Manny’s Delivery Service

Couple weeks ago, I spent a morning in federal court in Los Angeles to learn a little more about drug underworld ingenuity.

Federal agents had busted an enterprise known as Manny’s Delivery Service, an organization that they alleged distributed heroin across the San Fernando Valley to customers who’d call in and place their orders.

Manny was the street name of the lead defendant, Sigifrido Gurrola Barrientos (see photo).

These guys reportedly used Uber to transport the proceeds – $129,000 in one instance, according to the indictment. (Read the press release here.)

They seemed to replicate the system that was perfected and taken nationwide by the folks from Xalisco, Nayarit, which I wrote about in my book, Dreamland.

As it turns out, according to defense attorneys, Manny’s was allegedly run by fellows from the Mexican states of Puebla and Guanajuato, which are not states I’ve associated with drug trafficking. Not sure where Mr. Gurrola Barrientos is from. But it’s not surprising the business model would be used by others. There’s no trademark or copyright in the underworld.

I was intrigued by the case as well because I’m fascinated by all the ingenuity displayed in that vast, profit-motivated culture of drug trafficking, particularly from Mexico.

In the 1990s, American medicine began to claim that opiate painkillers could be prescribed virtually indiscriminately, with little risk of addiction to patients. The result over the next two decades was a huge increase in our national supply of painkillers.

That happened without anyone realizing that our heroin market had also shifted during those years. Most of our heroin now came not from the Far East (Turkey, Burma, Afghanistan) but from Latin America – Colombia and, today especially, from Mexico. It got here cheaper and more potent than the Far East stuff.

Truth is, though, most Mexican traffickers for years cared little for heroin, which they viewed as decidedly scuzzy and back-alley and with a relatively small market of tapped-out users in the United States. So they focused more on cocaine and meth, and pot, of course.

Then we began creating scads of new opiate addicts with this expansion of indiscriminate prescribing of narcotic painkillers.

That, in turn, awoke an underworld version of Fedex, and unleashed the powerful and ingeniously creative forces of the Mexican drug-trafficking culture, then largely dormant when it came to heroin. By the way, that’s not to say, necessarily, cartels. Just a widespread culture of drug trafficking, particularly in certain regions of Mexico.

There’s a reason why heroin exists. It’s not because it has much medicinal use. Or, better put, the painkilling benefits it does possess can be provided by other drugs at far less risk of addiction. Heroin exists because it’s a great drug if you’re a trafficker. It’s easy to make and is very condensed. It’s easy to cut – making it profitable to traffic even in small quantities. So small-scale heroin trafficking is a big part of the story of how it gets here from Mexico.

Also, heroin is one of the few drugs that makes sense to sell retail – as it creates customers who must buy your product every day, Christmas included, and usually several times a day.

Thus applying basic business-school principles to heroin vending – principles of marketing, customer service, etc – just naturally occurs to folks.

Hence Manny’s Delivery Service. And a bunch more like them.

14 Comments

Filed under Border, Dreamland, Los Angeles, Mexico, The Heroin Heartland

14 Responses to Manny’s Delivery Service

  1. Ness Welham

    There was a tremendous amount of back and forth across the border….no suspicions aroused? Not to mention the drugs….
    Were they coming across illegally?
    That tweaked my curiosity all through the book.

  2. Loved the book, very sobering. Thank you. Am curious that throughout the book I noticed how easy it apparently was to cross the border, go through customs etc..again and again. This included 14 and 15 year olds who did not speak English. How was this accomplished so frequently and was any heroin ever confiscated at the border?

  3. Marco

    I’m trying to find a link to the actual indictment and can’t find it. When you click on the photo of the front page of the indictment it is a dead link. Any ideas as to where I can find it?? Thanks for a great site!!

    • samquinones

      Their site no longer has the indictment, which I thought it had at one point. I haven’t found the indictment. My post now links to the press release of the bust.

      • marco

        Thanks for the update. It’s very important that I read this indictment – do you have any advice as to how to find it? Thanks again Sam.

