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The Providence Journal reported Sunday that Rhode Island drug traffic is tied to Tijuana and San Diego through a transcontinental pipeline operated by street gangs carefully nurtured by Mexico's most deadly cartels.

"South of the border, rival cartels, including La Familia, are engaged in a vicious battle for control of the lucrative drug market. Their ranks include the Tijuana, Los Zetas, and Gulf cartels, among others. Their alliances are shifting, and they increasingly rely on street gangs in the United States to expand their trafficking networks.

“'The (Route) 95 corridor has been one of their last markets,' DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said. 'New England has been tough to crack, with its Colombian influence.'"

The account adds that, "a Tiverton man, Jeremy Barnes, last year admitted to selling marijuana shipped to him from California by members of the Los Palillos gang, a violent criminal organization with ties to Mexican cartels.

"Known as 'The Toothpicks,' Los Palillos have been linked to nine murders, the attempted murder of a police officer and kidnappings in San Diego County. Two victims were dissolved in acid."

We detailed Los Palillos in a cover story by Laura McNeal last year:

The Journal's report said that, "Guillermo Moreno, a gang-leader-turned witness, told authorities he and others shipped Barnes up to 300 pounds of marijuana a week through UPS over four to five years.

"The packages were sent with fictitious 'white people' names on the mailing labels. Moreno detailed a tractor-trailer shipment of another 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of marijuana to Barnes for sales in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. Barnes stashed the drugs in houses in Tiverton and North Providence.

"The DEA opened its investigation into Barnes after being tipped off that two men believed to be Mexican were searching for him to settle a drug debt. Barnes, 36, is serving 17 years in a federal prison 100 miles outside of Houston."

Here's yesterday's Journal story:


Pictured: Jorge Rojas López, accused leader of Los Palillos, in a 2009 photo Credit: La Frontera*

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