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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marlcets ofthe 1970's and 1980's. At one time traffickers from Mexico supplied and
transported heroin and marijuana into the United States in unrivalled amounts.
During the mid-1980's, major drug traffickers such as Rafael Caro Quintero were
responsible for the bulk of the marijuana entering the U.S. You may recall that in
1985, DEA Special Agent Enrique Camerena was killed by drug traffickers from
Mexico after he investigated Caro Quintero's network.

During the 1980's, when cocaine deluged the United States, enforcement activities
were concentrated along the South Florida and Caribbean region. For several years,
cocaine trafTickers from Colombia had been able to transport cocaine to the United
States in aircraft and small boats until major enforcement operations shifted the co-
caine trade away from the Southeast towards Mexico. By 1991, over half of the co-
caine coming into the United States was smuggled over the Southwest Border
through a well-established network of transporters from Mexico. Members of the
Cah Mafia subcontracted loads of cocaine to transportation experts from Mexico,
and in many cases, paid the transporters in cocaine. As a result, traffickers from
Mexico become more and more independent and were able to establish solid traffick-
ing networks and customers in their own right.

One of the most troubling developments is the fact that the traffickers in Mexico
have learned well the lessons taught to them by the Cali Mafia. Like their mentors,
the traffiickers from Mexico rely on a network of highly controlled cells which oper-
ate different aspects ofthe business. And like the Cali Mafia, trafficking organiza-
tions from Mexico employ a network of sophisticated communications which protects
their secrecy. While not yet at the level of sophistication which allowed the Cali
Mafia to control entire cities and influence major sectors of Colombian society, tile
Mexican trafTickers, nonetheless, have the potential to become as powerful as their
Cali Mafia partners.

In 1995, major trafficking organizations from Mexico — the Caro Quintero groyp.
the Garcia Abrego organization, the Arellano Felix network, the Amado Carillo
Fuentes organization and the Amezcua brothers dominate the trafficking scene and
are heavily involved in methamphetamine production and trafficking.

These major polydrug organizations from Mexico have over the past three years,
replaced outlaw motorcycle gangs as the predominant methamphetamine producers,
traffiickers and distributors in California and in much of the United States. This is
a critical point — groups from Mexico are self-suffiicient in all aspects of the meth-
amphetamine trade. Unlike the cocaine business, where traffiickers from Mexico re-


lied on Peruvian peasants to grow and harvest coca leaves, Colombian lab operators
to turn the coca leaves into coca paste and then into cocaine, and Cali bosses to ap-
prove each shipment, traffickers from Mexico can now call all the shots themselves.
This is an ominous development.

Domestic Methamphetamine Traffickers: Within the United States, methamphet-
amine is being distributed by numerous organizations working with trafiickers from
Mexico. As with the cocaine trade, it is difficult to separate the business into clear
domestic and international sectors. As far as we are concerned, the drug trade, in-
cluding the methamphetamine business, is a seamless continuum in which both sec-
tors are interdependent. The outlaw biker groups and traditional gangs, such as the
Bloods and the Crips, depend on traffickers from Mexico to manufacture and trans-
port the methamphetamine. Traffickers from Mexico are also dependent on home-
grown traffickers in the United States to distribute their product.

A brief overview of methamphetamine trafficking patterns from Mexico to the
United States illustrates the complexity of the situation facing us today. The major
Mexican trafficking groups cooperate and coordinate all aspects of the methamphet-
amine business.

The Amezcua organization controls the smuggling of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine
and methamphetamine. Comprised of three brothers, this organization operates in
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Tijuana and Colima, Mexico. They operate through a series of
cells throughout the state of California.

The Amado Carillo Fuentes organization, known as the "Juarez cartel" and the
Juan Garcia Abrego group have been implicated in methamphetamine trafficking.
In the investigation following a 315 kilogram methamphetamine seizure in Las
Cruces, New Mexico, we learned that these groups are distributing marijuana, co-
caine and methamphetamine to Atlanta, Chicago, Oklahoma City and Seattle from
Juarez, Mexico.

