Flickr/Edu-TouristThe Hispanic population in Chicago is currently about 2 million.Mexican drug cartels are sending trusted agents to live and work deep inside the U.S., Michael Tarm of The Associated Press reports.
The syndicates used middlemen to become America’s No. 1 supplier of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin in the 1990s, but kingpins have begun consolidating power by sending members of their inner circles to burgeoning operations.
Tarm notes that cartels are suspected of running drug-distribution networks in at least nine non-border states, including several operations in middle-class suburbs. DEA statistics indicate that more than 1,200 American communities reported some level of cartel presence in 2011.
Places like Atlanta and Chicago — which has seen a surge of cartel activity in the last year — now serve as sophisticated hubs for traffickers who supply America’s $60 billion-a-year narcotics industry.
Art Bilek, Executive vice president of the Chicago Crime Commission, told AP that cartels in the city began putting “deputies on the ground” couple of years ago.
“Chicago became such a massive market … it was critical that they had firm control,” Bilek said.
Last month the Chicago Crime Commission designated Sinaloa drug cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman as Public Enemy No. 1. Gangster Al Capone was the last person to hold the classification the top spot after the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre 84 years ago.
“They are the puppeteers,” Riley told the AP. “Maybe the shooter didn’t know and maybe the victim didn’t know that. But if you follow it down the line, the cartels are ultimately responsible.”
Tarm cites court filings to present Jose Gonzalez-Zavala, a trafficker for the La Familia cartel who moved to a middle-class Chicago suburb of Joliet to oversee wholesale shipments of cocaine in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
He spoke with an unidentified cartel boss in Mexico almost every day. After he was caught, he declined to cooperate with authorities in exchange for years being shaved off his 40-year sentence.
That’s a benefit of Mexican deputies: they’re far less likely to talk than American middlemen.
“They say, ‘We are more scared of them (the cartels) than we are of you. We talk and they’ll boil our family in acid,'” Danny Porter, chief prosecutor in Gwinnett County, Ga., told AP. “Their families are essentially hostages.”
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