New York’s Lax Laws Release Cartel Traffickers

Two men allegedly connected to Mexican drug cartels were arrested last week in New York City while in possession of around $1.2 million worth of methamphetamines. They were soon thereafter released from custody according to the state’s liberal bail laws.

In a statement on the arrest, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Frank A. Tarentino III said that the arrest is an indication of the “calculated treachery by Mexican Cartels” to drive addiction up in the U.S. in order to expand markets and increase profits.

Luis Estrada and Carlos Santos are alleged to have rented a vehicle in California that they then drove to New York. They brought with them around 165 pounds of crystal meth that authorities believe came from Mexico.

When DEA agents arrested Estrada on July 5 outside a Marriott hotel in Lower Manhattan, he was allegedly carrying a suitcase containing more than 40 pounds of meth.

Santos was apprehended three days later with over 100 pounds of meth hidden inside two air compressor canisters in the Inwood neighborhood in the city.

Both men were released on supervision one day after their arrests under New York’s 2019 bail reforms. Because both were only charged with second-degree possession of a “controlled substance” rather than “narcotics.” New York law defines meth as a “controlled substance,” regardless of how much a suspect possesses upon arrest.

New York City Special Narcotics District Attorney Bridget Brennan said that the legislature’s failure to address methamphetamine crimes in the bail reforms was “probably an oversight.” She said that when the law was modified, New York City was not considered a meth distribution center.

As a result, Brennan said that prosecutors have lost the authority to require bail even when persons with no ties to the city are apprehended with millions of dollars worth of drugs.

Brennan said that the recent flood of meth into the city is an example of how foreign producers are saturating the U.S. with deadly drugs. The New York Department of Health reported 184 meth-related overdose deaths in 2020. Most of those involved drugs laced with fentanyl.

Methamphetamine seizures in New York have increased 13-fold since 2021 according to authorities.