The Atlanta DEA division on Wednesday spoke in Savannah about the latest drug threats and trends impacting Southeastern Georgia, including stealthy ways dealers are smuggling narcotics.
Atlanta has long been known as a drug distribution hub for Mexican drug cartels looking to distribute their narcotics throughout the Southeast. But during the briefing at the Savannah DEA office, we learned Savannah also plays a major role in illegal narcotics distribution.
Ralph Iorio, the DEA assistant special agent in charge of the Savannah office, explains.
“We do see occasions where Savannah acts as a hub. But most of it is an endpoint,” Iorio said.
The Sinaloa drug cartel and Cartel Jalisco New Generation, also known as CJNG, are identified as the two main cartels responsible for the meth and fentanyl smuggled into Southeast Georgia. Agent Iorio says those cartels are getting help from local groups.
“They could be local gangs. They could be prison gangs,” he said.
Two years ago in Camden County, authorities issued a warning on social media after 10 people overdosed around the same time. One of those people died.
Iorio says mass overdoses continue to be a problem in Southern Georgia.
“We had one here recently that resulted in three deaths,” he said. “The issue with the poisoning that occurred is that it was cocaine, the people did not expect the cocaine to have fentanyl. So, it was multiple overdoses with three deaths.”
The cartels are getting more creative when it comes to smuggling narcotics. Items that look like toys, Iorio said, are being used to smuggle drugs like meth.
Inside metal construction poles, he said investigators found a total of 18 kilos of meth hidden inside. Even a shipment of what appeared to be carrots contained narcotics hidden underneath.
Iorio says they’ve also discovered a new trend when it comes to trafficking drugs via Interstate.
“It used to be larger loads going back and forth, but now we see smaller loads in multiple vehicles because it’s easier to avoid detection and losing an entire load of drugs in one stop,” Iorio said.
Although federal agents continue to find powdered fentanyl, they say the bulk of fentanyl they seize is inside fake pills. This is why they continue to warn people that one pill can kill.