Rodrigo's group is paid for bulk loads they pass on to the wholesalers. If it's someone they've worked with for years, they financially front the load. If not, they receive payment first. Rodrigo's crew takes its cut and sends the rest back to Paloma in Mexico. He takes his cut and uses the rest to buy the merchandise that keeps the $500,000-a-year business rolling.

No one in the group carries a gun; none has teardrop tattoos or dresses in shirts that reach their knees. They're a small operation, a tiny part of marijuana smuggling from Mexico, which Los Angeles' RAND Drug Policy Research Center says is a $2 billion-a-year business overall.

Rodrigo, Sergio, and Paloma were born or grew up in a small Mexican city in the state of Chihuahua a few hours south of the border. It's a family business. Paloma isn't related; he's a family friend, but he's the pápi of the group. About 10 others work in the operation: backpackers, lookouts, those who drive packed weed from southern Arizona after it has crossed the border.

A helicopter hauls a smuggler into federal custody.
Weston Phippen
A helicopter hauls a smuggler into federal custody.
The border fence can be seen along "The Seam" the busiest smuggling corridor in Cochise County.
Weston Phippen
The border fence can be seen along "The Seam" the busiest smuggling corridor in Cochise County.

Rodrigo works directly with Sal and Sergio. The men who pick up and drive the weed and deliver it to the stash house might be friends of theirs or friends of people they've worked with, but they typically won't know who they're dealing with until a shipment arrives.

Paloma manages the operation. In a business where asking questions is grounds for dismissal, Paloma oversees the smuggling process to Phoenix, passing along appropriate phone numbers and making certain that each cog in the operation does what it's paid to do, when it's paid to do it.

The government calls operations like Paloma's "drug trafficking organizations," the tone of which sounds as if such endeavors are formalized from a cartel boss on down. But the groups that Paloma works with are more like floating subcontractors connected only by product.

Forty percent to 67 percent of all weed in the United States comes from Mexico, according to the RAND Center. It's typically called "commercial grade," contains stems and seeds, and — when it comes to Arizona — is supplied by the Sinaloa Cartel.

"Sinaloa . . . exploits well-established routes in Arizona and [has] perfected smuggling methods to supply drug-distribution networks located throughout the United States," states the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, a coalition of federal and local agencies.

Asked whether she knows how many groups like Paloma's operate in Arizona, Ramona Sanchez, special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency in Phoenix, says, "Not really. We've made several operational take-downs. We've taken down several people with connections to the Sinaloa Cartel."

Sanchez defines a "connection" to the Sinaloa Cartel as someone merchandising dope bought from the cartel. And since almost all the pot in Arizona comes from the Sinaloans, does Paloma's group work for the cartel? Does a dealer who's slinging sacks on the corner?

Sanchez and many government reports acknowledge that subcontractor groups such as Paloma's have no direct link to the cartel, but this doesn't stop certain law enforcement from calling every Mexican carrying a load of weed through the desert a cartel member.

Aside from buying about $250,000 worth of weed each month from the cartel, Rodrigo and Paloma say they have no other connection to it. Paloma says his group seldom has resorted to violence, but he admits that it he is part of an industry where murder, torture, and kidnapping are tools.

In their minds, Paloma and his gang move a product demanded by U.S. customers — a product that supports Sergio's three children and Paloma's family and subsidizes his clothing shop. As for Rodrigo, if he can manage to start saving some of his earnings, he wants to someday open a restaurant in Phoenix — or maybe a strip club.


Rodrigo wakes at 9:30 on a warm winter morning. "Fuckin' Paloma calls me at this time every day just to bug the shit out of me."

Paloma keeps tabs on Rodrigo, gives him hell when he's hung over on a weekday, and disapproves when he learns that Rodrigo has snorted cocaine. Rodrigo reveres Paloma, but he thinks he's a prig. Paloma says he's looking out for Rodrigo.

Later that day, Rodrigo wires $800 to Mexico from a pawn shop, which he prefers over Western Union because it saves him money. After that, he pays Paloma's phone bill at a Boost Mobile store and returns home to waits for his uncle.

The white stucco house with a Spanish tile roof has three bedrooms. It's littered with Barbie dolls for Sergio's daughter. There's a crack in the ceiling of the living room, where they watch Spanish novelas on a stolen flat-screen TV.

Sergio's wife keeps the white refrigerator stocked; atop it sits a Cookie Monster cookie jar. At Christmas, Sergio paid a neighborhood tweaker $10 to hang lights on the house. In the garage, there are two white freezer boxes. One is filled with Red Baron pizza, and the other contains an old 20-pound brick of marijuana.

