Inside a Mexican Cartel: Drug Smuggling in the United States

BY Larisa Epatko  August 1, 2011 at 2:54 PM EDT

In a series written for the Los Angeles Times, Richard Marosi reports on cocaine smugglers in Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel as Drug Enforcement Administration agents set about tracking them. He discussed his findings with Hari Sreenivasan.

The preferred entry point into the United States was — and still is — Calexico in California, since the checkpoint is so close to the border it doesn’t leave much room for vehicle inspections, Marosi said.

From there, the drugs stashed in wheel wells and the ceilings of tractor-trailers move on to Los Angeles and a network of distributors. Besides truckers, pilots do the dirty work, sometimes flying into Amish country in Lancaster, Pa., another distribution point.

Marosi looked at the role of Iraq War veteran Roberto Daniel Lopez, whose job was to keep an eye out and give reports on the progress of the drug-laden car, and psychic Guadalupe “Lupita” Villalobos, who one trafficker relied upon to approve shipments.

Once cocaine shipments started being intercepted by U.S. law enforcement, drug trafficker Carlos “Charlie” Cuevas was called in for questioning by the Sinaloa cartel. Little did he know, he was part of one of the largest federal investigations into an organized crime group in Mexico.

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