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Coronavirus costs drug cartels millions of dollars; drug seizures are up in Ohio, DEA says

Lockdown orders disrupt drug operations
Drug seizures up during coronavirus pandemic
Posted at 4:59 PM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 18:59:18-04

CLEVELAND — The coronavirus pandemic has crippled cities and bankrupted businesses. But, the pandemic is also costing drug traffickers big bucks both across the country and right here in northeast Ohio.

COVID-19 has disrupted the way drug traffickers do business and that's costing the drug cartels cash.

"The supply chain has been disrupted," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin.

There has been a spike in drug seizures by federal agents across the county amid stay at home orders.

"That just shows you the drug traffickers are still out there, still trafficking drugs," added Martin, who oversees DEA operations in Ohio and Michigan.

DEA Agents in Northeast Ohio have seen the trend here too. Agent seized kilos of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, thousands of illicit pills, pounds of marijuana, at least 60 guns and $6 million.

DEA statistics show there has been a sharp increase in Ohio and Michigan in cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Martin said state lockdowns have made it harder for drug traffickers to launder and move money.

So, they are moving from the open road to airports across Ohio and Michigan.

"We've seen hundreds of thousands of dollars coming through the airports both in Michigan and Ohio, and that's not normal," explained Martin.

He said money is moved from Michigan and Ohio to the county's southwest border. State lockdowns put the brakes on travel in a lot of places.

"Maybe they don't want to be the only vehicle on the street. There's less traffic so there is a possibility of being pulled over," he said.

The coronavirus has forced DEA agents to change how they do business, too: fewer people in the office and more people on the streets.

The job is even more dangerous now, Martin said. "When we are on the streets, we know who the threats are, when dealing with COVID-19 now we have a known threat and one you can't see," said Martin.