FRANKFORT, Ky. — A group representing the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $194,000 last month on lobbying legislators to try to kill a bill requiring a prescription for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient for making methamphetamine.

 According to a Legislative Ethics Commission report for January, the Consumer HealthCare Products Association of Washington, D.C., reported expenses of $194,957.76 to lobby lawmakers. Most of that amount, $151,602, was listed as professional and technical research and assistance, and $26,962 was spent on website development and operation, which was listed as “education and promotional items.”

 The bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Strivers, R-Hazard, would require individuals to get a prescription to buy drugs containing pseudoephedrine and similar compounds. It is still pending in the Senate. The health care group prefers a different bill that would limit the amount of pseudoephedrine that one person could purchase, something Strivers’ bill also does.

 Salaries for three lobbyists made up $12,484, and the lobbyists spent $3,909 on food, beverages and other expenses for themselves.

The lobbyists listed on the report are Carlos I. Gutierrez, Marc A. Wilson and Patrick M. Jennings.

The amount spent by the Consumer HealthCare Products Association dwarfed the next largest amount spent on lobbying in March, which was $36,120 by the Kentucky Hospital Association, according to the reports posted on the commission’s website. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce was the third largest amount at $33,347.

“It’s the second-highest monthly total ever reported by one organization,” said John Sheaf, general counsel for the Legislative Ethics Commission.

The highest monthly total, he added, was by the same group in March of 2010, when it spent $307,377. Part of that amount, Sheaf said, was on “phone-banking” in which Kentuckians were called and asked to leave a message for their senator or representative on the General Assembly’s legislative message line.

Last year, Consumer HealthCare Products Association spent $111,233.25 to lobby Kentucky lawmakers.

According to its website, CHPA represents manufacturers and distributors of nonprescription, over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements. Its members include companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, Bayer HealthCare and Merck Consumer Care.

Richard Bellies, chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky, a citizens interest lobby, said the amount spent by CHPA is “an egregious amount of influence” and a way of getting around legislative ethics laws enacted in the early 1990s to prohibit gifts to lawmakers.

“It’s not good for the public interest,” he said.


(Oklahoma City, Okla.) Oklahoma’s District Attorneys called on Oklahoma Legislators Monday to control the sale of pseudoephedrine in order to stop the epidemic of mobile methamphetamine labs in the state.

“This issue may more directly impact public safety in Oklahoma than any other issue our Legislature will consider this session,” said District Attorney Greg Mashburn, Norman.

Pseudoephedrine is a critical ingredient in the manufacture of “one-pot” meth labs. These labs are actually vessels made from a two-liter soda bottle with a handful of pseudoephedrine pills and other household ingredients inside to manufacture methamphetamine. Prosecutors point to the dangers these highly flammable labs pose to innocent people, children and first responders – and the astronomical costs associated with the destruction.

“These labs are killing innocent people, including our children. Meth labs are leaving property in flames, endangering law enforcement officers, contaminating our land and costing citizens millions of dollars,” said District Attorney Eddie Wyant, Miami.

“Manufacturers of pseudoephedrine are pouring thousands of dollars into a statewide campaign to defeat legislation to control the cold medicine, citing the costs to innocent consumers,” said District Attorney Tim Harris, Tulsa. “Their campaign decries that controlling the drug causes increased costs and inconvenience to law abiding citizens for the criminal activity of others. The truth is, law abiding citizens of Oklahoma already pay an astronomical bill for the ever increasing illegal manufacture of methamphetamine in our state,” he said.

Prosecutors say that though they may not realize it, law abiding Oklahomans are paying higher medical bills to offset the enormous costs of medical care for the uninsured who are burned in fires caused by meth labs. Those same taxpayers also bear the costs of an overburdened child welfare system, caring for innocent children who must be removed from homes where they are exposed to the dangers of meth labs and neglected by addicted parents.

Citizens also pay for increased law enforcement costs, including investigation and prosecution of thousands of criminal defendants involved in methamphetamine production and use. The meth epidemic has a huge impact on criminal caseloads in the state’s criminal justice system, and also results in increased costs to our prison system.

Landlords and hotel property owners bear the staggering costs of cleaning toxic waste after a meth lab is discovered. Law abiding citizens must pay thousands in clean-up costs before they can once again use their property for income.

There are uncalculated costs of environmental damage and exposure to innocent law abiding citizens and emergency personnel who come in contact with the toxic waste of methamphetamine production. Law abiding citizens also bear the incalculable costs resulting from so many addicted to methamphetamine due to its easy availability. And there are business and quality of life costs associated with the State of Oklahoma being known as one of the top meth producing states in the United States of America.

Prosecutors believe these costs can be reduced, and lives saved, with legislation to control pseudoephedrine.

Critics say there are increased costs to our health care system. “Children die every year in meth labs in Oklahoma. What dollar value is assigned to the life of a child?” inquired District Attorney Chris Ross, Ada. “What dollar value is assigned to stopping the pollution of the land caused by dumping of toxic byproducts of meth manufacturing on the side of the road? What dollar value is assigned to not having families occupying hotel rooms where meth was cooked days before, leaving behind toxic byproducts in the carpet, on the beds, and in the sheetrock? What dollar value is assigned to the foster care costs, or the emergency room costs, or burn unit costs? What dollar value is assigned to our prison beds and criminal justice system?”

“Most citizens who truly need these drugs for allergies will be able to easily obtain a prescription with adequate refills at a regularly scheduled check-up to address their health needs. For some, the costs may even decrease if insurance covers these drugs,” said Harris.

“Legislators can take a strong step forward for public safety and stop this epidemic of mobile meth labs. We commend those Legislators who have had the courage to step out front on this issue. We urge the remainder of you to follow their lead,” said District Attorney Emily Redman, Durant.

TYLER, Texas — Prosecutors say an East Texas woman faces up to 25 years in prison in a drug manufacturing and stolen mail case.

