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Oklahoma City


Oklahoma City is a significant regional-level transportation, transshipment, and distribution center for illicit drugs supplied to the North Texas HIDTA region and markets in neighboring states. Mexican DTOs control the transportation of wholesale quantities of most illicit drugs--including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin--to the area for distribution. Mexican DTOs and associates working on their behalf often transship illicit drugs from Oklahoma City to other drug market areas located in and outside the state, primarily in neighboring states and the southeast, for distribution. The interstates and other roadways that traverse Oklahoma City and surrounding areas provide ready access to and from the U.S.-Mexico border through Texas and enhance the attractiveness of the Oklahoma City area to drug traffickers as a significant location for the transportation and transshipment of illicit drugs and drug proceeds. Asian DTOs, based primarily on the West Coast, are the principal suppliers of MDMA and high-potency marijuana in the Oklahoma City area.


Mexican and local independent traffickers, the principal powder methamphetamine producers in the Oklahoma City area, produce less methamphetamine than they did prior to 2004, when Oklahoma officials first enacted precursor chemical control regulations. Data received from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs indicate that law enforcement officers did not seize any methamphetamine laboratories in Oklahoma County in 2008, a dramatic decline from the 94 laboratories seized in the county in 2004. Despite the decline in seizures of local methamphetamine laboratories, law enforcement officers in Oklahoma report that methamphetamine is increasingly being produced in some areas of the state, particularly Tulsa and Broken Arrow, usually by operators of small laboratories that are capable of producing quantities sufficient only for personal use or limited local distribution. Operators at these local laboratories typically produce methamphetamine using the "Nazi" method; however, in the last quarter of 2008, law enforcement officers reported that methamphetamine producers were increasingly using a simplified but still dangerous method of production--a variation of the old "cold-cook" method and often referred to as the one-pot method. Producers using this method mix pseudoephedrine and other chemicals into a 2-liter container, such as a plastic soda bottle, and then shake the contents of the container, which is then set aside for approximately 1 hour to allow the ingredients to react and produce liquid methamphetamine. This method is rapidly becoming the preferred method used by "mom and pop" laboratory operators because of its speed and portability. Operators often carry the chemical-filled containers in their vehicles and drive around during the reaction process, then dispose of the container and the chemical residue on the side of the road. The increase in this activity is a direct response, in part, to lower-quality ice methamphetamine available at the retail level in Oklahoma and the ability of laboratory operators to acquire the necessary precursors, such as pseudoephedrine, through smurfing activities.

Illicit drug production in the Oklahoma City area is generally limited to crack cocaine conversion and small-scale indoor cannabis cultivation. African American criminals are the primary producers of crack cocaine in Oklahoma City, typically converting powder cocaine to crack cocaine in the city's low-income neighborhoods as needed for distribution.


Mexican DTOs employ cell members in their transportation networks to smuggle most of the illicit drugs available in Oklahoma City from Mexico through the Laredo and El Paso/Juárez plazas. They typically smuggle drugs overland in private and commercial vehicles equipped with concealed compartments. Law enforcement reporting indicates that trafficking organizations that smuggle drugs along the interstate highways intersecting Oklahoma City are now using older individuals than in the past to transport contraband. In addition, traffickers are also using children and elderly passengers as covers for their illegal activity. For example, in November 2008, law enforcement officers in Oklahoma County arrested a woman driver who was traveling eastbound on I-40 after they discovered more than 25 pounds of heroin concealed inside a suitcase in the woman's vehicle. The driver, who was accompanied by a female passenger and a 9-year-old girl, had a map that had been configured on an Internet mapping site and showed a route that went north and east around Oklahoma City and connected with I-44 east--a route most likely intended to avoid the aggressive interdiction efforts along the highways intersecting the city. The heroin was packaged in 13 compressed bundles that contained packages of shoe-insole-shaped heroin--a current heroin smuggling trend.

To avoid the interdiction teams that monitor many areas of Oklahoma's major highways, traffickers have adjusted their smuggling routes when transporting illicit drugs and drug proceeds to and through the state. In the third quarter of 2008, federal and state law enforcement officers in the Oklahoma City area reported that drug transportation groups were using roadways that would circumvent Oklahoma and its vigorous highway interdiction operations.

Traffickers transporting illicit drugs and their proceeds to and through the Oklahoma City area use a variety of means to conceal their contraband.

When drug shipments reach their intended destinations in the Oklahoma City area, traffickers frequently store the drugs in stash houses located in residential neighborhoods where their family members or friends reside. They often repackage their drug shipments at these locations for further transport and distribution throughout the United States, including Chicago. They use these same stash house locations to store and consolidate bulk quantities of cash and monetary instruments before transporting the illicit funds to Mexico.


Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are significant suppliers of wholesale quantities of illicit drugs in Oklahoma City. They usually obtain their drug supplies, most often cocaine and Mexican ice methamphetamine, from relatives living in Matamoros, Chihuahua, or Sonora, Mexico. Traffickers operating in western Oklahoma generally acquire their illicit drugs from Chihuahua-based suppliers, while traffickers in eastern and southern Oklahoma most often obtain their drug supplies from Matamoros-based suppliers.

