Global Enforcement: DEA's Role in Dismantling Drug Trafficking Organizations Worldwide
2:00 p.m., ESTMODERATOR:
All right. Listen, thank you all very, very much for participating in today’s roundtable discussion with Mr. John Gilbride. He is the Special Agent-in-Charge of the DEA’s New York Field Office. And Mr. Gilbride began his career with the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1981 as a student intern in the New York field division. And over the years, he has risen through the ranks to his present position as the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office. He has been the recipient of many DEA awards, including the Award of Honor and the Purple Heart.
Without further ado, let me introduce Mr. John Gilbride right now. I’ve worked with him over the years in law enforcement, and please join me in welcoming Mr. John Gilbride, Special Agent-in-Charge of the DEA, New York Field Division.
Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I thank you for the invitation. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about the Drug Enforcement Administration, and in particular, the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York City and New York State. Because as was said, I am the Special Agent-in-Charge for the office in New York, which not only encompasses the five boroughs of New York City, but encompasses all of New York State, for DEA purposes.
I have a Powerpoint presentation that I’ll use as I go along. If – at the end, please ask me questions. I welcome questions. If I don’t have the answer at that point, I will get you an answer. But what I will do at certain times, if you ask me a question that is more an answer that should be answered by someone in a higher authority within DEA, I will get that answer for you. But since I am the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York office, I will try to stick to what I have a responsibility for within DEA.
So let me begin my presentation with a number that is – probably would surprise some and not surprise others, but Americans spend about $65 billion a year on illegal drugs. That number sometimes goes from 65 billion to over a hundred billion dollars in terms of the amount of money that is spent on illegal drug use in the United States. DEA’s budget for 2009, as you can see from the slide, will be $2.1 billion. So there’s a – you know, a huge discrepancy in the amount of money that’s spent on drugs and the amount of money that DEA will be putting towards running our operations.
With that said, we do a tremendous amount of work with the budget that we are given. We have offices all over the world in all of the major cities. We have outstanding working relationships with all of our foreign counterparts. And we utilize the funding that we get to enhance global enforcement operations, as well as training for our foreign counterparts in the area of counternarcotics.
The objectives of the briefing today will be simple. I will provide you a brief overview, a little bit of history, and the mission of DEA. And then at the end, I will highlight some of the significant investigations that we have conducted in the New York office as of, you know, the last year or so.
Some of you may know, some of you may not, that the Drug Enforcement Administration is what we call a component agency. We are a component agency of the United States Department of Justice. There are eight other agencies that are within the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is headed by the Attorney General, and as most of you know, those positions are now changing with the new Administration that is coming in, the Obama Administration. And some of the heads of these agencies will be changing because they are presidential appointees, as the Attorney General is a presidential appointee. So we take direction from the Attorney General, and I take direction as the Special Agent-in-Charge of New York from the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Right now, we have an Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Her name is Michelle Lenhart. She was the Deputy Administrator, which is also a presidential appointee, the number-two position within DEA. And currently, she is acting as the head of DEA and has been asked, for the time being, to stay over into the new Administration for a period of time. That’s a picture of Michelle Lenhart, and that is a – somewhat of a history of the Drug Enforcement Administration. And as you can see from the top, the Drug Enforcement Administration, or the agencies that were responsible for enforcing narcotics laws going back to 1915, first started in the Department of Treasury, because narcotics was seen as something that would be taxed, and it was under the Department of Treasury at that time.
It grew into various different agencies to the point where, in 1973, we became the Drug Enforcement Administration under President Richard Nixon, who combined several different agencies that were involved in narcotics enforcement, demand reduction, U.S. customs, which is – Legacy Customs, which is now Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They had groups of agents that were working smuggling cases, and they combined all of these agencies into one agency which has a single mission, which is the Drug Enforcement Administration. When I say single mission, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The Drug Enforcement Administration only has one specific mission, and that is counternarcotics. We work with our foreign counterparts. We work with local police agencies within the United States for one reason and one reason only, and that is to stem the flow and distribution of illegal narcotics coming into the United States.
I’ll compare that a little bit. If you – when you say single mission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation would not be considered a single-mission agency, because they are enforcing several different statutes and laws within the United States. The DEA enforces one statute within the United States, and that is Title 21, which is the statute that controls the distribution of controlled substances and the regulation of the pharmaceutical industry.
Our goal is to bring cases against individuals, organizations mainly, that are involved in the production, distribution, importation, sale of illegal narcotics, but also to regulate the pharmaceutical industry within the United States that are responsible for the production, distribution, and sale of pharmaceutical drugs that are regulated, but they are not illegal. Those are the drugs that a doctor would prescribe, a pain medication that a doctor would prescribe to a patient. And a pharmacy would then fill that prescription because it has been authorized by a medical physician for an individual to be using that medication.
Our main goal: identify, target, investigate, disrupt and dismantle. That is – those are two words that I think are very key: disrupt and dismantle the international and national, state and local drug trafficking organizations. When we say disrupt and dismantle, what we’re talking about is trying to take out – if we’re going to dismantle an organization, what we are going to try to do is to take out every aspect of that illegal organization.
And if you look at the way drug trafficking organizations operate, the major drug trafficking organizations operating throughout the world, they operate no differently than any legitimate business that is out there in terms of: they have a production stage, they have a distribution stage, they have a transportation stage, they have a retail, they have wholesale, and then they have a stage where they need to collect back the profits. And then they need to be able to invest those profits either back into their business or into other ventures that produce additional revenue. So they operate in a traditional sense, just like any other business or corporation that is out there. Unfortunately, they’re doing it in an illegal – in an illegal business.
So what we try to do in DEA is to dismantle that organization’s phase at every – at every stage, or disrupt it at some stage. If we don’t have enough information to dismantle it, well, maybe we can get in and disrupt their transportation stage. Maybe we have enough information to disrupt their financial collection stage, or what we call their money laundering stage. Maybe we only have enough information to get in and disrupt their production stage, working with our foreign counterparts or – you know, not only our foreign counterparts. The United States is also a major producer of some of the illegal drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine. Those illegal drugs, in most instances, are being produced right here in the United States.
