The Lincoln pickup truck with Iowa plates was hurtling down Interstate 94, headed for Detroit. A dozen D.E.A. officers in unmarked cars were scattered along a 70-mile stretch, from Kalamazoo to Jackson, Mich. From on-ramps and overpasses, they watched traffic flash by as they tried to spot the truck. They believed it was carrying a major shipment of cocaine.
Special Agent Jeff Moore and his team in the Detroit field division had spent months investigating a local branch of the Sinaloa cartel, the world’s most notorious and powerful drug-trafficking ring, led by Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo. With a sprawling network of distributors, couriers, wholesalers and street dealers, the organization had pumped thousands of kilos of cocaine from the Mexican border through Arizona safe houses and into Detroit. It was by every measure the biggest cocaine operation Detroit authorities had ever seen. In previous years, a significant bust might be a dozen kilos; now the cartel was bringing in 200 kilos a month.
Moore’s colleagues had wiretapped 11 phones and had spent so many hours listening to the drug traffickers’ coded Spanish conversations that they knew all the leadership’s tics: The wholesaler called Juanito had a goofy, childlike giggle; the courier called Tata was sometimes the butt of their jokes. The cartel exclusively used nicknames; in most cases, its members didn’t even know one another’s real names — they were simply Gordito, Primo, Cuatro, Viejo.
The organization worked with Detroit’s biggest drug dealers, people like Antonio (Pancho) Simmons, a fearsome, one-legged man with a long criminal record. But in some ways, it was the couriers driving across the country’s highways, their cars’ hidden compartments packed with kilos of drugs, who played the most crucial role. And no courier had been more prolific than Tata, the one driving the Lincoln pickup on Oct. 21, 2011. Tata had become a one-man cocaine fountain, working on a scale the Detroit D.E.A.'s office had never encountered. According to the cartel’s handwritten drug ledgers that the government obtained, he delivered 246 kilos in February 2010; 250 kilos in March; another 250 kilos the next month; 200 kilos the next; and another 200 the next. “Before you know it,” Moore said, “he’s an urban legend.”
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/magazine/the-sinaloa-cartels-90-year-old-drug-mule.html
This is one time I really do suggest you read the whole thing. well written and fascinating.