African American and Hispanic street gangs are the principal retail-level distributors of illicit drugs in Oklahoma City. Some members of African American and Hispanic street gangs, particularly South Side Locos and Juaritos, work with Mexican DTOs to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and other drugs in Oklahoma City. African American street gangs also distribute MDMA and codeine-laced cough syrup to young abusers. Some street gang members who previously distributed only cocaine also distribute methamphetamine. Law enforcement reporting indicates that older African American and Hispanic gang members, usually from the mid-20s to 40 years of age, oversee the street-level distribution in areas controlled by younger gang members.

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Drug-Related Crime

Law enforcement and anecdotal reporting suggests that a significant amount of violent crime in Oklahoma City is directly linked to the trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs and that the level of violence in the city is increasing. The criminal activities of traffickers extend beyond the sale of drugs to include receipt of stolen property, use of counterfeit currency/securities, and other criminal acts. Methamphetamine abusers commit similar crimes to obtain money to support their drug addictions. Similarly, drug users may try to finance their addictions by stealing property, committing identity theft, credit card fraud, and other criminal activities. In response to this threat, the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Gang Task Force was created in 2006 to combat drug trafficking and its underlying related criminal activity. The members of this task force are the U.S. Attorneys Office, the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), ATF, and Oklahoma City Police Department. This task force, with funding from the Safe Streets program--an FBI violent crime initiative--provides participating local law enforcement agencies, such as the Oklahoma City Police Department, with manpower and financial support to pursue violent gangs through coordinated investigations that are intended to remove gang members from the streets and prosecute them for their criminal activities. Through this coordinated effort, officers attempt to turn violent gang members into cooperating defendants who can provide information relative to unsolved murders, drive-by shootings, and other violent crimes. The work of this task force has resulted in hundreds of arrests and prosecutions of street gang members at the state and federal level.

Gang members often acquire weapons to facilitate their criminal activities. For example, in December 2008, police officers in Oklahoma City arrested a two-tour Iraq war veteran after it was discovered that he was making improvised explosive devices that he intended to sell to gang members and other criminals in the area. Gangs use these devices most likely to intimidate rival gang members or, possibly, law enforcement. Often gangs and extremist groups either encourage members to join the military for combat training or attempt to recruit present and former military members for the skills they acquired while in the military.


The number of drug-related treatment admissions in Oklahoma County increased each year from 2006 through 2008 for heroin and marijuana as well as for other opiates (which includes CPDs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone products). The most significant increase occurred in the number of heroin-related treatment admissions, which almost quadrupled during this 3-year period, increasing from 25 admissions in 2006 to 95 admissions in 2008. Of interest, the increase in heroin-related treatment admissions in Oklahoma County in 2008 coincides with the increase in heroin amounts seized in the North Texas HIDTA region, most notably in Oklahoma County. In addition from 2006 through 2008, marijuana- and other opiate-related treatment admissions in Oklahoma County increased 27 percent and 63 percent, respectively. In 2008 Oklahoma County accounted for the greatest number of treatment admissions in all six Oklahoma counties in the North Texas HIDTA region for the abuse of heroin (66%), marijuana (56%), and other opiates (48%). Powder cocaine-related treatment admissions in Oklahoma County increased overall (22%) during the 3-year period but decreased by 8 percent in 2008 when compared with admissions in 2007. Crack cocaine- and methamphetamine/amphetamine-related treatment admissions in Oklahoma County declined each year from 2006 through 2008, decreasing 24 percent and 19 percent overall, respectively, during that period. (See Table 13.)

Table 13. Adult Drug-Related Treatment Admissions in Oklahoma Counties in the North Texas HIDTA, by Drug, 2006-2008

Drug by County 2006 Percent of
Total 2006
2007 Percent of
Total 2007
Percent Change
2008 Percent of
Total 2008
Percent Change
Powder Cocaine
Oklahoma 126 49 167 55 33 154 57 -8
All Oklahoma Counties
in North Texas HIDTA
258 100 306 100 19 268 100 -12
Crack Cocaine
Oklahoma 601 57 545 58 -9 454 60 -17
All Oklahoma Counties
in North Texas HIDTA
1,062 100 940 100 -11 758 100 -19
Oklahoma 25 52 58 66 132 95 66 64
All Oklahoma Counties
in North Texas HIDTA
48 100 88 100 83 144 100 64
Oklahoma 563 50 656 54 17 714 56 9
All Oklahoma Counties
in North Texas HIDTA
1,129 100 1,214 100 8 1,270 100 5
Oklahoma 702 45 673 48 -4 566 52 -16
All Oklahoma Counties
in North Texas HIDTA
1,555 100 1,406 100 -10 1,097 100 -22
Other Opiates
Oklahoma 219 46 337 53 54 357 48 6
All Oklahoma Counties
in North Texas HIDTA
475 100 635 100 34 746 100 17

Source: Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The number of drug-related deaths that occurred in Oklahoma County declined in 2008 after increasing in each of the 3 previous years; the combined total of drug-related deaths in the six Oklahoma counties in the North Texas HIDTA region also declined after increasing each year since at least 2005. In 2008, Oklahoma County accounted for 34 percent of all drug-related deaths that occurred in the HIDTA's six Oklahoma counties and approximately 19 percent of all drug-related deaths that occurred throughout the state of Oklahoma. (See Table 14.) Of the 276 drug-related deaths that occurred in the HIDTA's Oklahoma counties in 2008, more than 80 percent (222 deaths) involved the consumption of CPDs, and approximately 88 percent were accidental or unintentional. Oklahoma County accounted for 33 percent (74 deaths) of all CPD-related deaths reported in the HIDTA's Oklahoma counties in 2008.15 (See Table 15.)

