The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is wrapping up a year-long investigation that identified connections between Mexican drug cartels and communities in Iowa and elsewhere.

Emily Murray, spokeswoman for the DEA Regional Office in Omaha, says Operation Last Mile provided valuable information. “We were able to identify the different places, the different communities all across the nation where the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels, which are Mexican based, where they’ve infiltrated or they’ve come into the communities,” she says, “and they’re pushing their poisons to our citizens.”

Murray says the illegal, dangerous drugs are landing everywhere and there’s really nowhere in the U-S that isn’t being touched. “These two cartels are responsible for the fentanyl and methamphetamine and the other drugs that are getting into our communities,” Murray says. “We know with fentanyl being the drug that we hear so much about in the news anymore, methamphetamine is also the drug that they are pushing in mass quantities across the borders and up into our communities.”

In the last year, investigators from the Omaha office linked 26 cases directly to the cartels. They made 87 arrests and seized 60 firearms tied to the cartels. Murray says they expect those numbers to rise, just as seizures of meth and fentanyl have risen exponentially. “We know what we know, which is how much we’ve seized. We don’t know what we don’t know, which is how much is coming across the border and getting into our communities,” Murray says. “We do know that over the past year, we’ve lost more than 107,000 Americans to overdoses and poisonings. That is an astronomic number that we don’t want to see increase.”

Murray says they are seeing increased use of social media by the cartels to move their drugs. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, drug overdose deaths climbed 34-percent in the past three years. Among Iowans 25 and younger, overdose deaths surged by 120%, while 470 lives were lost to drug overdoses in Iowa during 2021.

(By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)