Twin drug smugglers Pedro and Margarito Flores just received 14-year prison sentences for running a nearly $US2 billion drug ring that swept across North America.
Their punishment, however, could have been much worse. Had they not become federal informants, the brothers almost certainly would have spent the rest of their lives in prison.
After being caught in 2008, the twins gave testimony on “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, arguably the most powerful drug-trafficking organisation in the world.
In it, they revealed fascinating details about how the Mexican drug cartel functioned, including specific locations through North America.
Pulling on the brothers’ testimony and other known information about the cartel and Guzman (who has since been arrested), Business Insider created the map below exploring the network they were operating in.
The brothers received the majority of their supply — mostly heroin and cocaine from Mexico — in Chicago and eventually Los Angeles. From there, the drugs spread to about 30 wholesale customers across six other US cities: New York, New York; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; and Detroit, Michigan.
The brothers also had small wholesale bases in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Here’s a look at a few of the cities:
The twins drew on their childhood friendships in the Little Village in Chicago neighbourhood to start their minimal trafficking operation — the one they started before going into business with Guzman.
After that, Chicago became the hub of their drug ring.
From 2000 to 2007, according to their testimony, the brothers’ sources in Mexico primarily delivered cocaine to them in Chicago. And between 2006 and 2008, what they considered “peak distribution,” the brothers coordinated the delivery of between 3,300 and 4,400 pounds of cocaine to their customers there.
While wholesale value varies based on numerous factors, including the location of the shipment, a kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) in Chicago could easily run $US30,000. That’s $US60 million worth of cocaine each month.
Even in 2013, years after the twins flipped and left the game, the Sinaloa Cartel still supplied 80% of the heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine flooding the streets of Chicago, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
In 2005, the brothers were originally indicted here on three counts of conspiring to sell cocaine and one count of trying to conceal financial transactions. They sold tens of millions of dollars to their Milwaukee network of dealers, making their case the largest and most sophisticated one prosecutors there had ever seen.
“Milwaukee is a kind of destination city,” James F. Bohn, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA in Milwaukee, told the Journal Sentinel. “Large traffickers get their drugs from larger cities, which often for us is Chicago. We just work our way up the chain.”
Fearing capture from these charges, Margarito and Pedro fled to Mexico in 2003 and 2004, respectively, where their operation ballooned in size and influence after they made connections to Guzman.
Los Angeles, California
In 2006, according to their testimony, the brothers expanded their business and began receiving cocaine in Los Angeles, usually by tractor-trailers with secret compartments in their roofs.
From there, the drugs traveled north and east.
After fleeing the US, the Flores brothers ran their entire operation from a ranch in Mexico — although authorities still don’t know exactly where.
The entire Sinaloa Cartel was reportedly based in Culiacan, Mexico. Authorities believed El Chapo hid there until his arrest in early 2014. The kingpin even constructed an elaborate tunnel network underneath his house for various illicit purposes.
While the Flores brothers likely didn’t interact directly with El Chapo, their massive operation, as its most basic level, started in Culiacan. A man named Alfredo, according to their testimony, helped them transport cocaine from Colombia to Mexico in aeroplanes, submarines, and trains.
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