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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Mr. Schumer. Thank you very much.

First, Mr. Constantine, west coast cities were the ones on the
previous chart. Have you found any evidence of methamphetamine
being at all existent in east coast cities? I'm particularly interested
in New York. And if so, is the amount rising at all?

Mr. Constantine. The traffic that we have on the west coast and
now in the Southeast increasingly — I talked about the Atlanta area
seems to be affected — is not replicated presently in New York State
or the Eastern States. Congressman, we used to see in New York
State, and I was part of an investigation in the mid-1980's, where
the Hells Angels motorcycle club controlled the methamphetamine
traffic throughout New York State. They had a big house down in
Manhattan that they ran their operation from. And for some
strange reason, the border along the Susquehanna River, Bingham-
ton, Elmira, and the sister cities in Pennsylvania were very much
affected by methamphetamine production and usage. It's kind of an
Appalachian area in many of those communities. But that was


local, homegrown operations. It does not seem yet to be affected by
this on a large scale.

Mr. ScHUMER. Second question is, last year the Justice Depart-
ment set up a new system for coordinating law enforcement activi-
ties. I know the Attorney General is very high on this. They gave
responsibility to Director Freeh acting as the coordinator. Can you
tell me how this has worked out with respect to DEA and the divi-
sion of responsibility between DEA and FBI particularly on inter-
national drug matters?

Mr. CoNSTANTiNE. Well, first of all, that began before I came
here by Attorney General Reno, and she then passed it on to Direc-
tor Freeh. I have to tell you very honestly, I am a fan of both of
those people. I think they took a leadership position. It has worked
out very, very well from DEA's perspective. I think Director

Mr. ScHUMER. How do you do it on an international type of case,
such as with methamphetamine being made in Mexico?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. That's primarily our most important orga-
nized crime problem right now. As I've tried to tell people, in the
last 10 years, organized crime changed dramatically in this coun-
try. The damage that John Gotti did to the United States pales by
comparison to the impact of Santa Cruz, Londono, and the
Rodriguez Orejuela bothers in New York and other communities.
So, where those countries, where the international organized crime
problem is narcotics, the DEA is the lead agency. And if FBI agents
are assigned to those positions, they would be under the leadership
of people who are the DEA. Where the organized crime problem is
narcotics, which tends to be Italy sometimes, and now with Russia
and some of the newly independent states. The issues are primarilv
those of interest to the FBI, and if we have people assigned, we will
work with them. I'll tell you something, those two individuals, in
my opinion, made a big difference, and we've tried to make

Mr. ScHUMER. Coordination has improved?

Mr. CoNSTANTI^fE. I can't say enough. The investigation that I
talked to you about in the Southwest border — we have numbers of
cases where we have 20 DEA agents and 20 FBI agents working
together in a DEA office where the FBI agent is the boss. We may
have in another office, 20 and 20, in an FBI office, and the DEA
agent is the boss. It becomes productive, and it ends these crazy
turf wars that people don't want to hear about.

Mr. ScHUMER. Right. Third question is, tell me your views about
the proper role of drug prevention and treatment programs in
fighting drug abuse and methamphetamine abuse in particular.

Mr. CONSTANTINTE. It's eventually the ultimate answer. I think
that we can bring some order as law enforcement officials to ending
violence and drug trafficking and try to make people pay a price
for the pain that they inflict on everybody. The ultimate answer in
this is when people in America, for reasons that I can't understand,
one of the wealthiest, freest countries, abuses drugs so substan-
tially. We have to get out of that mode in the United States, and
people need to cease using drugs before we're going to be able to
solve this problem. I think law enforcement can hold things to-
gether for a period of time, and if we can reach the present 5th


graders, 6th graders or 7th graders, and get them to change their
behavior, if we can get the media to change, if we can get people
in the music industry or if we can get drugs at issue and recognize
a tremendous danger, maybe 5 to 10 years from now we can have
significant improvements. I think it's our job to try to hold every-
thing together for 5 or 10 years.

Mr. ScHUMER. Why do you think these efforts have been rather
small in the past?

