EXCLUSIVE: Mexican Chemists Help Sinaloa Cartel Cut China Out of Fentanyl Trade


The Sinaloa Cartel’s fentanyl production continues despite the global pandemic’s limits to Chinese trade, thanks to rogue university chemists.

China is documented as the largest source of illicit chemical precursors going to Mexico for opioid production. They are responsible for the shipment of two primary ingredients known as NPP and 4aNPP, which are essential in the manufacture of fentanyl. If economists are correct, then the global Coronavirus-related shutdowns should have some effect on Mexican cartels’ abilities to manufacture fentanyl. However, recent CBP seizure data indicate near-record amounts of fentanyl appearing in the U.S. on a monthly basis. In February, for example, CBP seized 255 pounds just at ports of entry.

“The Mexican drug cartels work hand-in-hand with corrupt Mexican government officials at high levels, said Terry Cole, a former Special Agent with the DEA. “If the average taxpayer had a basic understanding of how these two groups work together still to this minute, they would be sickened. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell, who-is-who when you are dealing with cartels, federal police, military forces, and the federal government.”

Cole was a high-ranking Special Agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He served in some of the most complex parts of the world, with more than 22 years in the DEA. He was posted in Oklahoma, Texas, Colombia, Mexico, and Afghanistan during his career.

Terry Cole, DEA Special Agent with 15,000 kilograms of cocaine, circa 2000

Terry Cole, DEA Special Agent, Undercover Operations in Cali, Columbia. 1,500 kilograms of cocaine and 65 kilograms of heroin. 2001


“U.S. law enforcement passes locations of meth labs, fentanyl labs, cocaine loads, bulk money movements, and fugitive locations that more than often fall on death ears,” Cole contends. “There just isn’t a willingness to do anything” in response, he adds.

Cash movements between Mexico and China are a common concern for Cole:

The Chinese have established themselves as the global leader in money laundering, fentanyl distribution, and precursor chemical manufacturing/distribution. They often launder money at zero cost to the drug trafficking organization because they send all the cash to China, and the Chinese government has a unique way of currency manipulation that allows money launderers to make their profit on the back end. We often consider this ‘state-sponsored narco-trafficking.’ The Mexican government refuses to investigate, arrest or even prosecute, saying there is a lack of evidence in the case. Bad actors among law enforcement, military, and bureaucratic officials are deeply involved.

The following consists of an abridged interview with Terry Cole.

Jaeson Jones: How do the cartels get chemical precursors from China since they have become regulated under China’s laws, and how are they transported?

Terry Cole: The chemicals are ordered in bulk through the cartels’ Chinese contacts in Mexico. They are shipped via cargo ship as legitimate goods that appear on standard bills of ladings and invoices. The ships arrive, for example, at the Ports of Manzanillo, Lazaro Cardenas, Veracruz, and Ensenada. These ports are under the control of the drug trafficking organizations that facilitate smooth arrival, safe passage, and then delivery to the laboratories.

Barrels are stacked full inside these shipping containers, which contain chemical precursors to manufacture meth and fentanyl. The bill of lading, invoices, and markings on the barrels are all fictitious to mask the real chemicals–completely falsified from China to the hands of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

JJ: The current Sinaloa Cartel leadership under Ismael Zambada-Garcia, Los Chapitos, and Rafael Caro-Quintero made the change to convert some active methamphetamine labs into fentanyl labs. During this period, Mexico City refused to acknowledge and address this shift. It took more than three years for Mexico to acknowledge the cartels were manufacturing and distributing fentanyl.