The Carillo Fuentes organization also has ties to clandestine laboratories in the
Phoenix, Arizona area and is believed capable of supplying several hundred pounds
to tons quantities of methamphetamine. Phoenix is also the location of the network
of Caro Quintero known as "the Mexican Rhinestone Cowboy," which we believe
supplies hundred pound to ton quantities of methamphetamine.

The operations of the groups from Mexico are not limited to the border areas. Our
Atlanta Division reports that methamphetamine is brought into the Georgia and
Tennessee area from California. The drug is popular with 18-25 year olds and is
distributed by biker gangs . There is also evidence that groups from Mexico are dis-
tributing methamphetamine in the Southeast United States.

The San Francisco DEA office has also identified methamphetamine as their
major concern. Outlaw motorcycle gangs distribute the methamphetamine after it
is obtained from sources in Mexico.

The Law Enforcement Response: DEA, working with State and local partners, is
attacking each link in the methamphetamine business, and is working to target
methamphetamine production, arrest the lab operators and methamphetamine traf-
fickers, and shut down chemical companies supplying the chemicals needed to
produce methamphetamine.

The methampnetamine problem is fast becoming a national concern. Although
some areas of the country, particularly the West Coast and Western states have ex-
perienced a phenomenal growth in methamphetamine usage, all areas of the coun-
try are showing signs of increased methamphetamine problems. There is no ques-
tion that California has been particularly hard hit by the methamphetamine situa-
tion The majority of clandestine labs seized in the U.S. have been in California and
DEA and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement have worked closely to ad-
dress this problem and will continue to do so in the future. Just this past Tuesday,
DEA combined with state and local law enforcement in Southern California to ar-
rest fifteen people and seize over 57 million in cash and assets, as well as 1500
cases of pseudoephedrine. Agents and officers raided four businesses that are sus-
pected of supplying Mexican-based trafficking organizations with chemicals to proc-
ess methampnetamine. Since 1994, these companies have distributed an estimated
80,000 pounds of ephedrine.

The problem of clandestine labs is one which we are watching closely to determine
whether the control and enforcement measures we are pursuing to stop the How of
precursors, such as ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from entering our country will
force the trafficking organizations to move most of the manufacturing sites, the
clandestine labs, to locations outside of the United States. The avoidance of sophisti-
cated U.S. law enforcement efforts could well be the incentive for these international
traffickers to change their mode of operation to more closely mirror the cocaine traf-
fic — only ship the refined product into the U.S. to reduce risks from U.S. enforce-


ment actions. This would obviously further necessitate international cooperation in
tracking and seizing these precursors and taking action against the trafTickers.

Since May of this year, DEA has seized over 25 metric tons of ephedrine and
pseudoephedrine from three major "rogue" chemical comoanies. Because we believe
that these chemicals would be used to manufacture metnamphetamine, the compa-
nies are subject to criminal prosecution.

In a very significant case, Clifton Pharmaceutical company in Pennsylvania was
identified as a manufacturer of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine tablets and supplied
these products to several other companies who, in turn, provided them to clandes-
tine lab operators. Clifton Pharmaceuticals purchased about 34 metric tons of
ephedrine and pseudoephedrine between January and March of 1995. These chemi-
cals could have been used to manufacture 24 metric tons of methamphetamine.
When the main pharmaceutical company was raided, the seized products filled five
53 foot semi-trailers to remove them.

DEA is working closely with chemical companies in an effort to educate them
about the seriousness of the methamphetamine problem, and enlist their support for
continuing chemical supplies. Based on the authorities provided to us by Congress,
DEA has recently published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register
to remove the exemption for certain pseudoephdrine products from the Chemical Di-
version and Trafficking Act regulations.

We are encouraged that since these enforcement actions against U.S. chemical
companies, we are seeing an increase in the price of methamphetamine over the
past several months. In some places, the price has gone up to $9,000 or $10,000 a
pound up from a low of $4000 to $5000. We hope that this trend continues and that
through sustained law enforcement actions, we can reduce the prevalence of meth-
aniphetamine across the country.