The garage is crucial for any smuggling operation: Car pulls in with dope, garage door closes, dope is unloaded, car leaves. Another car pulls in later, dope is loaded, and away it goes.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
59 comments
don.dodondo
don.dodondo

Just another "hard-working" illegal immigrant who is here trying to improve his life by breaking our laws and sponging off the American tax-payer.

herbalanger
herbalanger

I HAVE BEEN BUYING WEEED AT A HOUSE THATS BEEN SEELING THRU A MAIL SLOTT FOR OVER 17 YEARS.  here is he reason this house is still in opperation, police know cannabis will no kill you, there is not onw recorded case of some one diyng from marijauana use....sure they did do tests on monkeys where the were put in masks and pumped the eqivolent of 700 joints worht of smoke into the monkeys masks... what the us government forgot to think about befor the test, is that all land animals need "OXYGEN"  SOTHEMONKEYS DIDE DUE TOSMOKE ASYPHXIATION..OR LACK OF anyOXYGEN. i dont know bout u but i  breath between hits.... so yeah   U.S.A.you fail

herbalanger
herbalanger

he wasnt distribuing meth amphetamines...it was JUST CANNABIS{shitty cannabis at that.}. this story right here is the EXACT reason  he USA needs to legalize cannabis, just think off all tha cash..pouring into mexicos bloody hands. millions.... it ${ the money} could stay in our {the usa} economy. and the taxes from legal sales of cannabis would be SO HELPFULL TO OUR FAILING SCHOOL DISRICTS, not to mention the cash generated could also help open up more  "hard"drug and alcohol reabilitation centers, which are closing a alarming rates.   MARIJUANA IS SAFE, ITS NOT HEROIN..WAKE UP AND STOP TREATING IT LIKE THAT

serpico1000
serpico1000

I think all these reports only present ONE side of the drug problem in the U.S. what NEEDS to be done is a deeper investigation on the whole drug problem, not only from the illegal contraband, but what those connections are, who finances the move of the drugs in the U.S. where the final destination of those drugs is who is involved, and what the hell the whole bull-shit is all about, BUT THE SILENCE IS SOOO DEAFENING, I would get  involved in all of this shit, but age is not helping!!!

danxranx
danxranx

Heck, for a box of money like that, I'd run drugs too!


www.AnonNet.da.bz

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

It's time to legalize weed. Then, instead of being incarcerated for possession with intent to distribute, you would get nailed for not having a Marijuana Tax Stamp. Federal and state. That would make "sequestration" a thing of the past with so much money going into the federal and state treasuries. Seriously.

markhopkins435
markhopkins435

funny..... getiing pulled over in Arizona on the highway.... frst question I always get as a out of towner...

is it ok to search your vehicle??

AZHighways
AZHighways

Any of you actually grow up in this State?  If so, you already know this "Gang" - or what most would refer to as a Family Business has lasted longer than any of the Businesses or Corporations here that I can remember.  "Lock 'em up" ?  They are probably more ethical & honest than the Law Folks are.  Not defending anyone - just "saying it like it is".

Sedonasherpa
Sedonasherpa

Two places where this illegal weed does NOT bring $500 or $1,000 per pound to the cartel?

Colorado

Washington

robert_graham
robert_graham

Click on my handle to see my new profile picture

jackgeddins
jackgeddins

Put the drug user in Jail.   When they get pick by the police, no bail no bond, just strate to jail.

robert_graham
robert_graham

WTF, he is a drug dealer and he should have been puleld over.  Enough of your playing the race card.

halldecker
halldecker

a far better distribution procedure than Wal-Mart.   Turning tons of dope into ounces and grams,  collecting,  sending the money South,   we should legalize everything,  then ask them to explain how they do it. 

chucklereader1
chucklereader1

F'n new times, why don't you just write an  f'n corrido for this scum shit.....

genknorr
genknorr

We need to get rid of the scum. They should shoot on site all illeagls

johnglen
johnglen

.. uugghh where to start; poorest of the poor trying to survive, our heaviest gestapo policia from an alphabet soup of agencies preying upon them like the obscene bureaucratic parasite they are, christ BLM rangers now feeding on the drug war too ... the sores on that human being are disgraceful, shame shame shame on the american prohibition ..

sarum
sarum

@serpico1000"If you're caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you're gonna go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life," Warren said. "But evidently if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your bed at night -- every single individual associated with this. And I think that's fundamentally wrong."

Elizabeth Warren is one to watch right now.  CCA prisons full and Federal Reserve happy.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Sedonasherpa  ... utter nonsense.

Colorado is awash in Mexican pot, always has been being due north of Juarez on I-25, joining 1-70.

Some Medical Marijuana Dispensaries even sell Mex as their loss leader to get customers in the store.


Comrade
Comrade

Jaffy, jaffy, who the fuck wants to see Your sorry ass profile. BTW You suposse to be with The POS, DRAMA QUEEN SHURF changing His Diapers, I heard that You were handpicked by Him to be His private Nurse.

fsmith3
fsmith3

@jackgeddins 

Were you socially promoted in high school?  I can't imagine you earned a GED which requires testing.

