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Abuse

Marijuana is the most widely available and abused illicit drug in the Arizona HIDTA region. Additionally, the distribution and abuse of methamphetamine pose a serious drug-related concern to law enforcement officials because of the drug's widespread availability, highly addictive nature, association with violence, and apparent appeal to youth. According to the 2006 Arizona Youth Survey,8 the most recent survey of its kind available, 4.3 percent of Arizona teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 have tried methamphetamine. This figure is almost twice the national average.

Arizona Meth Project Launched

In response to high levels of methamphetamine abuse within Arizona, the state Attorney General's office launched a media public awareness campaign called Arizona Meth Project (AMP) that targets junior and senior high school students, young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, and parents. The purpose of the campaign is to graphically communicate to potential methamphetamine users the risks of methamphetamine use and to substantially reduce it. Six of the Arizona HIDTA region counties, Cochise, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Pinal, and Yuma, are involved in the media campaign.

Sources: Arizona Attorney General's Office; Arizona Meth Project; Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

Cocaine and heroin are also abused within the HIDTA region, but to a lesser degree than marijuana and methamphetamine. Powder cocaine and crack are readily available in the region as is MBT; these drugs are abused to varying degrees throughout the area.

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Illicit Finance

The Arizona HIDTA region's proximity to Mexico and its role in national and regional level drug trafficking render the area a significant money laundering center for Mexican DTOs. Mexican DTOs typically consolidate illicit proceeds generated in the region at stash locations, combine them with funds generated in other regions of the country, and transport the proceeds in bulk to Mexico. They generally smuggle bulk cash in hidden compartments of private and commercial vehicles that are driven through POEs. Mexican DTOs also smuggle bulk currency in commercial and private aircraft, by couriers on passenger bus lines, and through the use of package delivery services. According to the Arizona Attorney General's Office, once bulk cash arrives in Mexico from Arizona, it is often deposited into a Mexican bank and/or a casa de cambio9 and then repatriated to the United States through electronic wire transfers or bulk cash transportation by armored car or courier services.

Mexican DTOs often launder large sums of illicit drug proceeds through money transmitters throughout the United States. Many wire transmitters send funds to the Southwest Border area, including the Arizona HIDTA region. Once the funds arrive in the HIDTA region, DTO members or accomplices collect the funds and often transport them to local stash houses for consolidation. The funds, in the form of bulk cash shipments, are then smuggled into Mexico. Law enforcement officials report that such wire transfers are common in the region, but that they are occurring less frequently than in previous years. The Arizona Attorney General's Office reports that effective law enforcement efforts that targeted drug and alien traffickers who rely on wire transfers for money laundering purposes forced the traffickers to reroute transfers. Many traffickers now avoid Arizona and electronically wire transfer their drug proceeds to other U.S. destinations or directly to Mexico.

DTOs, gangs, and independent dealers operating in the Arizona HIDTA region also launder illicit proceeds through a variety of other methods. They commonly commingle illicit proceeds with funds from legitimate businesses, such as automobile dealerships, retail stores, real estate companies, and restaurants. These groups or individuals also purchase high-value assets, such as luxury residences and vehicles.


End Notes

8. The 2006 Arizona Youth Survey was administered from January through April of 2006 in Arizona public and charter schools. This statewide effort encompassed all 15 counties and 362 schools, which resulted in the participation of 60,401 eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade students throughout Arizona.
9. Casas de cambio located in Mexico are nonbank financial institutions (currency exchangers) that provide a variety of financial services and are highly regulated by the Mexican Government. As of March 2007, 24 casas de cambio were registered with Mexico's Federal Income Secretary.


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