Pubdate: Sun, 08 Nov 2009
Source: Omaha World-Herald (NE)
Copyright: 2009 Omaha World-Herald Company
Author: Lynn Safranek
Note: author is a World-Herald Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Mexico)


Police suspect that other drug rings in Omaha deal in pounds of
methamphetamine, as the dealers in Operation Red Ice did.

Most narcotics investigations focus on the highly addictive crystal
methamphetamine, the purer form of the drug, because it wreaks such
devastation on the community and can be found in any part of the city,
said Officer Edith Andersen, a detective in the narcotics unit who led
Operation Red Ice.

Through countless interviews with drug dealers and drug users,
investigators know how drug rings work.

A drug dealer on the level of Juan Correa-Gutierrez -- the operation's
ringleader, known as "El Primo" -- purchases methamphetamine in its purest
form from a dealer in a source city in the United States, generally
somewhere near the Mexican border, Andersen said.

From there, the dealer will transport the meth to a distribution point,
such as Omaha. Police here seized 58.5 pounds of methamphetamine in 2008,
up from 24.2 pounds in 2007.

After the shipment arrives here, the dealer adds "cut": a substance, such
as the animal food supplement MSM, that dilutes the meth's purity, to
increase the volume. Dealers commonly keep some meth in a stronger form --
with less cut -- to sell at a higher price. Buyers of this product
typically will dilute it with their own cut before selling it.

The layers of dealers handling the meth varies in each drug ring. In this
case, Primo instructed one underling to make his large meth sales. That
man delivered to at least five others. Police know that one of those
people had at least 10 people buying meth from him for personal use or to

Undercover Omaha police officers in Operation Red Ice purchased
methamphetamine from dealers that ranged from 5 percent to 70 percent
pure. Meth with higher purity signals a closer connection to superlabs in
Mexico, where it is produced.

The going rate in Omaha for a pound of methamphetamine is $20,000 to
$22,000. But people such as Primo, who have connections close to the
Mexican border, can buy pounds for $12,000 or less.

An ounce of methamphetamine that is less than the highest purity typically
costs $1,800 to $2,000 in Omaha. A pound, by the time it is diluted and
sold on the street, could yield approximately $12,000 in profits.

A typical user consumes = gram to 2 grams per day. One gram that is 20
percent to 40 percent pure costs about $100. Cautious methamphetamine
users who still can keep jobs will smoke meth during the day and take a
downer prescription medication, such as Xanax, to sleep at night.

Heavier users don't last long on the street, Andersen said.

To feed their expensive habits, they steal and commit other crimes, and
eventually get caught.
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