INDIANAPOLIS -- Drug enforcement and IMPD officers apprehended a Mexican national accused of being the receiving end of methamphetamine being smuggled into the country from the southwest border.
The investigation began on March 1 when Kansas Highway Patrol officers stopped a vehicle on I-70 near Salina, Kansas.
Inside the vehicle, police found a Hispanic male and female and their baby. They also found approximately 3 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a void space near the back seat.
According to Kansas police, the man told them he’d been given the meth and an address in the 200 block of North Addison Street in Indianapolis where he was supposed to deliver it. He said he had been instructed by a contact in Mexico to pick up the meth in Tucson, Arizona. His contact in Indy was a man he knew only as “La Lupe.”
Kansas Highway Patrol officers contacted IMPD with the information they’d received and arranged to travel to Indianapolis with the courier and the meth to attempt a controlled delivery to “La Lupe.”
On March 2, while one group of officers surveilled the address on Addison Street, a second group of officers set up at the McDonald’s at I-70 and Holt Road. The courier was instructed to call “La Lupe” and have him meet at the McDonald’s instead of the house on Addison, which was found to be vacant and under renovation.
Shortly before 11 a.m., a silver Chevrolet Tahoe that had previously been spotted at the Addison Street house pulled up to the restaurant with two Hispanic males inside. One of the men, later identified by police as Guadalupe Saucedo-Pineda – aka “La Lupe” – got out of the Tahoe and spoke with the courier.
A few minutes later, Saucedo-Pineda returned to his vehicle with two “sham” packages of meth that police had put together. He and his passenger, Alberto Saucedo-Beltran, were arrested as they pulled out of the parking lot.
Following their arrest, a DEA officer fluent in Spanish interviewed Saucedo-Pineda and Saucedo-Beltran. According to a federal criminal complaint filed last week, Saucedo-Pineda admitted he was at the McDonald’s to pick up 3 pounds of methamphetamine. Saucedo-Beltran reportedly said he had driven to the McDonald’s with Saucedo-Pineda to pick up drugs, but denied knowing what type or quantity was involved.
As a result of the investigation, federal prosecutors charged Saucedo-Pineda with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Marion County Jail records show both men were booked into the jail and were being held on ICE detainers.
Greg Westfall, assistant special agent in charge of the Indianapolis division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the DEA sees cases like this one every day.
“It’s a common mode of transportation of illegal narcotics from the southwest border directly to Central Indiana,” Westfall said. “The majority of our methamphetamine now comes from the southwest border.”
Last year, the DEA alone seized 191 pounds of meth in Indiana. Nationwide, nearly 41,000 kilograms, or 90,000 pounds, of meth was reported seized by law enforcement agencies. That’s almost double the 21,000 kilos (46,500 pounds) seized in 2016.
Westfall said that may surprise people, since the agency’s focus has turned to heroin and powerful opioids like fentanyl in recent years.
“Although heroin is our number one priority because of the nationwide epidemic, methamphetamine has not gone away,” Westfall said. “In our investigation we focus a lot on heroin and fentanyl, however we cannot take our off of methamphetamine because it is still a drug that is being smuggled across the border and redistributed here in Indiana.”
Most of that meth now comes in the form of “high purity, high potency Mexican methamphetamine,” Westfall said. He credited its wide availability, along with the Combat Methamphetamine Act, with an overall downtrend in domestic meth production.
“It’s being smuggled across the border any way you can imagine,” Westfall said. “We’ve seen it come across in gas tanks. We’ve seen it come across as liquid meth and then be transformed into usable meth in the states.”
If found guilty of possession of 500 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to sell, Saucedo-Pineda faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Both men potentially face deportation after any sentence is served.