IjEA has also targeted methamphetamine production and trafficking on a national
basis. The most comprehensive actions are being taken through the Southwest Bor-
der Initiative in which DEA and the FBI have joined together to identify and dis-
mantle trafficking organizations along the Southwest Border. As mentioned before,
many of the traflicking organizations from Mexico are polydrug organizations. As
DEA and the FBI, along with U.S. Attorneys, state and local law enforcement agen-
cies combine expertise and resources to target the communications and transpor-
tation capabilities of trafficking organizations which operate on both the U.S. and
Mexico sides of the border, we are able to build cases against the methamphetamine
traflickers in Mexico and in our Southwest Border states. And this strategy is being
implemented at a critical time, when the Cali drug lords are behind bars, and traf-
ficking groups from Mexico look towards the future.

In a number of communities beset by violent drug trafficking, DEA is working
with state and local officials through our Mobile Enforcement Teams to identify, tar-
get and eventually arrest those individuals who are responsible for drug related
homicides and other violence. A number of MET teams have worked successfully in
Texas, Alabama and California — one operation in San Luis Obispo resulted in the
arrest of 70 dealers, over $250,000 worth of drugs, including methamphetamine. We
plan to work with state and local officials in the coming year around the nation.

Conclusion: Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate this
opportunity to update you on the methamphetamine situation in our nation today.
I would not paint such a critical picture unless I believed that methamphetamine
was such a serious phenomenon, both for our law enforcement community and for
our nation's treatment providers. I am concerned that this coming epidemic could
not happen at a worse time: our nation has not yet fully recovered from our cocaine
experience, and powerful traffickers in Mexico are seeking to make their mark on
history in much the same way the Cali Mafia did. Despite these serious situations,
DEA, working with our state and local partners, will continue to target and arrest
methamphetamine traffickers aggressively.

Next February, DEA will host a conference on methamphetamine in Washington.
We will bring together representatives of law enforcement organizations from across
the country to make recommendations about how we can better utilize our resources
and strategies to address the methamphetamine problem.

I look forward to hearing from the other witnesses, and am happy to answer any
questions you may have.

Mr. McCoLLUM Mr. Constantine, because of the previous com-
mitment with the Speaker on a matter of reconcihation, I'm going
to have to leave briefly and turn it over to vice chairman, Mr.
Heineman, to chair. But before I walk out, I want to raise two or
three issue areas with you that I think the subcommittee really


needs to get some answers on. Some of these answers you may be
able to give us today, whether I'm here or not, or perhaps provide
them in writing back to us.

One of those questions is whether or not we have adequate — I'm
just going to run through several of them because I'm going to have
to step out momentarily — whether we have adequate resources that
are available to implement the Chemical and Diversion and Traf-
ficking Act of 1994. You alluded to it, I know you're using it, but
have we given you enough to do that job? And if not, what else do
we need?

I'd like to know more about the role of the DEA's mobile enforce-
ment teams in combating the methamphetamine problem. I know
that that's very critical in this process.

Also, one of the things to me that is very significant, although
we don't have data on here in front of us, is some comparison with
the methamphetamine problem and the cocaine problem. In other
words, what are we dealing with here in terms of either usage,
maybe more by region or by State, but perhaps nationally. And
what are we dealing with in terms of dollar amounts and problems
facing you in coping with methamphetamine as opposed to coping
with cocaine. What comparisons can you give us on that?

And last, I'm interested in the Mexican cooperation. It's always
a touchy subject, but nobody can look at what you said today and
not recognize that your problems are compounded to the degree you
don't get full cooperation with the Mexican Government because
that's obviously where all of these sources are coming from.

Now, regretting the fact that I have to step off and leave — I lit-
erally have to walk out the door at 20 after, which it is now — I'm
going to turn the chair over to Mr. Heineman. He is the vice chair-
man of our subcommittee. If you wish to respond under his tute-
lage to any of those things for the record, I'd be delighted if you
did. I just regret I have to walk out, and I'll be back, I'm not going
to be gone very long. But thank you. Mr. Heineman.

