Mexican cartels are stockpiling drugs and money amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Beth Warren and Karol Suarez, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAYJune 8, 2020, 9:30 AM CDT

Cartels have lost millions seized by drug agents during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Cartels have lost millions seized by drug agents during the COVID-19 epidemic.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The COVID-19 pandemic is making meth more expensive in much of the U.S.

Travel restrictions at U.S.-Mexico border crossings and abroad have made it harder for cartels to move drugs and drug profits without detection, according to agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“There’s been stockpiling of drugs and money on both sides of the Southwest border, and money laundering activity has decreased,” said J. Todd Scott, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Louisville Field Division.

“People, in general, aren’t moving; stuff isn’t moving,” he said. “Cartels function best when they can kind of move undercover, move with the legitimate commerce.”

Travel restrictions to and from China have also slowed the importation of precursor chemicals, which cartels use to make meth and fentanyl. Cartels, in turn, have slowed the amount of meth sent to America. 

To lessen the financial blow, cartels have inflated the price of drugs, especially meth, according to drug agents across the country.

“About half of our field divisions are reporting price increases at the retail level of meth and increases for fentanyl” across the country, said Scott, who directs agents and intelligence analysts in Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

“There’s less of it out there, they’re gonna charge more.” 

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