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Despite successful antimethamphetamine programs that have discouraged youth from abusing the drug, methamphetamine abuse continues to be a serious concern because of the drug's widespread availability and highly addictive nature. According to the 2008 Arizona Youth Survey, methamphetamine abuse among high school students decreased by 2.6 percent from 2006 to 2008 (the latest available data). The same study, however, revealed that the abuse of other widely available drugs such as heroin and marijuana by twelfth graders increased, as did abuse of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy), hallucinogens, and prescription drugs. Statewide discharge and emergency room data from 2008 (the latest available data) indicate a greater number of inpatient discharges and emergency room visits for opiates than for amphetamines or cocaine. Data for 2007, on the other hand, indicate far more inpatient discharges and emergency room visits for cocaine and amphetamines. This shift reflects the increasing abuse of heroin and controlled prescription opioids among Arizona residents (see Table 3).

Table 3. Total Drug-Related Inpatient Discharges and Emergency Room Visits by Type of Drug, Arizona Residents, 2007-2008*

Selected Types of Drug 2007 2008
Amphetamines and other psychostimulants, all mentions 11,038 9,194
Cocaine, all mentions 12,153 9,530
Opiates, all mentions** 10,303 11,508

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services.
*Drug-related discharges refer to all mentions (all occurrences) of the diagnosis regardless of the order on the medical record. More than one diagnostic category can be used on a discharge record, and the sum of all mentions of drug dependence, drug psychoses, and nondependent abuse of drugs is greater than the number of discharges for drug dependence and drug abuse.
**Opiates include heroin and prescription pain relievers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, meperidine, and propoxyphene.

Prescription drug diversion and abuse are becoming more prevalent throughout Arizona. According to the most recent Arizona Youth Survey conducted by the Arizona Criminal Commission, the number of youth abusing prescription drugs has increased significantly. Approximately one out of every four eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade students (24%) has abused a prescription drug to get high. The rate of abuse for Native American students was even higher at approximately 26.9 percent.


Illicit Finance

Bulk cash smuggling is the most common method of moving illicit funds through the Arizona HIDTA region into Mexico. Mexican DTOs consolidate illicit proceeds generated in the region at central locations, combine them with funds generated in other regions of the country, and transport the proceeds in bulk to Mexico. Frequently, the bulk cash is secreted in hidden compartments in private and commercial vehicles and driven through POEs (see text box). 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. U.S. law enforcement has increased screening of vehicles headed toward Mexico, and cash seizures have risen dramatically. During FY2009, CBP officers in Arizona seized nearly $4.9 million in southbound currency, more than quadrupling the $1.1 million seized in 2008.

Southbound CBP Bulk Currency Seizures

  • On December 13, 2009, CBP inspectors in Douglas selected a pickup truck for screening. The resulting examination revealed $70,000 hidden in the vehicle's spare tire.
  • On December 14, 2009, CBP inspectors at the Mariposa POE in Nogales discovered more than $300,000 in undeclared currency hidden in a suitcase in a pickup truck attempting to enter Mexico. The driver and passenger were Mexican nationals.
  • On February 6, 2010, CBP inspectors and a canine team at the DeConcini POE in Nogales discovered $235,000 hidden in the tailgate of a pickup truck driven by a female U.S. citizen.

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Greater regulation of money transmitters and increased law enforcement scrutiny of wire transfers into the Southwest Border area have caused money transporters to find alternative methods of sending their illicit proceeds to Mexico (see text box). DTOs outside the region that previously would wire illicit funds to banks in the Arizona HIDTA region are now bypassing the region and wiring funds directly to banks or casas de cambioh in Mexico.

Western Union to Contribute to Anti-Money Laundering Initiative

In February 2010, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard announced a settlement with Western Union Financial Services, Inc., which provided $94 million in funding for anti-money laundering initiatives in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and California. Arizona alone will receive $21 million from Western Union to reimburse the state for the cost of investigating the company's anti-money laundering procedures. Among the provisions of the settlement was the establishment of an independent monitor in the Maricopa County Superior Court to "oversee Western Union's anti-money laundering efforts in the Southwest Border area."

Source: Arizona Attorney General.

DTOs, gangs, and independent dealers operating in the Arizona HIDTA region also launder illicit proceeds through a variety of other methods. A common technique features the combining of illicit funds with proceeds from legitimate, cash-based businesses such as automobile dealerships, retail stores, and restaurants. These groups or individuals also purchase high-value assets such as residences and luxury vehicles.


h. 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.

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