Film Warns Teens About Drug Cartel Recruitment

By Ben Feuerherd 02/08/13

A filmmaker who once "ran with the cartels" depicts the grim realities of the drug trade.

Rusty Fleming wants teens to know what the
drug trade is really like.
Photo via

A Texas law enforcement official and former drug addict who once "ran with the Mexican drug cartels" has produced a film to caution American teens about the dangers of drug cartel recruitment. Rusty Fleming, public relations officer of the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Department in Sierra Blanca, has written, directed and produced Operation Detour, in which he draws from personal experience to create an informative and "brutally honest" depiction of involvement in the drug trade. Fleming is a self-described "expert" on Mexican drug cartels, and claims he's been on "every side" of the drug war. "I'm an ex-addict myself," he tells The Fix. "I shot so much dope in my arm that my veins collapsed. I've run with the cartels, and I've run with the law enforcement chasing them." His film, which he hopes to show at high schools across the country, depicts rape, kidnappings, murder, and prison—all of which he says are possible outcomes for young people who are recruited by drug gangs. Fleming insists nothing was embellished, and one particularly violent scene reenacts of a real double murder that was carried out over $500 worth of pot in Orange County California a few years ago. The film, which stars members of a tactical team of the Texas Department of Public Safety, began showing at schools in the El Paso area in January, and will soon be shown in other parts of the country. According to a report last year, cartels often recruit US teens as young as 11 to smuggle drugs across the border, offering them up to $400 for each trip. 

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Benjamin Feuerherd is a city reporter at the New York Post. He has previously worked for The Daily Beast and NBC. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter