The Drug Enforcement Agency has uncovered a cocaine smuggling ring with an ingenious twist on the transportation and distribution of the elicit drug.
The DEA became aware of a large smuggling operation when a mistake was made resulting in shipping addresses being switched. Boxes containing packages of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum were inadvertently sent to the wrong store. When the manager stocked his shelves with the tainted product people complained of a strange taste followed by a numbing of the throat and mouth and extreme euphoria.
When analyzed it was determined to be coca paste molded to look like simple gum sticks, coca paste is the substance from which cocaine hydrochloride is derived.
In it's paste form the alkaline coca paste is a non water soluble compound ingestible only through breathing smoke into the fatty tissues of the lungs. This method of ingesting the coca alkaline is known as freebasing.
South American field workers that smoke the paste are locally known as Pastelaros. Or smokers of the devil paste in literal translation.
Once processed it becomes a water soluble substance making it ingestible through snorting, eating, suppositories or injecting. This is the form more commonly found in the possession of drug abusers.
"It appears, said DEA agent Sid Cooper, the paste was to be processed in chemical labs across the nation for later distribution in Los Angeles and other cities throughout Canada and the United States".
DEA agents tracked down the original destination of the shipment and engaged in an 18 month investigation involving over 200 law enforcement officers and countless support personnel.
The investigation revealed a smuggling ring that stretched from Peru to New York with ties to 26 American cities. Once the scope of the operation was determined government agents served warrants seizing 3 warehouses full of the illegal substance with an estimated street value of 300 million dollars.
In addition 144 suspects were apprehended in over 100 counties and provinces spanning an area of 4 countries.
Prosecutors assured the media they'd be shooting for the maximum penalties in all the cases. Courts will be hearing these pleas and making determinations for years to come. The DEA penetrated a substantial on going criminal operation that will have a devastating impact on drug sales across the lands.
This tremendous effort is a landmark of intergovernmental coordination and cooperation. The amount of diverse unrelated police agencies involved was considerable.
The manager of the store where the investigation originally found roots is not surprised when an occasional customer tries to order a gross of that, "special", gum.
From the desk of
Buck E Filbert
Jan 11 2007