So we work with our local counterparts, our federal counter – our other federal counterparts, and most importantly, our international counterparts to disrupt and dismantle these organizations. We do that by the use of the DEA’s resources. And as of August of 2008, DEA had approximately – and this is – this changes, you know, because of retirements and individuals that leave the agency, but as of 2008, we had 4,851 special agents assigned to DEA. A special agent, for those of you that may not know, that is the position within DEA that is a gun-carrying, badge-carrying criminal investigator within the DEA. That’s what my title is. I have – I’m the Special Agent-in-Charge. I run the office, but I began with DEA, actually, as I’ll explain to you, as a diversion investigator, but then I became a criminal investigator special agent. Those are the majority of the individuals that put together the criminal cases within the Drug Enforcement Administration.
We also have 902 intelligence analysts. Intelligence analysts or intelligence research specialists, we’re now calling them, are the individuals that put together the bigger pictures that we’re looking at. The agents are collecting the information. They are conducting the investigations using traditional investigative methods, and that may be surveillance, where they follow people. That may be court-authorized intercepts, where they’re listening to people. It may be the use of confidential sources, or, as some people would call them, informants, and using those individuals to put together the criminal part of the case.
The intelligence analysts, which my wife is an intelligence analyst with DEA – that’s where I met her, she works for DEA. I like to say that I’m the brawn, she’s the brains in the family, and she likes that title, and it’s actually true. The intelligence analysts are very, very bright individuals, and what they try to do is they try to look at data that we have and predict where we’re going to be two years from now in DEA. Well, where is the drug market going to be five years down the road? What’s going to change in the dynamics of the illegal drug market as we move out from here? And they use the collection of data to be able to do that.
Diversion investigators – I started with DEA – as you heard before, when my bio was read, I was an intern with DEA. I was a student at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. I was hired by DEA as an intern, and upon graduation from Northeastern University, I was hired as a diversion investigator. At the time, we called them compliance investigators. Diversion investigators, compliance investigators – within DEA, we have 623. And basically, what they do is they regulate the pharmaceutical industry within the United States, so they are responsible for ensuring that the pharmaceutical industry is manufacturing the pharmaceutical medication with all of the raw material that they’re licensed to have, that they utilize all that raw material to produce the pharmaceuticals, and that, if there’s any left over, that it is then dealt with appropriately, that the mechanism that is then used to transport those pharmaceuticals to warehouses and pharmacies is being followed by regulation and statute.
And then we regulate the pharmacists that are distributing those pharmaceuticals, and we regulate the physicians, the doctors that have the authority to write a prescription for a controlled substance. And we control substances in schedules within DEA. A Schedule 1 substance would be a substance that has no medical use, whatsoever. Heroin would be a Schedule 1 substance within DEA. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance according to DEA, and there are other Schedule 1 substances. A Schedule 2 substance -- QUESTION:
No, I’m sorry, you’re saying marijuana has no medical use?MR. GILBRIDE:
Not according to DEA, no.QUESTION:
That’s correct, not according to DEA. And there are states that have passed some medical use marijuana laws.QUESTION:
California, Vermont.MR. GILBRIDE:
But the Drug Enforcement Administration has not, okay, agreed that marijuana has any medical use, whatsoever, okay, at this time.QUESTION:
Then how do you guys, you know, intervene in that case, like in a state, it’s legal and then you can’t – I mean, how do you – I don’t know, if someone’s carrying and they have a court – you cannot stop that person because it’s legal, right, in that state?MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, no, for actually – in actual terms, if they are selling marijuana, if they are in possession of marijuana, they’re actually in violation of federal law. They may not be in violation --QUESTION:
Of the state law.MR. GILBRIDE:
-- of the state law; very complicated issue at this point. They’re in violation of U.S. federal law, which – they may not be in violation of state law. This – these type of cases have come before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that DEA does have the authority to regulate the distribution of marijuana, the sale of marijuana, and the interstate transportation of marijuana, although states also have passed these marijuana laws. Very, very complex, difficult situation, but as of today, marijuana consists as a Schedule 1 substance.QUESTION:
As of today? As of today? No, it’s like – this was when? As of today – you mean – MR. GILBRIDE:
That’s – it’s – it has been that way up to today.QUESTION:
Oh, all right, right.MR. GILBRIDE:
DEA has not changed --QUESTION:
Oh, okay.MR. GILBRIDE:
-- its stance on that. QUESTION:
Sorry to interrupt.MR. GILBRIDE:
Not a problem, not a problem. Diversion investigators regulate that industry of the pharmaceutical medications. We also have chemists. DEA has laboratories throughout the United States where all of the drugs that are seized need to be analyzed. We have experts that will come into court and testify as to the makeup of the various substances, so we can prove that it was heroin or that it was cocaine or that it was marijuana.
And as I – let me go back to those schedules, as before. Schedule 1, no medical use; Schedule 2, has somewhat of a limited medical use; Schedule 3, has more medical use. And as you go down to Schedule 4 and 5, they’re – they are somewhat less regulated because they have more medical use than any of the other drugs within those higher schedules.
We also have professional administrative people. Those are the people that I would basically say that I could not run my office without, all of the secretaries and the clerks and the people that actually do all the hard work every day to keep an office up and running. We have 1,900 of those and we have some technical individuals, and those are the experts in telephones, and in technical tracking devices and that type of thing. They are the experts on the technical side. And we also have 1,600 of those working within DEA.
As you can see, we have offices located throughout the United States. New York, as you can see up there in the right-hand corner, that is my – that is the field division that I currently supervise. We are also located in all of the foreign countries that you see here. We have country offices, we have resident offices, and we work with our counterparts in all of those various countries that you see up there on the map. And DEA was one of the first agencies within the U.S. Federal Government to begin to work in those foreign countries in the area of counternarcotics. And we were always welcome into most of these countries because we were a single mission agency with only one – with only one aspect that we were looking to work on, and that was the distribution of illegal drugs coming from foreign sources or the money being generated and going back to foreign sources, and we work with our counterparts on that on a regular basis.
This is the New York office for DEA. As you can see, my office sits down in Manhattan. That is probably the busiest aspect of my job is the five burroughs, because New York City is one of the largest cities within the United States -- diverse population, major airports, major seaports. New York City is not only an importation city for drugs coming into the United States, it’s also a supplier city for other parts of the United States.
For instance, heroin smuggled into New York City on a daily basis, either through the airport, a seaport, or in vehicles that come into New York City, that heroin, at times, stays in New York City or it feeds other cities along the eastern part of the United States -- Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C. It can go as far west as Detroit, Michigan and as far south as Miami, Florida. So New York City is not only an importation city for various illegal drugs, it’s also a city that feeds other cities along the eastern part of the United States.