Mr. Heineman [presiding]. If you don't mind, I'll call you Tom,
so I don't get in the middle of the "Constanteen" and "Constantine."

You may present your answers to the chairman.

Mr. Constantine. Let me go through — as I have written them

First of all, the resources for the chemical diversion program. In
last year's budget from both the House and the Senate, the DEA
was treated very well. There was a restoration to bring us back to
1992 peak strength. I can't tell you exactly how the budget will
turn out this year. Our budget is still in a conference, but I'm opti-
mistic that we will do very well. In the 1997 budget which we have
prepared, and I've met with the Attorney General recently, we've
addressed the entire Southwest border as an issue, methamphet-
amine being a key part of that. The diversion of chemicals and the
need for using that aspect of an investigation to go after the pre-
cursor chemicals is addressed in that 1997 budget, and we'll have
to see as how that comes out. As you know, that has to go through
a whole series of stages before we get there.

The mobile enforcement team, we funded through savings real-
ized by moving people out of headquarters, and by eliminating
some TDY programs that we had. So, we got no enhancement for


that. Again, we are addressing that in the 1997 budget. We pres-
ently have 150 people across the country. We literally cannot han-
dle all of the requests that we have from chiefs of police and sher-
iffs and heads of State police. We are taking them on a priority.
We send an intelligence team in to see if there's a high level of
homicides. There's an organized, not just a disorganized, but
there's an organized narcotics trafficking group that is simulta-
neously killing people, we then target them as part of the inves-
tigation because, even though they are killers — and they can't
sometimes be caught at that because the witnesses are intimi-
dated — if they are dealing narcotics, they usually have to do that
5 or 6 days a week, 12 or 15 hours a day, with a lot of weaknesses
in the system. We use that as an input really to try to reduce the
violence or take the violence out of the drug trafficking as much
as possible. So, we are a little overwhelmed right now.

As for a comparison between methamphetamine and cocaine, I
would have to get back to you with some statistics. I think in some
places it displaces cocaine as the choice substance. I think there
tends to be, in many ways, individuals who look for a new fad all
of the time. I think that's particularly true regarding usage on the
west coast, the Rocky Mountain States, and in areas of the South-
west. In the rest of the country, I think it's a supplemental prob-
lem, and we'll have to take a look at it.

He had a question on prices. I don't have all the notes, I'll have
to get back to you on that one.

On the issue of cooperation with the Government of Mexico. I've
only been in this job 19 months, and I've been dealing with the
present administration in Mexico for probably 11 of those 19
months. The President Zedillo and Attorney General Lozano ap-
pear to be very committed to trying to improve the situation. I
know — at least I'm told, I certainly wasn't present — but the meet-
ing between President Clinton and President Zedillo the primary
area of concern and discussion in many ways was the narcotics
issue and a recognition by the Government of Mexico of the dam-
age that had been done to Colombia by narcotics traffickers. And
they are seeing it in Mexico as a national security threat. I am op-
timistic, as they start to develop a structure in Mexico with this
leadership, they are going to be much more effective. But I think
what everybody has to understand, in all honesty, is they are start-
ing from scratch.

In the United States, we are familiar with people who go to jun-
ior colleges and 4-year colleges and study criminal justice, and
10,000 of them take an exam, and you hire 200, and you polygraph,
and you background, and you send them through 6 months of
training, and you have internal affairs units. All of those structures
that we are familiar with are not in place in Mexico. And, Lord
knows, we have enough problems in the United States even with
all of the things that we try to do right. To be able to do that in
Mexico is going to take a substantial period of time, and I think
that people will have to be a little bit patient. I think that if they
start with small units that are trained, vetted and directed, you've
got to start with a first step someplace. So that's my impression of


Mr. Heineman. I see my time has expired — the chairman's time
has expired. I'd Hke to claim my time at this point, and have you
finish the answers to the chairman's questions on my time.

Mr. CoNSTANTiNE. The only one that would be left would be a
question about Mexican cooperation. I think that I've answered it.
I think that there was a question on pricing and coping. I think
that I'll have to see either the chairman's staff or my staff because
my notes kind of — didn't fill out completely.