  4. Thanks for another excellent addition to your already outstanding coverage of this sad national crisis. Your short interview for my upcoming documentary film is just priceless and truly appreciated, I think it will help people understand some of what lies behind even the greed, namely America’s flight from all kinds of pain and suffering—physical, emotional, spiritual. Keep up the good work brother, and never put the torch down.

  5. Jonsonville

    I was a customer of Manny’s and I am sad to see him go. After an accident, I was prescribed pain killers and was fine until I was cut off. I lost my job and then switched to heroin. Everything was fine for almost 15 years, I had a better paying job and no problems. Then Manny was busted. I was too sick to work, and am now on the edge of being fired again. I am in CONSTANT PAIN from my injuries (T11 – L1 spinal fractures, metal in both femurs and spine, and resulting surgeries), and listening to somebody who has no experience with heroin say that it has no medicinal value is laughable from where I’m sitting. Do a little research, and you will discover that heroin is morphine, with two acetyl groups attached to the molecule that help it cross the blood brain barrier faster. This process cleves the acetly groups from the molecule, and all you’re feeling is the morphine. So, to say heroin has no medical value is to say that morphine has no medical value, and anyone who thinks that is just ignorant on the whole subject.

    An end to prohibition is the solution here, so people like me can count on good quality pain relief if we want it and not have to worry about empowering the cartels and dealers you love so much. Prohibition has failed miserably, it’s safer and cheaper for EVERYONE in every link of the chain if it ends.

    • samquinones

      Thanks for your heartfelt response to my post. Your story is one worth listening to.

      I think I was unclear about heroin. What I should have said – and have now corrected – is that heroin does not provide medical benefits that other drugs don’t provide at less risk of addiction. It certainly has the medical benefit of painkilling, to be sure. It’s that other drugs do the same with less addictive potential.

      • Elizabeth Solomonson

        And with heroin , it’s not regulated so there’s no safety net for purity . And if made legal , there would be even a greater increase in recreational use . It’s why we haive pain pills and medical doctors prescribing . Unfortunately, those “legal” drugs , relabeled without scrutiny and the added vital sign , with racism (doctors felt ok to prescribe to non minorities ) hence our current situation . This is just pure greed with many holes in the gogs of the machine . Now we are coming full circle and there’s still no effective treatment , progress is slow , and their are alternatives to these pain killers that r less addictive . Legalizing heroin is letting the fox into the hen house . We are losing a generation of young people and plain and simple – we have know morphine was an end of life drug since 1918 . Yet , the fda continues to allow the mass production of these drugs amidst death tolls . Global big picture thinking . I wonder how many deaths can be contributed to this man ? How many life’s forever changed and ruined ? All this money at the back end has changed NOTHING UNLESS TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE .

        • marco

          Manny and Jimmy delivered a product in a safe manner at a fair price. They were in business for over 15 years, with the knowledge of the LAPD. When the feds became involved it was shut down. Now addicts are forced to find new, potentially dangerous ways to obtain their product. Rather than having an efficient and safe delivery service, people will be getting robbed and ripped off at skid row.

  6. Joan Peters-Gilmartin

    Another excellent post

  7. Don

    There is another side effect that we don’t hear much about. There are some cancer patients who really suffer and need the opiate pain meds, but recent crack-downs on prescribing them has created a different problem that some would say is easy for the health insurers to exploit to save $$.

    • Don

      You will discover in @DreamLand Sam does a great job of explaining the evolution of opioids from end of life & cancer pain relief to 60 count of percocet to 13 year olds having wisdom teeth removed.

      The solution is not black & white / all or nothing. There is a common sense balance that has yet to be found.

  8. Connie Warner

    Sam – I talk your book up at every opportunity when the issue of the opioid “problem” comes up in conversation. And when I read articles about it in the press or hear some politician spouting off , I am struck at the lack of knowledge and understanding about this crisis; where it started, how it started and why it started.
    Thank you for continuing to speak out.

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