Albany, NY - August 11, 2015 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that, despite rampant and growing heroin and meth use on Long Island and New York City, the new federal budget slashes $154 million in funding from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Bureau Of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) along with the U.S. Marshal Service. The same agencies used that lead and support anti-drug trafficking operations on Long Island.
In response, Schumer today launched a new push to restore this crucial federal funding, which can be used to combat the grip of the Mexican drug cartels that have long targeted Long Island as a prime market to peddle their addictive and deadly products.
Over the last few months, the DEA's Special Agents have seized millions of dollars’ worth of both heroin and meth, with supply routes linked to Long Island. Reports indicate that the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel, in particular, is responsible for a substantial portion of Long Island’s drug trafficking.
Today Schumer said that the new budget cuts could leave Nassau and Suffolk Counties on the national back burner, not only in terms of funding, but with hiring as well. Therefore, he is pushing Congress to restore these critical cuts and to lift a DEA-specific hiring freeze that Schumer said, in the face of escalating need, could hamstring enforcement efforts at a time Long Island and New York City can least absorb them.
Schumer wants the DEA and their partner agencies to continue intercepting all kinds of drug operations that target Long Islanders, but says they need the funding resources—and the staff—to get that job done.
“In the face of the aggressive efforts by Mexican drug cartels and others to flood the Long Island area with their addictive and deadly products, now is exactly the wrong time to hammer the Drug Enforcement Agency -- and its allied agencies -- with budget cuts,” said Schumer. “Working with local law enforcment, DEA, ATF agents and the U.S. Marshals, have been beating back the scourge of drug use through busts and 'superlab' takedowns, but if we ease up now on those efforts, it could spell real trouble for Long Island and New York City. The drug cartels have long targeted Long Island, and that’s why the expertise of a fully-staffed DEA and its agency partners is so crucial. Their operations, both undercover and investigatory, must remain fully in place.”
According to media reports, the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel alone does tens of millions of dollars of business each year in the New York-Long Island region. The Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel considered the largest drug-trafficking organization and bases its operations in the Mexican states of Sinaloa, Sonora, Durango and Baja California. According to the DEA, the cartel is involved in the manufacture, transport and distribution of methamphetamine (meth) and heroin. While the cartel controls vast trafficking operations on an international scale, the majority of its drugs are distributed to the United States. In July, Sinaloa Cartel leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman-Loera escaped a Mexican prison. El Chapo was arrested in 1993 for murder and drug trafficking. In 2001, he escaped a federal maximum security in prison and re-established himself as the top ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel and leader of the Mexican drug trade. He was rearrested in 2014.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said, “The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has a long history of successful collaboration on major drug investigations with the DEA. Along with local law enforcement they are our primary partners in reducing the supply of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine flooding our communities. Coordination and collaboration with DEA is necessary to stem the supply of these poison. In the past two months this collaboration resulted in the arrest of 14 individuals operating major drug trafficking distribution network in the Bronx and on Long Island. These networks supplied directly from violent Mexican drug cartels are wreaking havoc in our County. This is absolutely the wrong time to even think about slashing DEA’s budget.
"As Long Island's heroin crisis continues to expand, killing more residents than ever before, it's unfathomable that there would be any reduction in federal funding for programs that could help us turn a corner and save lives. Drug traffickers around the world see America's first and largest suburb - Long Island - as a prime target for marketing heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs. And as thousands of local residents struggle with substance use disorders, they've found a cadre of prime customers. Reducing both the supply and demand for illicit substances is critical and government should be investing more - not less - in enforcement, prevention, treatment and support for people in recovery" said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds.
Each year, more than 8,200 people in the United States tragically die from heroin overdoses. Long Island is no exception from this tragic addiction problem. In 2013, the number of fatal heroin overdoses on Long Island totaled 145 and in 2014, the number of fatal heroin overdoses on Long Island totaled 137. Most of the heroin currently sold on Long Island and in New York City is said to be smuggled into the U.S. by Sinaloa. A new type of “super high” heroin, containing fentanyl, has also emerged across the country and specifically on Long Island. Fentanyl is a schedule-II drug and a powerful opiate; it is fifty to 100 times more powerful than heroin according to media reports, and can be more potent than morphine. It is often used by doctors to treat patients with severe pain, and commonly prescribed to people with chronic pain in extreme circumstances, such as end-state cancer patients. Mixing fentanyl with heroin increases its potency and exacerbates the dangers of the already-dangerous drug, including trouble breathing and overdose deaths. Over the past two years, the DEA says they have seen an increase in fentanyl-related drug seizures. According to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, there were 3,355 fentanyl submissions across the country last year—as compared to 942 in 2013. As of April 2015, over a 15 month period, at least forty-two people had died on Long Island from fentanyl-related overdoses.
Moreover, the DEA has said that the meth circulating on Long Island and within the five boroughs is produced inside the cartel-funded “superlabs” DEA agents have busted in the past in and around Long Island. Over the past two years, through investigatory DEA efforts, a major increase in drugs like meth and fentanyl-laced drugs has been seized nationally, as well. New York’s own DEA chief has said Mexican drug organizations are “sending massive amounts of fentanyl to the United States.” And that Long Island is the ‘captive market’ for the cartels. Schumer said these facts alone confirm that Long Island is in the crosshairs of the cartel and should be on a priority list back in Washington. Schumer also pointed out a new drug push law enforcement warned against last month that said the Sinaloa cartel and other Mexican drug organizations were making new and heightened attempts to build markets for methamphetamine on Long Island and in New York City. Schumer said these drug runners want more Long Islanders hooked and that they’ll stop at nothing to achieve this goal, which is why fighting against these cuts to both anti-drug budgets and staff is so important.
In addition to heroin, the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel and others are said to be marketing meth on Long Island by placing samples of the drug inside cocaine and heroin shipments to get customers hooked. In fact, some dealers are giving away free samples of the highly addictive drug. Today, some of the meth produced in Mexican ‘superlabs’ are found to be 90 percent to 98 percent pure. Mexican heroin has also become cheaper. On Long Island, a bag of meth can be purchased for as little as $5 and a pound can be purchased for $8,000 to $10,000.
In April, members of a Mexican cartel-affiliated heroin and meth ring were arrested in Manhattan and $500,000 worth of crystal meth and $12 million worth of heroin was seized; their supply routes were linked to Nassau and Suffolk Counties. According to media reports, the investigation originated with the DEA’s Long Island division. Similarly, in May, federal authorities seized $50 million worth of drugs tied to the Sinaloa cartel, the fourth largest heroin bust in the U.S. and the largest heroin bust ever in New York. Reports suggest that some of the heroin was targeted for Long Island.
The DEA estimates that the workforce cuts to their operation will result in over 100 fewer “priority target” disruptions and dismantlements. Schumer said many of the priority target operations being slashed likely include local priorities related to beating back the cartel spread on Long Island and “superlabs” on the radar to be dismantled here. Schumer also discussed the appropriations bill that cut agency funding from the DEA, ATF and the Marshals. Schumer said leaving their budgets stagnant for the next year, despite the rise in drug trafficking puts Long Island at risk. Schumer said additional resources of $154 million are still needed for the U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to meet the President’s acceptable request level, a level appropriate given the cartel challenges faced by each agency. Schumer concluded that funding at the President’s request level would also allow for the hiring of additional Deputy Marshals and DEA and ATF agents. These agents help combat the grip of drug trafficking and the Sinaloa cartel. Schumer said any freeze to the DEA hiring practices is essentially another cut and should be reversed.