Authorities say Stacy Dianne Campbell of Hawkins pleaded guilty Tuesday in Tyler to possession of pseudoephedrine with the intent to make methamphetamine. Campbell also pleaded guilty to possession of stolen mail.

No sentencing date has been set for Campbell, who was indicted last year.

Prosecutors say Campbell in 2008 stole items from mailboxes in an attempt to find cash and checks.

Investigators say the drug case involves cold pills, containing pseudoephedrine, purchased since December 2010 in Mineola and later.


SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — A Sioux City couple have been sentenced to prison for selling methamphetamine.

Corey Rotschafer, 35, and his wife, Lisa Rotschafer, 30, on Monday were sentenced to 25 years in prison. The Sioux City Journal says they’d been convicted of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance.

Court documents say the Rotschafers sold meth out of their home. Documents say an undercover agent made three buys there in June.


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Four men and one woman were indicted recently in Minneapolis Federal Court in connection with case involving the distribution of methamphetamine in northern Minnesota.

The indictment, filed Feb. 14, charges Antonio Chavez Aguirre Jr., 29 of Balsam Lake, Wis.; David Michael Cook, 38, and Trisha Nicole Cullen, 28, both of Hibbing; David Richard DeKing, 54 of Carlton and Shad Daniel O’Neil, 33 of Grand Rapids, with one count of conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. Aguirre Jr. and DeKing were also charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams of methamphetamine.

Cullen and O’Neill were additionally charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and O’Neil was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to the indictment, all five conspired with each other to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine from the spring of 2011 to Jan. 26, 2012. The four men were also accused of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it on various dates. O’Neil is accused of possessing two handguns.

O’Neil has prior felony convictions of marijuana sale, first-degree burglary, writing bad checks and conspiracy to offer forged checks, all offenses in St. Louis County. O’Neil has also previously been convicted for a second-degree controlled substance and a fifth-degree controlled substance offense.

If convicted, all five face a maximum penalty of life in prison for the conspiracy charge. Possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, while possession with intent to distribute less than 50 grams has a maximum sentence of 20 years. O’Neil could face up to 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.


KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – An alleged naked man in an apartment hallway led to the discovery of a meth lab, Kansas City authorities said Monday afternoon.


Meth lab

An alleged naked man in an apartment hallway led to the discovery of a meth lab, authorities said Monday afternoon. The cooking of the meth was in process, creating dangerous conditions for residents and responding crews, police said.

One person was transported to the hospital after suffering chemical burns on the soles of his feet, authorities said. That man was hosed off before he was taken away in an ambulance.

A city bus was dispatched to protect residents from the elements. Those residents had been evacuated from their building in Northeast Kansas City. The residents were later allowed to return to their homes.

A “suspicious person” call was made to police at about 2 p.m. Monday. A man was supposedly naked and high on drugs in the apartment building at 145 S. Hardesty Ave.

Arriving officers didn’t find a naked man, but did find two people arguing. This included the man with the chemical burns.

While dealing with the argument, officers reportedly smelled the makings of a meth lab.

Inside the fourth-story apartment were 20-ounce soda bottles being used to cook meth, police said. At this stage of the chemical reaction, it’s easy for a fire to spark.

“If it were to burst into flames, it could burn the entire apartment building down with everybody inside,” said Sgt. Tim Witcig of the Kansas City Police Department’s Metro Meth Section. “They shake it up a little bit and they sit and watch it boil. If the top were to come off, if the bottle were to rupture and it gains oxygen, then it’s a violent explosion.”

As hazardous material crews spent hours tackling the meth lab, residents were evacuated as a precaution, authorities said. Authorities pulled belongings from the apartment.

Chopper5 captured images of firefighters hosing off the one man, who was clad only in black shorts.

“We normally run onto one that’s already cooked and has been discarded. This one was actually rolling,” Witcig said. “So that takes it to a whole other dangerous level, especially being in an apartment like this.”

No immediate arrests were made, but the investigation continues.


Temecula, Calif. — U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Interstate 15 checkpoint prevented a narcotics smuggling attempt yesterday resulting in the seizure of 56 pounds of methamphetamine.

At approximately 3:45 p.m., agents encountered the 56-year-old male Mexican national driver of a blue 1999 Mercury Cougar as he arrived to the checkpoint. During inspection, agents became suspicious of the man’s nervous demeanor and referred him for a secondary inspection.

The bundles were hidden inside of the natural voids within the vehicle’s rear quarter panels.
The bundles were hidden inside of the natural voids within the vehicle’s rear quarter panels.

A Border Patrol K-9 team performed a cursory inspection of the vehicle resulting in a positive alert to the vehicle’s interior. Agents searched the vehicle and discovered 24 bundles of methamphetamine concealed inside of the natural voids within the rear quarter panels behind both the driver’s and passenger’s seats.

Agents seized a total of 56 pounds of methamphetamine.
Agents seized a total of 56 pounds of methamphetamine.

The methamphetamine weighed a total of 56 pounds and had an estimated street value of $1,120,000. The suspected smuggler and narcotics were taken into custody and subsequently turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration for further investigation. The Mercury Cougar was seized by the U.S. Border Patrol.

The 24 bundles are worth an estimated $1,120,000 on the street.
The 24 bundles are worth an estimated $1,120,000 on the street.

To prevent illicit smuggling of humans, drugs, and other contraband, the U.S. Border Patrol maintains a high level of vigilance on major corridors of egress away from our nation’s borders. To report suspicious activity to the U.S. Border Patrol, contact San Diego Sector at (619) 498-9900.






A convicted methamphetamine dealer was found hanging in his cell in the Osceola County Jail over the weekend and is thought to have committed suicide, authorities said Monday.

