Only On 9: DEA Agents Combat Meth Threat In Oklahoma Through Operation Crystal Shield


Thursday, July 9th 2020, 9:43 pm
By: Bonnie Campo


OKLAHOMA CITY -

Skilled at hiding in plain sight, agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency are on high alert.

They said key players, connected to various Mexican cartels, are doing big business in our state.

“Nearly 100 percent of all methamphetamine that arrives here in Oklahoma is smuggled across our southwest border from Mexico,” said John Scott of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Just this year, agents had their biggest methamphetamine bust in the agency's history.

Over a billion dollars of meth was found in California, which was connected to drug cartels.

It's a fight U.S. Attorney Timothy Downing knows well.

“If we have a big seizure in Oklahoma, let's say, a lot of information is going to come from another state, and even operations in another country,” said Downing. “The days of a local meth lab are over. We are talking about a very large industrial size operations that are being conducted, for the most part, out of Mexico."

Since October, DEA agents have seized 800 pounds of meth in Oklahoma alone.

It takes months of covert surveillance and skilled logistics before a raid.

“We are trying to target the biggest and baddest drug traffickers in the state,” said Scott.

“It's not uncommon in a big takedown to have 100 guns that are taken off the streets from the hands of violent criminals,” said Downing.

One kingpin making national headlines has a $10 million reward for his capture.

They believe he is still hiding out in Mexico.

“When we do identify higher-level offenders of drug trafficking organizations that may still reside in Mexico-such as the leader of the cartel De Jalisco Nueva Generación, the CJNG as you've heard, El Mencho,” said Scott.

The DEA also reports an uptick in methamphetamine activity as a result of the opioid epidemic. It’s an unintended consequence of keeping pills off the street.

New data shows over 90% of all ecstasy, or MDMA, is being cut with meth.

“The fact that Mexican drug trafficking organizations are selling methamphetamine in tablet form, under the guise of ecstasy. It's just another technique to get new users,” said Scott.

The U.S. Attorney's Office reports drug traffickers have monopolized the meth market.

While extraditing accused criminals from foreign countries can be difficult prosecutors have found little time to rest.

“It's not uncommon to see anywhere from 20 to 60 defendants in one case be taken down all at once. It really cripples these operations,” said Downing.

Like everything in our world, COVID-19 has impacted the illegal drug trade too.

Agents said the pandemic has influenced methamphetamine prices across the nation to sometimes double the normal street value.

“Our investigations do continue. We have seen and identified some supply chain disruptions that the Mexican cartels are dealing with,” said Scott.

Agents have also seen an increase in bulk cash seizures associated with smuggling and said more than ever they are focused on the operation at hand.

“In a years' time if we get 200 drug defendants that is a pretty solid year. When we talk about those 200, we are talking about key players that are a part of the supply chain to get drugs here,” said Downing. “I do believe that good will ultimately always prevail, that we do what's right every day.”

Agents said one reason meth has made a resurgence in Oklahoma is because Dallas is one of the top eight cities in the nation for cartel trafficking.

They added, it's not just one cartel they're fighting, but many.