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

Heroin trafficking : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, September 29, 1994 online

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JHeroin trafficking : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, September 29, 1994 → online text (page 4 of 8)
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.Tiy views regarding trends ji heroin producdon and trafficlong, and to share with you what
tiie Drug Enforcement Administraaon CDEA) is doing to address it. I would liJte to deliver
an abbreviated opening statement and submit a longer statement for the record.

Several months a^o an article in a national newspaper headlined 'SMACK'S BACK. "
Tt r^XTned that heroin, Americas original "hard" drug is making a comeback. Mr
Chairman, unfortunately that article, while sounding a necessary alarm was wrong. It ncver
left the American drug scene. Heroin was pushed off center stage by the flood of cocaine
entering the United States in the las: decade.

Although we have seen the problems associated with baoin before, today's problems
in the United States are different and some ways more threatening for a number of reasons
The increased quantities and purity levels of heroin, changing methods of heroin abuse, a
growing acceptance of heroin use among a new generation of users, and new traffickers and
producers of heroin all combine to maJce our dullaige more difBcult.

With increasing frequency, we are seeing dramatic increases in quantities and purity
of heroin being seized. As worldwide producdoo of opium rose substantially between 1988
and 1993, particularly in Bumu and Afghanistan. w« have seen a number of multi-hundred
kilogram seizures of heroin in various parts of the world. In 1993, approximately l.A meiric
tons of heroin were sdied domestically and reported lo the Federal-wide Drug Seizure


System compared to 1.3 metric tons seized during the previous year. Over 23.26 metnz ions
were seized internationally. Colombia has also entered the scene as a major source of herom
dijioned for the U.S With the marketing savvy cf the Colombian cartels, and their
mCTedible infrastructure, DEA bclicvca that they stand ready to assume ar ever increasing
share of the U.S. heroin market. In addition, analysis of data from DEA's Domestic
Monitor Program shows street-level purity continuing to rise. Purity levels of heroin being
sold on U.S. streets now average 36 percent, compared to 7 percent a decade ago. High
levels of purity mean that supplies are plentiful and more potent.

There has also been a continued rise in the number of hcroin-reiated emergency room
drug abuse episodes. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), in the first
six months of 1993, hospital admissions for heroin-related emergencies increased 44 percent.
According to the office of National Drag Control Policy, current estimates suggest that there
may be 600,000 hardcore drug users who report heroin as their principal drug of abuse. A
growing number of die 2.1 million hardcore (weekly) users of c oc ain e are also using and
increasing their use of heroin. The typical heroin user today consumes more heroin than a
typical user did a decade ago.

In addition to more heroin being available at much higher purity levels, changing
patterns of edministering heroin may make this resurgence much more dangerous. While
injection continues to be the printary method of administering heroin, an increasing number
of heroin usen arc now snorting, or inhaling the drug because of its higher purity and


because of the fear of AIDS. Recent treatment data from New York City indicates thai 5 1 %
of those coming In for treatment arc snorting heroin. This disturbing trend is a particular
cause for concern for two reasons:

• New heroin users are being lulled into a false sense of security in believing that
because they inhale the drug, they are less likely to becoooe addicted, and

• Since inhalation requires a very high purity level to be effective, drug experts believe
that any r«iuction of the purity levels could lead to a switch to administraaon by
injection, thus creating a whole new population of intravenous heroin users.

A troubling phenomenon that we are witnessing with the resurgence of heroin is the
fading of the social srigma that was once attached to that drug. Heroin is now fashionable
and chic in certain social circles, including among rock stars and the club scene. Today, the
attinide of heroin usars is reminiscent of the cocaine user in the Seventies and early Eighties,
when cocaine use was rationalized as non-addictive and recreational. Cocaine use began
among the well-to-do; crack was Oic tragic legacy left to poorer Americans.

Mr. Chairman, as the Administrator of DEA, l am very concerned about the extent of
our heroin problem. Surveys do not tell the whole picture because they generally lag behmd
the current siniation. Enforcement indiciton have been showing thar heroin is more
available, more pure, and cheaper then before


S«v«ral routes are used to transport heroin to the United States. A m^or route
originates in Banglcok, transits Taiwan, enters the U.S. at one of several Wast Coast cities,
and tenninates in New York City, the largest importation and distribution center in ±e
United States for Southeast Asian heroin. Since 1986, roughly half of DEA*s and the U.S.
Customs Service's nationwide heroin seizures have occurred in the New York City
metropolitan area. Some shipments are direa to New York, whUe other cities or. the East
Coast, juch as Boston, are used as entry points. Re c ent seirures havr shown that these
organizations are capable of utilizing any deep water port, such as New Orleans, where 327
pounds of Southeast Asian herein were seized last year bound for New York. Depending on
tlic street level purity, this seizure alone was enough to flood the streets of New York City
with over 5 million $10 bags of heroin.

Heroin trafficking in the United States is controlled by diverse, mulri-ethnic groups of
traffickers who supply heroin from a variety of sources to heroin users in this country. This
situadon is further complicated by the diffierent languages and dialects used by these groups.
Aggressive hcitrin n-affickers, like West Africans, have joined the traditional Asian, Turkish,
Middle Eastern and Mexican herwn traffickers in the heroin trade. Heroin smuggled into the
United States originates from one of four distinct source areas: Southeast Asia. Southwest
Asia, Mexico or South America.


Unlike the soict, vertiully controlled distribution systems typical of cocaine
mfficlanf organizations, ihe heroin traffic operates through a loosely organized system of
broker*. Rarely does a $hipm«nt of heroin remain under the concrol of a single individual
or organizaoon as it moves from the ovcncaa refinery o the streets of the United Sutes.
Th^ heroui trade typically operates through a system of brokers and invesu}rs. as an
example, ethnic Chinese investors in New York will pool their resources to import a
shipment of heroin. The group will contact a broker in Honj Kong or Taiwan who has
access to o±er broken in Thailand. The Thailand broker will place an order with one of the
heroin refining organizations that operate along the ThailandyBurma border. When ready,
the heroin will be delivered to the broter in Diailand. Dqxnding on the number of
intermediaries involved, the heroin will make its way from broker to broker until it reaches
the Investors in New Vork. Once paid, the broker has no further inieiest in the shipment .
Upon receipt by the investors, the heroin may be divided between the parties based upon the
•investment share or sold in one lot to a mid-level or street distributor.

Within U.S. borders, there are overall regional berom distribution paaems that are
fairly distinct. For example, at the wholesale level. Southeast Asian heroin is dominant in
the northeastern United States and along the east coast; Mexican heroin is prevalent in the
western stares and some large mid-west cities. Southwest Asian heroin is available to a
limited extent in both west coast and east coast cities, as well as in several southern aties.
South American hexoin is available primarily in the northeastern United States, with most of
it entering the U.S. in Miami and New York Qty.


DEA'J Heroin Signature Progiwn (HSP) analyzed more than 800 U.S herom sdrures
during 1993. Preliminary HSP results indicate that, in 1993, some 68 percent of the seizures
by net weight originated in Soutiieast Asia. 15 percent in South America, 9 percent in
Southwest Asia, and 8 percent in Mexico. (A signature for South America '. heroin wu
implemented in July 1993.) The relatively high percentage for South American heroin may,
in part, bo due to tli« large number of sei2ures of South American heroin at Miami
International Airpon and New York's J.F.K. International Airport.

Southeast Asian Heroin Traflicldns

Southeast Asian heroin trafficking is often controlled by ethnic-Chinese and Nigenan
criminal oiianizations whii± oversee the smuggling of heroin into the United States. These
trafnclccrs are capable of moving multi-hundred Idlogram ahipmenu from the Golden
Triangle (Burma, Laos, Thailand) to the United States. Many of these trafficking
organizations smuggla shipmenti of SO to 70 kilograms into the United States on a regular

A variety of smuggling methods are employed by these organizations. Generally, the
shipment size determines the smuggling method. The largest shipments, ranging from 50 to
multi-hundred kilogram quantities of heroin, are gcr e ieJ in containerized fmght aboard
commercial maritime vessels and air freight earfp. Sonalkr ihipmanti are rnnr0o\^ in the
luggage of airline passengers, strapped to the body, or swallowed. Southeast Asian heroin


smugglers also use the malls and delivery services to transport multi-jram to lologram
quantities into the country. In mid- 1993, DEA Orlando seized approximately 2 kilograms of
heroin that had been mailed from Hong Kong to Rorida and was destined ultimately for New
York City.

