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The area's extensive and diverse transportation network is routinely exploited by traffickers to transport large quantities of drugs to, through, and within the W/B HIDTA region. The interstate highway system and extensive railway system provide easy transit between drug markets in the region and domestic source areas. Interstate 95, the major north-south transportation corridor on the East Coast, provides drug traffickers with ready access to wholesale drug markets, such as Miami and New York City. Additionally, U.S. Highway 1 in northern Virginia and Interstates 70 and 83 in Maryland are significant drug transportation routes. Interstates 64 and 85, which provide access to highways transiting the Richmond area, enable traffickers to transport large quantities of drugs from the southwestern and southeastern United States to the HIDTA region. Drug traffickers also ship drugs directly to the region through four international airports and two international seaports, including the Port of Baltimore, one of the busiest container and cruise ports in the United States. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Washington/Baltimore HIDTA region transportation infrastructure.

Map showing the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA region transportation infrastructure.

DTOs use a variety of methods to transport drugs into and through the W/B HIDTA region, the most common of which are private, rental, and commercial vehicles and package delivery services. Traffickers also use couriers on commercial aircraft, airfreight services, and sea cargo shipments to transport drugs to the region. The most innovative DTOs use multiple transportation methods to avoid detection and increase the likelihood of successful delivery. Law enforcement reporting indicates that traffickers increasingly transport drugs into the W/B HIDTA region in vehicles with hidden compartments and concealed or commingled with legitimate shipments of airfreight. For example, a 2007 cocaine shipment originating in Mexico City and seized at Dulles International Airport was concealed inside a decorative wooden stand. Cocaine has also been concealed in electric guitars and smuggled from Mexico to Baltimore/Washington International airport. Additionally, cocaine concealed in the heels of cowboy boots was seized at Dulles International Airport.

Package delivery services are increasingly being used by drug traffickers in the W/B HIDTA region, particularly to transport marijuana, which is typically sent in multipound parcels from the Southwest Border area. Many drug traffickers prefer to use package delivery services because they can monitor the progress of their shipments on the Internet. If a shipment is delayed, they assume law enforcement has intercepted the parcel and refuse delivery to avoid arrest. Recent law enforcement reporting indicates that cocaine traffickers are compressing powder cocaine into disc shapes as a method of concealment for transportation. Drug traffickers routinely use relatively unsophisticated techniques to conceal drugs shipped in parcels, such as hiding them in ceramic statues, candles, bubble bath containers, coffee cans, drink bottles, blenders, cooking pots, VCRs, or computer hard drives.

Heroin is generally transported to the W/B HIDTA region by Colombian and Dominican DTOs from sources in New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Los Angeles, California; Florida; and the Caribbean Islands. Mexican and Guatemalan DTOs are also involved in supplying heroin to retail distributors in the area. West African criminal groups are increasingly distributing large quantities of heroin that they obtain from sources in New York City or directly from Afghanistan to drug dealers in Baltimore. Additionally, in April 2007 the DEA Washington Field Division seized 741 grams of heroin from a package that had been sent from Calcutta, India, to a Nigerian heroin trafficker residing in northeast Washington, D.C. Although most of the illicit drugs transported to Baltimore are abused locally, the city also serves as a source of heroin for users in the surrounding area and throughout the state of Maryland.

Heroin Smuggled in Large Wooden Picture Frame From Nigeria

The DEA Mid-Atlantic Laboratory (Largo, Maryland) received a submission of a large, wooden-framed picture containing a sheet of compressed brown powder, suspected to be heroin. The package was seized by German customs agents in Frankfurt, Germany, from a flight en route from Lagos, Nigeria, to Dulles International Airport and was forwarded to the laboratory after a controlled delivery in the United States. The heroin was wrapped in several layers of plastic and tape and was concealed behind the picture. Analysis of the powder confirmed that the substance was 55.9 percent heroin hydrochloride and also contained morphine, codeine, and caffeine. The Mid-Atlantic Laboratory has previously encountered heroin concealed inside picture frames, but this package was unique in that the heroin was in a thick sheet mimicking the picture backing rather than in the wooden frame.

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration.

Wholesale quantities of cocaine are transported to the W/B HIDTA region and supplied to local traffickers by Colombian or Dominican DTOs based in New York City. However, Mexican DTOs from the southwestern United States are increasingly involved in cocaine trafficking within the region, especially in southern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Mexican DTOs that have established transshipment centers in Georgia and North Carolina are supplying cocaine, as well as methamphetamine, to the region through these centers. Other traffickers also transport cocaine to the region, including Guatemalan traffickers who transport cocaine into Baltimore and a Jamaican group that transports cocaine into Richmond.

Large Quantities of Heroin and Cocaine Smuggled from Overseas

In March 2008 a federal grand jury indicted 11 defendants for conspiracy to import and sell 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 1 kilogram or more of heroin during a 7-year period ending in February 2008. According to the three-count indictment, the defendants had conspired to import large quantities of cocaine and heroin into the United States from Spain, Panama, Barbados, St. Thomas, and Dominica, intending for the drugs to be sold in Maryland, New York, and elsewhere. The defendants had recruited U.S. citizens as "mules" to travel to and from the United States. The mules were fitted with girdles and loose-fitting clothing to conceal drugs and drug proceeds that were strapped and taped to their bodies. The defendants paid the mules thousands of dollars to transport the drugs and money and gave them instructions on what to say and do should they be confronted or arrested by law enforcement. Members of the conspiracy allegedly distributed heroin and cocaine to customers in Baltimore and New York City.

Source: U.S. Attorney, District of Maryland.

Mexican DTOs transport most of the commercial-grade marijuana available in the region from Mexico through southwestern states such as California, Arizona, and Texas. Vietnamese criminal groups are the principal transporters of high-potency marijuana, smuggling the drug from Canada into the W/B HIDTA region. Additionally, Jamaican criminal groups transport some marijuana from Florida and the Caribbean into the region. Many local marijuana distributors have developed sources of supply in southwestern states; they either travel to those states to pick up multipound quantities of marijuana or have it shipped to them, primarily by overnight mail services.

Most of the methamphetamine available in the W/B HIDTA region is transported to the area by Mexican DTOs from Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas; however, some rural locations within the area also are occasionally supplied by outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) that receive methamphetamine from other OMGs outside the region. Vietnamese DTOs and long-distance truck drivers also transport gram to ounce quantities of methamphetamine into the region from Canada, occasionally in tablet form. Additionally, methamphetamine abusers who are members of the region's homosexual community transport some ice methamphetamine to urban areas, primarily the District of Columbia, from New York City or California.

MDMA available in the region is transported primarily by Vietnamese traffickers to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore from Toronto, Canada; New York City; or Philadelphia. PCP is transported to the W/B HIDTA region, primarily the Washington, D.C., area, from California by African American distributors and abusers traveling aboard commercial aircraft. PCP is typically concealed in plastic bottles and placed in checked baggage. New York City-based traffickers often serve as brokers between the PCP distributors in the region and California sources. Additionally, some members of OMGs and abusers who frequent the club scene in the region transport PCP to the area from New York City; Newark, New Jersey; and Philadelphia for limited local distribution.

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