Inmate died in Osceola County Jail

Russell Leigh Smith

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office received a call about 9 p.m. Saturday stating that the cellmate of Russell Leigh Smith, 45, had found him hanging, said Twis Lizasuain, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.

Deputies are investigating what time the incident happened and what time it was discovered. They would not disclose details.

Smith, of St. Cloud, pleaded guilty in September to two counts of aiding and abetting others to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He was sentenced Jan. 12 to three years and four months in federal prison.

He introduced a Kissimmee man to an undercover Osceola drug agent who bought methamphetamine five times from an associate of Smith, prosecutors said. The seller, Casey Lee White, 49, of Intercession City, was sentenced last month to 10 years in federal prison.

Two other Osceola County men and one man from Orlando also got prison time in the case.

Smith was in jail awaiting trial on another drug case, a county spokesman said.

He was sentenced to 15 months in state prison and three years of probation in 2005 for burglary and released in November of that year.


STATENVILLE, Ga. (WTXL) – For the fourth time in just four months, deputies have busted a meth lab inside of an Echols County, Georgia home.

Echols County Sheriff Randy Courson says Joseph Sandlin, 30, of Lake Park (pictured right) and Kenneth Keen, 54, of Lakeland, Georgia (pictured left) are both charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and felony possession of methamphetamine.

Echols County Sheriff Randy Courson says
Joseph Sandlin, 30, of Lake Park (pictured right)
and Kenneth Keen, 54, of Lakeland, Georgia (pictured left)
are both charged with manufacturing methamphetamine
 and felony possession of methamphetamine.

Echols County Sheriff Randy Courson says Joseph Sandlin, 30, of Lake Park (pictured right) and Kenneth Keen, 54, of Lakeland, Georgia (pictured left) are both charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and felony possession of methamphetamine.

Deputies were tipped off the men were creating drugs inside of a home at 1426 Sardis Church Road.

When they arrived, Sheriff Courson says deputies found Sandlin and Keen trying to burn the meth lab and all of its components.

Keen was charged additional with destruction and tampering with evidence. Deputies say Keen had a hidden hand cuff key in his possession and tried to use it to unlock his handcuffs and try to escape, but was stopped by deputies before he could make it out of the handcuffs.

Sheriff Courson says they’ve made multiple arrests in the last few months at this very residence.

“We will continue to be aggressive in addressing and combating these types of calls,” Sheriff Courson said. “This is a joint effort between the Sheriff’s Office and the citizens in this community in an attempt to clean up these areas. A lot of what we deal with is people who are not even from the county, but who come from elsewhere and produce this poison in our backyard and we just won’t stand for it.”

The sheriff says he encourages anyone with information of illegal activity to call the Echols County Sheriff’s Office at (229) 559-5603.


DUBUQUE, Iowa – A Dubuque woman was arrested for making methamphetamine. The Dubuque Drug Task Force received a tip about a possible meth lab in a vacant home on the 2200 block of White St.

When agents arrived they found an active meth lab in the basement of the home at 9:30 a.m. Monday morning. 52 year old Julie A. Uhrig was arrested and charged with manufacture of meth. Uhrig is being held in the Dubuque County Jail and will make her initial court appearance on Tuesday. If convicted she could face up to 10 years in prison.


Three men—one from Eagan, one from Burnsville and one from Redwood Falls—face charges after separate drug-related incidents in Eagan. Here’s a recap of the incidents and charges:

  • On Sunday, Feb. 12, a caller from a local business told Eagan police that they’d found a man passed out in a bathroom stall at the business. Lying at the person’s feet, the caller said, was a glass pipe. Testing determined that there trace amounts of methamphetamine on the pipe. Police charged Daniel James Buckholz, 30, of Burnsville, with one felony count of possessing methamphetamine. If convicted, he could face a maximum of five years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Oswald Fitzgerald Taiwo

Daniel James Buckholz
Jeremy Daniel Moore
  • Early on Monday, Feb. 13, Eagan police found 23-year-old Jeremy Daniel Moore of Redwood Falls either sleeping or passed out in his car in a local parking lot. The officer approached the car and spoke with Moore. Upon searching the vehicle, the officer found a small glass jar containing .97 grams what he believed was methamphetamine and two pipes. Preliminary testing confirmed that the substance was meth, and police say Moore later admitted to possessing it. If convicted on one felony count of possession of methamphetamine, Moore could face a maximum of five years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
  • Last April, airport police intercepted a 21.3-pound package of marijuana intended for a home in Farmington. A Dakota County Drug Task Force agent disguised as a UPS delivery person conducted a controlled delivery of the package. Once the package was delivered, authorities executed a search warrant at the home. Police say one of the recipients told police her daughter’s boyfriend, later identified as Oswald Fitzgerald Taiwo, 28, paid them $100 to receive the package. Taiwo later arrived at the home, police arrested him and he allegedly admitted the package was his. According to charges filed on Feb. 13, 2012, Oswald faces one count of felony possession of marijuana and one felony count of possession with intent to sell. If convicted on the latter charge, Oswald could face a maximum of five years in prison and $10,000 in fines.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With the discovery of the meth lab in Clay County and the use of methamphetamines on the rise you may be wondering if your teen is using the powerful drug. If so, here are some warning signs from the Department of Health.


