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June 10th, 2009
09:50 AM ET

Official: Drug lords using 'gift cards' to smuggle money

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard says Mexican drug cartels use gift card technology to smuggle money across the U.S. border.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard says Mexican drug cartels use gift card technology to smuggle money across the U.S. border.

The state of Arizona is finding itself on the front line of the war against Mexican drug cartels. Their attorney general will meet this week with leaders of other southwestern states to try to stop the flow of drugs across the border with Mexico. To do that, they say they will have to stop the flow of cash as well, including a new way smugglers are trying to get past the cash-sniffing dogs.

Lawmakers say gift card technology is now making it easier for drug lords to move cash across the border undetected. These 'stored value instruments' are often issued by offshore banks and allow large sums of money to be moved throughout the world. Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.

Kiran Chetry: Walk us through these gift cards. How have they become so useful to the drug cartels?

Terry Goddard: This isn't your Starbucks or Best Buy gift cards. What we're talking about here are stored value instruments, which have chips in them…that basically can store fairly large amounts of cash. The total amount is undetermined; it depends on who the depositing bank or financial institution is. As a result, since they're not considered monetary instruments, they can be taken across the border and you don't break any laws. It is a huge loophole in our financial crimes observations.

Chetry: So you're talking about gift cards, these blank cards that can be preloaded with large amounts of cash. How do they cash it in once they get across the border?

Goddard: These basically are your passport for cash. They are your way of getting into a financial institution. If you're buying coffee with them, obviously your return is not that big. But if you've got a participating financial institution, say in the Cayman Islands or in Central America, then all you have to do is go to a group that corresponds with that financial institution, present your card and take out your cash. So there's nothing at the border that you have to display. Under U.S. law, these cards, however much they may be worth are not considered financial instruments. Therefore, the border patrol, customs agents when they see them there is no violation because they're not part of the money that you're required to declare. And they can't read them, which is a big problem. Basically we need to have transparency so that if a law enforcement agency looks at one of these cards, he or she knows how much it is worth.

Chetry: So you want Congress to take up this issue. You made some recommendations about this situation. What do you hope to achieve and are they listening to your concerns about this?

Goddard: Well, they finally are. This is not a new concern. FinCEN, the Treasury Department report over three years ago, said here's a loophole that is causing large amounts of money to go across the border undetected. And my goal and our goal in law enforcement is to cut off the flow of cash to the organized criminal cartels that are bringing drugs and people in to the United States. This is one way we can do it.

Chetry: It seems the other big problem is these banks and these largely unregulated countries like the Cayman Islands don't have mechanisms in place that follow suspicious transactions, large amounts of money. Is there any way that the U.S. government or the states’ attorneys general can do anything about that?

Goddard: As a state attorney general, I cannot. However, the U.S. government being involved in international financial money laundering observation and interdiction can play a major role. But this is an international problem. You put your finger on it. There are huge amounts of money being electronically transferred across borders throughout the world. Not just to Mexico. And so we need to play a much more observant role if we're going to cut off this flow of illegal cash. That's a big, big problem. But let’s start with these gift cards. They're a huge loophole in our currency transaction regulation.

Chetry: How big of a dent do you think you'll be able to put in drug trafficking by being able to get this gift card loophole closed?

Goddard: Nobody knows, because nobody knows how much cash is going because it's not reported. So how much is going across the border into Mexico? I cannot tell you. But it is one source of money that is completely below the radar screen. It's not being observed. It's not … being sniffed by cash-sniffing dogs. It is an entirely different way to smuggle money. Let's bear in mind that organized crime depends on money. They're not in it for the love of the game. They're in it for the cash. If we can cut off or restrict the cash we'll go a long way to cutting down the cartel violence in Mexico.

Chetry: You made these recommendations to Congress. We'll see what action, if any, they're prepared to take.

Goddard: I hope they take action soon.


Filed under: Drugs • Mexico
soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. wildboaraza

    So don't buy "gift cards" advertised for sale on craigslist or other sites.Why buy such a card from any, anyhow?

