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Drug Situation: Florida is a prime area for international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations, and a principal thoroughfare for cocaine and heroin transiting to the northeastern United States and Canada. The over 8,000 miles of Florida coastline, and the short distance of 45 miles between The Bahamas and Florida provide virtually unlimited opportunities for drug trafficking organizations to use maritime conveyances to smuggle drugs. Miami International Airport (MIA), which is a gateway for heroin and MDMA trafficking in Florida, continues to be the number one airport in the U.S. for international freight and number three in the world for total freight. South Florida, specifically Miami-Dade and Broward counties, are still favorite areas of drug traffickers for the smuggling of large quantities of cocaine, heroin and marijuana into the continental United States (CONUS) from South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Smuggling occurs via various types of maritime conveyances and cargo freighters, as well as via private and commercial aircraft. Additionally, there is a continued shift to ground transportation (e.g. bus, rail and vehicle) as a means of transporting narcotics throughout the state and to northern destinations. Miami is the primary domestic command & control center for Colombian narcotics traffickers. Colombian traffickers represent the greatest international threat to the Miami Field Division (MFD). MFD enforcement groups continue to target the transportation infrastructure of Colombian traffickers in the Eastern Pacific, the Caribbean and within Florida. Florida leads the nation in MDMA seizures. South Florida has been identified as a primary gateway for MDMA smuggling into the CONUS. The MFD will target specific enforcement initiatives towards the identification and dismantling of groups operating in Florida, with emphasis on South Florida. MIA is a major entry point for South American heroin into the United States. Presently the overwhelming majority of South American heroin enters the CONUS via MIA. Methamphetamine remains a large problem in the MFD and is the primary drug of concern in Central Florida.
Cocaine: Cocaine is readily available in multi-kilogram amounts throughout Florida and remains the primary drug of choice. South American trafficking organizations dominate the importation and distribution of cocaine in Florida. Smuggling via the use of go-fast vessels and pleasure craft, primarily from The Bahamas, and commercial cargo remains the biggest trafficking threat in the MFD. The Caribbean serves as a major transit zone for cocaine from Central and South America into Florida. Mexican nationals continue to be the primary cocaine distribution groups throughout the Florida Panhandle. These groups transport their cocaine in passenger vehicles from the U.S. southwest border areas. Miami is the primary source for the cocaine found in the Jacksonville area. Couriers transport the drug via Interstate-95 from South Florida. The vast majority of the cocaine available in Fort Myers and Naples comes from Miami via couriers in private automobiles utilizing Interstate-75. Interdiction arrests and seizures indicate that traffickers from Sarasota to Tampa are also utilizing Interstate-75 from Miami.
Crack Cocaine: Crack cocaine continues to be available throughout Florida and remains a drug of choice for many throughout the state. Cocaine HCl powder from sources in Miami continues to be converted into crack in other areas of the state. Local conversion of cocaine powder into crack makes it highly available in southwest and northern Florida. Crack cocaine remains a problem statewide in lower socio-economic areas. Crack cocaine is the most serious drug problem in the Orlando area and abuse remains high. Most of the cocaine HCl brought into the Orlando area is converted into crack. After being converted to crack, the cocaine is sold locally in the Orlando metropolitan area and transported northward to Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas and the Atlantic coast areas of the U.S. Cocaine, both crack and HCl, are readily available throughout the Jacksonville area, however crack cocaine poses the most serious threat to the region. The distribution and usage of crack is linked to an extensive amount of criminal activity and has placed economic burdens on the community. Cocaine is regularly transported to Jacksonville in private and commercial vehicles along Interstate-95 from South Florida. The cocaine is either converted into crack and distributed, or is broken down, adulterated and sold to drug distribution organizations based in northeast Florida, South Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas.
MDMA: Florida leads the nation in MDMA seizures and international traffickers continue to use south Florida as a base of operations for the importation and distribution of MDMA. Almost half of the seizures in Florida occur at MIA. Couriers on international flights originating from non-source countries (i.e. the Netherlands and Germany) attempt to smuggle MDMA through MIA. Non-source countries include the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and the Dominican Republic. Miami remains the primary source location for MDMA trafficking in Florida. MDMA continues to be widely available and used in the club scene in South Florida (Miami to Fort Lauderdale). Large-scale MDMA groups operate in the Tampa Bay area. MDMA, in multi-thousand dosage units, is shipped into Tampa/St. Petersburg from Germany and The Netherlands. Additionally, the international airports of Tampa and Orlando, plus the two major highway arteries to the Miami area make the acquisition of MDMA an easy task. MDMA arrives in the Fort Myers area from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. MDMA is popular among the club scene in Fort Myers. Central Florida's "rave scene," nightclubs and tourist atmosphere provide a constant market for MDMA and MDMA continues to grow in popularity with high school and college age individuals. Bulk quantities of MDMA in the Orlando area are shipped, mailed, or smuggled via courier from Western Europe, usually Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain or the United Kingdom. A majority of the MDMA found in Jacksonville is brought into the area from Orlando, South Florida or directly from Europe. MDMA is extremely popular in Jacksonville, especially among teenagers and young adults and most distributors tend to be college students. Sources of supply originate in The Netherlands and shipments are received via mail. Some MDMA is brought into the area from sources in South and Central Florida and is delivered in personal vehicles. Additionally, "spring break" activities in the Panhandle are a prime time for MDMA sales and usage and reports indicate that users are becoming younger.
Heroin: Heroin remains readily available throughout Florida, with the highest concentrations in the southern and central parts of the state. MIA is a major gateway for South American heroin distribution throughout the northeast United States. The primary method in which South American heroin is smuggled into Florida is through the use of couriers on commercial flights. The couriers ingest the heroin in quantities up to 1 kilogram. South American heroin is prevalent in the Tampa Bay area. Sources of supply are predominantly from Miami and Orlando. The vast majority of heroin in the Fort Myers area is supplied from Miami and transported overland in multi-ounce quantities by couriers. Most of the heroin activity in Fort Myers/Naples is street-level. Heroin is a serious drug problem in the Orlando metropolitan area. The majority of the heroin in Central Florida is South American in origin, and Puerto Rico is one of the transshipment points between South America and Orlando. Heroin trafficking within the Jacksonville area is almost exclusively Colombian in origin. Heroin is transported from the Miami area via private and commercial vehicles to Jacksonville for further distribution.
Methamphetamine: The Tampa Bay area is the focal point of all methamphetamine distribution and abuse within Florida. Methamphetamine is transported into Florida, in multi-pound increments, by Mexican/California drug trafficking organizations based in California and Texas. Mexican traffickers have become entrenched in Central Florida. The Mexican organizations make use of this migrant pipeline to move methamphetamine. Aside from the Mexican organizations, clandestine methamphetamine lab seizures have taken an explosive upturn in Florida. These clandestine labs tend to be small "mom and pop" operations, but taken as a whole they represent a growing danger. The trafficking of methamphetamine has increased considerably in the Jacksonville area. As in other areas of the state, labs were small but highly toxic. Many were found in hotel rooms and trucks. Investigations conducted in Pensacola indicate that out-of state methamphetamine manufacturers seek precursor chemicals in northwest Florida. Methamphetamine produced in super labs from Texas and California transits the area along the Interstate-10 corridor. The abuse of crystal methamphetamine is also a problem. The Southeast Regional Lab (SERL) reports that crystal methamphetamine averages above 80% in purity and is showing up in South Florida clubs, where users are known to mix usage with MDMA. There has also been a significant increase in crystal methamphetamine use within the homosexual community in South Florida, specifically Fort Lauderdale. Intelligence has also indicated that Mexican-produced crystal methamphetamine is distributed in South Florida via California. The primary distribution method utilized by these organizations has been parcel delivery. Methamphetamine abuse continues to increase throughout the central and northern parts of the state. Methamphetamine abuse in northwest Florida is increasing. Methamphetamine abuse also continues to rise in the Orlando area, and has been commensurate with an increase in the number of clandestine laboratories seized in the area.
Club Drugs: MDMA is the most readily available dangerous drug throughout Florida. LSD remains available, however seizures are rare. GHB is also readily available in Florida, especially in and around colleges and universities. MDMA is found at rave parties in all parts of Florida and is frequently used in conjunction with other illegal and/or prescription drugs. GHB is commonly abused in Florida, as well as two precursors - GBL and Butanediol (BD).