Short-Term Use Can Result In:

  • Alertness and inability to sleep: Something might be up if you notice a change in your teen’s sleeping patterns — especially if he’s staying up for days on end and then sleeping or fatigued for a few days straight.
  • Nervous physical activity: You notice your daughter is fidgeting — and possibly scratching or picking at her skin.
  • Decreased appetite: Your child is uninterested in food, and starts to become dangerously thin.
  • Euphoria and rush: Your teen might be extremely alert and energized, even after he or she was up all night.
  • Increased respiration and/or increased body temperature: Your child might appear out of breath for no reason (methamphetamine is a stimulant that can speed up one’s heart rate.)
  • Burns, nosebleeds or track marks: If there are strange burns on her lips or fingers, she may be smoking methamphetamine through a hot glass or metal pipe. Snorting methamphetamine could cause nosebleeds and eventually eat away at the septum inside the nose. If she’s using methamphetamine intravenously there could be track marks on her arms.
  • Carelessness about appearance: Has your teen stopped showering? Has she lost interest in grooming? Does he no longer brush his teeth?
  • Deceit or secretiveness: Is your normally honest child lying to you all the time? Is his bedroom door always closed? Has she got a seemingly endless string of excuses to justify her behavior?
  • Violence and aggression: Methamphetamine affects the central nervous system, which in turn can affect a person’s mood. Look for wild mood swings, hostility or abusive behavior.
  • Presence of inhaling and injecting paraphernalia: If you noticed razor blades, mirrors, straws, syringes, spoons or surgical tubing in your child’s room, this is a clear sign of drug abuse — and a cry for help.
  • Withdrawal from family and friends: Look for deteriorating relationships with family members and friends. She may be depressed or exhibit a lack of enthusiasm — and not share or express herself as she used to.
  • Loss of interest in school and extracurricular activities: Methamphetamine is highly addictive, and many users spend most of their free time looking for another way to find more of the drug. Therefore, interests that were once very important to your child may all of a sudden seem insignificant.
  • Problems at school: This can include slipping grades, absenteeism and decreased motivation.
  • Missing valuables: For the teen who’s looking to buy drugs, their parents’ house can be a gold mine of resources — from stealing cash from your wallet to swiping valuables like jewelry and heirlooms to pawn for money.

Long-Term Use Can Result In:

  • Dependence: If your child can’t function in their day-to-day activities without meth, they are dependent – and possibly addicted.
  • Addiction psychosis: This can include a number of disturbing behaviors:
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Mood disturbances
  • Repetitive motor activity
  • Your child might talk to people who aren’t there or become so paranoid that he won’t leave the house.
  • Meth Mouth: The ingredients used to make methamphetamine are dangerous and toxic and users who often stay high for several days don’t eat and rarely brush their teeth. Tooth decay and rot on tooth surfaces that most people would normally brush is not uncommon. Methamphetamine also causes the mouth to dry out, meaning there’s no saliva to help clean the teeth.
  • Severe anorexia: Some teens take methamphetamine to lose weight, and become dependent on the drug. The weight loss can be rather quick and drastic – leaving them looking unhealthy and skeleton-thin.
  • Memory loss: Methamphetamine is very toxic and can affect the brain so much that your 16 year old may begin to show symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s.
  • Stroke, liver or heart failure: Methamphetamine puts the body in overdrive, which can fatally damage one’s internal organs.

** In all cases of methamphetamine use, a user may experience a loss of inhibitions and a false sense of control and confidence, which can lead to dangerous behavior.



Mexican police show the drug and weapons seized from Jaime Herrera Herrera, an alleged drug cartel member, in Mexico City on Tuesday.

Above: Mexican police show the drug and weapons seized from Jaime Herrera Herrera, an alleged drug cartel member, in Mexico City on Tuesday.


Mexican Federal Police, some of them covered head to toe in white hazardous-materials suits, paraded Jaime Herrera Herrera in front of the media in handcuffs this week. Officials say he was the methamphetamine mastermind for Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who runs the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

Ramon Eduardo Pequeno, the head of the anti-narcotics division of Mexico’s federal police, says Herrera trafficked tons of methamphetamines into Southern California between 2008 and 2009 alone. The Mexican drug cartels started out smuggling marijuana. They then expanded into cocaine. Now they’re making a major push into synthetic drugs.

Last week the Mexican Army raided a ranch in Jalisco, near Guadalajara, and seized what they claimed was 15 tons of methamphetamines. Announcing the bust, Gen. Gilberto Hernandez Andreu said the lab had 15 reactors for cooking the drugs. He called it a historic seizure.

‘A Big Blow’

Some drug experts have questioned whether this was really 15 tons of pure, street-grade product, an amount equivalent to half of all the methamphetamines confiscated worldwide in 2009. But even if the purity were low, this was still a huge laboratory capable of producing significant quantities of narcotics.

“Certainly [it] is a big blow to whoever was the owner of the shipments and the lab,” says Antonio Mazzitelli, the regional representative for the U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crime for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

The U.N. says amphetamines are now the fastest-growing illicit drug in the world. Last year synthetic narcotics surpassed heroin and cocaine to become the second-most-used illegal substances on the planet after marijuana.

“The major drug-trafficking organizations, particularly the Mexican one, are trying to conquer new markets, to their methamphetamine production,” Mazzitelli says. “That means Latin America, but … also other markets such as the Asian one.”

Cartels Well-Positioned

Methamphetamines are sold on the street as speed, crystal or ice. The drug can be highly addictive and ravages the bodies of long-term users.

Ralph Weisheit, a professor of criminology at Illinois State University, says meth is extremely attractive for drug traffickers.

“You don’t have the bulk per dose that you have with marijuana,” he said. “In fact, you don’t have the bulk per dose that you have with cocaine. It’s so much more powerful.”

In 2009 Weisheit came out with a book on the history of methamphetamines. He says the Mexican drug cartels are well-positioned to expand into the business.

“They’re in a country where corruption is rampant, which means that getting the precursors isn’t going to be that big of a challenge,” he said.

And he says getting bulk shipments of those precursor chemicals is the biggest challenge facing anyone who wants to produce industrial quantities of methamphetamines.

“These precursors are coming from China; they’re coming from India; they’re coming from countries that are, shall we say, a bit leaky anyway in terms of smuggling things out,” he said.

Because the Mexican cartels already have sophisticated networks to smuggle marijuana and cocaine into the U.S., they can move their crystal through those same channels. Weisheit says over the past couple of years Mexican meth has moved steadily from California and the border region into the heartland.

“For a long time in the Midwest here, if you saw methamphetamine, it was almost entirely in rural areas and almost entirely homemade,” he said. “To the extent it’s not homemade anymore, it’s Mexican and it’s working its way across the country as they ramp up production.”

He expects that in the coming years the amount of Mexican methamphetamines for sale on American streets is only going to grow.



Mexican Topics - mexican meth lab


Mexican authorities announced Feb. 8 the largest seizure of methamphetamine in Mexican history — and possibly the largest ever anywhere — on a ranch outside of Guadalajara. The total haul was 15 tons of pure methamphetamine along with a laboratory capable of producing all the methamphetamine seized. While authorities are not linking the methamphetamine to any specific criminal group, Guadalajara is a known stronghold of the Sinaloa Federation, and previous seizures there have been connected to the group.

Methamphetamine, a synthetic drug manufactured in personal labs for decades, is nothing new in Mexico or the United States. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has led numerous crusades against the drug, increasing regulations on its ingredients to try to keep it from gaining a foothold in the United States. While the DEA’s efforts have succeeded in limiting production of the drug in the United States, consumption has risen steadily over the past two decades. The increasing DEA pressure on U.S. suppliers and the growing demand for methamphetamine have driven large-scale production of the drug outside the borders of the United States. Given Mexico’s proximity and the pervasiveness of organized criminal elements seeking new markets, it makes sense that methamphetamine would be produced on an industrial scale there. Indeed, Mexico has provided an environment for a scale of production far greater than anything ever seen in the United States.

Mexican authorities announced Feb. 8 the largest seizure of methamphetamine in Mexican history — and possibly the largest ever anywhere — on a ranch outside of Guadalajara. The total haul was 15 tons of pure methamphetamine along with a laboratory capable of producing all the methamphetamine seized. While authorities are not linking the methamphetamine to any specific criminal group, Guadalajara is a known stronghold of the Sinaloa Federation, and previous seizures there have been connected to the group.

Methamphetamine, a synthetic drug manufactured in personal labs for decades, is nothing new in Mexico or the United States. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has led numerous crusades against the drug, increasing regulations on its ingredients to try to keep it from gaining a foothold in the United States. While the DEA’s efforts have succeeded in limiting production of the drug in the United States, consumption has risen steadily over the past two decades. The increasing DEA pressure on U.S. suppliers and the growing demand for methamphetamine have driven large-scale production of the drug outside the borders of the United States. Given Mexico’s proximity and the pervasiveness of organized criminal elements seeking new markets, it makes sense that methamphetamine would be produced on an industrial scale there. Indeed, Mexico has provided an environment for a scale of production far greater than anything ever seen in the United States.

But last week’s methamphetamine seizure sheds light on a deeper shift in organized criminal activity in Mexico — one that could mark a breakthrough in the violent stalemate that has existed between the Sinaloa Federation, Los Zetas and the government for the past five years and has led to an estimated 50,000 deaths. It also reveals a pattern in North American organized crime activity that can be seen throughout the 20th century as well as a business opportunity that could transform criminal groups in Mexico from the drug trafficking intermediaries they are today to controllers of an independent and profitable illicit market.

While the trafficking groups in Mexico are commonly called “cartels” (even Stratfor uses the term), they are not really cartels. A cartel is a combination of groups cooperating to control the supply of a commodity. The primary purpose of a cartel is to set the price of a commodity so that buyers cannot negotiate lower prices. The current conflict in Mexico over cocaine and marijuana smuggling routes shows that there are deep rifts between rival groups like the Sinaloa Federation and Los Zetas. There is no sign that they are cooperating with each other to set the price of cocaine or marijuana. Also, since most of the Mexican criminal groups are involved in a diverse array of criminal activities, their interests go beyond drug trafficking. They are perhaps most accurately described as “transnational criminal organizations” (TCOs), the label currently favored by the DEA.

Examples from the Past

While the level of violence in Mexico right now is unprecedented, it is important to remember that the Mexican TCOs are businesses. They do use violence in conducting business, but their top priority is to make profits, not kill people. The history of organized crime shows many examples of groups engaging in violence to control an illegal product. During the early 20th century in North America, to take advantage of Prohibition in the United States, organized criminal empires were built around the bootlegging industry. After the repeal of Prohibition, gambling and casinos became the hot market. Control over Las Vegas and other major gambling hubs was a business both dangerous and profitable. Control over the U.S. heroin market was consolidated and then dismantled during the 1960s and 1970s. Then came cocaine and the rise in power, wealth and violence of Colombian groups like the Medellin and Cali cartels.

But as U.S. and Colombian law enforcement cracked down on the Colombian cartels — interdicting them in Colombia and closing down their Caribbean smuggling corridors — Colombian producers had to turn to the Mexicans to traffic cocaine through Mexico to the United States. To this day, however, Colombian criminal groups descended from the Medellin and Cali cartels control the cultivation and production of cocaine in South America, while Mexican groups increasingly oversee the trafficking of the drug to the United States, Europe and Africa.

The Mexican Weakness

While violence has been used in the past to eliminate or coerce competitors and physically take control of an illegal market, it has not proved to be a solution in recent years for Mexican TCOs. The Medellin cartel became infamous for attacking Colombian state officials and competitors who tried to weaken its grasp over the cocaine market. Going back further, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel is thought to have been murdered over disagreements about his handling of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. Before that, Prohibition saw numerous murders over control of liquor shipments and territory. In Mexico, we are seeing an escalating level of such violence, but few of the business resolutions that would be expected to come about as a result.

Geography helps explain this. In Mexico, the Sierra Madre mountain range splits the east coast and the west from the center. The Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean coastal plains tend to develop their own power bases separate from each other.