    February 25, 2010 at 1:14 am |
  2. Heinz

    I am happy to see at least some people waking up to this.
    I sent a letter to the new President upon his taking office, explaining how by stopping the 'drugwar', we could not only stop all the money going to crime cartels, but could save $1 Trillion over the next 10 years.
    There was no response... Oh well.
    I guess Washington was smarter back in the '30s, when they stopped prohibition. Obviously the new batch of our representatives are totally incapable of learning ANYTHING from the past. They'll just keep throwing our money down the same hole they have gotten used to. And the DEA people will be able to continue protecting their paychecks (on our backs!!!)

    January 4, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  3. kassie

    I can't believe my tax dollars go into busting old hippies here, while child molesters and violent criminals are let out of jail. Hello? Meanwhile drug lords are laughing all the way to the bank and killing innocent people, including children. Legalize it, regulate it, tax it... and let's move on from all the "war on drugs" BS that obviously isn't working. Humans have been taking mind altering substances since the beginning of time... not sure why anyone thought we could change that. How about we use the money we get from taxing drugs to get rid of this deficit, use hemp to its fullest potential (textiles, paper, etc.) educate people about the consequences of irresponsible drug use, and then let people decide what to do with their own lives.

    January 3, 2010 at 2:51 am |
  4. yogi

    Just think if all the money from the " Drug War" had been going into a healthcare program since the 80's went into healthcare and education. Where could we have been today ?
    MAINE VOTERS VOTE " YES " ON QUESTION 5 !

    September 11, 2009 at 10:12 am |
  5. hoboduke

    This is easy! Have American Express the official gift card issuer. They will eat up the money with monthly fees, short expiration date, and restrictions on where it can be cashed! With a little luck we will get all of the illegal money without using any police!

    June 11, 2009 at 7:59 am |
  6. tycraz

    The little item not addressed: Two people asked about it, one went to the logical conclusion.

    First the scenario: The drug organization smuggles drugs into the good old US, sells drugs for cash, has truckloads of small unmarked bills.

    Then they need to get the cash back to the home country to buy more drugs to complete the circle. Here in lies the problem...

    How do you get the cash to the Cayman Islands to the "dirty" co-operating bank?

    Lets think... you smuggle the truckloads of cash out of the US to the Cayman Islands so you can then get Gift Cards issued in the US so you can smuggle them across the border to Mexico? What, are we stupid? Once the cash is on boats, can't you just dock it in Mexico, Columbia, or wherever you want?

    My take on this is that it is just more Gov -Co crap to distract us from the real issues. Another excuse to get us to pay them more, more control, more scrutiny, less privacy, less rights, no freedom. My take on this is that the AZ Attorney General is lying.

    Please let me know if you can see a way to convert truckloads of cash to gift cards without using a bank in the US. If you are using a bank in the US then there are names and numbers attached to it. Why blame the Cayman Islands, if you can get the cash to the Cayman Islands, you can get it anywhere.

    The problem is getting the cash out of the US without using a bank.

    June 10, 2009 at 7:32 pm |
  7. Dorothy

    This is not about drugs. This is organized crime. If we legalize the drugs then they will turn to other avenues to make money. Think back through the years the different ways organized crime has made money, i.e. copying music/movies, human trading, gambling. These type of organized criminals need to be stopped. Legalizing the drugs will do nothing.

    June 10, 2009 at 4:54 pm |
  8. dan

    To Mark

    Legalizing drugs does not = legalizing rape.

