Meth Market Exposed in New York's Chinatown

By Chrisanne Grise 03/15/13

An undercover investigation reveals a possible meth pipeline to the heart of Manhattan.

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Crystal meth has long been more of a “niche drug” in nightclubs in New York City, but an undercover investigation in Manhattan’s Chinatown reveals evidence of a possible changing market. Four men were arrested in January after an undercover investigator bought almost $200,000 of crystal meth in a Pathmark supermarket parking lot. And authorities say many low-level drug dealers in the predominantly Chinese neighborhood have had access to a large quantity of methamphetamine, most likely manufactured in Mexico—suggesting a possible new pipeline. “This prosecution sheds light for us on the fact that these Chinese men were able to very easily obtain methamphetamine from Mexican suppliers, and this is a lot of meth,” says Bridget G. Brennan, the city’s special narcotics prosecutor. Still, law enforcement officials are relieved that the market does not seem to be rising drastically. “We see it in Chelsea and in the Asian community,” says Brian Crowell, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York field office. “We’ve seen it staying level in New York City.” Three of the accused men pled not guilty yesterday. But court documents claim that the undercover officer repeatedly purchased drugs from them (including Ecstasy and meth), since April 2012, including the three-quarters of a kilo worth $193,000 that led to their January arrest. Officials say they used extensive wiretaps in their investigation, and suspects were unusually forthcoming while discussing drug deals. “Unlike cocaine or heroin traffickers, who typically use coded language, and are cagey, [the intercepted phone conversations] were much more blatant or upfront than others we listen to," says Brennan, "They didn’t believe anybody would be listening in.”

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices, AbsolutePunk.net, Chorus.fm, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.

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