Mexican drug traffickers are also split by market forces. With Colombian criminal groups still largely controlling the production of cocaine in jungle laboratories, Mexican traffickers are essentially middlemen. They must run the gauntlet of U.S.-led international interdiction efforts by using a combination of Central American traffickers, corruption and street-gang enforcers. They also have to move the cocaine across the U.S. border, where it gets distributed by hundreds of street gangs.

Profit is the primary motivation at every step, and each hurdle the Mexican traffickers have to clear cuts into their profit margins. The cocaine producers in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia can play the Sinaloa Federation and Los Zetas (as well as others) off of each other to strengthen their own bargaining position. And even though keeping the traffickers split appears to create massive amounts of violence in Mexico, it benefits the politicians and officials there, who can leverage at least the presence of a competitor for better bribes and payoffs.

For Mexican drug traffickers, competition is bad for the bottom line, since it allows other actors to exploit each side to get a larger share of the market. Essentially, everyone else in the cocaine market benefits by keeping the traffickers split. The more actors involved in cocaine trafficking, the harder it is to control it.

The Solution

Historically, organized criminal groups have relied on control of a market for their source of wealth and power. But the current situation in Mexico, and the cocaine trade in general, prevents the Mexican groups (or anyone) from controlling the market outright. As long as geography and market forces keep the traffickers split, all sides in Mexico will try to use violence to get more control over territory and market access. We assume that Mexico’s geography will not change dramatically any time soon, but market forces are much more temporal.

Mexican criminal organizations can overcome their weakness in the cocaine market by investing the money they have earned (billions of dollars, according to the most conservative estimates) into the control of other markets. Ultimately, cocaine is impossible for the Mexicans to control because the coca plant can only grow in sufficient quantity in the foothills of the Andes. It would be prohibitively expensive for the Mexicans to take over control of coca cultivation and cocaine production there. Mexican criminal organizations are increasing their presence in the heroin market, but while they can grow poppies in Mexico and produce black-tar heroin, Afghanistan still controls a dominant share of the white heroin market — around 90 percent.

What Mexicans can control is the methamphetamine market. What we are seeing in Mexico right now — unprecedented amounts of the seized drug — is reminiscent of what we saw over the past century in the infancy of the illegal liquor, gambling, heroin and cocaine markets: an organized criminal group industrializing production in or control of a loosely organized industry and using that control to set prices and increase its power. Again, while illegal methamphetamine has been produced in the United States for decades, regulatory pressure and law enforcement efforts have kept it at a small scale; seizures are typically measured in pounds or kilograms and producers are on the run.

Mexican producers have also been in the market for a long time, but over the past year we have seen seizures go from being measured in kilograms to being measured in metric tons. In other words, we are seeing evidence that methamphetamine production has increased several orders of magnitude and is fast becoming an industrialized process.

In addition to the 15 tons seized last week, we saw a record seizure of 675 tons of methylamine, a key ingredient of methamphetamine, in Mexico in December. From 2010 to 2011, seizures of precursor chemicals like methylamine in Mexico increased 400 percent, from 400 tons to 1,600 tons. These most recent reports are similar to reports in the 1920s of U.S. liquor seizures going from barrels to shiploads, which indicated bootlegging was being conducted on an industrial scale. They are also eerily similar to the record cocaine seizure in 1984 in Tranquilandia, Colombia, when Colombian National Police uncovered a network of jungle cocaine labs along with 13.8 metric tons of cocaine. It was the watershed moment, when authorities moved from measuring cocaine busts in kilograms to measuring them in tons, and it marked the Medellin cartel’s rise to power over the cocaine market.

A True Mexican Criminal Industry?

Anyone can make methamphetamine, but it is a huge organizational, financial and legal challenge to make it on the industrial level that appears to be happening in Mexico. The main difference between the U.S. labs and the Mexican labs is the kind of input chemicals they use. The U.S. labs use pseudoephedrine, a pharmaceutical product heavily regulated by the DEA, as a starting material, while Mexican labs use methylamine, a chemical with many industrial applications that is more difficult to regulate. And while pseudoephedrine comes in small individual packages of cold pills, methylamine is bought in 208-liter (55-gallon) barrels. The Mexican process requires experienced chemists who have mastered synthesizing methamphetamine on a large scale, which gives them an advantage over the small-time amateurs working in U.S. methamphetamine labs.

Thus, while methamphetamine consumption has been steadily growing in the United States for the past two decades — and at roughly $100 per gram, unpure methamphetamine is just as profitable on the street as cocaine — it is even more profitable for Mexican traffickers. Methamphetamine does not come with the overhead costs of purchasing cocaine from Colombians and trafficking valuable merchandise through some of the most dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Precursor materials such as methylamine used in methamphetamine production are cheap, and East Asian producers appear to be perfectly willing to sell the chemicals to Mexico. And because methamphetamine is a synthetic drug, its production does not depend on agriculture like cocaine and marijuana production does. There is no need to control large swaths of cropland and there is less risk of losing product to adverse weather or eradication efforts.

For the Mexican TCOs, industrializing and controlling the methamphetamine market offers a level of real control over a market that is not possible with cocaine. We expect fighting over the methamphetamine market to maintain violence at its current levels, but once a group comes out on top it will have far more resources to expel or absorb rival TCOs. This process may not sound ideal, but methamphetamine could pick the winner in the Mexican drug war.

Ben West writes for STRATFOR, from where this article is republished.


Bloomberg — A Bridgeport, Connecticut, man pleaded guilty to making and dealing in bombs and firearms, federal prosecutors said.

Nicholas Lahines, 38, also pleaded guilty today to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and to immigration fraud before U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand in Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office said in a statement.

Lahines was indicted in May 2011 for selling eight cylinders containing explosives to a confidential source of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in a parking lot in the Bronx, New York.

“Nicholas Lahines’ stock in trade was homemade bombs that he built to cause the maximum amount of harm,” Bharara said in a statement. “And if they’d gotten into the wrong hands, they would have done just that.”