    Where do you get such ridiculous ideas? What is wrong with you? If drugs are illegal why would someone kill for a drug they can buy at any convenience store? Do people get mugged or "raped" for alcohol everyday??? Have you thought this out at all??? Clearly you have not. You say there will be "no safe place for our kids to go". Why because every drug user is equal to a murderer? Obviously you are a feeble minded person that has bought all the propaganda that you were taught in grammar school about drugs. You have no mind of your own. Guess what buddy DRUGS ARE EVERYWHERE ALREADY... But you kids are just fine aren't they?!?! Legalizing drugs won't put you or your kids in danger at all. In fact if you live in Arizona, New Mexico or Texas your kids would be SAFER if drugs were legalized!!! You are beyond foolish, you are just part of the problem. You are simply fear mongering so we can never make any progress. People like you will keep us in the stone age forever. Go away.

    June 10, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  9. dan

    To "Pep" (who thinks every drug user deserves "life in prison")

    You are a fool. The prisons in this country are already over populated. Lots of them are non-violent offenders. We don't need to add more non-violent offenders to this over population problem. Drug users are not a threat. Many of them may need help. However plenty of people who use drugs just do it occasionally for fun. They have their lives well in control. By the way haven't the last 3 presidents all admitted to using drugs? Should Clinton, Bush and Obama all be serving life sentences? Are you serious Pep? Could you possibly have thought of a dumber solution to this problem? I know drug users that are Doctors, lawyers, teachers, and POLICE OFFICERS!!! Yes thats right the ultimate hypocrites. It is time to legalize marijuana and other lesser drugs. Heroin and crack can stay illegal. Those substances can kill quite easily. (but then so can alcohol) But the Cartels are not going to be taking over Mexico with only heroin and crack sales. Marijuana sells all over America... Anyone denying that has had their head in the sand for their entire lifetime. Lets use this money on something productive for a change...

    June 10, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
  10. dagny taggart

    It's not just about the drugs. It's about shielding income offshore. If not the Caymans, maybe Costa Rica, Panama. With the specter of higher taxes and litigation there will be a greater demand for cash.
    Capital flight, just what the drones voted for!

    June 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  11. JayWun

    Our government should push for more regulation not only of offshore or foreign banks but domestic banks as well. We are so quick to point the finger at other countries when the corruption and greed is going undetected right under our noses.

    June 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  12. BakedatBofA

    It's not illegal in Portugal.
    Please Read:
    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html

    June 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  13. David Rogers

    America does not need to police the word. And saying that legalization won't work is flat out stupid. No one is going to shoot anyone over something that is for sale at any type of retailer. When was the last time there was a big issue over alcohol? Actually the tides have turned on alcohol again and is a far worse substance than most organic mind altering substances.

    I say organic because they do not require human processing or interaction, it just grows like that. Legalizing will solve a majority of this world's problems. One reason being that America would no longer have to be in everyone's business about the #1 Cash crop in the world, cannabis (opium in other parts but that's geological I'm speaking on the world as a whole)

    You won't have drug lords if you don't have illicit drugs. Then they can't sell drugs in mass quantities. They will have to resort to child smuggling, people smuggling across borders, prostitution rings, gun trafficking. There are so many more issues that need to be attacked with my tax payer dollars.

    I'd rather have my tax dollars go into busting a meth lab in the boondocks than a medical marijuana dispensary in California. It's a simple decision legalize. Clearly drugs would be labeled for adults above a certain age. It's not like children would have access to it. Alcohol isn't even perfectly regulated, there are people out there manufacturing moonshine out in their backyards.

    What is the big deal about this whole legalization issue? Just do it.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  14. Davio

    You must be kidding me with these suggestions of increasing penalties for those who use drugs. Dont you get it, the war on drugs is bs like a few have stated drugs fuel much more than just the drug dealers. Its an economy within its self, law enforcement, the legal system would have very little to do if it didnt need to deal with drug related crimes. The US government makes millions if not billions in the drug trade, the government keeps it illegal so the profit margins remain what they are. The US is the largest drug dealer and gun dealer in the world, the us sells more drugs and guns than the cartels u can be sure of that

