The DOJ announced last week the first prosecutions against Chinese chemical companies and nationals for the trafficking of precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said of the prosecution, “These companies and individuals are alleged to have knowingly supplied drug traffickers in the United States and Mexico with the ingredients and scientific know-how needed to make fentanyl.”
The U.S. has seen nearly 100,000 deadly overdoses from fentanyl – a powerful opioid 50 times stronger than heroin – in a little more than a year. Although the substance is usually found on the streets of almost every American city, mixed with heroin and inside counterfeit Oxycontin and Xanax pills, fentanyl is produced far from the U.S.
Wuhan, China. (Getty Images/File)
“The rest of the precursors can be easily found or obtained in Mexico or anywhere in the U.S. The important one is the piperidone,” a high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel operative told Fox News Digital.
The price invested per kilogram at this point is $200.
Precursors and ready-made fentanyl is shipped through two Mexican ports at the Pacific Ocean: Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacan, heavily controlled by the ruthless Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG for its Spanish acronym), and the Mazatlan port in Sinaloa, controlled by the eponymous cartel.
Once on Mexican soil, the precursors are transported to small, temporary laboratories set up in luxury residential apartments in Culiacan, Sinaloa’s capital, and cradle of the cartel.
“Here, you only need a couple of hours to manufacture over 100 thousand fentanyl pills,” the cartel operative said.
The Sinaloa Cartel’s most popular products are the counterfeit “M30” pills, small, blue-colored fentanyl pills made to look like Oxycontin pills.
“A full truck carries drugs from different individuals. Each one of us pays an amount, depending on the quantity. It is usually $1,500 per kilogram, but it includes the bribes to the Mexican authorities to get through checkpoints and [elsewhere],” the operative said.
From a Mexican border city like Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez (across from El Paso, Texas), the fentanyl gets across the border on private vehicles through a regular port of entry.
Cars line up at the San Ysidro crossing port to cross from Tijuana in Mexico to San Diego in the U.S. (Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images/File)
“We pay each mule around $500 per ride, however, much product fits on their car. We provide the car, and we tell them where to unload on the other side of the border,” the cartel member said.
Here is where the pills get packed into smaller quantities or the heroin mixed with fentanyl gets mixed with other substances for profit.
Authorities display $7 million worth of fentanyl allegedly found in a New York City apartment unit. (Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City/File)
“At the point where the pills reach the local dealers, we have no control. They buy the wholesale stuff from us, and they cut it with whichever they can or want, and then they make their cut from it,” the operative said.