National Drug Intelligence Center
Cocaine, both powder and crack, is the primary illicit substance most often identified in treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi. According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), the number of cocaine-related treatment admissions in Louisiana in 2007 (the latest year for which such data are available) exceeded the number of treatment admissions for marijuana; other opiates, tranquilizers, and sedatives; amphetamines (including methamphetamine); and heroin. (See Table A1 in Appendix A.)
Methamphetamine abuse levels are stable throughout the region; the drug is readily available and typically of high purity. Abuse of methamphetamine is highest in rural areas of Alabama and Arkansas. Law enforcement officers in Arkansas report that Caucasian methamphetamine abusers are increasingly using crack cocaine and CPDs.
CPDs are widely available and frequently abused throughout the Gulf Coast HIDTA region. The most widely available and commonly abused CPDs are analgesic patches, Dilaudid, hydrocodone, methadone, OxyContin, and Xanax, as well as the prescription drug Soma. Law enforcement officers report that CPDs are a growing problem among Caucasian young adults. In addition, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics reports that most drug overdose deaths reported in Mississippi are the result of decedents' use of a combination of CPDs such as hydrocodone and Xanax.
Heroin abuse is limited throughout most of the Gulf Coast HIDTA region. The abuse of heroin is largely confined to an established population of African American and Caucasian long-term heroin abusers in and around New Orleans; however, abuse by Caucasian teenagers and young adults may be increasing in the New Orleans area. Law enforcement reporting suggests that heroin abuse is increasing in other areas of the Gulf Coast HIDTA region as well, such as Alabama and Arkansas. Heroin sold for $120 per gram in Arkansas in 2008 and was increasingly abused by Caucasian males, who injected the drug.
Drug traffickers in the Gulf Coast HIDTA region launder illicit funds generated by drug sales through a variety of methods. The movement of illicit proceeds from the region typically involves the transportation of bulk currency from the region to the Southwest Border area. According to NDTS 2009 data, 34 of the 89 law enforcement agency respondents in the Gulf Coast HIDTA region report that bulk cash is smuggled at moderate to high levels in their jurisdictions. Mexican traffickers in the region rely on bulk cash shipments to transport drug proceeds to the Southwest Border area and to Mexico; bulk cash proceeds from drug sales in many eastern U.S. markets are consolidated in Atlanta and later transported through the Gulf Coast HIDTA. Gulf Coast HIDTA Blue Lightning Operations Center (BLOC) seizure data illustrate the volume of bulk cash transported through the region annually. In 2008 law enforcement interdiction efforts along interstate highways in the Gulf Coast HIDTA region resulted in the seizure of nearly $23 million.11
Traffickers also launder illicit drug proceeds through money services businesses, structured bank deposits, purchases of real estate and luxury items, cash-intensive businesses and, to a lesser degree, riverboat casinos.12 Mexican traffickers use wire transfers and money remitters to send drug proceeds to their sources of supply in Mexico. Some traffickers also use third-party individuals to purchase residential properties in urban areas, secure loans for improvements, and launder drug proceeds through loan payments, investments, and rental fees.
Blue Lightning Operations Center (BLOC) seizure
data indicate that over $22.7 million were seized along roads and highways in Alabama,
Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi; approximately half of the $22.7 million ($11
million) was seized along Interstates 10 and 20.
12. Riverboat casinos represent another opportunity for drug traffickers to structure drug proceeds; however, the need to keep structured deposits under federal reporting thresholds and the records created by riverboat casinos for all transactions discourage many drug traffickers from using casinos to launder proceeds on a regular basis.
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