    June 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  15. Rae

    I think we need to legalize drugs, and that's it, period. At least that way we can spend money on regulating it, and get tax dollars from it also. Let's face it, the drug lords have won this war, and if we keep going into battle, then we will lose millions, maybe billions, and the drug lords will still win.
    Simple solution: Legalize drugs, tax them, regulate them and then we are closer to being out of the national debt. We wouldn't have to pay people to figure out new ways to bust these people. We wouldn't have to spend our hard earned dollar in the courts prosecuting these people. We wouldn't have to spend our hard earned doller keeping these people in our prisons while we pay more money for every appeal!
    People are going to do drugs whether it's legal or not. I don't think by legalizing drugs we would have to worry about a million more people smoking weed because it's now legal. People are going to do what they want to do, it's the human way!
    Maybe people would be more relaxed if we did legalize marijuana, instead of getting a prescription for an anti-depressant, they can get a bag of weed, and go home and smoke it!

    June 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  16. Mark

    Legalize drugs? You all Dummies or what? By legalizing Drugs you just legalize Rape, stick ups and manslaughter as well! Imagine your self walkin in a place where drugs has been legalize! There will be no safe place for your kids to go! US gov is using their millions on battling terrorism and by invading other countries with internal problems such as Iraq and Afghanistan! Why dont they just center this millions to fight drug trafficking instead! Its worth it! they have special forces fighting overseas when the real battle is taking place inland! US gov has the power to fight this stuff and everyone in the world knows it! Unless of course theres people in the US govt taking advantage of earning millions with drug money!

    June 10, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  17. Carolyn

    I've been in Wal Mart and other places where as many as 10 of them will be in line waiting to load the cards up to the $999 limit. The same people get back in the line several times to load more cards. The clerks don't ask for ID, because the cards do not require a name on it. I.E. Visa, Master card etc. WalMart actually sell their custom made cards right on the spot regardless of who buys them. But this is what puzzles me. The same people will get back in line to send money from the card to Mexico or places no one seems to know or care where they send it. In addition they use the cards to pay for housing, food, cars/gas etc (so much for all the taxes they are supposed to be paying) Here's a thought; make it illegal for non citizens to buy the cards and penalize anyone who sell to them with a little jail time.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  18. Prohibition FAILS

    One more thing... "decriminalization" is NOT a solution. Mexico has recently done this but it is a useless ploy to appease anti-prohibitionists. Decriminalizing drugs does nothing to solve the problem, though it does help users stay out of jail. The problem with decriminalizing drugs is that the government knows it won't work so they do it to pretend like they're doing what the people want, but in fact, they will turn around in a year or two and say, "Oh lookie, taxpayers, see, legalization doesn't work!" but that's going to be an all-out lie because they haven't legalized.

    LEGALIZATION AND THE END OF PROHIBITION IS THE ONLY ONLY ONLY SOLUTION

    June 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  19. ChrisH

    I think what Goddard is trying to get at is; that it does not matter what kind of card it is.

    With little knowledge you can erase the information (on the magnetic strip) from a hotel room key card, and replace that information with information from a credit card (look up ATM skimming).

    Here is an even better idea. With an RFID programming kit: one could erase the information from an Exxon SpeedPass or anything with an RFID chip and reprogram it to read just like a new Visa payWave Credit Card. The newly reprogrammed item would not even have to resemble anything used in commerce.

    This would all work as long as these offshore banks issue some sort of card or electronically identifiable means of conducting a transaction.

    The solution will not be to track these cards or whatever. The solution is to work with these banks and countries with less stringent guidelines, but that will never happen. The most that will probably ever happen; would be to not allow American banks to conduct transfers with these offshore banks, or to disallow any of these banks from having branches within our borders(even then there will be plenty of countries that will work with them and then transfer from there to here). Who are we to tell another country what to do.