Prosecutors said law enforcement suspected Lahines was involved in the distribution of bombs and directed the confidential source to meet with him. Lahines sold the source two plastic containers for $3,200, each of which held four cylindrical explosive devices, prosecutors said.

He faces as long as 65 years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for June 18, with a minimum prison sentence of five years for the count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, according to the statement.

The case is U.S. v. Lahines, 11-cr-00469, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


A 52-year-old convicted felon was arrested Tuesday near Lemoore on suspicion of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old runaway girl and supplying her with methamphetamine, the Kings County Sheriff’s Department said.

The man was arrested about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 9600 block of Highway 41 as deputies were trying to find the teenager, who was at the location, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Deputies also found about eight grams of methamphetamine, about seven pounds of marijuana, a digital scale, packaging material, a loaded semiautomatic pistol, ammunition and metal knuckles.


EVANSVILLE —Joseph Hogsett, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, said Wednesday he is considering renewing an effort to have the state’s southwest corner designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area as part of his office’s expanded focus on drugs and violent crime.

The designation would bring new resources to bear on the area’s growing methamphetamine problem, he said. A previous attempt to secure the designation led by U.S. Senators Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh fell through in 2002, Hogsett said.

Since that time the problem statewide has skyrocketed from about 700 meth lab seizures in 2002 to more than 1,200 in 2009, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which administers the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

In Vanderburgh County alone, there were 116 meth lab incidents in 2011 and 95 in 2010, according to Indiana State Police.

Only two counties — Lake and Porter in northwest Indiana — are currently designated High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. By comparison, 28 Kentucky counties are in the program, part of the three-state Appalachia HIDTA that includes Bowling Green and Louisville.

“If you look at the methamphetamine statistics alone, I don’t know how you could argue we aren’t in need of that,” said Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nicholas Hermann. “Just on meth alone, this area rises to that level. I think it makes sense to put resources where they are needed.”

Those resources could include funding for additional equipment, overtime payments, undercover drug buys and cleanup operations needed to combat the rising meth problem, Hogsett said in a meeting with the Courier & Press Editorial Board.

“It would let the DEA and FBI help in ways they couldn’t before,” he said.

Hogsett met with local law enforcement leaders in Evansville to talk about ways of improving federal-local cooperation on methamphetamine related issues.

There are other ways federal law enforcement can help combat meth too, Hogsett said. He cited as examples federal prosecutions of five Latin American-based methamphetamine distribution rings in the Evansville area in the last four years.

Those busts dismantled organizations which he said accounted for distributing at least 465 pounds of imported methamphetamine in the area. He compared that to the small amounts of usable drugs typically created by local meth labs, especially through the increasingly common, simplified but highly volatile “one pot” method of homegrown production often used by addicts.

Hogsett said the proliferation of one pot meth labs, with their low output of usable drugs, is creating a demand that drug traffickers are all too happy to meet with imported methamphetamine, often from Mexico or Southwestern states.

“One-pot meth producers are creating the demand but they can’t keep up with supply. That’s where the Latin American organizations come in,” he said.

Once hooked, however, meth users often turn to home manufacturing to meet their needs when they can’t afford to purchase imported meth. “It’s kind of the eternal chicken and egg argument,” he said.

Hogsett pledged to add another full-time lawyer to the U.S. Attorney’s Evansville office this year, one of two drug-focused attorneys he will add after receiving an exemption from the U.S. Department of Justice’s hiring freeze.

Charging local drug producers and dealers with conspiracy to distribute drugs rather than possession, when federal charges are warranted, is another strategy that could be used, he said. It could result in stronger sentences and have a greater deterrent effect, he said, because it would allow prosecutors to look at the overall amounts distributed instead of just the amount possessed at time of arrest.—ev_hogsett/

 Superior Court jury has found a man guilty of repeatedly raping a teenage girl, according to Judiciary spokesman Josh Tenorio.

Alvin Gerald San Nicolas, 39, was accused of repeatedly raping the girl in 2009 and 2010 while her mother was off island on military deployment. San Nicolas also forced the girl to smoke methamphetamine out of a bong, so he also was accused of child abuse.

The victim was 15 when the rape was reported. San Nicolas threatened to hurt the victim and her mother if the girl reported him to the police, court documents state.

At closing arguments Tuesday, defense attorney Pablo Aglubat argued that the allegations were built on lies, and that there was no physical evidence at the trial to prove San Nicholas’ guilt. The defense attorney also questioned why it had taken so long for the girl to report the crime.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Gallagher countered that the girl was scared San Nicolas would hurt her mother.

When San Nicolas was arrested in August 2010, he was charged with a single count of rape, Pacific Daily News files state. By the end of the trial, he was found guilty of 15 charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct as a first-degree felony, one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and one count of misdemeanor child abuse, said Carlina Charfauros, spokeswoman for the Office of the Attorney General.


HIXSON, HAMILTON COUNTY (WRCB) — Police say the young boy was covered in second degree burns after his mother exposed him and his two brothers to meth.


Children’s Services, Chattanooga Police and the Tennessee Meth Task Force are all looking into what was going on in the Hixson home. Channel 3 talked to family and neighbors Tuesday who say they had no idea anything was going on, although they’d recently noticed something seemed off.

“It’s disgusting,” neighbor, Kandy Deyton says.

Police found eight “one-pot” meth labs inside the Fairview Road home, where 31-year-old Elizabeth Cushwa and her three boys ages 7, 4 and 2, live.

Once inside, they found the baby with a burns on his chest and stomach. Investigators say the burns could be from chemicals used to make meth, but they can’t say for sure yet.

“I just can’t believe anybody would do that kind of thing with children around,” Deyton says.

Neighbors say the family has lived there for several years, keeping quiet until recently, when they became paranoid that someone was always trying to break into their house.

