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The drug cartel business is booming while legitimate supply chains struggle, data on overdose shows

CHICAGO (WLS) – Troubling new data shows the death toll from drug overdose is at an all-time high in Chicago and across the country. Drug cartels continue to deliver illegal products while other delivery lines around the world struggle.

Airplanes, trains, and cars aren’t popular Thanksgiving movies for the drug cartels. It’s a description of your logistics machine.

Thrown into trucks, tunnels, and even submarines, authorities say this business continues despite legitimate supply chains struggling.

On Wednesday, November 3rd, a private jet registered in Mexico weighing 220 lbs landed at Gary / Chicago International Airport. Cocaine, according to federal drug investigators. Investigators said the drugs were packed into several suitcases that were placed on a waiting SUV.

“If they lose their cargo, it can be life or death,” said Ed Farrell, owner of the Silver Star Protection Group.

Farrell, who is also a former U.S. deputy marshal, said drug officials are always looking for a back door, away from places where there is more attention.

“You drove to an airport farther away, which tells me there are fewer controls,” Farrell said.

Gary Airport officials said there had been no inspection of this plane because it had passed through customs in Houston a few hours earlier after a flight out of Toluca, Mexico.

According to a federal complaint, the 30-year-old Mexican citizen Sebastian Vazquez-Gamez was on board. He allegedly traveled to Chicago’s Gold Coast and checked into a hotel on Chestnut Street, where US Drug Administration agents said they had arrested him and confiscated the cocaine.

Also arrested were Alexis Jimenez-Perez, 25, from Columbus, Indiana, and Sergio Ivan Blas, 39, who was arrested a day later.

Agents said sales books found in Blas’ car revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug deals. According to flight records, federal authorities seized an $ 8 million jet that the group allegedly was using and took it to a hangar in Florida.

The plane made multiple trips to Gary from Mexico to Texas, and authorities said they were monitoring it. The aviation website FlightAware has publicly taken photos of the jet at several airports in the United States and Mexico.

DEA’s special envoy in Chicago declined to discuss the Gary case, but said the cartel’s supply lines were unaffected by global shipping problems.

“Cartels are using every means possible to bring drugs from Mexico to the United States and then to local markets in Chicago. “We seized more methamphetamine in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 than in the entire fiscal year 2020.”

More illicit drugs have been intercepted but also consumed, with pirated copies of the strong pain reliever fentanyl now causing 75 percent of all overdose deaths in the Chicago area. The latest data from April 2020 through April 2021 shows record overdose deaths in Cook County and across the state of Illinois. For the first time 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in a year, a 30 percent increase.

Investigators said four out of ten counterfeit fentanyl pills tested contained a lethal dose.

“When fentanyl is manufactured on an industrial scale by the Mexican cartels, there are very minimal quality controls in place,” Bell said.

It’s an overheated business that often boils over. In early November, a masked and heavily armed task force attacked a beach resort in Cancun, Mexico, killing two men. The investigators assume that there was a dispute between two rival cartels; the same two cartels that control all of Chicago’s illicit drug trafficking.

The leaders of these two Mexican cartels are currently Chicago’s most wanted refugees. For the head of DEA Chicago, one truth remains constant in the cartel world.

“There is no such thing as non-violent drug trafficking,” said Bell.

You won’t hear the phrase “War on Drugs” from DEA’s Robert Bell.

“We are not waging war against our (own) citizens,” he said. “Or a war against people with a drug problem.”

Wars, he declared, are over. Trying to stop the flow of drugs is never really over.

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