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National Drug Intelligence Center Guam Drug Threat Assessment August 2003

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine, specifically high purity crystalmethamphetamine, poses a serious illicit drug threat to Guam. Authorities reportthat crystal methamphetamine abuse has increased on Guam during the past decade.Half of the individuals admitted for substance abuse treatment in 1997 and 1998(the most recent data available) were methamphetamine users. The increase inabuse of the drug is attributed to multiple factors including its readyavailability, low cost (less than heroin or cocaine), and the duration of itseuphoric effects, which can last 12 hours or more--considerably longer than theeffects associated with many other illicit drugs. Crystal methamphetamine isoften called poor man"s cocaine due to its relatively low cost and similareffects.

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Crystal Methamphetamine

Crystal methamphetamine is a colorless, odorless, smokable form ofd-methamphetamine resembling glass fragments or ice shavings. Its production (aprocess of crystallizing powdered methamphetamine) and distribution typicallyare associated with Asian traffickers.


On Guam crystal methamphetamine is known as shabu and typically is smoked ina glass pipe or glass vial. Users heat the glass pipe or vial with a lighter andinhale the methamphetamine vapors.

The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (DMHSA) and lawenforcement officials report that crystal methamphetamine abuse is evidentthroughout Guam"s population. Methamphetamine abuse spans all ethnic, cultural,and age groups--some abusers are as young as 12. Of the students in grades 7through 12 who completed a 1999 drug use survey conducted by DMHSA, more than 7percent reported having used methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime.

Crystal methamphetamine is readily available on Guam in gram to kilogramquantities because of a steady supply of the drug from the Philippines as wellas from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. The Drug EnforcementAdministration (DEA) reports that the price of crystal methamphetamine at theretail level--while still high by mainland standards--decreased during the pastfew years. The price of 1 gram of crystal methamphetamine decreased from a rangeof $600 to $1,000 in fiscal year (FY) 1999 to $250 to $500 in FY2000 and FY2001,according to DEA. Ounce prices for crystal methamphetamine remained stable ataround $8,000 from FY1999 through FY2001, and kilogram prices ranged from$180,000 to $200,000 duringthat period. Purity ranged from 97 to 100 percent.

The significance of the methamphetamine problem on Guam is reflected in thenumber of drug-related arrests and the number of drug samples submitted tolaboratories for analysis. Methamphetamine-related arrests increased from 47 in1994 to 333 in 1999. In 1999 methamphetamine-related arrests constituted nearly75 percent of the 447 adult drug-related arrests in the territory. Of the 558drug samples submitted to the Guam Police Department Crime Laboratory by all lawenforcement agencies in 1999, 335 were analyzed as methamphetamine. In addition,the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency (CQA) seized 7,423.22 grams ofamphetamines in 2001, more than any other drug that year and an increase from3,994 grams seized in 2000.

The Guam CQA conducts more investigations related to amphetamines than to anyother drug type except marijuana. In 2001, the agency conducted 12amphetamine-related investigations, which represented 17 percent of allinvestigations conducted. In 2000, the agency conducted 26 amphetamine-relatedinvestigations, which represented 15 percent of all investigations conducted.

Methamphetamine accounts for the majority of drug-related federal sentenceson Guam. Each year from FY1997 through FY2001, methamphetamine-related federalsentences constituted over 90 percent of all drug-related federal sentences onGuam, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) data. Of the 188drug-related federal sentences during this period, 178 weremethamphetamine-related. During the same period methamphetamine-related federalsentences nationwide accounted for a much smaller percentage. (See Table1.)

Table 1. Percentage of Federal Drug-Related Sentences forMethamphetamine Violations, Guam and United States, FY1997-FY2001GuamUnited StatesFY1997FY1998FY1999FY2000FY2001
93.710.2
94.211.4
95.412.8
95.314.5
95.214.2

Source: USSC.

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Guam law enforcement authorities believe that the increase indrug abuse and distribution, most of which is related to crystalmethamphetamine, has contributed to rising levels of violent crime. The numberof robberies involving the use of a firearm increased 228 percent, from 32 in1990 to 105 in 1998--the most recent year for which data are available. SinceJanuary 1993 Guam Police Department officers have seized over 75 firearms and 10hand grenades in drug-related incidents. Authorities, through undercover drugpurchases, have confiscated additional firearms from drug distributors. Lawenforcement authorities believe that crystal methamphetamine abuse also hascontributed substantially to increases in domestic violence.


Arrestees Linked to String of Violent Crimes

In February 2002 seven individuals were arrested in connection with fiverobberies and a burglary. One of the arrestees was charged with attempted murderfor committing a shooting during one of the robberies. In one of the robberiesapproximately 25 guns were stolen from a local shooting range; the thieves laterexchanged many of the guns for crystal methamphetamine. During the execution ofa search warrant at the residence of one of the arrestees, local police officersseized bullets and 19 packets of crystal methamphetamine with an estimatedstreet value of $3,000.

