Drug Dealers Going Postal More and More!

  Drug Dealers Going Postal More and More!

Posted by FoM on June 26, 1999 at 07:46:49 PT
Source: Arizona Central 

Arizona is a giant doormat for illegal drugs coming from Mexico, and traffickers are using the U.S. Postal Service to give their customers front-door service.
"We are just one way of getting things from Point A to Point B," said Leo Nolan, a U.S. postal inspector in Phoenix. "In the drug trades, you typically want your dope yesterday. We just happen to be in the business of delivering packages quickly." Typically, the Postal Service intercepts more than 2,000 packages and arrests 1,800 people nationwide for smuggling drugs and money through the mail each year. About 6 percent of drug and money seizures by postal inspectors happen in Arizona. Local and federal law enforcement officials point to two recent cases they say show that postal carriers are often the unwitting couriers of drugs and money as traffickers rely more and more on the government agency's services. On June 17, postal inspectors in Phoenix intercepted two packages of marijuana, weighing 14 pounds and 13 pounds, bound for New York City. Six days earlier, federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents announced they had broken up a large smuggling ring that used the postal service and private mailing companies to ship steroids and marijuana from Phoenix to Boston. Then ring members used the mail services to send the money back to Phoenix. In an October case, Matt Anderson, a pitcher in the Detroit Tigers organization, was arrested on drug-possession charges for accepting a U.S. Priority Mail overnight package containing marijuana while in Scottsdale for the Arizona Fall League. For the past four years, law enforcement officials have formed special teams including DEA agents, U.S. Postal Service inspectors and local police to uncover the packages and the people involved with them. Despite these efforts, officials said smugglers continue to abuse the U.S. mail, and inspectors are getting a fraction of the drugs and money that flow through the Postal Service each day. "The numbers have remained relatively constant. I haven't seen a dramatic decrease," said Lori Groen, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. "The data I have seen seem to indicate that traffickers have not become shy about using the U.S. mail." The reasons are simple. Nolan, who has been a postal inspector for 14 years, said the Postal Service offers drug dealers the same service it offers legitimate customers -- a cheap, efficient, speedy way to send packages with little or no hassle. Nolan said most drug-related packages and other contraband are typically sent Express Mail or U.S. Priority Mail overnight. Drug dealers also entrust their illicit wares and money to a network of couriers, who fly or drive cross-country. But ferrying money and drugs through the U.S. mail or a private carrier, such as Federal Express and United Parcel Service, has advantages, said Jim Molesa, a DEA spokesman in Phoenix. The sheer volume that postal services handle makes it hard to spot or investigate suspect packages, officials said. And, they say, strict rules on searches often protect anonymous dealers and recipients. The nature of the mail business also hampers postal inspectors, Molesa said. "The Postal Service is in business to send mail fast and they have a variety of things going through," he said. "They can't get to the point that they inspect every package. They would lose speed and they would lose their business." Private mail companies aren't eager to talk about whether drugs are sent through their systems. Federal Express officials declined to comment on the frequency or quantities of drug-related packages sent through their service. United Parcel Service officials did not return phone calls. Molesa said the U.S. Postal Service mostly relies on its workers to be the eyes, ears and noses to help stop drug trafficking. Often packages are caught by mail carriers who notice a package that looks or smells suspect. Other packages, he said, have been intercepted by anonymous tipsters. Michael Crivelli, a Phoenix postal inspection supervisor, said the Arizona branches of the Postal Service are teaming up to try to stem the tide of drugs coming through the mail. Within the last two years, postal inspectors in Phoenix and Tucson have begun paying more attention to the origins and destinations of packages. Packages sent from Arizona to Northern or Eastern states such as Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio or Rhode Island raise alarms because marijuana and other drugs can be sold for twice as much or more in those states than here. They also notice how packages are wrapped. Blocky packages could contain tightly packed drugs and boxes within boxes. They also try to spot lables that use names like Smith or Jones for the sender and receiver, sometimes a tip-off that drugs are inside. And they are on the look-out for packages that use drug references. Postal inspectors said they have seen packages addressed to "Mary Jane Jones," a reference to marijuana. Dogs have long been used to sniff out drugs. But these days, postal inspectors are also smelling packages for the tell-tale reek of marijuana, as well as odors such as coffee, mustard, perfume or clothes dryer sheets that mask drug smells. Although national officials say dealers are still likely to use the mails, postal inspectors here say their efforts have resulted in a dramatic drop in mailed drugs in Tucson. Postal inspectors said two years ago they would find a 20 pound package of marijuana almost daily. Today, they said, the frequency and size of drug packages have decreased. It is uncommon, but not unheard of, to find bulk packages of drugs. Although the postal service has reduced drug smuggling through the mails in Tucson, Crivelli said in Phoenix "we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg." The answer may simply be that Phoenix handles more mail than Tucson, making it easier for smugglers' packages to blend with legitimate mailings, Crivelli said. Although some drug dealers may have become wary of mailing bulky drug packages, they are still using postal carriers to ship money. "It doesn't take a lot of 20s or 50s in a box to make thousands of dollars," Molesa said. "There is less risk." Mike Crissey can be reached at (602) 444-7474. 

Home    Comment    Email    Register    Recent Comments    Help

  Post Comment

Name:       Optional Password: 
Comment:   [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]

Link URL: 
Link Title: