City of Coke

Cocaine from Mexico is the currency that drives gangster economics

My mother has always raised me and my grandmother helped. My father has always been in prison so therefore I really never had anyone to keep me in line. Sure I had uncles but they were always on the streets always drugged out of their minds or were in and out of prison and if anything they were always telling me that when I get older I'm going to be from a gang. They would tell me "You're Baby Bullet" from 9th Street because my dad was "Bullet."

As I started getting older they would mention it more and more. When I started Junior High school my older cousins would talk about when they were going to jump me in. Pretty soon I was in high school and it happened. I got jumped into the family gang. Everyone was calling me "Little Bullet" and saying I was no baby anymore. I was only 16 and grown men would come up to me and show me respect. I mean, sure, it felt good when I was younger to run around doing stupid things like getting high and gang banging, but look where it has gotten me. I'm sitting here in a dirty old cell writing to you hoping that you will show mercy to me.

Camou got his wish. He was sentenced to five years probation, plus the 113 days he had already spent in jail.

Jordin Isip

Police arrested the Ninth Street veterano believed to be Camou's commander in the same Operation Taxation sweep. According to the charges, then 31-year-old Ruben "Little Moco" Moquino broke into the home of a local drug dealer and fence, threatened to cut off his nose with a pair of scissors, stabbed him three times in the legs, then stole a VCR, mountain bike and stereo equipment. Three days later, when police showed up to the victim's home to offer him witness protection, they found Moquino standing in his front doorway, yelling threats.

Moquino also received probation, then was arrested again following a newer lengthy investigation of the Ninth Street Gang by Phoenix Police and the FBI, which this time resulted in 41 indictments. This most recent investigation determined that Moquino and veteranos of the non-Carbajal Ninth Street Faction with ties to the Mexican Mafia reunited the old gang in the name of more cost-effective business.

Such peacemaking efforts are not unusual, says the DEA's Molesa.

"More and more, we're seeing bangers put aside their personal differences under the umbrella of drug profits. The older ones are telling the young guys to cut out that 'Don't dis my set' stuff because it interferes with making money."

In September, the DEA and the Arizona Gang Task Force arrested 24 members of a drug ring allegedly involving five street gangs, two from Tucson and two from Los Angeles, who collectively sold up to six pounds of cocaine a week to users and dealers in Tucson. Investigative reports say the L.A. gangs originally dispatched members to Arizona to buy cocaine in bulk, then moved them here permanently to help set up the drug ring in Tucson and send profits back to California. According to DEA reports, the gang members laundered money through a hip-hop clothing store that served as their base of operations.

"You could ring these guys at the store and order up anything from a few grams to a kilo," says Molesa. The ring handled most of its transactions in a city park located between an elementary school and a Catholic high school.

Four months before the Tucson bust, 11 members of a Jamaican gang that controls the distribution of marijuana in Queens, New York, were arrested in Phoenix and accused of transporting 30- to 60-pound loads of marijuana three times a week using overnight courier services. The Jamaicans had set up a fake shipping business, according to the DEA, and got their marijuana from Mexican smugglers on a contract basis.

"There's any number of scenarios involving gangs in Arizona and drugs from Mexico," says Molesa. "It goes anywhere from one member of one gang getting paid 400 bucks a week to pick up a car in the parking lot of the Kmart in Nogales on the U.S. side of the border, drive it to the Waffle House at I-10 and Baseline and leave it there with the keys on the seat, to multiple members of the gang buying drugs from Mexicans and selling it to other gangs, sometimes in other states. We have some gangs buying pot from Mexican juveniles who backpack it across the border. Think up any scenario, and it's probably happening out there right now."

Lobo's wife and daughter live in a new tract home purchased in another man's name. He also rents an apartment in a gated complex five minutes from his old neighborhood. He stores money and drugs here, and uses it to process cocaine. Inside this apartment, Lobo unwraps his latest purchase, four rocks of cocaine weighing nearly half a pound each. Using a utility razor, he painstakingly carves each rock into pieces, which he crushes and chops into a fine powder. This powder, sold to him as pure cocaine, he repeatedly sifts through a length of double-wrapped cheese cloth. Then he creates pre-ordered batches for his customers, cutting some of the cocaine with ephedrine powder, some with crystal methamphetamine, the rest with B-12 vitamin crystals.

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