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Drug Trafficking Organizations

Mexican DTOs represent the single greatest drug trafficking threat and are responsible for distributing most wholesale quantities of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in the Chicago HIDTA region. These highly organized and compartmentalized DTOs often have connections to large organizations in Mexico, which furnish their drug supplies. (See text boxes.) Other Mexican traffickers use familial connections in Mexico to obtain wholesale quantities of illicit drugs for distribution in the region. Mexican DTOs operating in Chicago supply high-ranking, local street gang members with drugs for retail distribution. These DTOs generally store large quantities of cocaine and marijuana and smaller quantities of heroin and ice methamphetamine in stash houses located in Chicago and surrounding suburban communities for subsequent distribution.

La Familia Michoacana Establishes Command-and-Control Group in Chicago

In November 2009, 15 alleged members of the La Familia Michoacana Mexican DTO were indicted in the Northern District of Illinois. The Chicago investigation was part of Project Coronado, a multijurisdictional investigation that targeted the organization's distribution networks in the United States and resulted in charges against more than 300 defendants in 19 states. According to indictments, La Familia established a command-and-control group in Chicago to efficiently distribute thousands of kilograms of cocaine and collect tens of millions of dollars in illicit drug proceeds. The Chicago Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration seized approximately 250 kilograms of cocaine and $8 million in the Chicago area, primarily from Berwyn, Bolingbrook, Oak Lawn, Hickory Hills, Joliet, and Justice.

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Illinois.


Three Mexico-Based DTOs Allegedly Supply Chicago-Based Distribution Cell

Indictments released in August 2009 by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois allege that three Mexican DTOs supplied nearly 200 metric tons of cocaine and quantities of heroin to wholesale distributors in Chicago and other U.S. cities and funneled more than $5.8 billion in bulk cash back to Mexico. The indictments allege that the Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán-Loera, Ismael "el Mayo" Zambada-García, and Arturo Beltrán-Leyva DTOs coordinated their trafficking activities to import multiton quantities of cocaine from Central and South American countries to the interior of Mexico using various means of transportation, including Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft, semisubmersible vessels, container ships, go-fast boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor-trailers, and automobiles. A single Chicago distribution cell was allegedly supplied with approximately 1,500 to 2,000 kilograms of cocaine per month; the drug was distributed in the Chicago area as well as in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Illinois.

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Other drug trafficking groups also distribute illicit drugs in the Chicago HIDTA region. Colombian DTOs distribute cocaine and SA heroin in Chicago; however, their role in drug trafficking in Chicago is decreasing as Mexican DTOs are increasing their dominance of the cocaine and heroin markets. Asian, Albanian, and Caucasian traffickers transport and distribute wholesale quantities of high-potency Canadian marijuana and MDMA. Nigerian and other West African traffickers are the primary transporters and distributors of SWA heroin; they smuggle multiounce quantities of heroin using package delivery services and couriers on commercial airlines.

The Chicago HIDTA region has a high concentration of nationally affiliated African American and Hispanic street gangs such as Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, and Vice Lords, which control retail drug distribution in the region. According to the Chicago Police Department Gang Investigations Section, approximately 75 street gangs are active in Chicago, with an estimated membership of 100,000. Street gangs are typically supplied with wholesale quantities of illicit drugs by local Mexican DTOs. Some Hispanic gangs have established sources of supply in Mexico or along the Southwest Border. For example, in January 2009, a high-ranking Chicago-based Latin King who was charged with federal drug trafficking offenses in Chicago was arrested in Mexico. Additionally, the Chicago-based Latin Kings street gang has members in Midland, Texas, who purchase cocaine from Mexican traffickers for $16,000 to $18,000 per kilogram compared with $25,000 to $35,000 per kilogram from wholesale traffickers in Chicago. This cost savings allows gangs with sources of supply closer to the Southwest Border to gain a distinct business advantage and to serve as suppliers to other street gangs in the region.

Many law enforcement agencies in the region report an increasing presence of Chicago gang members in their suburban jurisdictions, many of whom distribute drugs. Officials attribute the movement of gang members from Chicago to suburban areas to several factors: the breakdown of traditional hierarchical gang structures resulting from law enforcement targeting of gang leaders, the razing of some large inner-city public housing projects, and the expectation of high profits from new suburban drug operations. Gang migration from Chicago to suburban areas is a heightened concern for law enforcement. Many of these communities lack sufficient law enforcement resources to effectively suppress the influx of street gangs.

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