I have offices in, as you can see, Buffalo, Rochester, New York; Syracuse, Plattsburgh, Albany. Those offices are becoming more and more critical to my operations within New York because of the northern border connection that we have to Canada, and the ability to smuggle narcotics across the northern border into the New York area and into the United States is something that is becoming, you know, more and more of something that I keep my focus on as the Special Agent- in-Charge of the office.
We have drugs such as ecstasy and heroin that transit the northern border with Canada and come into the Buffalo area, to the Plattsburgh area, and then work their way down into the New York City area from upstate. If you go back 10, 15 years ago, that wasn’t a – that wasn’t much of a concern for us in DEA, because most of the drugs coming in were coming directly into New York City, and they were not coming across the northern border. They were coming up from either the southern part of the United States or they were coming in in containerized cargo into the seaports of New York.
Now we’ve seen, as things change -- and I’ve been doing this job for 28 years, and I can tell you that drug trafficking and the focus on drug trafficking is like squeezing a balloon. When you squeeze it here, it pops up over here. When you squeeze that, it pops up in another area. So it’s very important that we always keep our eye on where the changes may happen. And that’s what the intelligence analysts that I described earlier, that’s what they do for me, because we know that if we put certain resources in one area, we may have very good results in that one area, but it’s going to move and it’s going to probably show up in another area. And our job is to try to figure that out ahead of time and be ready for it when it does happen.
One of the things that we did not do in the ‘80s was anticipate the emergence of crack cocaine in New York City. And when crack cocaine hit New York City back in the ‘80s, it was a drug that hit, it hit quick, it hit fast. There was a lot of violence attached to it. And law enforcement was caught off guard by the crack epidemic at that time. And it took us quite a few years to kind of catch up to the crack organizations and to be able to identify them and to be able to dismantle and disrupt them and pass the laws within the United States that would deter some of these individuals from getting involved in the distribution of crack cocaine.
My office is made up of 391 special agents, but you can also see that it has 211 task force officers. Task force officers are very important to the operations that we conduct in my office. And task force officers mean New York City Police Department, New York State Police, Buffalo Police Department, Plattsburgh Police Department, local police departments, that I have the power, because of my position within DEA to deputize those individuals and give them the authority of a DEA agent to conduct international narcotics investigations. Although they are local police officers within their jurisdiction, when I deputize them, they have the authority to conduct international narcotics investigations – the same authority that any DEA agent would have.
So within my field division, I have 211 of those task force officers. And I can tell you that that force multiplier is something that I could not do without. My impact in New York or the results that I achieve, I would not be able to do if I did not have the support of the New York City Police Department, the New York State Police, and the other smaller police departments that operate throughout New York State. I have 35 diversion investigators, 43 intelligence analysts, the 27 professional administrative people, and 123 technical clerical people, as I explained earlier what they do for me.
The Drug Enforcement Task Force – very, very important entity within the New York office for DEA. Created in 1970 with 43 individuals -- DEA agents, New York City Police Department, New York State Police. The Drug Enforcement Task Force was created for one reason. At the time in 1970, there was an epidemic of heroin use and abuse in New York City. The concept and the idea at that time was if we brought together DEA, New York City Police and New York State Police into one office, they could just focus on the heroin trafficking that was taking place in New York City.
No one at that time – and I’ve spoken to the individuals that were involved and created that – no one at that time ever thought that in 2009, that the Drug Enforcement Task Force would still be sitting there, because it was created only to tackle one problem. And then they figured, once it tackled that problem, it would be disbanded.
As you can see, today we have 59 special agents from DEA that are within the task force, we have 114 task force officers. What’s very important about this concept, which is kind of unique, and I – within New York, we get a lot of international visitors. And I have an international visitor program within my office, where foreign law enforcement counterparts come to New York – and I kind of do the same briefing that I’m doing for you, I do for them – and this is something that they become very interested in.
The New York City – the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force is what we call co-mingled, which means everybody sits together. There were 12 enforcement groups. And within those groups, you have DEA agents sitting there, NYPD officers, state police that sit there. But what also is very unique is that it’s co-managed – that on any given day, you may have a DEA agent who takes direction from a New York City Police Department sergeant, or he may or she may take direction from the New York State police senior investigator, or there’s a DEA agent telling an NY – a New York City Police Department detective what to do on that given day. And then as you move up the pyramid, you have three individuals that sit and run the Drug Enforcement Task Force: one is from DEA; one is a deputy inspector from the NYPD; one is a captain from the state police.
So it’s very unique that we were able to bring three agencies together that have different missions at times, different roles, focus their attention on drug trafficking, and keep it going for 35 years without a hiccup. And some of the best cases, some of the best investigations that have ever been conducted in the United States, have been generated out of that task force. So our foreign counterparts in many instances are very, very interested in how we were able to do that.
Can I give them an answer on how we were able to do it? No, because I don’t know how we were able to do it. I don’t know how we keep it actually going that way. I can tell you that it works. And I think the reason it works is because of mutual respect. Decisions are made within that task force by three agencies, all keeping in mind the other agencies’ needs, the other agencies’ requirements. And I think that is the most significant aspect of the Drug Enforcement Task Force is the respect that the other agencies have for each other and for their single purpose of attacking these drug trafficking organizations.
It was so successful that three years ago the Department of Justice decided that they would create an organized crime drug enforcement strike force. And they used the Drug Enforcement Task Force that had the three agencies -- as I said, DEA, NYPD, state police – as a model. But what they wanted to do now was to bring in not only the NYPD and the state police, but they wanted to bring in FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Marshals and other federal agencies into, again, a co-located center, co-mingled and co-managed.
We have the Organized Crime Strike Force in New York City. And their mission, their one goal, is to go after, identify, dismantle international drug trafficking organizations that are touching on New York or the United States in terms of bringing in illegal narcotics. Will this be there 35 years from now? I don’t know, maybe. If it works as well as the Drug Enforcement Task Force did, it will, but I can’t tell you.
Is it novel? Absolutely. Is it complex? Sure, because now you don’t have three agencies, you have six, seven, and it’s growing from there – agencies all sitting in one place, all having pretty much different missions within their own agencies, but all trying to work together to go after one single mission, which is narcotics importation, distribution, and money laundering. But I’ve always told the men and women in the Drug Enforcement Task Force you should be proud because any time somebody tries to copy what you did, that’s a compliment, and they tried to copy the results of that Drug Enforcement Task Force at a larger level.