Trafnckers axe abo using conunereiaJ cargo originating in source countries and arc
attcmpong to disguise the origin of the cargo shipment by flrsi transshipping containers
through several other countries or by falsifying the container documentation. Some
sliipments from the Far East arc transshipped through Canada and than into the northeastern
United States. In addition to New York Qty, other U.S. ddes In the Northeast, including
Boston and Philadalphia, are used as entry points. Trafficlcers also use West Coast cities
such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle as entry points for heroin shipmeiu
destined for the Northeast.

Nigerian-controlled organizations are also entrenched deeply in the smuggling and
distribution of Southeast Asian heroin. Nigerian orgarizations operate in several large
metropolitan areas across the country. Nigerians si^Jpiy established heroin distribution
networks in U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Newark, New
York, San Fianciico, and Washington, D.C. These networks are capable of supplying
heroin ranging from lOO-gram to multi-kilogram quantitiet on a regular basis.


Nigerian trafficken dispatch large numbers of couriers who use "body cazry"
techniques and ingestion to conocftl haroin. These couziers travel aboard commercial
airlines from Southeast Asia, often transiting Europe »nd Africa bound for the United States.
The ^ouners, including Nigerians as well as recruits of other nationaJiiks. smuggle from 1 to
10 kilograms of heroin per trip. The average seizure is 5.7 kilograms per courier.
Moreover, recent seizures in the Far East suggest that wmc Nigerian traffickers are
experimenting with smuggling larger, multi-kilogram shipments of heroin from xmicc
countries to Nigeria concealed in commercial maritime cargo.

Most Nigerian organizations remain based in Lagos, Nigeria. Since they are formed
along tribal lines at the senior levels, the organizations are close-knit but loosely structured.
Drug barons who control the Nigerian organizations remain wcU-insulated by directing
lower-level traffickers to recruit the numerous couriers, often non-Nigenans, and to organize
travel to the United States. Within the United States, Nigerian heroin organizations appear
10 be structurad loosely, but are extremely streetwise in their aafflcking, protectirg
themselves by relying heavily on the use of multiple identities, aliases, and communications
via pay phones rather then violence.

During the past year, ragexian tiafficksrs diversified both the smuggling routes used
to reach the Unital States and their points of entry into the country. For example, two U.S.
citizens—recruited by Nigerians—flew from Baltimore, Maryland, to the Netherlands and


then to Nigena, where they were given 6 kUograms of heroin. The counars then flew from
Lagos to Mexico City and attempted to cross into the United States at San Ysidro,
California, where they were anwi«d.

Soathw«st Asian Heroin TrafTickinc

Importation and distribution of Southwest Asian heroin is much less centralized than
that for Southeast Asian heroin, both feographically and in regard to trafficking groups. A
number of ethnic groups from Southwest Asia and the Near Middle East are active in
smuggling Soudiwesi Asian heroin into the United Sates and in its distribudon; these groups
include Afghans, Greelrs. Iranians. Israelis, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Turks. Sou'Jiwest
Asian heroin is tran sp o r t ed to the United States direcUy from producing countries, as well as
transshipped through Europe and Africa. Quantities of Southwest Asian heroin bound for the
United Sutes also are transshipped thrtxjgh Vancouver, Canada. Although New York Clt)' is
a major Southwest Asian heroin importation and distribution center, heroin is smuggled into,
and distributed throughout, the foUowing locations: the Northeast; Mid-Atlandc cities, such
as Baldmore and Washington D.C.; certain West Coast cities, such as Los Angeles, San
Diego, and San Francisco; and some Midwestern cities, including Chicago and Detroit

Most Southwest Asian heroin trafficking groups in the United States are highly
cohesive and diffiodt to penetrate because they are based on ethnic, familial, religious, and
tribal relationships. Southwest Asian heroin impwTers and wholesale level distributors


