HomeNewsBriefUS Fentanyl Seizure Suggests Evolving Mexican-Dominican Links

US Fentanyl Seizure Suggests Evolving Mexican-Dominican Links


US authorities arrested two Dominican citizens in connection to a multimillion-dollar fentanyl shipment delivered from Mexico, suggesting that relations between these two groups may be evolving in the context of the opioid crisis in the North American nation.

Authorities in the northeast US city of Boston arrested Dominican nationals Ángel Javier Morell-Oneill, alias “Cuñao,” and José A. Rodríguez October 22 and seized 32 kilograms of fentanyl -- a deadly synthetic opioid that is helping drive US drug overdose deaths -- with an estimated street value of nearly $30 million, the US Justice Department announced in an October 23 press release.

The investigation into Morell-Oneill, who authorities have been looking into since June 2018, culminated October 22 when law enforcement officers pulled him over for undisclosed reasons at a traffic stop and discovered two kilograms of fentanyl in the car he was driving. A search warrant was later executed on Morell-Oneill’s house where authorities found an additional 30 kilograms of fentanyl, according to authorities.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Dominican Republic

For his part, authorities arrested Rodríguez as he attempted to deliver $20,000 to Morell-Oneill’s house for the driver of a tractor trailer who allegedly delivered the fentanyl to Morell-Oneill. Rodríguez was to pay him half of the $40,000 he was owed for his work, according to authorities.

Investigators allege that Morell-Oneill is a fentanyl distributor and that Rodríguez was delivering the money on behalf of a drug associate of Morell-Oneill -- an unidentified Mexican drug trafficking organization for which Rodríguez works as a courier, according to an affidavit from Special Agent Jill Hardie of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The synthetic opioid fentanyl is at the heart of the opioid crisis ravaging US cities. Earlier this year in May, US authorities in western Nebraska state seized more than 50 kilograms of fentanyl -- one of the largest busts in the country’s history.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has announced various measures in an effort to combat the opioid crisis, but the recent seizure may be more of a reflection of just how much fentanyl is currently circulating in the country, rather than US authorities having an increased impact on fighting the crisis.

InSight Crime Analysis

Dominican drug trafficking groups have long had a presence along the East Coast of the United States. Mexican and Colombian criminal groups have in the past used them to transport and distribute drugs -- primarily cocaine and heroin -- at the local level in the country, according to the DEA’s 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment.   

However, the latest fentanyl seizure suggests that Mexican criminal groups may be expanding their relationship with their Dominican associates in the United States to traffic fentanyl as the synthetic opioid takes center stage of the US crisis.

The relatively low profile and transnational links of Dominican traffickers in the United States may make them more attractive associates for Mexican drug trafficking groups to work with as US authorities are focused on other groups like the MS13.

China and Mexico are two of the primary sources of fentanyl entering the United States, either directly through the mail system or across the US-Mexico border. Heroin laced with fentanyl is one of the main ways that the drug is sold and consumed in the United States.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Heroin 

US authorities estimate that more than 90 percent of heroin in the United States originates in Mexico, according to the US State Department’s 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR).

It’s unclear which Mexican organized crime group was working with the Dominican traffickers who were recently arrested, but the Jalisco Cartel -- New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG) is reported to be in the business of trafficking fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States and is currently battling a rival group known as Los Viagras in western Michoacán state over control of the production of synthetic drugs.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Mexican authorities have charged a general and 29 soliders under his command with murder and a range of human rights…


The Caballeros Templarios drug gang have hung banners throughout the state of Michoacan, criticizing Mexico's security forces for alleged…

HEROIN / 19 MAR 2014

Honduran authorities have reported the first ever discovery of an opium plantation in the country, a new milestone marking the…

About InSight Crime


Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.


InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.


Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.


Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.


Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.