    Legalization will probably be the only way we will ever be able to restrict drugs.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  20. adam12

    OK, so we can no longer buy gift cards because drug dealers accept them. Has this Arizona guy ever stopped to think that drug dealers also trade for televisions, video game systems, computers, cell phones, cars, guns, gold, diamonds, new clothes, and anything else valuable? Are you gonna prohibit the sale of all of this too? Never give in to the drug dealer by sacrificing your own personal freedoms and means. In the 1940's the gangsters were shut down in two ways, the government legalized alcahol, and later seized control of legal gambling. This took the gangsters main 2 sources of income away. If they would just legalize marijuana, it would put at least a third of the dealers out of a job. Make it have the same laws as alcahol and the same taxes as tabacco.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  21. Prohibition FAILS

    Goddard and people like him are a bunch of idiots. NOTHING they do will stop the problems caused by illegal drugs EXCEPT for ending prohibition. PROHIBITION IS THE CAUSE OF ALL THIS MESS. And the government knows it. They keep taking your tax dollars and screwing the American taxpayers because people like Goddard have God complexes and are greedy, power-hungry bastards who can't see the forest for the trees.

    If they had one iota of sense in their heads, they'd do the right thing and end prohibition. Ending it would bring the cartels to an instant demise.

    Google "portugal drug legalization" and read the TRUTH about how well ending prohibition works. IT IS PROVEN.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  22. none

    I do not want the government to be able to check all my cards/accounts to see how much money i have every iem i cross the boarder.

    I barely have any money, but they do NOT have the right. They should NOT have the right.

    We have already sacraficed too many of our rights lately, just say no to anymore of this crap.

    You want to stop drug cartels, you need to legalize the durgs. Prohabition does NOT work. I do not use drugs, i WILL NOT use drugs if they are legal. I want the cartels gone and legalization is the way to do it.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  23. jeremy

    Let's legalize the plant and go after the real culprits... the pharmaceutical companies!

    June 10, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  24. john brown's body

    Whats next, checking peoples bank accounts? Lets think this stuff through fellas.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  25. Prohibition is a Failure

    Look at all these losers who think that by enacting more laws and better enforcement, drug prohibition will work. Politicians who just want political power by being drug prohibitionists.
    In fact, prohibition will never work. Never has, never will.
    The only solution is legalization and regulation, just like tobacco. No other response has any credibility. Politicians should quit wasting my money in an impossible-to-win drug war.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  26. Matt

    Legalize Drugs.

    Obama could get a lot of mileage out of even just legalizing marijuana and taxing it. In my humble opinion, Obama could come away as one of the shiniest Presidents ever if he gets us out of this economical rut with a solution like marijuana legalization and taxation.

    THERE YA GO, MONTANA!!!! Just like Orwell predicted .... give us all shots in order to make us not feel a THING, huh? You numbskull!

    Common Sense is correct here. Misdirection provided by our corrupt politicians is abound.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  27. joe schmoe

    the people at the beach are praying for sun, the farmers for rain. personaly I hope they make alcohol illegal too so i can make big bucks of selling that as well! My whole garage would be a stihl if that happened!

    as for now, drugs will remain illegal, and the average person will continue to suffer from it, while politionas will be lobbied by drug makers and budwiser, cops will be paid and not laid off, prison gaurds and thier unions will continue to florish and yes smuglers as well.

    put us out of buisness, legalize, never gonna happen............

    June 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  28. Joe Smithe

    BTW, this does not mean the banks are shady. They often sell them because not everyone wants/qualifies for credit/debit cards, and people opt for the pre-paid cards instead- especially around Christmas to stick to budgets, etc. So it is not always a conspiracy that the banks are involved in, as "Common Sense" said. Some people just use them as a way to manage their money.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  29. Nelson

    This is a fascinating story and an example of how the drug cartels will continue to adapt their business no matter what governments do to stem or stop the drug trade.

    Although I must admit not being certain whether it would be successful, I would be curious to see the United States run a pilot program for a 3 year year period where it legalizes marijuana. As part of that process both the state and federal governments would be allowed to tax and regulate the sale of the product. I strongly suspect that removing the legal risk for the end user will decrease the profitability to traffickers and decrease but not eliminate the level of criminality.

    If the experiment were a success then perhaps it could be expanded to other substances.

