Earlier this year, federal agents were alerted to the transport of a large quantity of ecstasy, otherwise known as MDMA, on the New York side of the Canadian border. Based on information provided by a confidential informant, the transfer of over 400 grams of MDMA was to happen at the well-known junction of Interstate 81 and state Route 104. After failing to stop at a red light, officers pulled the car over and a dog sniff alerted them to drugs in the vehicle. Approximately 470 grams of MDMA were recovered from the center console, which would be worth $30,000 on the street. Both passengers in the vehicle were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance in federal court. While significant in amount, this single example pales in comparison to the drug trafficking concerns plaguing Interstate 81, recently nicknamed “Heroin Highway.”
What is Interstate 81?
Interstate 81 is an 855-mile highway that touches Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and finally New York. I-81 connects to more than eleven major U.S. highways and bridges, in addition to Highway 401. Highway 401 links cities in the United States to Montreal, Toronto, and other northern border cities in Canada.
Because of its location and minimal short-term traffic, I-81 is often preferred to other major thoroughfares because it avoids the more congested east coast cities that I-95 serves. By avoiding major metropolitan areas, I-81 caters to the trucking industry and other long distance travelers, making it the perfect option to camouflage large-scale trafficking operations.
Why is I-81 a Law Enforcement Concern?
What lurks beneath the surface is the illicit traffic of I-81. Various federal and local law enforcement agencies have long had their eyes on I-81 because of human trafficking, untaxed cigarette trafficking, sex trafficking, counterfeiting, and drug trafficking concerns. Virginia has gone so far as to put up billboards on the thoroughfare to provide assistance to victims who may be traveling along the thoroughfare.
I-81 is a major concern to law enforcement because of its connection to a network known as “Corridor A,” which is a popular route to transport drugs from southern California and Florida into the northern cities. I-81 is also popular with traffickers because it connects to I-78 in Pennsylvania and provides quick access to New Jersey and New York City. According to the National Drug Threat Assessment, Corridor A is unique in the trafficking world because outside of the geographical benefits, it provides the best opportunity to transport “multi-ton drug quantities” to the eastern markets.
Onondaga County, along with 27 other US counties, is designated as a 2015 High Intensity Density Trafficking Area by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Because of this delegation, The DEA is heavily involved in operations at the local level and the county is given financial assistance to better manage “critical drug-trafficking” areas.
If you were pulled over for a traffic stop, or you are facing criminal charges relating to drug crimes or other trafficking charges, it is critical to have an experienced attorney who understands how state and federal trafficking investigations work. Contact George Hildebrandt today for a free consultation.