From Arizona to Iowa, the drug cartel has made its way across the country

“Every time you walk out the door you always wonder is today the day,” says Lt. Matthew Thomas, with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. “Who do I want carrying my casket? What type of funeral do I want?” He’s developed a warrior mentality. You understand why, when he explains how the drug cartel has infiltrated the area.

The numbers are hard to comprehend – thousands of people killed, tons of drugs seized and billions of dollars exchanging hands. And Iowa is right in the middle of the Mexican drug cartels’ distribution network.

It’s the middle of the night in Pinal County, Arizona. Just as he does on every mission, Lt. Matthew Thomas, with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, makes a mental checklist.

“You’re getting your stuff ready, getting into game time mode.”

His team plans to raid two locations tonight. They’re stash houses, used to store drugs awaiting distribution through a nationwide network.

“Sheriff’s Office, search warrant,” one agent yells as he bangs on the window.

Lt. Thomas and his team take three people into custody and uncover dozens of bundles of drugs in a pickup parked outside. There are more drugs inside the stash house, along with a shrine of saints. Some are legitimate saints, like the Virgin Mary. Others, like Saint Jesus Malverde are called “narco saints.” Malverde is considered the patron saint of the illegal drug trade. Traffickers pray to him for the safe delivery of their loads.

Lt. Thomas carries a picture of Malverde in his patrol car. It’s a souvenir from his days undercover, when he had to convince dealers he was one of their own.


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