Authorities arrested an alleged drug kingpin with links to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel in New York City who moved enough fentanyl to kill 10 million people.
Officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the office of New York’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor announced Tuesday drug-trafficking conspiracy charges against 41-year-old Francisco Quiroz-Zamora.
Quiroz-Zamora, a trafficker known as “Gordo” or the Fat One, is allegedly a top figure of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, which rose to prominence in the drug trade under Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, reports The Washington Post.
An undercover agent posing as a drug dealer arrested Quiroz-Zamora at New York City’s Penn Station in November after a lengthy investigation that tracked his efforts to sell roughly 44 pounds of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. He was allegedly heavily involved in the entire process, from smuggling the narcotics across the Mexican border to approving street sales in New York City.
During one raid at an apartment on Central Park West, police discovered five pounds of fentanyl ready for sale in bags marked “Uber” and “Wild Card,” along with $12,000 in cash and a loaded handgun.
Quiroz-Zamora faces a number of charges including operating as a major trafficker and first-degree sale of a controlled substance.
Large quantities of narcotics continue to infiltrate the U.S. due to the relentless efforts of drug traffickers taking advantage of America’s deteriorating opioid epidemic.
Federal authorities recently charged 75 people for money laundering and narcotics trafficking, including fentanyl, linked to the Sinaloa Cartel.
The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed 40 indictments March 8 in San Diego federal court, detailing how a network of individuals conspired to launder tens of millions of dollars in drug cash between 2015 and 2018. Another 35 people were charged over the course of the DOJ’s multi-year investigation into the organization’s criminal activity.
The conspirators used a network of “funnel” bank accounts to allow money movers to deposit bulk quantities of cash into domestic bank accounts. The funds would then be wire-transferred to bank accounts linked to fake businesses in Mexico controlled by the cartel. Bulk amounts of cash were also smuggled in vehicle compartments, duffel bags and shoeboxes.
Undercover agents with the FBI and the local drug task force infiltrated the money laundering organization and gained the trust of its leaders, who eventually let the agents act as money movers. The agents picked up bulk shipments of cash in regions throughout the U.S. over the course of a two-year investigation.
Over the course of the multi-year investigation authorities confiscated $6 million in drug money, 209 pounds of methamphetamine, 138 pounds of heroin, 22 pounds of fentanyl, 202 pounds of cocaine, 555 pounds of marijuana and 20 firearms.
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Fentanyl overtook heroin as the U.S.’s deadliest substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.
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