Source: Guam Police Department.


There is no evidence to suggest that crystal methamphetamine isproduced on Guam. The Philippines, which serves as both a production andtransshipment area, remains the main source of the crystal methamphetamineavailable on Guam; however, the drug also is produced in and transported fromHong Kong, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. DEA reports that the transportationof crystal methamphetamine from these locations is increasing; however, as ofthe second quarter of FY2002, there had not been any recent significant seizuresof crystal methamphetamine being transported from these countries. According toDEA, Asian organized crime groups are suspected of transporting multikilogramquantities of crystal methamphetamine to Guam from Hong Kong, and smallerquantities from other Asian countries.


Crystal Methamphetamine Seized

On November 30, 2000, agents from the DEA Guam Resident Office and the GuamCustoms and Quarantine Agency seized 2.65 kilograms of crystal methamphetaminethat had been smuggled via commercial airlines from the Philippines. The agentsarrested a Guamanian national and an Italian national following the seizure.

Source: DEA.


The primary means by which crystal methamphetamine is transported to Guam isby couriers or "mules" bodycarrying the drug on commercial airlineflights. The drug often is wrapped in duct tape and plastic, smeared with atopical analgesic to evade canine detection, and strapped to the body withgauze. Couriers transport 1 to 6 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine per trip.Other methods by which crystal methamphetamine is transported to Guam includeshipment in U.S. mail, express service parcels such as FedEx and UPS,concealment in air and sea cargo, and smuggling by private vessels operatingbetween Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

Direct airline flights from the Philippines to Guam provide distributors onGuam with easy access to crystal methamphetamine suppliers in the Philippines.In addition, in April 2000 an Asian airline expanded service by opening a newroute from Taipei to Guam, providing a direct connection to suppliers in Taiwan.Crystal methamphetamine transporters also transship the drug via commercialairlines through Saipan, the capital city of the CNMI, en route to markets onGuam, Hawaii, and other locations in the Pacific, according to law enforcementauthorities in the CNMI.

Figure 1. Methamphetamine transportation from the Philippines,Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and South Korea to Guam.

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Limited quantities of methamphetamine also are transported intoGuam via package delivery services. U.S. Customs Service (USCS) officials onGuam report that the Korean and Japanese criminal groups that employ this methodof transportation are becoming increasingly sophisticated. These criminal groupsship liquid methamphetamine in medicine bottles, liquor bottles, and cannedgoods, all of which appear to be factory-sealed. USCS also reports that packagessometimes are sent from the Philippines to European countries where they arerepackaged and sent to Guam so that they do not appear to have been shipped froma known methamphetamine source country.


Methamphetamine Smuggling

In early 2000 a joint investigation involving Guam and Hong Kong lawenforcement agencies resulted in the arrests of three individuals and theseizure of more than 17 kilograms of methamphetamine that had been sent to Guamfrom China via a package delivery service.

Source: DEA.

In 1999 two Philippine beauty pageant contestants were arrested in twoseparate incidents for drug possession at the Guam International Air Terminal.The first arrestee was carrying about 1 ounce of crystal methamphetamine in thependant on her necklace, and the second had crystal methamphetamine residue anddrug paraphernalia in her bag.

Source: Guam CQA.


Mexican criminal groups based in California occasionally transport crystalmethamphetamine to Guam. According to the DEA Guam Resident Office, in thesecond quarter of FY2002 there were three significant seizures of crystalmethamphetamine on Guam totaling approximately 8 kilograms. The crystalmethamphetamine was transported via commercial airlines from two sources inCalifornia.

Asian criminal groups dominate all levels of crystal methamphetaminedistribution on Guam. Wholesale distributors usually sell to individuals withintheir own ethnic group; however, midlevel and retail distributors will sell tothose outside their own ethnic group. Midlevel distributors typically purchasekilogram quantities of crystal methamphetamine; however, they occasionallypurchase 100- to 500-gram quantities.

Midlevel distributors frequently accept items of value instead of cash inexchange for crystal methamphetamine. They provide gram quantities of crystalmethamphetamine to retailers in return for merchandise such as guns, televisionsets, cars, collectible coins, stereos, and computers. In one case, a retaildistributor attempted to trade a pit bull for crystal methamphetamine.

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Crystal methamphetamine is not cut with other substances at any level ofdistribution; thus, purity remains very high. The drug typically is distributedin clear straws or small plastic resealable bags called plates. A clear straw,which is heat-sealed at both ends, contains 1 to 2 grams of crystalmethamphetamine. A plate is available in two sizes: 0.05 gram, which costs $50,or 0.1 gram, which costs $100.