Mr. CoNSTANTiNE. Well, I'm not an expert on that. Congressman.
I have to tell you, I have six children and now nine grandchildren,
and I first started working in narcotics in the mid-1960's. I'd grown
up as a kid in the city of Buffalo where heroin was veiy common,
and I could not believe, as I became a narcotics detective, middle
class people and university students here using narcotics. It did not
make sense to me. And at that point in time, there was a tremen-
dous education program. Each one of my children in all of the State
curriculum in New York in every single class program had a drug
education program. My youngest daughter, who is 14, went
through a DARE program, which is common in the city where I
live. Despite all of those tremendous efforts, for some reason, we
just don't seem to learn our lessons well.

Mr. ScHUMER. OK. One more question, Mr. Chairman.

Finally, in the eighties, we saw a increase, a great increase with
gun violence caused, in part, by the drug trade: turf wars, gangs
staking out crack distribution territories. Now that some of the
Mexican traffickers are trying to fight the old crack distribution
networks with methamphetamine, have you seen any increase in
gun violence? Is there a danger that this might occur?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. None that I know of as far as an increase spe-
cifically attributable to that. The level of violence in this country,
and the capabilities of people to kill 26 individuals in San Diego
County in a limited period of time, all of them who had been shot
and killed in these big shootouts, I think is indicative of what they
bring to this society.

Mr. ScHUMER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Heineman. Mr. Cole.

Mr. Coble. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Constantine, good to have you with us. I was interested in
your analogy about the DEA and the FBI. I didn't know that there
was any Federal law enforcement scenario where there was ever a
case where the FBI was not in charge. I find that interesting.

I want to follow on Chairman Heineman's question concerning
Mexico, Mr. Constantine. As you know, our neighbor to the south,
that boundary is easily negotiated, accessibility-wise, legal and oth-
erwise. That's what makes Mexico so obviously critical in this puz-
zle. And your testimony, and you may have testified orally about
this — I'm juggling three committee meetings, Mr. Chairman, simul-
taneously. But in your testimony, you indicate that Mexican traf-
fickers have the potential as the Cali cartel.

Let me ask you a two-prong question, Mr. Constantine. What
leads you to this conclusion, (a), and (b), what is being done to pre-
vent this from occurring?

Mr. Constantine. The first conclusion is really a supposition.
The group in Cali, finally arrested after 15 years of unchecked ac-


tivity, are like all of the mafia people I've ever worked with in my
life, in that the leadership of those organizations controls the oper-
ation and the information very closely. I've said it's not like Xerox
or Kodak where there's middle management being trained to some-
day assume control. Because each person that you would train or
bring that close is either one of two things. They are either a poten-
tial witness against them or they are a violent threat to take over
the organization, and that happens in the mafia in the United
States and every other country. So, either one of two things will
happen as this thing is startin to unravel in Colombia. Either a
second level of traffickers, relatives, younger people who have been
watching the operation, will try to take over and replicate what
this group had done in 15 years. I hope that is going to be difficult
and almost impossible for another group to ever reach that type of
power again in that society.

Mr. Coble. I share that hope with you.

Mr. CONSTANTINE. The second thing is that, starting about 4 or
5 years ago, the group from Cali, Colombia, cut off from Florida
and the Caribbean, established a business relationship with the
trafficking groups out of Mexico. The original business relationship
was, "I bring 10 tons of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico. I give you
$2,000 a kilo. Your job as the Mexican trafficking group is to bring
that across the border usually to Houston, Nogales, Riverside, or
Los Angeles. And I turn that cocaine back over to the Colombian
cell that's in place in the United States." That allows them to con-
trol the wholesale profit margin.

They then had this very sophisticated cell operation in the Unit-
ed States from Colombia that they knew down to postage stamps
and pagers and telephones and intricate details of the operation.
They also controlled the money coming back out to make sure that
it got back whole to Colombia.

As the business went along, the trafficking groups from Mexico,
I assume watched and said, 'This is pretty sophisticated, a well
run organization. I'm learning something." And then said, "Look,
never mind the $2,000 a kilo. Give us 5 tons, we'll bring 10 tons
across the border, our 5 and your 5. We will set up our own inde-
pendent operations."

The leadership from Cali is now in prison — and hopefully, they're
going to be there a long time. It's still unknown to anybody what's
going to happen there.

Mr. Coble. I share that hope as well.

Mr. CoNSTANTiNE. I'd like to see life sentences, at least, for peo-
ple who have done so much damage. But, now the groups in Mexico
don't have that contact to deal with. We've already had one major
seizure that came out of Bolivia to Peru of almost 5 tons of cocaine
that was destined directly for Mexican trafficking groups without
Colombian people in the middle of that operation. So, those types
of things are indicative of their ability to become independent and
autonomous in this same operation. That's why I said they have
the chance to become powerful.

Mr. Coble. Now can you tell us, Mr. Constantine, what efforts
are being made to hopefully curtail that advancement?

Mr. Constantine. I addressed that briefly in response to the
Congressman about the relationship between the FBI and the


DEA. Both Director Fresh and I, looking at that, decided that the
whole Southwest border and those groups operating along the bor-
der were a great potential, if not existing, threat. And we have
then assigned huge numbers of DEA agents, and FBI agents, work-
ing together jointly, as I told you, under varied leadership, to tar-
get those groups, much like we targeted the people in Cali and
were able to identify and produce evidence and eventually lead to
their arrest.

We also have been working closely with Attorney General Lozano
from Mexico in trying to establish very elite, vetted groups, like the
Colombian groups that were effective in a heroic set of cir-
cumstances in arresting the Rodriguez brothers and Londono. So
we would then have a cohort on the other side of the border to ei-
ther make the apprehension at the proper time or to take the evi-
dence that we develop and to be able to use in their own system.
Or to give us evidence that would corroborate information that we
see in our present investigations.

Mr. Coble. Mr. Constantine, I see the red light illuminates. The
chairman may muzzle you and me. So I will yield back my time.
I have other questions, perhaps later.

Mr. Heineman. Thank you, Mr. Cole. Mr. Scott.

Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to follow through on a couple of questions, I guess have
already been alluded to. One is on rehabilitation. Have you had
success in rehabilitating those who have been users of meth-

Mr. Constantine. I'm not an expert on rehabilitation, Congress-
man. I would suspect that it probably tracks very similar to cocaine
rehabilitation in that they are both a stimulus and they are both
addictive. The addiction may even be more powerful, I'm not sure.

Mr. Scott. More powerful than?

Mr. Constantine. Than cocaine. The addiction properties of

Mr. Scott. And how would it relate to the addiction to crack?

Mr. Constantine. It would be very similar to crack cocaine. I
would suspect — and I think you're probably somebody with more
background in education and experience, would look at the reha-
bilitation potential of individuals using crack cocaine and addicted
to methamphetamine is probably similar.

Mr. Scott. OK. You've heard the kind of back and forth on how
well drug courts work, which has the theory that rehabilitation is
cheaper and reduces crime more. I didn't hear you ask for higher
penalties as a tool that you need. Did I miss something?

Mr. Constantine. No, I did not mention the penalties or legisla-

Mr. Scott. I notice that you had mentioned users of meth-
amphetamine as college kids, truckdrivers. Can you give us a pro-
file of the users? Do you have anymore profile information?

Mr. Constantine. No. Other than in California, it seems to be
universal usage across the whole spectrum. In the Southeast, At-
lanta, Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Georgia, it appears to be
people living in rural areas or suburban areas. Those are really the
two major pockets presently, in the United States, of usage.


Mr. Scott. And, we know that 95 percent of those convicted of
crack cocaine violations are black and Hispanic. Can you give us
a similar profile for those convicted of methamphetamine charges?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. For distribution of methamphetamine?

Mr. Scott. Or possession.

Mr. CONSTANTINE. Usually the charges that we use in the DEA
are either sale or possession with intent to distribute which is usu-
ally indicated by the quantity that would be seized.

I would say at this stage, and I don't have the statistics at hand,
all of our intelligence information indicates that the major meth-
amphetamine manufacturer in the United States presently, and
the major distribution at the wholesale level is these gangs operat-
ing from Mexico. Probably a large proportion of them would be peo-
ple of Mexican descent.

At the street level distribution, if you get into motorcycle gangs
or you get into any gang like the Crips and the Bloods, I think they
are going to reflect the background of the particular gang that's in-

Mr. Scott. Is there any justification for a 5-year mandatory min-
imum for methamphetamine? For possession of about 10 doses
worth of methamphetamine?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. I don't know what the dosages would be. I try
to avoid

Mr. Scott. A couple of hundred dollars' worth.

Mr. CONSTANTINE. It depends on the number of grams and how
it would be sold. Congressman. I have a belief that individuals who
sell drugs to other people and create tremendous problems or pos-
sess amounts that reflect their intentions to sell them, I don't have
an awful lot of compassion for people who sell drugs because I've
seen the damage that they can inflict.

Mr. Scott. In the overall scheme of things, possession of 10
doses of crack will get you a 5-year mandatory minimum. The
group that's caught up in that in the criminal justice is 95 percent
black and Hispanic.

Let me ask you, and you did not ask for similar kinds of draco-
nian and more-expense-than-any-benefit-to-be-derived charge for
the college kids and truckdrivers, which isn't surprising, because I
think it's wrong for the low-level possession for crack.

The precursor chemicals, is that what you call the ingredients for

Mr. CONSTANTINE. The primary substances that you need to
manufacture methamphetamine are either ephedrine or

Mr. Scott. OK, do these things have any legal use?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. Yes. Ephedrine has a legal use for asthmatic.
It helps to deal with bronchial conditions.

Mr. Scott. Do the manufacturers have to register so you can
keep track of how it leaves the manufacturer?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. That's how we made those major arrests in
Pennsylvania and the ones Tuesday of this week in Riverside, CA.

Pseudoephedrine, usually in tablet form, has purposes in over
the counter medicine for people with colds and some types of res-
piratory situations. That can be controlled on the major wholesale
level. I think that we have arrived at an answer to this difficulty


in rulemaking. We don't want to interfere with somebody who has
a cold and wants to go into their local pharmacy and buy a legiti-
mate treatment for that. We're looking for these people who are ad-
vertising and selling thousands and thousands of tablets obviously,
in our opinion, knowing that it is going into an illegal market.

Mr. Scott. Do you nave the cooperation from the drug whole-
salers in getting lists of people who are making these kinds of pur-

Mr. CONSTANTINE. They have to file with us. They then have to
make their records open to us for an inspection. When they are
open to us for inspection, then we look to see where they are selling
the drugs. We try to corroborate that with the computerized sys-
tems of investigations. For example, if in the course of our inves-
tigations of laboratories, we find in the records of the laboratory
bills of invoice from a certain or lower level wholesale tableter or
pillmaker, and then we also, in going over our own record inspec-
tion that we do, we find that those two things converge, that makes
for us a very substantial criminal investigation on both ends of that

Mr. Scott. And finally, are you recommending any investigatory
assistance along these lines?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. Presently our laws on the diversion of the
ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, thanks, I think, to people in these
legislative bodies, have been pretty effective. We're kind of in a
slight lag situation now. It's in place, we're just going through with
the rulemaking and going through with the enforcement. But I
think that we nave been given very good tools from the Congress
since 1990.

Mr. Scott. Mr. Chairman, thank you.

Mr. HEI^fEMAN. Mr. Bryant from Tennessee.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Constantine, thank you for coming today, and also, I want
to thank you in advance for agreeing to appear along with several
other representatives of the administration with a newly formed
drug policy group of Congressmen in a bipartisan fashion. I think
that Mr. Zeliff and Mr. Rangel have come together to set a meeting
for November 1st

Mr. Constantine. That's correct.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Again, as a member of that group, I
want to encourage publicly other Congressmen and women to also
make plans to attend that meeting. We look forward to having you
with us on a good bipartisan discussion of this country's drug pol-

As I understand law enforcement concerning drugs, there are
several components to the war on drugs. We mentioned those ear-
lier — education certainly is important, rehabilitation is important,
drug policy that we set, the laws that we pass in Washington is im-
portant. I guess the fourth component is what you're involved in,
and that's the very broad field of interdiction. Your job as the Ad-
ministrator of DEA is to go out and catch the bad guys who bring
the drugs in, who sell the drugs, and make the case against them
in court. As such, your primary role is not education, your primary
role is not rehabilitation, your primary role is not setting govern-
ment policy and passing laws. But I do understand that you have


opinions, and you have been asked a couple of those today, and you
have expressed the opinion that you have no soft spot in your heart
for people who sell drugs. I suspect most of us here share that feel-
ing. As such, you have no concern — or you would, as a person who
is interested in the prosecution of people who sell drugs, your con-
cern would be that the dealers face stiff sentences, as I would

Mr. CONSTANTINE. That's correct.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. And in connection with dealing drugs,
various types of drugs are dealt in various amounts at various lev-
els, but we've had great discussion recently on the Hill about crack
cocaine, and it's clear to me, as someone who has been involved,
and I think to you, too, that crack cocaine, because of its character-
istics, is dealt at much smaller quantities. A person could possess,
and in fact does possess, much smaller quantities and is a dealer
than perhaps people who use other types of drugs.

Mr. CONSTANTINE. That's correct.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Could a similar argument be made for

Mr. CoNSTANTENE. I think that's correct. I think they parallel one
another. And I think the dosage units of methamphetamine — and
again, I can't tell you what the milligram weight would be of
each — would be so similar in impact it would seem to me that to
have the punishments or the law track one another very closely
would be beneficial.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. But we know, certainly in the instance
of crack cocaine, that it produces a very significant addiction, a
very intense high and dropoff from that high, that it is in small
quantities that it's hidden from law enforcement. It's easily moved
around and transacted out of view. It affects particularly our young
people in our communities, and as it turns out, an awful lot in our
inner-city communities. It's directly associated with a great deal of
violence. Is that your understanding of crack cocaine?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. I think both drugs, if you were to substitute
one for the other in your description right now, would be very simi-

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Now, there are key differences,
though, are there not, in the actual production of — I'm not talking
about bringing in the raw products — ^but the actual production?
Could you compare the degree of ability of education necessary to
produce crack versus methamphetamines and also the amount of
equipment, the sophistication of the equipment? Are they about the
same, or are they different?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. Very similar. One of the panelists who will
follow me who may very well be perhaps more equipped than I to
answer this, advises me that all of these recipes and procedures are
on the Internet, and that anybody who wants to do these things,
can just communicate it back and forth. People that you lock up
and send to prison have sometimes shared this information and
teach other people how to do it.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. OK. Quickly, though, as I understand
it from crack, you basically can take powder cocaine, and put it
with some sodium and put it in a microwave oven and cook it for


10 minutes. Methamphetamine, doesn't it require a little more so-

Mr. CoNSTANTiNE. Maybe some chemical homemade operations.
But most of the ones we look at are 100- or 200-pound operations.
But you could do the same thing in the bathtub of a house with
the right chemical ingredients.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. I'm going to ask you one other ques-
tion before we go vote, and that concerns the role of illegal immi-
gration, illegal immigrants in this methamphetamine distribution
process. Do you find a connection?

Mr. CONSTANTINE. All the individuals for the most part who are
involved in these big drug cartels or mafias from Mexico, they
themselves, the major principals, would be illegal immigrants if
they came here. I suspect they would not want to come here be-
cause we would love to get our hands on them. However, the indi-
viduals who work for them in the country could be a combination
of people who are in here legally or who are in here illegally, and
I think it's about 50-50.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. OK, thank you.

Mr. HEESfEMAN. Thank you, your time has expired, Mr. Bryant.
Ms. Lofgren.

Ms. LOFGREN. I know we don't want to miss the vote, so I will
be quick. This is a major issue in California as you've referenced,
and it's certainly an issue in my district. Clearly, methamphet-
amine is a very dangerous drug. It leads to psychotic behavior. The

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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 4 of 9)