Comrade
Comrade

JAFFYBOI, WTF!!! areYou "SLOW" You have a serious problen comprehending what You read, the article ckearly states that He was pulled over....RETARD.

azcumsquelcher
azcumsquelcher

@chucklereader1 I think the author secretly wishes he was a Mexican pot mule. Just the way he makes fun of the cops using "gringo spanish" makes me think Weston Phippen sees himself as some ultra-cultured friend of the Hispanohablante. these assholes referenced in the article are no angels, they are criminal scum who belong in prisons in their own countries

Comrade
Comrade

genknorr, then You need to hide BIATCH or run, knowing how chicken U R, You might be an Illegal trying to get sympathy from the Whitey, even Your avatar betrayed You, "KNORR" (Chiken Boullion), BTW take that other BIATCH JAFFY with You, Fng Coocksuckers.

azcumsquelcher
azcumsquelcher

@johnglen Poor Mexicans can get other jobs that don't involve smuggling drugs into our country. I don't know if you knew that, but it seems like you didn't. 

bob_lablaw96
bob_lablaw96

@johnglen Or...you could start by calling them drug dealers, instead of the "poorest of the poor."  Read the article!  They make good money as drug dealers, and are probably here illegally anyway.

Screw them all.  Come here legally, work a righteous job, and become one of us.  Do it this way, and die as animals.

herbalanger
herbalanger

you are only fan of fag joey arpaio cuz ou have never been incarcerated by his hitler wanna be ass.  have ou spent a month in his out door tents????? nope didnt hink so..YOU IDIOT WOULDN BE SO "PRO JOE" IF YOU EVER HAD A CHANCE TO LET HIM RUN YOUR LIFE....GROW UP GETLOCKED UP   AND OPEN YOUR BLINDED EYES TO HEW REAL WORLD. cant wait till mexico kidnaps him

Comrade
Comrade

jackgeddins, OH MY GOD, ARE YOU FNG KIDDING ME?,.... "Me too, Can we start a club"......can we hold hands,........ aaagggghhh! DISGUSTING. I wonder what kind of Club is gonna be; "MISSFIT'S CLUB'?

Comrade
Comrade

JAFFY ROBBYBOI, I told You before, everytime You say: YES, it looks like a biatch beign fuck.

johnglen
johnglen

....  dudettes ... bois ...  pleze .. we're talking about real people & an effing medicinal herb here ... not a natl security issue ... calms the eff down & chill winston ... youre maken us whyte folks look stupid.

reedfox
reedfox

@genknorr Did you mean to say "they're" instead of "there"?  Maybe you should focus more on your grammar and less on illegals.  I'm beginning to wonder if "their" education is better than yours.

sarum
sarum

@azcumsquelcher @johnglen It's not just ganja, its Afghani heroin.   History repeats itself.  Opium Wars was for economic conquest purpose.  Since '70's we know our own government is behind this.  Screaming racism is smokescreen to divert the ignorant.

azcumsquelcher
azcumsquelcher

@johnglen no sir, you are making us white folks look stupid. When crime is exacerbated by these pieces of shit invading our country with drugs, then we have a national security problem. I don't disagree that marijuana is a relatively harmless recreational drug, but I do 100% disagree with your idea that drug smugglers/dealers/thieves and all other hordes of criminals that commit crimes as a result of the smuggling of these drugs are innocent victims in this. You're not helping anyone out by taking the "chill bro, smoke some ganja and stop hatin' on my mexican brothers" approach

fsmith3
fsmith3

@genknorr @fsmith3 @johnglen 

Uh, I seriously doubt that, unless you're taking classes in whatever language you can actually speak.  I expect it's not Hindi or Tagalog, or something like that, because the official language in India and the P.I. is English.  If you got into ASU I expect you've stolen someone's I.D., because I can't imagine that you could pass any sort of even a lower division course. and certainly couldn't deal with an SAT or ACT.

You probably got  the third degree from the cops because you looked like such a low life. That doesn't mean you have three degrees, cretin.

Being a general nuisance isn't a military rank, either.

reedfox
reedfox

@bob_lablaw96

Today class we will learn the word Their.

Their is used as a possessive determiner followed by a noun. For example: their school, their teacher, or their education.

So "there" you have it class.  Be sure to use this word correctly.

Class dismissed.

bob_lablaw96
bob_lablaw96

@reedfox @genknorr "There?"  instead of "their?"

If you intend to school someone one their grammar, have your own grammar down pat.

Comrade
Comrade

JAFFY, "there's nothing ignorant or stupid......" the only ignorant and stupid is Yourself, and a whiner one.

This is You bitching: "But.....but.....He's a drug ddeeeaaalleerr" PUTO.

Comrade
Comrade

genknorr, You must be related to that drunkard Jan brewsky and that merryboi Jaffy same level of illiteracy if You "under stand" what a mean.

reedfox
reedfox

@genknorr "understood" or "under stood"?  Your grammar and spelling are impressive.  I didn't comment on the story, instead I replied to your statement of shooting all illegals. 

genknorr
genknorr

@reedfox @genknorr shows your ignorance sonny as you under stood but could not reply about the ilegal scum in america.

 
Phoenix Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...