    Anything has to be better than throwing billions of dollars annually with little to nothing to show for it.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  30. Animal House

    Legalize smuggling, then tax it............oh yeah, that's called economic trade ,isn't it?

    June 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  31. John

    Legalizing drugs does not mean that all drugs have to be available through the liquor store. Hard drugs, i.e. heroin, cocaine, etc. could be distributed through health clinics. This has many benefits:

    1. Addicts could be exposed to opportunities to find treatment.
    2. There is no one out selling the drugs on the street trying to increase the number of users, because there is little profit in it.
    3. The violence ends, b/c the money is out of it.
    4. Law enforcement and prison costs fall dramatically.
    5. Our borders become less pourous, as there are fewer people looking for ways in with illegal products

    Holland has had defacto marijuana legalization for years. Their crime rates and imprisonment rates are far lower than ours.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  32. JC

    Totally agree with legalizing marijuana. But you realize that if Obama legalized pot, he would catch holy hell from every Republican looking for another reason to attack him. Please remember what you said here.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  33. michelle

    NOT GOVT'S BUSINESS TO SEE HOW MUCH MONEY I HAVE!!! I understand the "need" to crack down on drug smugglers...actually wait, I do not see the need. But I digress.

    If I wanted to just carry cash around, I would be suspected of trying to cover up something. But plain and simple, nobody should need knowledge of what I do with my money or how much of it I have. I hate banks. I just got a bank error in my favor, but that means it could sometime go against me as well. I"m sick of the government feeling like everything I do is somehow their business.

    Legalize trivial drugs and tax them. Instant booming economy.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  34. Joe Smithe

    The get the money on the cards by loading them. It may be a bunch of smaller deposits rather than one huge deposit so no one thinks to look more closely. A thousand here, a thousand there... they are patient.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  35. confussed

    Wow! This country seems to be chasing its tail

    June 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  36. Bayou Billy

    >jon

    You're absolutely right! And to take it a step further, if we were to punish Jaywalking with Summary Execution, nobody would do that, either!

    Congratulations, you've officially endorsed the policies of Vlad Tepes, A.K.A. Vlad Dracul, A.K.A. the inspiration for Dracula. He'd kill for theft. To illustrate the effectiveness of his draconian policies, he was known to leave a solid gold cup on the Village Well and point out no one would dare steal it.

    You have the morals of an all-time Baddy. Well done.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  37. Susy

    The solution, legalize and tax drugs. The states and government would have control and make a profit. Alcohol and smoking are legal they are also bad for you like many drugs. We can spend billions of dollars to try to fight it, or we can regulate it and tax it and benefit the country not the drug lords.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  38. steve

    close the border

    June 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  39. steve

    close the boarder

    June 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  40. steve

    war on drugs = countless$
    legalization's detrimental cost = countless$

    closing the border = priceless

    June 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  41. Adam

    Is everyone crazy? Americans are so stupid it makes my head hurt. Take a look back at the history of alcohol prohibition and try to guess what the only way to win the drug war is? That's right folks, taxes and regulation.The cartels are the ones who lobby to keep the drug war going. It is making them billions.The American people are being played for fools right now, enforcing a prohibition that keeps Mexican sleazebag drug lords riding in yachts.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  42. A Man In Houston

    Hey look at Oakland, California. Just in that small city medical marijuana generated 6.3 million dollars in tax revenue. OK now imagine 70% of American cities generating that number. Now imagine it being legal for recreational use (like alcohol). Remember people, more than 75% of Americans use marijuana. That’s a lot of cash local and federal government can be making. I don’t smoke.....but, I'm not stupid!

    Maybe we should make alcohol illegal......yeah that worked!

    June 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  43. LB

    Bryan – are you out of your mind. What makes you think that legalizing drugs with taxes will make the thugs lawful. They'll find a loophole out of paying taxes and continue to shuffle drugs underground. I'm afraid we'll always be chasing the drug trade tail, my friend.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  44. JayP

    Legalize. There is no way to control or stop the drug flow. Take away the demand and the problem goes away.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  45. Ben

    "The govt. needs to be able to track large/suspicious deposits" – They already do, it's called the Patriot Act.

