(NewsNation) — Mexican cartels dominate large areas of the U.S. drug market, and the Sinaloa cartel leads the way, according to members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Federal, state and local authorities on Thursday showcased the results of a three-year investigation into the Sinaloa cartel in Arizona, displaying piles of drugs recently seized in Tempe.
“I want to be crystal clear. The drugs in this room and the drugs that are flooding Arizona every single day are sourced primarily by one evil entity, the Sinaloa drug cartel,” said Cheri Oz, DEA special agent in charge.
A roomful of drugs showcased by authorities included more than 4.5 million fentanyl pills, 140 pounds of fentanyl powder, 3,000 pounds of methamphetamine and 135 kilograms of cocaine in all, totaling a street value of roughly $13 million.
Oz said the Sinaloa cartel is responsible for the vast majority of cartel drug operations in Arizona and around the United States.
“The Sinaloa drug cartel is evil and they are motivated by greed,” Oz said. “They’re recklessly endangering our communities, taking lives every single day.”
A DEA map from 2016 shows that the cartel’s footprint stretches across the entire United States, from border to border and coast to coast.
The Sinaloa cartel was run by the notorious Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman until 2014 before he was busted by the feds.
Now Ismael Zambada Garcia is at the helm, cutting his teeth on running the logistics of the cartel’s international drug distribution efforts.
El Chapo’s son, Ovidio Guzman Lopez, was arrested in January and the arrest led to chaos and warring between the cartels.
Despite the power vacuum, the Sinaloa cartel has been built into an operation that generates at least $3 billion in revenue a year, according to estimates done over the last decade. If still accurate, that puts them in the ballpark of major corporations such as WeWork, Roku and Pinterest.
The DEA called the Tempe drug bust a huge win against the cartels.
Anthony Coulson, a retired DEA special agent, however, is pumping the brakes on the celebration, saying $13 million lost won’t stop the Sinaloa cartel, first because it’s a drop in the bucket, and second, because this is to be expected.
It “doesn’t affect their bottom line at all,” Coulson said.
In essence, the same way an American corporation would build manufacturing mishaps or distribution issues into their annual budget, the cartels build drug busts and seized narcotics into their bottom line.
“They know how much they can lose,” Coulson said. “They know how many people that can get arrested, that will clog up our court system.”