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The Two Largest Drug Busts Of All Time

You won’t believe how much money the two biggest drug busts in history netted. Absolutely astounding. Now I know how Pablo Escobar became so incredibly wealthy.



Nothing makes law enforcement officials happier than to put a large quantity of drugs onto a table and conduct a news conference to announce their success. It has been seen previously. The drugs are typically stacked in a neat little pyramid with a bunch of guns and maybe even some confiscated cash sprinkled around like decorations. Sometimes the drug raid is the end result of a lengthy investigation including undercover agents, wiretaps, and possibly even an inside informant. Other instances, the drug bust was just a stroke of bad luck. Perhaps the appropriate car is pulled over by the police, or the right door is opened, and presto—big score! Maybe someone will provide them with a tip.

What are the biggest drug busts ever, regardless of how they took place? What happened to the people that were busted and how much money were found in drugs? The responses are quite absurd.

The Hayward California Heroine Bust of 1991

For more than a month, agents methodically studied each person and delivery that entered and exited that warehouse. Agents finally decided to take action on Thursday, June 20, 1991 after waiting for three individuals to enter the facility. The warehouse was invaded by heavily armed police from the front, back, and roof, but the three suspects did not resist and were immediately taken into custody.

Agents from Customs and the DEA have long held suspicions that this team was bringing in China White heroin from Thailand rather than wholesome porcelain from China. Agents thought the heroin was shipped by barge from Thailand to Taiwan, then on to Oakland. The drugs were loaded onto trucks and transported to Join Sun Corp’s facility from the port of Oakland. The authorities’ discovery of large amounts of heroin after inspecting the facility did not come as a surprise. But nobody anticipated how much heroin they would actually end up gathering. All told, 1,059 pounds of China White Heroin were being kept in 59 crates at Join Sun Corp’s warehouse.

$4-6 billion


AFP/Getty Images/Carlos Julio Martinez

For your information, the DEA’s total budget for 1991 was $875 million. DEA agents would later estimate that this bust amounted to 5% of the world’s annual production of heroin at the time. In the end, four members of the ring were put on trial, found guilty, and given prison terms by a federal judge. They were all given lengthy terms, and 26 years later, they are all still behind bars.

The Sylmar California Cocaine Bust of 1989

In the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, there lies a peaceful suburban neighborhood called Sylmar. On September 28, 1989, local police received an anonymous tip from a “concerned citizen” about suspicious behavior that was occurring at a nondescript storage facility in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The tipper claimed that numerous deliveries to the storage place had been made by a number of very large tractor-trailers. The informant stated that the trucks were “as big as two school buses.”

Agents tracked a car that departed the storage unit the following day after getting the tip. The driver of the car noticed the tail and swerved as it traveled 30 miles to Baldwin Park in the southeast. When the car was eventually stopped by the police, 20 kg of cocaine were discovered in the trunk. That was enough probable cause to get a search warrant for the storage unit.

Two days after getting the initial information, DEA agents moved in with a search warrant and a battalion of police. It turned out, nevertheless, that they did not require a horde of cops to solve this case. On the day of the raid, DEA officers broke a $6 padlock on the unattended storage facility using a straightforward bolt cutter.

$13 billion

More cocaine was discovered in this single bust than had been seized in Los Angeles throughout the course of the whole prior year. The amount of cocaine required the DEA to reconsider how it was being destroyed. Drugs confiscated by the DEA were often burned in a nearby lab. The incinerators couldn’t handle twenty tons of waste. At the time, the LA district attorney asserted that the quantity of cocaine found could have been used to create an estimated 1.4 billion crystals of crack. Of which a significant portion would have been sent towards Rick James’ recording studio. Notebooks discovered during the raids showed that the drugs were originally produced in Columbia by the Medellin (Pablo Escobar) and Cali Cartels. All three destinations for the cocaine’s journey by truck were Juarez, Mexico; El Paso, Texas; and Los Angeles.

Later that day in a Beverly Hills hotel, six Mexican nationals who had been renting the storage space for more than two years were detained.

James Romero McTague, the manager of the storage facility, was the seventh guy to be detained shortly after. McTague’s father-in-law, a Mexican national, was the mastermind of the entire operation and the direct connection to the drug lords in Colombia.

It Gets Crazier

Remember that on that fateful September day, DEA officers raided the storage facility and found 20 tons of cocaine. Prior to the seizure, this organization had trafficked 77 tons of cocaine in just the previous four months, according to evidence presented at trial. Street worth?

$50 billion

There you have it, then! Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time!

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