Sinaloa Drug Cartel Expands Deadly Operations In Alaska

Alaska, best known for its stunning landscapes and cold, remote beauty, now grapples with a more sinister reputation. The state, known as America’s Last Frontier, is currently facing a surge in the influx of illicit drugs, primarily driven by the Sinaloa Cartel, once headed by the infamous “El Chapo.”

The cartel’s expansion into Alaska underscores a chilling reality — drug traffickers have realized the potential profitability of this untapped market. With its remote and often inaccessible regions, the competition among criminal networks is considerably reduced in the state. James Klugman, head of federal criminal prosecutions for Alaska’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, said of the disturbing trend: “All the drug dealers are aware they can make more money selling drugs in Alaska.”

Tragically, Alaska witnessed a staggering 75% surge in overdose deaths in 2021, the highest percentage increase anywhere in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alaska’s overdose rate jumped from 20.2 to 35.6 per 100,000 residents in a single year. These harrowing statistics contribute to the national death toll, which now stands at nearly 107,000 lives lost.

Illicit narcotics, especially fentanyl, are swamping Alaska’s urban centers, particularly Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks. These drugs are then dispersed to even the most isolated parts of the state, from tiny islands off the southern coast to the Arctic region. The infiltration is so deep that even villages with populations as small as 50 are not spared. This widespread drug proliferation has caused Brandon Waddle, assistant special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s field office in Anchorage, to sound the alarm: “What keeps me up at night is the fact that fentanyl is killing our small, most vulnerable communities.”

Despite the bleak situation, local authorities have consistently cracked down on these cartels. In a notable success, Mexican immigration officials arrested U.S. citizen Miguel Guevara in September 2021, later deporting him to America. Guevara was indicted for allegedly trafficking narcotics from Mexico to Alaska since 2016. This arrest was part of an extensive drug trafficking investigation. The indictment revealed that traffickers, like Guevara, targeted Alaska because of the higher profits garnered in the region.

Further emphasizing the audaciousness of these criminals, traffickers have even reached the secluded town of Whittier, which is 60 miles southeast of Anchorage. Whittier, primarily accessible through a toll tunnel, has been targeted, showcasing the determination of these unscrupulous drug dealers.

The chilling accounts of traffickers such as Jorge Cardenas, who blanketed regions like Girdwood with meth and introduced fentanyl, highlight the evolving drug landscape in Alaska. Agents raiding Cardenas’ family home found a shrine dedicated to Jesús Malverde, often called the “Patron Saint of Drug Dealers.”

For many Alaskans, the situation has become personal. Cornelius Sims, a lieutenant with the Alaska State Troopers and supervisor of a statewide drug task force, revealed, “The opioid crisis has hit hard, and it’s hit close to me.”

The drug crisis in Alaska symbolizes a more significant issue plaguing America. The audacity of cartels to penetrate even the most remote parts of the country underscores the importance of robust law enforcement and community vigilance. As the battle against drug trafficking continues, the nation must unite to eradicate this menace.