Marijuana: Marijuana, both domestically grown and imported, is readily available throughout the Florida. Domestic indoor cultivation is a significant industry throughout Florida. The availability of plant hot houses and large commercial nurseries allow traffickers ready access to the necessary equipment for indoor grow operations, particularly in southwest Florida. The Fort Myers RO reports that growers are aware of federal threshold limits and are growing less than 100 plants per grow to reduce the risk of federal penalties. Marijuana is imported into the Jacksonville area from the U.S. southwest border, Canada and Jamaica, by every available transportation method. The Panhandle region continues to be a transit area for marijuana from Mexico. Seizures continue along Interstate-10 from trucks, rental vehicles and trailers traveling east into Florida. Mexican commercial grade marijuana continues to be brought into the Orlando area from the southwest border. It is concealed in hidden compartments in passenger cars and large commercial vehicles, in luggage on commercial air flights or concealed within freight shipments.
Diversion: Pharmaceutical drugs remain widely available throughout Florida, especially OxyContin and Xanax. Preliminary reports from the Florida medical examiners showed that during the first six months of CY 2003 there were 292 oxycodone-related deaths in the state. This contrasts with a total of 589 oxycodone-related deaths for all of CY 2002. OxyContin was the most commonly abused pharmaceutical drug in Florida, but restrictions placed upon OxyContin availability are believed to be responsible for the increase in methadone abuse. Diversion within Florida occurs through indiscriminate prescribing, prescription forgery and theft. Additional methods, which have been especially prevalent in OxyContin incidents, include doctor hopping, pharmacy robberies and prescription fraud (where extra copies of a prescription are made and taken to different pharmacies). Diversion via the Internet continues to emerge as a primary method of trafficking and is the basis of several investigations. Internet diversion occurs through fraudulent prescriptions.
Money Laundering: South Florida continues as the major center for financial institutions in Florida. Miami ranks number one in the volume of commercial banks, thrift and foreign corporations that are chartered by the Federal Reserve to engage in international banking. Examinations of cash flows within the banking system do not distinguish the origins of money as legitimate or illegitimate, but rather illustrate recorded money movements. Organizations utilizing the black market peso exchange system as a way to launder money continue to operate in Florida, particularly in South Florida. Organizations utilizing this system receive large sums of money from various individuals as payment for products they sell. The majority of the merchandise is then exported to Colombia, with portions sometimes sent to other countries. Some of the businesses involved in the sale of merchandise have been identified by law enforcement as being exporters of bulk currency to Colombia. Bulk currency shipments remain a common method of laundering narcotics proceeds from the United States back to source countries. On average, currency amounts range from $10,000 to $1 million and are often delivered to businesses for shipment in legitimate exported cargo. This has been a common method utilized to export narcotics proceeds back to drug traffickers. Another common method of money laundering remains the use of wire transfers. Drug proceeds are electronically moved from place to place or layered to obscure the origin of the funds, and the currency is then reintroduced as "clean" for trafficker use. Florida and especially Miami remains a highly traveled gateway for passengers and cargo bound for South and Central America. Over 70% of passengers departing from MIA are destined for South and Central America and the Caribbean. Most of the financial seizures made from passengers at MIA were currency seizures. The most common concealment methods were in luggage, clothing and body carry.
Special Topics: Because of the increased threat of methamphetamine labs in Florida, in December 2003, the MFD, in conjunction with the Florida Governor's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, agreed to establish the Florida Statewide Methamphetamine Strategy. The aim of this strategy is to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement’s response to the growing threat of clandestine laboratories in Florida. The strategy creates six regional teams to provide guidance to law enforcement agencies to improve coordination of clean-up activities and response to clandestine lab sites. The strategy also establishes a statewide protocol for first responders and emphasis will be placed on education and training in clandestine laboratory certification and site safety.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been 29 MET deployments in the State of Florida since the inception of the program: three in Ft. Pierce, Collier County, Opa Locka, Hendry County, Hardee County, Riviera Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Highland County, Kissimmee, Lake Worth, Sumter County, Seminole County, Live Oak, Homestead, Sarasota, South Miami, Florida City, North Miami Beach, Franklin County, Key West, Fernandina Beach, Delray/Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Lee County, Lauderhill, Columbia County, and Lake County/Clermont.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Florida.