Real quick. Unified Intelligence Division, again, was created in 1973. It was, again, created to bring together the intelligence collection that different agencies had on narcotraffickers into one area, New York City Police, state police, we had Royal Canadian Mounted Police in there at one time. And it was to bring together all the intelligence that we had into one particular area and then focus that intelligence on the drug trafficking organizations.
Drugs and terrorism. As everyone here knows, there are groups out there that operate internationally that are terrorist organizations, but that they derive some of their – the profit that they need, the capital that they need to operate, they derive some of that money from drug trafficking. And we call these groups either narcoterrorist groups or, you know, drug trafficking groups that -- with links to terrorism. Right now, there’s 18 of the 43 officially designated global terrorist organizations that have been connected to narcotics trafficking in one way or another.
As I said when I started, I would talk about a few cases. A few years ago, we conducted a case against Haji Baz Mohammad. Haji Baz Mohammad was the first extradition from Afghanistan. He was charged with heroin trafficking. He was extradited to New York. He was a designated drug kingpin, designated by the U.S. Government as one of the major heroin traffickers in the world and in that region. He was found guilty in September of 2008 in New York in the Southern District, and he will spend time in federal prison in the United States for importing heroin and conspiracy to import heroin into the United States.
Another individual that was a top-level trafficker was a guy that we know as Hoover Salazar. Hoover Salazar was an individual who operated as a cocaine trafficker in Colombia, but he operated along with Mexican transportation groups. He operated along with groups that were based in Panama at the time, and he smuggled more than 5,000 kilograms of cocaine, you know, from Colombia through Panama to the United States. He was extradited to the U.S. in August of 2006 and he has been sentenced -- most recently, February 2008 -- to 30 years in prison for his drug-trafficking activities and his money-laundering activities.
Most recently, Ricardo Franchini is an individual who was arrested, and I believe he was arrested in London. He had significant ties to Russian organized crime. He was involved mainly in the distribution – it was poly-drug distribution, but mainly MDMA, which most of you would know as ecstasy. That was the drug that Ricardo Franchini was involved in distributing. He was arrested, he was brought to New York ,and he’s currently facing a minimum of 25 years in prison.
Many individuals ask me, because I’ve been doing this job for 28 years: Are you having any success? Are the individuals – the individuals that we lock up, what does it mean? Are individuals in the United States curbing their use of drugs? Presently, I would say yes. We are having success. We are having success on several levels. One, we are dismantling and disrupting global narcotics trafficking organizations with the help and support of our international counterparts. So individuals are being arrested and serving time in the country that they’re arrested in. Individuals in the United States are serving time in the United States for their drug trafficking activities.
We are having success in getting the message out to our youngest population that a drug use lifestyle is not something that they want to be doing or that would be productive for them as they grow up. And if you look at some of the numbers, and I know statistics can be, you know, spun either way, I will give you the statistics that have come out from several studies, one of them being the Monitoring the Future study, which is done every year. And it shows that, you know, we do have a 25 percent reduction in marijuana use by teenagers, we do have a 64 percent reduction in methamphetamine by teenagers. And I focus on teenagers, because those are – whatever country you live in, that’s the future. That’s the future of your country. Those are the kids that you need to get to to convince not to use drugs. We do have a 54 percent reduction in teen use of ecstasy and we have a 60 percent drop in cocaine use. Between 1985 and 2007, there was a 60 percent drop in cocaine use by individuals that said in the past year. So it’s past year use of cocaine use dropped by 60 percent. Steroid use has dropped, LSD use has dropped 60 percent. We’ve also had a decrease in workplace drug use. Those numbers are up there. So we are having an impact.
There is one area – and because I will, you know, give you the information, you know, as plain as we have it, there is – as those numbers are coming down, we had an increase in the United States in the use of pharmaceutical drugs. So as we saw a decrease in the use of marijuana, and heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, at the same time, we saw an increase in the use of pharmaceutical drugs, OxyContin, Vicodin, the drugs that are manufactured in the United States for pain relief – medication that’s needed, medication that provides very needed pain relief to individuals that really need that pain relief, but makes its way into the illicit market in what we call diversion – diversion of the pharmaceutical drugs into the illicit market. We saw an increase of that type of drug abuse by teenagers – very scary.
Some of the stories that I hear about – extremely scary. I hear stories about some of these teens going to parties and each teen is required to bring a certain – just bring a pill. They throw the pills into a bowl, and when you get the party, you reach in, you take out a pill and you take it. They don’t know what they’re taking, they have no idea what they’re taking – very dangerous. It is of grave concern to me, not only as the head of DEA in New York, but as a dad of two kids that are getting close to being teenagers – very scary.
We also saw an increase in the pharmaceutical use of drugs because of the internet, what we coined rogue internet pharmacies, pharmacies that were operating cyberspace, where you could go in, you would put in your name, a credit card, a post office box, and you could order up very, very powerful pain medication to be delivered to wherever you wanted it to be delivered to. These pharmacies that were operating on the internet were operating illegally. There was no medical prescriptions being prescribed, no doctors that were writing prescriptions for these medications. We’ve had great success in going in, identifying those rogue internet pharmacies, shutting them down, and trying to arrest the individuals that were operating behind those pharmacies.
I could tell you how one of them actually operated. It was Operation Cyberchase. Go online, order up a drug, hit a button, the order was sent to Costa Rica. Two individuals sitting in Costa Rica would then take the order. They would then place an order to India, where a group of individuals in India were actually going in after hours and manufacturing these pharmaceuticals in a pharmaceutical plant, off hours. It had nothing to do with the pharmaceutical plant. They didn’t know what was happening. They were actually manufacturing these pharmaceuticals off hours in that pharmaceutical plant. They would then ship those pharmaceuticals to a warehouse in Queens, New York, where they would then store them up in bulk, then break them down and shotgun deliver those pharmaceuticals across the United States. So you had this circuitous route of ordering up illegal pharmaceuticals. We were able to shut that – to shut that operation – operation down with the support and the outstanding work done by our counterparts in Costa Rice, in India, and then in the United States, we were able to shut that operation down. That was just one of many that operate out there in cyberspace.