    I love how so many people on here think the govt should "track" the cards, the balances, the purchases, etc. The ignorance displayed by these people is the biggest threat to what remains of our freedom.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  46. C

    June 10th, 2009 1:31 pm ET
    Montana
    Think outside the box? How about this… lets develop some kind of an immunization against the effects of these drugs. A shot or pill we could give our kids, so they would never feel good from using certain drugs. Immunize everyone and there is no more market, thus no more problem.

    You sir are a terrifying person. That is honestly the worst and most evil idea I have ever heard. Welcome to 1984

    June 10, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  47. john

    We must legalize instead of worry about all this and spending boatloads of money

    June 10, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  48. JT

    Come on, legalizing isn't going to do anything except make more people co-dependent on freakin drugs! Pot is a gateway drug, it's been proven over and over.....there is no way to control it, so I would instead like to offer this solution: I will be happy to spend a LOT of that money they are smuggling in here...
    How do we locate them? Maybe this message will reach them:
    yo, mi amigos, por favor, send mee theese cards man, and I weel be hoppy to buy me a new Chebby and go see de sites of dee contree.
    You no hov to wurry about dee monee, you can trost me.

    There, problem solved.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  49. JJ

    We lost the war on drugs years ago. It is time to throw in the towel and turn a bad thing into a good thing. Stop wasting money fighting drugs and start making money by taxing them. I think that drugs, all drugs, should be legalized but come with certain limitations just like alcohol. Set a minimum age, then you will only be policing part of the population with drugs instead of the whole population, thus saving money and in turn raising money through taxes, through the taxing the policing and controlling the drugs can pay for itself. Then ODing on drugs would be just like killing yourself with alcohol poisining, your own fault so oh well.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  50. michael

    PJ,

    Check your facts. There is most likely a bigger drug problem among minorities. Sorry

    June 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  51. nap3null

    If you legalize it, might as well legalize other crimes and make the same comment: "They are doing it in X and their rate is low." What's next... legalize rape? We are becoming more and more oblivious to serious matters and we or our children will pay for it.

    Who are the dummiest taking the drugs? They are mostly in the United States, a country blessed with over abundance that people don't know what to do with their money.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  52. Doug Harrod

    Let's just legalize everything and it will solve all our problems! Alcohol is a drug and legal. It doesn't cause any problems at all in our society. So lets make pot, cocaine, meth and everything else legal because like alcohol use and abuse, they will not cost our society a thing. If you honestly believe you will not have problems at the same level by legalization of controlled substances then you have been smoking the weed to much already. Alcohol is here to stay, but lets not compound our problems even more by the naive idea that legalization will solve our use and abuse problems.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  53. jack h

    legalize all drugs and release all those in prison for possession and sales of drugs. this gov would save billions in the first year. that money could be spent on health care and the education and treatment of drug addicts. thay war on drugs is a scam that was doomed to failure.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  54. Chris

    Legalize drugs = problem solved.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  55. Hoser

    As the US swings left, the risk of government confiscation increases and, naturally, folks will take defensive measures (i.e. hiding money in the Cayman Islands, out of the way of US income tax authorities).

    As we become a Third Wold nation, you will start to see the unthinkable: massive flight capital moving out of the US instead of in.

    In this case, the "war on drugs" is just a pretense for keeping "the rich" from moving their assets out of the country.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  56. Dave From Philly

    Legalizing drugs is not the answer. The answer is to delcare war on the drug smugglers and have their countries cofiscate everything they own.

    If we can get rid of Sadam why can we get rid of a few drug dealers?

