DEA agent discusses ‘massive’ East Texas meth lab bust, fentanyl trade
“This is the most deadly drug threat we have ever faced in the United States,” said Agent Sanderson.
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The deadly trade of fentanyl and methamphetamine has made its way into East Texas over recent years. A Texas DEA agent spoke on how they fight the spread, and how to protect yourself and your family from the threat.
Following the fentanyl overdose of a Van Zandt County student in February, fentanyl has been on the minds of nearly every parent in East Texas. But how big of a problem is this easily disguised synthetic opioid? And what other illicit drugs should East Texas parents be worried about? DEA Resident Agent-in-Charge Kaleb Sanderson spoke about the dangers the region is facing.
“We had over 107,000 people die of drug poisonings…This is the most deadly drug threat we have ever faced in the United States,” said Sanderson.
DEA Agents in East Texas uncovered a “massive scale” methamphetamine manufacturing lab near Tyler funded by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) which is based in Mexico. Over 170 kgs. were discovered in this single wide trailer. Agent Sanderson said that this lab was supplying the Dallas Ft. Worth area, something that is usually the other way around - Dallas/Ft. Worth supplying East Texas.
How did a Mexican cartel manage to establish themselves so predominantly in East Texas? Sanderson said the main misconception of cartels is that they are unorganized, and sloppily thrown together groups. In fact, they are “just like Amazon.” The pills that are illegally manufactured have been perfected to closely resemble real pharmaceutical pills, meaning many buyers assume they are ingesting safe legitimate medications.
“They have bankers, pilots, and the amount of cash they have is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. They have legitimate businesses they use to launder their money. These cartels will also ally with different gangs in the United States… There are no limits to race or ethnicity. There are no limitations whatsoever where money can be made,” said Agent Sanderson.
So what do parents need to know? To start off, Sanderson said an open line of communication and simple conversations can help save a child from mistakenly purchasing a counterfeit pill.
“Have a sense of urgency and have a conversation with your child… 60 one-minute conversations do so much more than one 60-minute one,” said Sanderson.
Another tip is to check your child’s online payment history.
“If you see $10, $15, or $20 payments on their Cashapp or Venmo, that could have been used to purchase pills.” Sanderson said.
Social media plays a large role in allowing dealers to target kids and teens in East Texas according to Sanderson. Snapchat (the app that allows users to upload videos to their friends that will expire automatically after 24 hours) is one of the main hubs for drug dealers looking to sell to college students and teens. The DEA has seen the same deals being made across all social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.
According to the DEA, six out of every ten pills sold on the street contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. Sanderson warned to never take a pill unless it was given to you by your pharmacist. There’s an overwhelming chance that any single pill bought from an unreliable source can kill you.
“There’s no room for experimentation,” said Sanderson.
The DEA encourages all parents to visit their website for more information and resources.
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