get^crally are cautious, rarely transacting business with outsiders. As a result, Southwest
Asian heroin trafficking and distribution generally are more prevalent in citiM, such as
Chicago, Detroit, and New York City, that have large populations from Afghanistan, Greece,
Lebanon, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Both large, well-organized Southwest Asian heroin trafficking groups and small,
independent traffickers are drawn to the U.S. heroin market. In general, the largest
organjiations trafficking Southwest Asian heroui supply established distribution networks
chroughoui Europe, the primary market far Southwest Asian heroin. The U.S. market is a
secondary market for these trafflckers. Most of these organizations store heroin supplies in
Europe for security purposes and oidy send shipments to the United Scam once a buyer ha^
been idendficd and proven capable of payment. Most organizations demand partial payment
in advance and the balance upon delivery of the heroin shipment to the United States. In
addition to the large organizations, smaller independent Southwest Asian heroin traffickers
are attracted to the U.S. market because Southwest Asian heroin is more expensive in the
United States than in Europe. Indqjendent traffickers can maximize profits for the smaller
quantities of h«roin th*y smuggle and distribute by selling that heroin in the United Statca.

Southwest Asian traffickers rdy less on ccnmerdal cargo as a smuggling method
than their counterparts from Southeast Asia. Generally. Southwest Asian heroin traffickers
do not smuggle heroin in multiple bulk shipments. Howev«r, they are able to smuggle
shipments ranging from 1 to 20 kilograms regularly and, on occasion, larger amounts. Many



Southwest Asian heroin trafficldng oi^ganizations use commercial cargo and couriers oq
commercial airlines to smuggle 1 to 5 kilograms on & steady basii. However, several
organizations arc capable of smuggling from 5 to 10 Idlogram shlpmenu aboard mandmc
vessels on a tairly regular basi«. For example, three Pakistanis were arrested in Baldmore,
Maryland, after crew members of a merchant vcuci docked in the harbor delivered 5
kilograms of Southwest Asian heroin. The heroin had been smuggled aboard the vessel from

Southwest Asian heroin is occasionally transshipped through California and the West
Coast, where several Iranian -controlled organizations operate An investigation by DEA Los
Angeles, with assistance from the U.S. Customs Service, uncovered Iranian crafHckert u/ho
smuggled heroin thipments from Istanbul, Turkey, to Los Angeles in air cargo. DEA special
agents seized approximately 20 kilograms of Southwest Asian heroin that had been concealed
in an air cargo shipment of glassware and chandeliers.

Mexican Heroin Trafficking

Mexican black tar heroin as well as the less popular brown powder form, Is produced
almost exclusively for the U.S. hcxoin market. Organizationi composed of Mexican
nationals and Mexican- Americans control the smuggllag and distribution of Mexican heroin



to and within the United States. T^^fflcldng orjanizariona supplying Mexican herom are
close-knit and are often made up of family members, lifelong Mends, and other trusted

IndepcndBnt trafficking organizations in Mexico have become the primary traffickers
of Mexican heroin. However, some Mexican organizations still control the enure process
from opium production and heroin processing in Mexico to the management of transportation
and distributioa networks in the United States.

Mexico's extensive land border with the United Statts provider smugglers numerous
entry points into the country. Traffickers take advantage of their proximity to the United
States by storing the larger quantities of heroin in Mexico and dien smuggling smaller
amounts as transactions in the Uruted States are arranged. Even large, polydrug
organizations— capable of smuggling multi-ion quantities of cocaine and manjuana— limit
smuggling of Mexican heroin into the United States in kilogram and smaller amounts.

South Amencan Heroin Traflkkuis

The availability of South American heroin in the United States is on the increase We
believe that opium production and heroin manufacturing were conscious marketing decisions
made by the Colombian cartels to expand their business opportunities. It poees a potential
serious ducat, primarily because of the trafficking resources controlled by the Colombian



cocaine cartda. Aj the South American heroin market matures, the cartels may expand Uicir
heroin tiade by increasing gradually the use of their existing cocaine transportation and
distribution networks to smuggle larger amounts of hcrom to the Uniad States. Heroin
irafficidng is appealing to the cartels because the cartels car smuggle smaller quantities of
heroin to the United States and achieve profits equivalent to thos* derived from their cocaine

DEA intelligence suggests that the Cali cartel will become the dominant group
involved in trafficking South American heroin. The Cali cartel has better access to the
predominant opium poppy growing areas in Colombia. The Cali cartel has displayed a
significant involvement in the South Amencan heroin trade from its onset. It appears likely
that laige-scalc involvement of the Cali cartel will make it difficult for smaller, independent
trafficking groups with limited resources to compete for market share.