“Usually there might be a toy or two outside, but in the last week or so, just all the kids’ toys have been out in the yard,” Deyton says. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

Channel 3 did talk to a family member who didn’t want to go on camera because she said she was afraid it would make that side of the family mad at her. She says she’s heartbroken to hear the news and is praying the little boy is going to be ok.

The family member went on to say she regularly babysat for Cushwa, but she hasn’t come around the last couple months.

“It’s just sad to hear about the kids,” Ray Hardway says. “That’s what everybody’s worried about.”

Elizabeth Cushwa is charged with making meth, child abuse, and reckless endangerment as investigators try to determine exactly what has been going on behind closed doors.

All three boys were taken to T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital for treatment and evaluations after the discovery Monday.

The condition of the youngest is unknown. Those we spoke with say they haven’t been able to see him.


Citizens urged to use caution near suspicious bags

BURNET COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) – The Burnet County Sheriff’s Office in Central Texas is urging citizens to use caution around abandoned or suspicious bags after several backpacks containing portable meth labs turned up along roadsides.

The most recent bag was found Wednesday on a rural road in south Burnet County .

Investigators said they found chemicals and components to make meth inside the backpack.

A concerned citizen spotted the abandoned backpack and phoned police.

Portable meth labs contain volatile and corrosive materials that can injure the lungs and skin if handled without proper protective equipment, investigators explained.

They added these portable labs are also contain used syringes.

 Federal police agents present Jaime Herrera, alias “El Viejito,” alleged member of the Pacific drug cartel, to the press in Mexico City, Tuesday Feb. 14, 2012. Herrera is considered to be one of the most important producers and distributors of synthetic drugs, according to authorities.

 MEXICO CITY— Mexican officials said Tuesday they have arrested a man who manufactured methamphetamine for the Sinaloa drug cartel run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.The arrest of suspect Jaime Herrera Herrera was the latest in a series of detentions of associates of Guzman, the most wanted man in Mexico.

The arrest also came amid mounting evidence that Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel has moved into meth production on an industrial scale. Officials say several enormous seizures of meth precursor chemicals and large labs for processing the drug are probably linked to Sinaloa.

Federal police said in a statement that Herrera Herrera, 43, was captured in Sinaloa state, on the Pacific coast. It said he was one of the principal producers of methamphetamine for Guzman’s cartel and is wanted by authorities in the United States. Police said he has acknowledged moving tons of methamphetamine into the United States.

Also Tuesday, a conference on drug policy in Mexico City turned into a discussion on drug legalization, one day after Guatemalan President Otto Perez proposed a broad legalization.

Former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso said “the failed war against drugs has strengthened organized crime, destabilized governments, violated human rights and devastated lives everywhere.”

The Mexican government has said it welcomes debate on the issue buts believes legalization is not a solution.

The problem of organized crime goes far beyond just legalizing a given product, said Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire. “Organized crime has many faces, not just drugs,” he said referring to the cartels’ involvement in crimes like human trafficking and extortion.

First Lady Margarita Zavala, said “free access to drugs, I believe would logically lead to an exponential increase in violence within the family, between neighbors, in the community.”

  SALTON CITY, Calif. – On Wednesday, U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Indio station seized a substantial amount of methamphetamine at the Highway 111 Border Patrol Checkpoint near Salton City.

 The incident occurred around 8:40 p.m., after a Border Patrol canine team alerted to a white Nissan Sentra. The driver was referred to secondary where agents using a large scale imaging system scanned the vehicle and observed several anomalies. Upon further inspection, agents discovered six packages of methamphetamine inside a hidden compartment. The illegal narcotics weighed approximately 11 pounds and have an estimated street value of $366,000.

 The driver, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen male, was placed under arrest and turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration along with the vehicle and narcotics


GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office has seized more than $10 million worth of drugs from a warehouse.

Gwinnett drug seizure photo

The Sheriff’s Office said it received information earlier this month about drugs being stored at a warehouse on Peachtree Crest Drive in Duluth.

Nearby business owners said they never suspected a thing.

“It appeared they were good neighbors they appeared to run a legitimate business,” business owner Don Collins told Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh.

Deputies executed a search warrant on Monday and located 120 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $3.6 million and 380 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of $7.6 million, the Sheriff’s Office said. Kavanaugh was the only reporter to get a look at the evidence.

Three men, Jose Romero, Epifanio Sandoval Hernandez and Luis Pacheco-Vasquez, have been charged with trafficking in cocaine and methamphetamine.

Police said they don’t know where the drugs came from or where they were headed.


Mitchell Morales sold methamphetamine of such high grade that a forensic chemist doubted he could duplicate its purity, according to testimony at Morales’ sentencing hearing Monday.

Whether he’ll receive prison or one of the other options available to the court won’t be known before next week, though -after hearing from all sides, District Judge Jeff Herron announced that he hadn’t yet been able to review defense documents submitted last week.

Sentencing was continued to Feb. 22.

Morales was arrested last April near the Utah-Colorado border in Mesa County, as was the alleged driver of a second vehicle, Dario Morales, whose case is ongoing. Drug task force agents found 10.2 grams of meth in Mitchell Morales’ vehicle, and had also made controlled buys of more than 23 grams of the drug.

A southeastern Missouri man who previously served four years in prison for trying to make methamphetamine has now been sentenced to slightly more than 22 years on meth-related charges.

KFVS-TV reports ( that 57-year-old Michael Joe “Buster” Wells, of Poplar Bluff, was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court.

Online court records show Wells’ lawyer filed notice Tuesday of an appeal of the conviction and sentence.

Prosecutors said Wells and others made more than 100 purchases of pseudoephedrine from area pharmacies from mid-2008 until Wells was arrested in August 2009. The decongestant is a key ingredient in methamphetamine.

Wells suffered minor burns on the day of his arrest when a meth lab exploded as he tried to wash it down a kitchen sink while officers talked to his wife in their backyard.