ailers just to move what we seized. We're work-
—J^ing fclosely with Them to educate them about methamphetamine,
"^ and based on the authorities that you have thankfully provided to
us, we will soon publish a notice of rulemaking in the Federal Reg-
ister to remove the exemption for certain pseudoephedrine products
from the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act regulations.

We are encouraged that we have seen an increase in prices after
a drop but, I'm always leery of price trends on a short term, be-
cause they can turn around and change within a month. In some
places the price has gone up to $9,000 or $10,000 a pound from the
previous dip that we have seen. We hope that increase will con-

We've also targeted the production. Probably the most com-
prehensive investigation that DBA is involved in right now is a
joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the
entire Southwest border. This will be meant to identify and dis-
mantle these huge trafficking organizations on both sides of the
border. Ourselves, along with U.S. attorneys. State police, local po-
lice, Treasury agencies — ^between the FBI and the DEA, we prob-
ably have committed 500 agents to this major investigation. I hope
that we'll be successful in the future. By sending people out of
headquarter staff positions we have established what is called
MET's in which we will loan out teams of DEA investigators to
State or local law enforcement who have a significant problem that
combines violence and drug traffiicking like they had in San Luis
Obispo. We will also ask as we have in the 1997 budget — to en-
hance this program so that DEA can provide that service. It's a
program that we take no credit for; all of the public attention to
it is done by State and local officials. And if they don't mention the
DEA that's fine, and if they do, that's fine.

So, I iust want to thank you for this opportunity. I know you
have following me three outstanding law enforcement officers who
are much closer to it than I am presently in my career and can
probably tell you an awful lot what it looks like today. So thank


[The prepared statement of Mr. Constantine follows:]

Prepared Statement of Thomas A. Constantine, Administrator, Drug
Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Justice

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to appear before the
subcommittee today to discuss an issue which is facing law enforcement across the
nation — the unprecedented availability and afibrdabifity of methamphetamine, or
speed. The scheduling of this hearing comes at an opportune time because recent
law enforcement andliealth data suggest that methamphetamine is a critical prob-

Wlw should we be concerned about methamphetamine today? There are several
simincant reasons.

First, deaths from methamphetamine have increased dramatically, preliminary in
four U.S. cities: Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. In Phoenix
alone, deaths have increased 5109J>— from 20 deaths in 1992 to 122 in 1994. In Ha-
waii, methamphetamine-related deaths tripled from 12 to 26, between 1993 and

People are seeking treatment for methamphetamine abuse in record numbers.
During 1994, in San Diego, there were more treatment admissions for methamphet-
amine than alcohol. Authorities in San Diego and the southern San Francisco Bay
area report that there were nearly 3,000 admissions to treatment programs for
methamphetamine, up from 600 in 1988.

Second, the violence associated with methamphetamine is unparalleled. Some ex-
amples of this violence:

Phoenix, Arizona police say methamphetamine is largely responsible for the
40% jump in homiciaes in 1994.

In Contra Costa County, near San Francisco, police have found that meth-
amphetamine is involved in 89% of domestic disputes in that county.

In San Diego, rival methamphetamine smuggling rings were responsible for
a series of killings that resulted in 26 death. Also in San Diego County, the per-
centage of methamphetamine detections in a arrestee rose from 23% in the first
half 01 1991, to 45% during the same period in 1994.

In San Luis Obispo, California, this May, local authorities requested DBA as-
sistance in confronting spiraling violence that involved thirteen drug-related
homicides committed by gangs engaged in the production and distribution of
methamphetamine in that count.

In Tacoma, Washington, police report that half a dozen homicides were relat-
ed to a methamphetamine organization which, among other things, pipe-bombed
the residence of a narcotics detective.
Third, methamphetamine is purer and more plentiful than ever before.

In 1994, methamphetamine seizures by dosage were up 88% over the previous
year, and purity had jumped from 16% to 72% in only two years.

In California alone, according to the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforce-
ment, methamphetamine seizures for the year period of 1990 to 1994 were up
518%. During 1994, over 14,000 pounds of methamphetamine have been seized
in California.

Methamphetamine labs continue to be seized in a number of states and the
problem has not been limited to California. Scores of labs have been taken down
in Texas, Missouri, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. Two labs were also
recently seized in Florida, a state which has not faced this deadly threat on a
large scale before.
And fourth, powerful and well-organized traffickers armed with skills developed
from decades from involvement with the transportation of distribution of drugs,
such as heroin and cocaine are heavily involved in the methamphetamine business.
These organizations operating from Mexico are dominating illegal methamphet-
amine and are a continuing source of concern to DEA. They are possible heir-appar-
ent to the Call Mafia should in fact recent enforcement success against the Cali
Mafia result in the loss of their control of the international drug trade.

For these four equally compelling reasons. I believe it is critical that we focus on
the methamphetamine problem on a national basis. As you know, Mr. Chairman,
DEA lost Special Agent Richard Fass in June 1994 to violent methamphetamine
traffickers during an undercover buy. One of his killers has still not been appre-
hended, and is believed to be in Mexico.

The Chemical Connection: To understand the complexity of the methamphetamine
trafficking business, I believe it is important to take a brief look at how chemical
supplies play a pivotal role in the production of methamphetamine. There are two
sources of supply — the domestic chemical industry from which ephedrine and


pseudoephedrine are diverted, and the international chemical market which feeds
methamphetamine production in Mexico and the United States.

Beginning in 1990, new U.S. laws drastically reduced the availability of chemicals
from domestic sources which are needed for methamphetamine production. By 1992,
traffickers in Mexico had identified foreign sources of supply which would be im-
ported directly into Mexico for the manufacture of methamphetamine, which was
then smuggled into California. The sources were major legitimate manufacturers in
the Czech Republic, India and China who were selling to brokers in Switzerland and
other countries, who, in turn, arranged for transportation to Mexico. Traffickers
from Mexico were able to import over 170 metric tons of ephcdrine in little over a
year. This quantity would make approximately 140 metric tons of methamphet-

Simultaneously, traffickers discovered a loophole in the U.S. law. Although con-
trolling ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as chemicals, it did not extend to pills
which contained these chemicals. West Coast methamphetamine traffickers discov-
ered that they could order hundreds of pounds of these tablets from mail order sup-
ply houses, most of which were located on the East Coast. DEA investigations have
shown that many of these suopliers were well aware of the purpose for which these
pills were being purchased. In a single case involving a company in Pennsylvania,
records showed that almost 91 tons of pills were sold to traffickers in less than two

These two sources, both foreign and domestic, account for the huge volume of
chemicals which have made this traffic possible.

The Involvement of Traffickers from Mexico: One of the most troubling develop-
ments in the methamphetamine trade over the past several years has been the deep
involvement — and current domination — of the methamphetamine market by groups
from Mexico. A brief history of the involvement of trafficking organizations from
Mexico will give you an idea of the breadth and depth of their abilities to identify
drug supplies, transport these drugs to their intended targets and saturate the mar-
ket with their products.

Traffickers from Mexico have been involved in the drug trade since the early
1970's. Using their well-established networks which smuggled goods over the border
for years, groups from Mexico became major players in the heroin and marijuana

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JRising scourge of methamphetamine in America : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, October 26, 1995 → online text (page 2 of 9)