Local authorities and federal drug authorities located marijuana plants in the woods near Wilmington, North Carolina. There were over 2,400 plants that were surrounded by a camp where growers had squatted illegally to grow the drug. The growers were never located, as they had already fled the area and authorities said they wanted the people bankrolling the operation not the growers. DEA agents said the people behind the marijuana are members of a Mexican drug cartel called La Familia Michoacana.
The cartel, said authorities, focuses on moving cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines and heroin into the southwestern and now southeastern part of the U.S. The case, said DEA officials is part of a list that is growing of busts linked to cartels in rural North Carolina. The population of Hispanics in the area has increased by a considerable amount over the last two decades and authorities said the cartels use the cover of Hispanic communities to carry out their business.
These types of infiltration by foot soldiers of the drug cartels is very common along the border between the countries in cities like Phoenix and the large hubs throughout the country like Chicago, New York and Atlanta. However, now the smaller towns and suburbs are being infiltrated by the cartels and drug busts are turning up guns, money and drugs that can be traced back to the drug cartels in Mexico.
In 2010, DEA reports said that drug cartels were operating in 1,285 cities in the U.S. Reports in 2006 said the total was only 50.