With weed becoming legal in more places in the United States, Mexican cartels have to supplement the loss of income with other drugs. Meth has proven to be a big money maker for cartels, as it is cheap to make and Americans buying $6 billion to $22 billion worth of the drug every year. They can spend $65 on everyday chemical products and flip that into $18,000 by making meth. In 2014, 3,771 pounds of meth was seized at the Mexican border, more than doubling the 1,838 pounds seized in 2011. It seems like, with the arrests and sentencing of the big names of the Mexican underworld, like El Chapo, El Mochomo and La Barbie, the cartels would be slowed down a might, but a recent sizable seizure of meth in Arizona shows different.
On February 5, Juan Rodolfo Lugo-Urias was stopped by US Customs and Border Protection agents in Nogales, AZ. He attempted to cross the border, driving a tractor trailer full of bell peppers near the Mariposa Commercial Facility. Upon search of the vehicle, agents found 400 packages of meth weighing a total of 387 in the trailer’s front wall and rear doors. The haul, said to be worth $1.1 million, is reportedly the biggest meth seizure in the history of Arizona.
Lugo, who was turned over to Homeland Security, is believed to be working with one of two powerful Mexican cartels due to the location of the bust. The first is El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel. “The Sinaloa cartel maintains the most significant presence in the United States,” according to a DEA report released last year. That report shows that the multi-billion dollar cartel is “the dominant [transnational criminal organization] along the West Coast, through the Midwest, and into the Northeast.” Lugo’s route would’ve fit right in there, and the Sinaloa cartel has used bell pepper shipments to smuggle before. The other organization would be El Mochomo’s Beltran-Leyva Organization, or BLO. According to the DEA’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment, the BLO is “significant or increasing presence” in the area.