I will answer any questions, but that’s just a quick overview of DEA. So I’m here for a little while, and I’ll answer any questions that you have. QUESTION:
Tell us about the rise or drop on the cocaine prices in New York City for the last year. Has it gone up? Maybe the crisis has affected it, some reason?MR. GILBRIDE:
Yeah. Cocaine prices are up, the purity is down. QUESTION:
How much? Do you have numbers, maybe, like on the cost itself? I don’t know how they sell it, or – MR. GILBRIDE:
Yeah. I can get you exactly the cost. It fluctuates, but I think maybe a kilo right now, Erin (ph), is about what? PARTICIPANT:
38 right right now. It was down a little lower than that. About six months ago, it was down a little lower than that, correct? A kilo? So it’s fluctuating. Right now, I’m told a kilo is about $38,000, and then you break it down from there. I think last year, we actually saw it down in the – I think it was in the high 20’s, like 28,000 for a kilo. So it’s gone up a little bit. It’s fluctuating back and forth.
We think that’s a combination of a few very significant events – some very large seizures that were – that occurred in – I think in the Western Pacific, some in the Caribbean; the clamping down by the Mexican Government on some of the transportation groups that were operating there. We hope the use of less cocaine in the United States has to mix in with that a little bit; the dismantle and disrupting of some of these organizations that were operating out there. So we saw an increase in price and we saw a drop in purity of the cocaine at the same time.QUESTION:
How about the, places they’re coming from? We understand Mexico is coming up as a big place, Venezuela. Do you think it’s doing enough in the fight against, you know, countries that are getting cocaine into the United States through New York, even Colombia?MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, again, I’m not here to talk about what any specific country is doing in regards to supporting, you know, the drug trafficking efforts. What I can tell you is the SAC of New York -- we have outstanding working relationships on a daily basis with our Colombian counterparts. We share information, I would say, almost daily, between the office in New York and our friends down in Colombia. Same with Mexico, same with many countries. It’s – there’s a constant sharing of information and a constant flow of intelligence back and forth from the New York office down to these other – to these other countries. So the support that we get in drug enforcement is extremely significant. I don’t want to go into pointing out different countries.QUESTION:
But surely you could tell us about the impact that the closure of the office in Venezuela has had on your operations.MR. GILBRIDE:
I couldn’t tell you.QUESTION:
Why not?MR. GILBRIDE:
Because I don’t know. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
It has not had an impact because of what Chavez did?MR. GILBRIDE:
As I said, I wouldn’t – I would not be in a position to speak of that, because my view is limited to the New York area. QUESTION:
Okay, then –MR. GILBRIDE:
I’m the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York office. So I wouldn’t be able to give you a full and accurate answer one way or the other, because I have a limited view, which is my field of vision, which is New York.QUESTION:
In Queens, they say that the one who killed the Mexican cartels (inaudible) is going to face kidnappings, killings, blackmail, a lot of (inaudible) there. Could you tell us something about that?MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, I don’t know specific instances that you’re referring to. We do have violence connected with drug trafficking. We, unfortunately, have always had violence connected to drug trafficking. In New York, that violence has gone down over the last 10, 15 years, and that’s a combination of outstanding law enforcement by the NYPD, coupled with the focus on the crack epidemic that was going on, the taking down of these drug trafficking organizations. So the level of violence has greatly been reduced in New York City.
Would there be instances of violence generated from drug trafficking? Absolutely. I have a group that works within the Drug Enforcement Task Force that -- that is all they do. They focus on drug-related homicides. And they go in and they work with the New York City Police Department and the detectives that are investigating homicides to determine whether those homicides were drug-related. And I could tell you that they’re – they’re a busy group. Unfortunately, there are drug-related homicides within the city of New York. Are there as many as there was 15 years ago? Absolutely not. Is New York a much safer place than it was 10, 15 years ago? Absolutely. It absolutely is.QUESTION:
Could you say whether the closure or the pressure put on in terms of the Pacific corridor of drugs coming up out of Colombia and the Caribbean corridor coming out of, again, Colombia and Venezuela towards the United States, particularly in New York -- the pressure put on there has caused, as you said, the balloon to be raised in places, and from Guyana – Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and it’s going around the other way, into the New York area.
Because looking at the cases that you’ve covered out of the southern district, it appears as if that is what is happening, even going over to Africa and then coming back into the United States. Is that what has been – what has been happening? Or has that – is that what your wife has been telling you? (Laughter.) MR. GILBRIDE:
My wife tells me a lot of things. She hasn’t told me that, though.
You know, I don’t know if I can give you a definitive answer. The – what I can tell you is that the majority of the cocaine and the heroin that arrive on the streets of New York, at present, transits the southwest border, the U.S.-Mexico border. That’s where the cocaine that comes into New York City – the majority of that cocaine transits the southern border, the U.S.-Mexico border. And it arrives here in several different ways – in tractor trailers, predominately trapped out – what we call trapped out vehicles, vehicles that have secret compartments within those vehicles.
Heroin -- heroin arrives several different ways. We have a lot of individuals that unfortunately swallow balloons of heroin, get on planes, fly into Kennedy Airport, then pass the balloons. They get on, they carry heroin in luggage, but they also smuggle heroin in larger amounts in tractor trailers and compartmentalized vehicles. So the heroin is coming in from different ways. The cocaine – the majority of the cocaine that comes into New York City transits that U.S.-Mexico border.QUESTION:
How about Canada? You talk about Canada, okay, like Syracuse and (inaudible). Why do you pay attention to the northern borders? See, you said Canada, 15 years ago, you didn’t much – pay much attention to northern borders. But now, you have the office in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, and you mentioned a little bit about you will be paying more attention to northern border, rather to the – directly coming to the port of New York.MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, we’re paying more attention to it because we see the trend in more drug smuggling occurring across that northern border than we did 10 to 15 years ago.QUESTION:
Cocaine or heroin or marijuana –MR. GILBRIDE:
Not cocaine, not cocaine. The biggest drug that’s coming across the border with Canada is marijuana. That’s –QUESTION:
Yeah, very (inaudible.)MR. GILBRIDE:
That’s the largest – that’s the largest drug in terms of quantity coming across the border with Canada. It’s coming across in, you know, hundreds and hundreds of pounds, being smuggled across the border.
Ecstasy. Ecstasy coming across the border with Canada, ecstasy that is being controlled by groups out of Canada, but also Vietnamese groups that are operating within Canada that are smuggling ecstasy from Canada down into the United States.
The marijuana that comes in is what we call BC Bud – British Columbia Bud, very high TCH content marijuana, very expensive marijuana that is smuggled in, very high-end type of marijuana, marijuana sometimes that is referred to as hydroponic marijuana, grown indoors, grown in controlled conditions to where the TCH content is able to be increased and controlled based upon the indoor environment that it’s grown in.QUESTION:
I mean, how about the percentage of -- consumed in the United States? Maybe more than half of them, or –MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, marijuana is the – unfortunately, marijuana is the number one drug of choice for individuals in the United States.QUESTION:
Yes. Second to that, right now, unfortunately, is the pharmaceutical drugs. The pharmaceutical drugs are second only to the use of marijuana within the United States. So, you know, yes, marijuana is the – unfortunately, one of the largest abused drug within the United States. And so we’ve seen a lot more of that marijuana get smuggled down from the northern border, where if you look at 15, 20 years ago, that marijuana was coming up from the southern border. It was marijuana coming from Mexico, as opposed to coming down from Canada. So that’s when I say that we’re – it’s not that we weren’t paying attention to the northern border 15 years ago, but you have to look at the drug trends. What are you starting to see, and then where do you have to put your resources in order to have an impact on what you are noticing in terms of drug trafficking routes. The northern border, with marijuana, with ecstasy, has become of more concern than it had been at one time.QUESTION:
Do you know why it happened like that?MR. GILBRIDE:
Why it happens? Money. These groups are only in – these groups only operate for one reason.QUESTION:
You mean professional groups?MR. GILBRIDE:
They operate to make money. Well, you have two types of groups. You have the drug trafficking organizations that are operating purely for profit for themselves and the individuals that are operating within that drug trafficking organization. And then you have the narcoterrorist groups that are not necessarily operating to make money for themselves, but they’re operating to make money to fund the cause that they are concerned with.
So you have two types of organizations: drug trafficking organizations that operate purely for profit for them and the individuals that are in the organization, the narcoterrorist groups operating to create a profit to then fund their cause, whatever that cause happens to be.QUESTION:
What are the biggest drug trafficking organizations bringing – smuggling drugs to the United States? Are they still those organizations from Colombia, or are those organizations from Mexico or from (inaudible) countries?MR. GILBRIDE:
I missed the beginning of your question. What –QUESTION:
The biggest drug trafficking organization.MR. GILBRIDE:
The biggest drug trafficking organizations?QUESTION:
Where are they from, or who are they?MR. GILBRIDE:
You know, they’re – that’s a difficult answer, because there are – there are drug trafficking groups that operate, you know, in probably every country. There are drug trafficking groups that are purely operating within the United States that may be manufacturing methamphetamine and distributing the methamphetamine. They may be operating in the United States distributing pharmaceutical medication or pharmaceutical pills. There are trafficking groups that operate out of Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Dominican Republic.
You know, each country unfortunately has, you know, groups of individuals that will violate the law. It doesn’t make one country any worse than another country. It’s – they just have these individuals that operate within their boundaries of their country, just like we have those individuals operating within the United States. So I would be reluctant -- and I wouldn’t want to say that it’s one country over another country. It’s not the countries, it’s the individuals. It’s the individuals within these trafficking groups that are solely in the business of trying to make an illegal profit.QUESTION:
How is your work and policy affected by culturally sensitive issues, for example, in Bolivia, where you have the coca leaf being used for cultural and medicinal purposes? And also, it is an integral part of working. I mean, it makes up, I believe, something like 60 percent of the labor force, the Coca Farmer’s Association. How does that affect your policy – the implementation of your policy?MR. GILBRIDE:
Again, one of those questions that I would be -- able to give you an accurate answer, because if you look at it from where I sit in my office within the New York Field Division, we are strictly focused on identifying, dismantling, disrupting the drug trafficking organizations that we know are operating – taking away their drugs, taking away their money, and at times, taking away their freedom and putting them in jail. QUESTION:
May I ask –MR. GILBRIDE:
Now, when they do that, myself and the agents and everyone else that work for me focus on that. That’s my job as the Special Agent-in-Charge. QUESTION:
Okay. What kind of –MR. GILBRIDE:
In terms of talking about policy and what affects that –QUESTION:
Okay. Then let me rephrase it. What kind of cooperation have you had, then, in law enforcement in countries like Bolivia and, let’s say, Venezuela, countries that are seemingly antagonistic. But you must have had some kind of cooperation with law enforcement in those areas. And how have those relationships been?MR. GILBRIDE:
Once again, if it didn’t happen – if it wasn’t happening in New York, I don’t want to touch – I don’t want to touch on that, because there may be other offices throughout the United States that happen to be working cases with individuals in those countries. But maybe I’m not working those cases out of the New York area, so I would be reluctant to try to answer that. I can get you someone in Washington within DEA that could give you a better answer – QUESTION:
Yes, sir, I would appreciate it, yes. MR. GILBRIDE: --
because they’re looking at it from more of a macro sense, where I’m looking at it more from a micro sense. I’m looking at it on what affects New York.QUESTION:
How long – then I could –QUESTION:
Within New York, do you – sorry. Within New York, do you break down your cases into a Colombian organized crime group, a Guianese group, a Jamaican group, a Dominican Republic group? Surely, you must do that. MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, we don’t. What we see is – you see a mix in these organizations. You don’t necessarily see – when we take down an organization, I would say the majority of these organizations, you don’t just see one ethnic group of people or nationalities within these organizations. You see individuals that may be from Colombia, may be from Mexico, they may be from whatever country, they may have been born and raised here in the United States, all operating together in one organization. So you see – you see a mix, just like we see – some of these organizations have become what we call now polydrug.QUESTION:
If – poly, P-O-L-Y, drug. If you look back 15, 20 years ago, if you look back to when the Cartels, the Medellin Cartel, the Cali Cartel -- when they were operating, they were cocaine trafficking cartels. Today, what you see are smaller organizations that move cocaine, move heroin. Some of them move ecstasy, if they can. They will move whatever they can. They will sell whatever they can in order to generate profit, so they’re not sticking to strictly one drug. So that has – that has allowed these organizations to branch out, and they’re dealing with more than one, you know, nationality, or more than one country. They’re transiting different countries.
So I would say the answer to you is no. What we focus on – I don’t have groups in my office that are focused on Colombian traffickers or Mexican traffickers. They’re focused on cocaine. They’re focused on heroin. They’re focused on ecstasy. They may be focused on marijuana, but marijuana at the very large amounts of marijuana, tractor trailer loads of marijuana, that type of organization.