Table 14. Drug-Related Deaths in Oklahoma and Oklahoma Counties in the North Texas HIDTA, 2005-2008

County Drug-Related Overdose Deaths
2005 2006 2007 2008*
Cleveland 16 24 20 23
Comanche 9 7 15 6
Muskogee 6 8 14 26
Oklahoma 88 107 123 95
Sequoyah 7 9 7 3
Tulsa 161 133 141 123
All Oklahoma Counties
in North Texas HIDTA
287 288 320 276
All Oklahoma Counties 514 567 565 504

Source: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
* Drug-related deaths in Oklahoma in 2008 may be higher than noted because Medical Examiner data for the last quarter of 2008 were still being reported as of March 31, 2009, and, therefore, are incomplete.

Table 15. Illicit and Controlled Prescription Drug-Related Deaths in Oklahoma and Oklahoma Counties in the North Texas HIDTA Region, 2008*

Drug Type County State Percent of
Cleveland Comanche Muskogee Oklahoma Sequoyah Tulsa Oklahoma North Texas
Illicit 1 1 4 21 0 27 69 78
Controlled Prescription 22 5 22 74 3 96 435 51

Source: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
* Death statistics are current as of March 31, 2009.

Mexican ice methamphetamine is the predominant form of the drug available and abused in Oklahoma drug markets, including Oklahoma City; however, law enforcement reporting indicates that a limited but increasing amount of locally produced powder methamphetamine is also available and abused. The abuse of crack cocaine increased in 2008, most likely the result of older African American abusers/traffickers resuming their drug activities after serving prison sentences.

CPDs are diverted and abused by an increasing number of users in Oklahoma City and other areas of the state. Lortab (hydrocodone), Xanax (alprazolam), and Soma (carisoprodol) are the primary CPDs of abuse and, when taken in combination, provide abusers with heroin-type euphoria. Other prescription drugs, most notably OxyContin (oxycodone) and methadone, are also preferred drugs of abuse. These drugs are often prescribed by physicians at pain management clinics, which have increased in number throughout the state. Some physicians at these clinics are reportedly prescribing methadone as an alternative to OxyContin because of the adverse publicity linked to OxyContin and the potential risk of addiction or death associated with its use.

Oklahoma has also experienced a growth in the number of methadone treatment programs opened in recent years. Four of these treatment programs, including a Native American methadone clinic, are located in the Oklahoma City area. Through these programs, methadone is dispensed to patients for the treatment of opioid addiction. Some individuals participating in these programs use the methadone to assist in coming down from a methamphetamine high. With the increase in the number of these programs, the potential for abuse and diversion of methadone at these clinics is rising. In addition, the ready availability of diverted methadone in recent years has resulted in a number of deaths throughout the state.

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Illicit Finance

Similar to money laundering trends in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Mexican DTOs in Oklahoma City typically consolidate bulk quantities of cash and monetary instruments generated from the distribution of illicit drugs in Oklahoma City and many other drug markets prior to smuggling the proceeds in bulk overland into Mexico for eventual laundering. They often transport cash and monetary instruments in the same vehicles used to smuggle illicit drugs to Oklahoma City. According to NSS data, the total amount of bulk cash seized in Oklahoma County in 2008 ($5,132,493) more than doubled when compared with cash seizures in the county in 2007 ($2,359,216). Much of the increase in the amount of bulk cash and monetary instruments seized in 2008 can be attributed to successful highway drug interdiction efforts. These efforts, which often are conducted along Interstates 35 and 40, have forced some traffickers to alter their transportation routes, avoiding interstate highways in favor of less heavily monitored state routes.

Drug traffickers in Oklahoma City also use various other means to transfer tens of millions of dollars in illicit drug proceeds to suppliers in Mexico. Some traffickers transfer illicit proceeds from Oklahoma City to Mexico through wire transfers. They also use virtual money (stored value or debit) cards to facilitate the transfer of drug and other criminal proceeds from the Oklahoma City area to Mexico, Colombia, and other South American counties. One investigation in Oklahoma City involved a debit card company, some members of which had been charged with laundering money through the company for a major Colombian drug operation. Some traffickers launder their illicit drug proceeds by traveling to various casinos, where they convert the illegal currency into what appears to be gambling proceeds. In addition, other traffickers smuggle drug proceeds to and from the city through package delivery services.


15. Death statistics are current as of March 31, 2009.

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