Image: Dream WorksALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Miguel Bustamante-Conchas was selling heroin in Albuquerque and wanted to cement his status with the Sinaloa Cartel. According to federal prosecutors, Bustamante, 40, decided he would marry off his stepdaughter, Chantilly, to the son of the cartel’s man in charge of packaging heroin.
According to the wiretaps on Bustamante’s phone, Felix Sicairos would pay $10,000 for Chantilly’s hand in marriage – which would also help him gain legal status in the United States. Bustamante, who the government maintained was in the U.S. illegally, even compared his idea to the marriage of Princess Fiona to the ogre Shrek.
Sicairos was the son of Bustamante’s connection to the Sinaloa Cartel, and Bustamante believed Sicairos was sent to Albuquerque to either keep an eye on Bustamante’s operation or to learn from him. The discrepancy depended on who was telling the story. The marriage never came off, but the wiretaps that unveiled the marriage plot showed how the Sinaloa Cartel has direct ties to heroin distribution on Albuquerque’s streets.
Bustamante had connections to a ring of Mexican heroin dealers investigated in 2010 by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. But agents were unable to identify his role in that group of dealers – a group connected to the Sinaloa Cartel and operating in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights and South Valley before they were arrested and charged. Bustamante, who walked away from that investigation, then used some of the same houses to stash drugs as the previous group.
During the Bustamante investigation, that began in 2013, federal agents identified some trends in the heroin trade.
• Brown powder heroin is much more common and may be replacing the black tar heroin that has been found in New Mexico for decades. The increase in brown powder heroin is the result of huge increases in poppy cultivation in Mexico and more sophisticated refining techniques for turning raw opium gum into heroin.
• Mexican cartels exert little influence on organizations the size of Bustamante’s once heroin crosses the border, as long as the cartel receives its “taxes.”
• Mexican heroin suppliers in Albuquerque and other Western cities tend not to carry a lot of firearms, and they avoid violence. Only one pistol was recovered in the Bustamante investigation.
• Mexican heroin suppliers pass on the names of so-called “facilitators” who rent houses and buy cars for the Sinaloa heroin dealers setting up business in Albuquerque.
• It appears to be a common practice that the Mexican organizations pass on the numbers of their heroin addict customers to organizations that replace them.
• The price for a gram of heroin continues to drop, depending on purity, to prices between $90 to $50. DEA undercover agents typically paid $125 or more for a gram of heroin in recent years.
After his trial in 2014, Bustamante was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. After his release, he will be deported.
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