So they’re focused on the specific drug and they become experts in the way those drugs are imported into the United States, distributed within New York, but they’re not focused on one country or one nationality. Their focus is the drug. Because they know, you know, today they could be looking at a group that’s based out of Mexico, tomorrow it could be a group that’s based out of Colombia, it could be a group that’s based out of the Dominican Republic, it could be a group based out of anywhere. It could be a group of individuals, you know, as I said, U.S. citizens, born and raised in the United States. QUESTION:
The FARC and – the FARC in Colombia and Hezbollah, they are working together in the Middle East smuggling in cocaine to Russia, so how you could explain us about that? How – MR. GILBRIDE:
The FARC and Hezbollah are working together in this kind of (inaudible).MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, I’m not going to talk about the FARC and Hezbollah working together. What I can tell you, though, is that the FARC – and we have several significant cases in New York that are focused on the FARC and the various fronts within the FARC. We have indicted these individuals. We have had some success in bringing some of these individuals to justice, and we will keep our attention on what’s happening along with our Colombian counterparts on identifying members of the FARC that are involved in narcotics trafficking.
In terms of Hezbollah and the FARC, I’m not an expert in that area and I couldn't give you a good answer. QUESTION:
How many -- QUESTION:
Let’s talk about Africa now , give us a break. (Laughter.) I see that you have some (inaudible) about tribal regions in Africa. You know, I see that you have one of them in Lagos. Can you just give us an insight into, you know, from your New York point of view, what the level of relationship has been between your office and the Lagos office, you know, in terms of training, in terms of, you know, cooperation, sharing intelligence? And what do you think is the impact of Africa in terms of the distribution of, you know, the network?MR. GILBRIDE:
I’ll start with New York. We have very few cases that are connected to Africa. We have some heroin cases connected to trafficking groups based in Nigeria. The sharing of information, as far as I know, has been good. I don’t know of any issues. I know that Africa – that area – has become more of a focus, not from my office but from our overseas offices that are working daily with the counterparts in those countries.
I don’t have any information that the relationships are anything but good in terms of sharing information and working cases together. But again, it’s not my – it’s not my area of the world to have my focus on. QUESTION:
Well, tell us more about what the heroin that – the trafficking group in heroin that you mentioned in Nigeria.MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, see, what – I’ll give you a little history of heroin trafficking in New York City. In the 1970s, Southwest Asian heroin was the heroin of choice in New York City. In the 1980s, Southeast Asian heroin became the heroin of choice. In the ‘90s, up until now, it’s been heroin that is what we call South American heroin, heroin basically coming out of Colombia. That heroin has dominated the New York market, and I would say the Northeastern market within the United States from Maine down to Miami and then, you know, out going a little west in Pittsburgh, probably as far out as Detroit.
That is the predominant heroin on the streets of New York, and we look at this on a – I look at it on a quarterly basis. Four times a year, we look at it to determine what’s the heroin on the streets in New York City. Ninety-plus percent of the heroin in New York City is South American heroin. So the trafficking groups that had been smuggling heroin – Nigerian trafficking groups that had been smuggling heroin 10 to 15 years ago, that Southwest Asian heroin is not the heroin that is of choice in New York City at the current time. So basically, what you have here in New York City is you have South American heroin – very – and I say inexpensive heroin compared to what it was with Southeast Asian heroin. You’re talking $60,000 a kilo for South American heroin compared to $120-$150,000 of Southeast Asian heroin years ago, up to $200,000.
So you have inexpensive heroin, very high purity heroin coming from South America. It’s not unusual to have heroin on the streets of New York City that is 50-60 percent pure coming from South America. So it’s just – it’s basic supply, it’s basic demand, when you can bring in heroin that is very high purity and you can bring it in at a cheaper price than others were able to bring it in. And that’s what happened. The trafficking groups that were based out of South America, Colombia, bringing in cocaine, then started bringing in heroin. They already had the established routes. They had the established transportation routes for their cocaine. They started to bring in the heroin, and they were able to bring it into New York and sell it cheaper than anyone else, and they undercut the market.QUESTION:
This is happening since when, like the switch to heroin from South America (inaudible)?MR. GILBRIDE:
‘90s. And I would say that’s probably ’95, ’96, somewhere around – or maybe even earlier. Maybe ’93, ’94, somewhere around in there. QUESTION:
Can I have further clarification with regard to your position? You’re the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division, meaning the John F. Kennedy Office comes under your Division?MR. GILBRIDE:
That’s a group – yes, it’s a group that I have.QUESTION:
As a group that it comes under your Division? And from that, taking – taking a follow-up from the African question, to my mind, and the documentation into John F. Kennedy has been that there has been a lot of heroin coming in through swallowers, if you want to call it that – MR. GILBRIDE:
-- from the African continent. And the question I was asking earlier is that with the pressure being put on the South American supplier group, what has been happening as it has been going over to Guinea or to Ghana or to Nigeria and then coming the other way? And that’s what I’m asking if – MR. GILBRIDE:
From a DEA perspective, our investigations are not centered in that area. Now, if there are individual instances of smugglers coming in from that part of the world that are being intercepted at the airport by Customs Border Patrol or maybe Immigrations Customs Enforcement, then, you know, that question would be best posed to those agencies. What I’m telling you is we don’t have any significant long-term investigations that are tying in any major smuggling groups from that area of the world for DEA right now. For DEA. QUESTION:
How much collaboration is there with ICE and CB – Customs Border Patrol, CBD?MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, as I said, there’s the Organized Crime Strike Force and ICE is a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force. You have other federal agencies in there. So there is a definite sharing of information on a daily basis. My counterpart from ICE is an individual that I talk to several times a week, the Special Agent-in-Charge over at ICE. I talk to my counterpart from the FBI. I talk to my counterparts on a regular basis. So there’s a – there is a very, very, very good sharing of information. There’s a lot more sharing of information since 9/11 than there was before 9/11. I could tell you that. The walls that may have existed prior to an event such as 9/11 have been taken down in terms of sharing information.QUESTION:
Two quick questions, please. Firstly, in listing some of the successes of the agency, you mentioned that drug use is down in teens, but also that drug use of pharmaceuticals use is up. Are those two directly linked? And if they are, doesn't that then give you an even greater problem, given the relative ease with which pharmaceuticals can be accessed?
And secondly, by your own admission, the drug problem – the drug trade operates as any legitimate business does, therefore it should be subject to the same market factors of supply and demand. What measures or programs does the DEA have to address the demand side of the problem? MR. GILBRIDE:
I’ll take the first part, and the answer is yes to the first part. There is a definite correlation between – we’re starting to see, all the numbers show, that heroin use is down. Those are national numbers. We are starting to see an increase in – an uptick in heroin use by individuals who first started taking OxyContin. They are gravitating from the pharmaceutical drugs to the point where they can go out on the street and buy a glassine of heroin cheaper than they can go buy a six-pack of beer. Okay.
