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Minn. Among States Where Drug Cartels Expanding

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CHICAGO (AP) – Mexican drug cartels that have been expanding their reach in the U.S. in recent years have set up shop in the Upper Midwest, among other regions, law enforcement officials say.

Cases involving drug cartel members have been seen in Minnesota, and there has been activity in neighboring Wisconsin. The head of the Sinaloa cartel was recently named Chicago’s Public Enemy No. 1, the same label once given to gangster Al Capone.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says about 230 American communities reported some level of cartel presence in 2008, but that number had climbed to more than 1,200 by 2011, the latest year for which statistics are available.

“There are very few cases that we are conducting that do not have a link directly to a Mexican drug trafficking organization,” Dan Moren, the assistant special agent in charge of the DEA’s Minneapolis-St. Paul District Office, said Monday.

Moren said every state is affected by the Mexican cartels, which are the primary suppliers of methamphetamine in the U.S. The cartels are also instrumental in the production or trafficking of heroin, marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs.

“A criminal organization is going to make money wherever they can,” he said. “For the purposes of the Mexican organizations, there are no borders.”

Jeanne Cooney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota, said that while the Department of Justice hasn’t been keeping statistics specifically on drug cartel prosecutions, her office has seen a dramatic increase in the number of cartel cases it has handled over the last couple of years.

“We believe a lot of the activity here in the Midwest is because of I-35,” she said, referring to the Interstate that runs from just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in Loredo, Texas, up through Minnesota.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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