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Federal officials believe that China is profiting off the illegal operations, which are located throughout the U.S., especially in rural areas, according to a report from the Daily Caller News Foundation. The July memo obtained by the DCNF showed that Border Patrol has identified “270 properties within the state that are actively used by the Chinese” in relation to their illegal marijuana operations.
According to the memo, a single property could make more than $16 million in profit each year, which “likely” is “used for other criminal activities or are sent to China.” The total profits could be more than $4 billion.
A federal law enforcement source told the DCNF that those running the illegal operations are typically Chinese nationals who are difficult to deport due to asylum claims or are residents.
“Based on location of the properties, it is assessed that I-95 is the main transport route for bulk cash, illegal narcotics, illegal aliens as this is the most desirable route throughout the state of Maine. I-95 begins in Miami, Florida, and ends near New Brunswick. This route enables smugglers through the many connecting routes which may allow access to many adjoining states,” the memo said.
The problem is not limited to Maine and appears to have been going on for years. A 2017 report from the Portland Press Herald noted that Chinese nationals running illegal marijuana grows had been arrested in states like California and Colorado. Some arrested were illegally in the U.S., but others came on B-1 or B-2 visas.
“There’s no deterrence,” Derek Maltz, the head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division from 2005-2014, told the DCNF. “Criminals are masters at taking advantage of the vulnerabilities.”
Maltz says that the Chinese nationals will frequently work with Mexican drug cartels.
“They take the cash from the cartels in America, and they buy these properties and they do these investments with cash from the Mexican cartels in our own country. This is part of their laundering scheme,” he said.
The recreational sale of marijuana has been legal in Maine since 2020, which followed the legalization of the drug by the voters in 2016.
It is also estimated that China is the origin of up to 90% of the illicit fentanyl found in the U.S.