Mr. Heineman. But this, this, cooperation that you're talking
about at the top levels of the Governments, has there been any at-
tempt by the administration — by yourself, or the other administra-
tion, in the administration, to deal directly with the Federal law
enforcement agencies?

Mr. CoNSTANTiNE. In other countries? Or here?

Mr. Heineman. No, in Mexico, where Mexico is concerned.

Mr. CONSTANTINE. Well, as I said, it was the high priority item
in that meeting. I know that Attorney General Reno has met con-
tinually with ifCttomey General Lozano, and I have met with him
two or three times. There have been — ^for people who are long term
DEA employees and have worked with other countries including
Mexico, they are very optimistic of the beginnings of this program.
And everybody, including the Attorney General of Mexico, are
aware of this huge uphill struggle and the tremendous wealth and
power of these trafficking organizations. But all that I have heard.
Congressman, and all that I have seen so far have been positive.

Mr. Heineman. Thank you.

As it relates to methamphetamines, what is — I don't know
whether we've had — or we have a proper understanding of exactly
what we are dealing with, we at the congressional level. Could you
profile what a methamphetamine is, and how it effects physically
and psychologically, and perhaps, if I have time on my time, how
that differs from crack cocaine.

Mr. CONSTANTINE. Not much different. Obviously, I am a career
law enforcement officer, and not a pharmacist or a doctor. It's a
stimulant drug which acts on the central nervous system, and by
stimulation, it makes people excited or excitable in many ways to
be able to go without sleeping for long periods of time. Now in its
original format, it had some legitimate medical, prescription pur-

When I was a young trooper a long time ago, virtually every
truckdriver that got in an accident on the New York State
Thruway, and if the accident looked unusual, we checked the log
book to see how long they had been driving. We were very sus-
picious of the possibility of methamphetamine usage. That was a
very common arrest for truckdrivers in the United States, using
methamphetamine to stay awake and to bring a load of produce up
from Florida up to New York State. And there were many accidents
that resulted from it. There are students who either used meth-
amphetamine or some derivative or maybe something that wasn't
either illegal under either a belief or reality that they could stay
awake and study for extended periods of time.

The abuse, though, that we see, is by people who use this drug
in such amounts and for such a duration that many of them can
go 4, 5, or 6 days without sleeping, often without eating because


it also depresses those parts of the system that control diet, and
makes them very excitable, difficult to deal with, and certainly dis-
oriented to the point that they are no longer productive workers.
They would be very dangerous to you, or me, or our families if they
drove cars and performed other jobs.

It's similar to crack cocaine. It's used many ways in the same for-
mat. There's a longer duration of the effect of methamphetamine.
There are people who move to the injection of methamphetamine.

Mr. Heineman. But it doesn't give the rush that crack would

Mr. CoNSTANTlNE. I have never had the chance to talk to people
who have used both substances or seen anything about a rush ef-
fect, but it is a very similar reaction on the body. They both have
the same properties.

Mr, Heineman. Well, is there such a thing as overdosing on

Mr. CoNSTANTlNE. Oh, yes, the overdose deaths have increased
in some of the cities, especially in some of the ones we mentioned.
Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles, substantially. The numbers
are big for people who overdose on methamphetamines.

Mr. Heineman. And is there some type of a combination with
methamphetamine and some other type drug which would give you
a different reaction?

Mr. CoNSTANTlNE. None that I am aware of. Congressman, other
than a lot of times people are polydrug users. They'll use meth-
amphetamine to stay awake for 4 or 5 days, and then try to get
a hold of barbiturates to force themselves to sleep. Then they get
into this cycle of abusing both drugs simultaneously. But I don't
know of anything in combination.

Mr. Heineman. There would naturally be a large market in the
universities and colleges across this country.

Mr. CoNSTANTlNE. Presently, that is not where we are seeing
this speed, methamphetamine traffic. We find a lot in the rural
areas and lower middle class communities and just generically
across the entire populations.

Mr. Heineman. Thank you. I'd like to recognize Mr. Schumer.

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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 3 of 9)