Arizona's drug and human smuggling cartels are finding their newest hires in Phoenix bars, law enforcement officials say.
The state's high unemployment rate and proximity to the Mexican border is making for fertile recruiting ground, as investigators say cartel members are singling out individuals desperate for money and employment.
Capt. Kevin Zumbo, of the Illegal Immigration Prevention & Apprehension Co-op Team (IIMPACT), a multi-agency unit in the Phoenix metropolitan area focused on illegal immigration-associated crime, told MyFoxPhoenix.com that the cartels are looking for U.S. citizen who can easily blend in with society and not alert authorities.
"Whether they meet someone in a bar or restaurant, they will recruit anyone," Zumbo said. "Right now, as we speak, it's happening every day."
Recruiters for the cartels often flash large sums of money at the potential new hires who are targeted to bring drugs, guns and people to various locations along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"Citizens know how to blend in," Zumbo continued. "They know if they are stopped they won’t be detained."
Zumbo told MyFoxPhoenix.com that cartels have learned that violence attracts attention from law enforcement. As a result, illegal immigrants are receiving better treatment inside drophouses. Violence across the border, however, has not decreased.
Seventy-two men and women -- immigrants from South and Central America -- were found dead at a ranch 100 miles from the U.S. border just last week. Investigators believe the Zetas drug cartel was responsible for the killings.
"This is an escalation of the violence," Zumbo said. "It's getting more and more violent in Mexico. It should be a wake-up call to the Mexican government."