Fentanyl flood from Mexican cartels takes a digital route via Snapchat

The results of the "Last Mile" operation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) pointed to social networks as tools through which synthetic drugs are offered.

The United States is currently facing a public health crisis never seen before related to the growing consumption of fentanyl that Mexican cartels are manufacturing and trafficking across the border. To curb the criminal activities of criminal organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched Operation Last Mile for a year.

More than 1,400 investigations resulted in the seizure of almost 44 million fentanyl pills in the country of the stars and stripes. However, the US law enforcement agency also targeted social networks as a new risk factor for commercializing synthetic drugs.

Platforms such as Facebook, Messenger, TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Wire, and Wickr were mentioned in the investigations of the “Last Mile” operation as the means through which Mexican cartels offer their deadly products. In this regard, a journalistic investigation by journalist Laura Sánchez Ley exposed the modus operandi of criminal organizations through one of these popular social networks.

Snapchat: the hook for minors

Snapchat es una popular red social gratuita y disponible para descargar en dispositivos móviles  (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)
Snapchat is a popular social network that is free and available for download on mobile devices (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)?

Although Snapchat‘s popularity peaked during the late 2010s, the social network has become one of the most effective tools Mexican cartels have to offer and market the synthetic drugs that have gradually gained ground among consumers.

But not only that, according to information published by journalist Laura Sanchez Ley in an article for Milenio, criminal organizations have now taken on the task of recruiting minors who know how to make full use of the digital platform and who have border visas – or green cards – that allow them to cross into the United States unnoticed by Mexican and neighboring country authorities.

It is through “stories” on the social network, which can last only a few minutes, that the young traffickers publish photographs of the drugs they have to hook a client who is looking for either the synthetic drug as such or a medication such as oxycodone.

As previously reported, one of the strategies that Mexican cartels have adopted to poison the United States with fentanyl is precisely the counterfeiting of drugs that can only be sold with a doctor’s prescription.

El tráfico de fentanilo se ha intensificado en redes sociales (Foto: DEA)
Fentanyl trafficking has intensified in social networks (Photo: DEA).

Testimonies and court documents consulted by journalist Laura Sánchez Ley revealed that drug cartels had recruited minors between 15 and 20 years to traffic synthetic drugs across the border. After a meticulous questionnaire, the members of organized crime determine those who meet the required profile to hire them.

In this way, according to the journalistic investigation, minors constantly cross the border legally, but with shipments of synthetic drugs such as fentanyl or methamphetamines, which they later deliver for distribution in locations such as Los Angeles or San Diego.

In addition to the fact that this modus operandi puts the recruited young people at risk, the journalist pointed out that the use of social networks is a threat to those users who resort to the platforms in search of support for problems such as depression. According to data published in Milenio, some social network users who died after consuming fentanyl obtained through social networks thought they were buying painkillers or antidepressants.