When that happens – and you’re talking about teenagers – you have some serious issues. You have some serious issues because it’s easier for them to buy a bag of heroin on the street than it is to have somebody go in and buy them a six-pack of beer. And that’s what we’re starting to see.
We started to see less of a stigma in heroin use over the years where, if you look back, the history of heroin use was a heroin user was a hardline drug user who put a needle in their arm after wrapping the tourniquet around there and that – just that image of a heroin – the needle in the arm was enough to keep people from ever wanting to do heroin.
As it became more apparent that you could snort heroin, the stigma on the use of heroin started to diminish among our younger population, our teenagers. And what we started to see were some of these kinds snorting heroin and going to the prom, or snorting heroin and going to a party. Okay. Because they weren’t considering themselves major drug users because they weren’t sticking a needle in their arm, they were snorting a powder up their noise.
So the answer is yes, we are – there is a definite correlation between the use of the pharmaceuticals, the use of the traditional illicit substances such as heroin.
Now, when it comes to the demand reduction side, DEA is an enforcement agency. Okay. Our mission is to dismantle and disrupt these drug organizations and regulate the pharmaceutical industry. You have other agencies out there – ONDCP, for instance is – and Partnership For a Drug Free America – their mission is to go out and educate the public about the dangers of drug abuse. DEA does it, and we just recently held a seminar out on Long Island where we went to a university and we brought in some experts and we brought in the college kids and hopefully some parents, and talked about the dangers of heroin use. Because I see – out on Long Island, I’m starting to see an increase in heroin use and I’m starting to see some overdose deaths related to heroin use. And that’s causing me concern, so I’m putting some resources to that.
But our main mission is not education or demand reduction. It’s a byproduct of what we do -- QUESTION:
Disrupt supply? MR. GILBRIDE:
-- where you have some other agencies that that is their core mission. Okay. MODERATOR:
We have time for one more question.QUESTION:
Yeah, do you have – do you see any connections between illegal immigration and illegal drugs? And can you tell us who are these people? Who are people who, you know, involved in these kind of dealings in New York state?MR. GILBRIDE:
Anyone can be involved in this type of business. I’ve been doing it long enough to know that drug traffickers come in all shapes, all sizes, all colors, all backgrounds. It’s not – you know, you don’t have to come from an inner city poor neighborhood to be involved in drugs. You have individuals that have been coming from very well-to-do families, middle class and upper class families that get involved in drugs. So it’s – it doesn't matter what country you come from. It doesn't matter what you look like, what your social status is. I’ve seen drug traffickers come from all walks of life. QUESTION:
And what about immigration, illegal immigration?MR. GILBRIDE:
Well, illegal immigration? I see drug traffickers that are arrested that are here illegally and I see drug traffickers that are arrested that are here legally. It’s – you know, it’s a combination. It’s a combination of both. Not every individual coming into the United States illegally is a drug trafficker. And you know, not every individual who is here legally, you know, doesn't turn into a drug trafficker. I mean, it just – it’s something that I see on both sides. We arrest individuals and we find out they’re here illegally. We arrest individuals and we say, no, they’re here legally. To me, these are organizations. These are not – DEA does not focus our attention on individuals. We focus our attention on organizations. If you’re an organization, if you are connected to the production, the distribution, the transportation, and the sale of drugs, as well as the collection of the profits made from that, that’s – you’re going to attract the attention of DEA. We don’t focus our attention on, say, one individual unless you happen to be the individual sitting at the top of that organization; then you will be the focus of DEA’s attention because you have been designated as, say, the drug kingpin or the head of the drug organization itself. And then yes, you will find DEA placing our attention – you know, our focus on you.
Again, I preface this with not DEA, but DEA along with foreign counterparts, our friends overseas who don’t want individuals that are selling drugs, distributing drugs, making money from drugs, in the country that they happen to be in. So it’s not just DEA. It’s everybody else. MODERATOR:
Yeah. The rest of the country has such a problem with meth addiction, meth labs, and I was wondering how New York seems to not have that problem. MR. GILBRIDE:
Great, great question. Great question. Methamphetamine, for some reason – and I’ve thought about this and spoke to people about it. Methamphetamine, for some reason, has never been a drug of choice for the New York City area. And it’s very unique because methamphetamine – when I was first hired, I worked in Philadelphia. Methamphetamine was a drug of choice in the Philadelphia region. Philadelphia is two hours away down the turnpike. But methamphetamine never made it up into the New York City area as a drug of choice.
Why that is, some people have said, well, because there’s heroin, there’s cocaine, New York City is one of those import cities where you have the highest purity, lowest price in terms of the imported drugs that are here that individuals didn’t have to go to methamphetamine. If you go out to rural America – again, you’ve got to look at this – if you look at it in a business model, the further you get away from the sources of supply, the higher the price goes, the lower the purity goes. It’s a typical business model. If you look at any – if you look at any product, legitimate product, the further it has to be transported, the higher the price goes because you have to pay for that transportation.
So if you go into rural America, heroin and cocaine was a lot more expensive than going out and buying the chemicals to manufacture methamphetamine in a bathtub, so you had more of a methamphetamine problem in rural America than you did in a city such as New York. And I think that is probably one of the main reasons that that existed is because they didn’t have access to the high-purity, low-priced other illicit drugs that were out there.
Methamphetamine, I hope never catches on in New York City. It is an extremely, extremely nasty drug of choice that, you know, it’s been made down in Mexico. It has been made in super labs in Mexico. But a majority of it, a large majority of it, has been made right here by what we call mom and pop laboratories in hotels, in houses. And it just brings along with it a whole host of problems. Methamphetamine labs produce toxic chemicals that people just go and dump into the water supply or they bury in the back yard. It doesn't go away. It just seeps down into the ground and contaminates the water. If they’re making methamphetamine in a hotel room and you come in and stay in that hotel room, a week later you’re contaminated by the methamphetamine, the chemicals that were in there. So it’s – it brings a whole host of problems.
But again, we are focused on it and we haven’t seen an uptick yet, although we have arrested some individuals that have told us that they’ve tried to create the market for methamphetamine in New York and it hasn’t caught it on. But they have tried, and they told us they have, but it hasn’t caught on yet. Hopefully, not.