HomeNewsBriefNew York Indicts Drug Ring Linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel
BRIEF

New York Indicts Drug Ring Linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel

HEROIN / 10 AUG 2016 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

US prosecutors have brought charges against a drug ring linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel that turned western New York into "ground zero" for narcotics trafficking in the state, providing further evidence of the Mexican criminal network's control of the US East Coast heroin trade.

US Attorney William J. Hochul for the Western District of New York announced on August 9 the indictment of 17 individuals on federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

Hochul said the drug ring, referred to as the Gil/Aguirre Drug Trafficking Organization, represented "the largest drug trafficking organization ever dismantled" in western New York. He said the group turned the city of Buffalo "into ground zero for fentanyl/heroin trafficking" in New York state.

16-09-10-NY-GilAguirre

Between June 2013 and September 2015, the group is estimated to have distributed more than 2,260 kilograms of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and marijuana in western New York. During their investigations, officials seized over $2.5 million worth of illegal drugs, including 52.5 kilograms of cocaine, 17.5 kilograms of heroin, and 8.5 kilograms of fentanyl.

The group laundered approximately $20 million in illicit proceeds from western New York to California banks over a one-year period, according to officials.

The drug ring allegedly sourced their drugs from Mexico. According to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge James Hunt: "The Sinaloa Cartel's reach from Mexico into US cities is most evident in this investigation."

US officials pinpointed Herman E. Aguirre, a leader of the organization, as the Sinaloa Cartel link, local media reported.

The group established front companies in California and western New York, including a fake seafood business, and used them to disguise their trafficking operations. Drugs were concealed in containers labeled "sea cucumbers" and sealed with foam or spray insulation to avoid detection. Sea cucumbers are typically used in Chinese cuisine.

InSight Crime Analysis

The tentacles of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel are known to reach deep into the United States, with Chicago in particular serving as an important drug distribution hub for the criminal network. Indeed, the DEA's 2015 drug assessment emphasized the dominance of the US drug market by Mexican groups, with the Sinaloa Cartel appearing "to be the most active supplier" of wholesale quantities of illicit drugs.

There have also been indications in recent years of the Sinaloa Cartel moving to control the heroin market along the US East Coast -- traditionally dominated by Colombian groups. This case appears to corroborate that trend.

SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile 

Nonetheless, the choice of packaging drugs as sea cucumbers -- which themselves have been trafficked by Mexican groups to Asia, where they can fetch up to $600 per kilo -- is peculiar, and may have been the group's downfall by drawing undue attention.

"Buffalo is a hot dog and chicken wing kind of town, so these money launderers could have picked any product to report to be selling here in western New York," said Assistant US Attorney Meghan Tokash.

"But they picked a sea cucumber."

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.

DONATE

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.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 27 JUN 2016

Recent clashes between armed groups on the home turf of captured Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán illustrate how…

HONDURAS / 19 JUL 2012

Mexico's navy reportedly said it had seized some 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel, bound for Honduras, belonging to the Zetas,…

MEXICO / 3 SEP 2014

Only one percent of forced disappearances in Mexico have been investigated by authorities, a miniscule figure that underscores the widespread…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…