Since 1991, most of the South American heroin smuggled into the United States has
been transported by Colombian courlen aboard commercial airlinet, a method requiring
numerous couriers carrying small amounts ranging up to 1 or 2 kilograms per trip. The
couriers commonly transported the heroin in false-iided briefcases and luggage, inade
hollo^ved-out shoe soles, or by ingestion.

The primary smuggling method employed by Colombian traffickers and the shipment
jize, averaging 500 grams, indicate ttiat the Colombian traffickers are not yet able to supply



bulk quantities of htroin. To date, the largest seizure of heroin lirom Colombia involved a
June 1992 airdrop of just under 15 kilogram* of heroin on a Puerto Rican beach. However,
current investigative reporting indicates that the Colombian traffickers are making increased
efforts to supply mulu-ldlogram quantities at both source and transit country locanons, -.o
include delivery to the U.S. market.

Colombian heroin traffickers have established distribution outlets in the United States,
particularly in the metropolitan areas of the Northeast. High purity is essential for
Colombian traffickers to break into the fiercely competitive U.S. heroin market, especially in
the northeastern metropolitan areas. In New York City, Boston, Newark, and Philadelphia,
street level heroin purity averaged over 60 percent. Consequently, Colombian traffickers
3aiu{{le heroin that is 80 to 99 percent pure.

Colombian traffickers use a variety of tactics to establish mid- and retail-level outlets
for their heroin. In addition to providing heroin of unusually high purity, Colombian
traffickers offer ^ee samples of heroin to potential distributors, offer to front ounce and
multi-oimce quantities of heroin to first-time buyers, and persuade their established cocaine
distributors to purchaM and sell heroin as a condition of doing business. For example, a
typical transactitxi may haive required the distributor who purchased 20 kilograms of cocaine
to purchase 1 kilogram of heroin as part of a package deal. Finally, Colombian traffickerf



un<*er$ell compeiiiors in some cities in an cffbn to win over fustomers. This is most evideni
at the mid- and retail-level where South American heroin i5 most available; ounce ar.d gram
prices for South American heroin are well b«low those for Southeast Asian herom.

The heroin problem is a global one - and it requires a global response. Cooperative
programs on a regional and worldwide basis are rhs only u-ay to effectively address the
problem. We also must wage a concentrated attack on every link m the chain of heroLn
production, t>eginning with opium poppy cultivation, going through manufacturing, fmances
and transportation, and concluding with the distribution networks in every country. To thai
end, DSA has a multi-fiaceted approach to the herom problem. DBA is currently
participating in the PresidentiAlly-mandated interagency review and an internal £>epanment of
Justice coordination of our heroin policy.

In June of this year, I oavelled to Eastern Europe with FBI Director Louis Freeh and
INM Assistant Secretary Bob Gelbaid to evaluate the drug law enforcement efforts of the
Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic Republics. Unfonunaiely, information
on the capabilities of these nations remain sk«tchy. Heroin traffickers in particular have
e:(ploited the difficult political and economic transitions occupying Russia and the Central
A^ian Republics. These nations' transition toward a market economy has also promoted
opportunities for money laundering. Most criminal organizations in Central Asia are local
and ethnic-based. Howevei. their relative sophisticadon is Increasing.



TrarticKcrs use land routes to the Baltics and then move heroin by sea to other
markets Drugs also are moved from Turkey across the Black Sea to Romania and then
elsewhere. The Crimean ports of Odessa and Sevastopol are used to stage shipment* through
Ukianc and Belarus to Poland, according to a European scndy. Pole and Czech traffickers
are motioned more frequently, along with traditional smuggling organizadons composed of
Iranians, Italians, Kurds, Turlcs, and Yugoslavs. In June 1993, Armenian authoriues
destroyed illicit opium poppy plantations and in August, police arrested several criminals
moving opium from Afghanistan through Uzbelustan.

Because these countries do not have adequate resource* to address the myriad drug
law enforcemcait problems facing them, the United Stales Govemmcni has made a
commitment to assist in training their law enforcement personnel. The drug law enforcement
training needs of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baidc Republics have
been thoroughly assessed by DEA. and we have embarked on an aggressive training program
to satisfy those needs. We have conducted regional training programs in Russia and three
other states, as well as provixiing executive trahiing programs here in Ac United States.

Afghan traffickers have been looking northward as a result of growing economic and

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JHeroin trafficking : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, September 29, 1994 → online text (page 4 of 8)