    June 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  57. Sean Wynn

    Honestly, everyone that mentioned that it is a waste of the governments time to regulate these "cash gift cards" is right. By the time congress approves a regulation to stop or monitor these cards, the drug lords and cash handlers will have found a new way to move their cash around. The cold hard truth is that we make a lot of money as a nation and as a government off of basic economics in regards to this subject and also in the form of "slush funds." A lot of you may not know what sluch funds are but the CIA does. The bigger picture of drugs and the international economy is closely regulated by our government. If you honestly want to have a hand in these decisions, you need to work for the FBI, CIA, or other federal agencies. I am currently pursuing some of the above and study international business and these matters very closely.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  58. Ed

    Legalize drugs already! This is THE PROHIBITION OF THE 21ST CENTURY! Let's realize that the demand to use drugs will NEVER go away...like Alcohol or cigarettes/cigars. We, as taxpayers, pay billions to fight it and billions to incarcerate people and who knows how many billions for health insurance costs but the drug dealers keep all the cash. It needs to be taxed!!!

    We cannot afford to keep this "conservative", aka Status Quo strategy that is a complete failure.

    Besides, has there ever been an overdose of marijuana? Doubt it.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  59. Sniper

    What a great idea! Man they get smarter and smarter than our government by the minute! I love the guys who loaded a propane truck with marijuana & made it accross only to get pulled over for spelling propane wrong. Shouldn't have smoked before delivering I guess. Either way; I agree; put the Cartel's in DC & at least something will get done, they obviously are experts in the cash flow business & could be the answer to fixing our economy! Yes leagalize drugs if you REALLY want the problem to go away, but of course that is TOO EASY! We must drain our American's of every last tax dollar to fight "war on drugs" and bail everyone out. Good Job DC..

    June 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  60. Brian

    Clearly some people have not even bothered to read the article. They saw the headline and that was it. These are not "gift cards" and they are not issues by US banks. They come from banks in other countries that we don't control.
    Also, for all the people that think that legalizing drugs would make things worse: I don't know, maybe you're right, but that doesn't change the fact that the Federal government has no right to tell people what they can or can't put into their own body. It's anti-freedom and it's un-American.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  61. kaos

    Legalize weed. Let simpletons get hooked on crack and heroin. Sell them high, high priced counter drugs if they want to get saved. The thugs laughing at cops and judges because they refuse to pay the fines and sentenced to a crowded jail or prison only to be let out the "back" door. Repeat offenders know this trick.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  62. Gary Andersen, Northridge, CA 91325

    It is time we legalize drugs in this country. We have to stop trying to win a 'war on drugs' that we cannot win. We spend entirely to much time thinking that taking away something from the population will make it just go away. Unfortunately, that is the biggest draw. Tell me I can't have it and I want it more. We will keep making the cartels richer, our borders weaker, and our children more in danger because of street drug violence. If we legalize, educate, and pull the drug dealer of the street we are at least in the right direction to correcting a huge problem. We keep thinking drugs is an immoral thing to do. Even if it is, you can't legislate morality. Legalize drugs now before all third world countries are drug lords.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  63. Leslie

    Well said, Bryan!

    June 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  64. Christian

    Legalizing drugs is not the way to go. Alchololism increased when it was relegalized in the early part of the century.
    Any addict will tell you the worst drug is alcohol.
    Tough drug enforsement is the way to go. Mexio has finally stepped up and started cracking down hard on the traffickers and most important the top corrupt politicians to the small town mayors.
    Here in the United States we can't compare ourselves to other countries. Our mentality, culture, way of thought is diffrent. Anyone who has spend time in other civilized countries will tell you that. To legalize drugs would not be the answer. We have responsibility to our selves and to educate our children.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  65. Mark352

    How about we focus on the root cause of the issue, rather than the symptoms? These drug cartels work specifically with drugs due to the fact that by being illegal, the drug cartels create, or it could be argued they are provided with, the illicit black market where they can conduct their own business.

    A regulated and taxed market for cannabis, and more importantly, industrial hemp stalk, would provide millions with jobs, and would create billion dollar industries, all while taking away the large majority of profit away from the violent illegal drug cartels.

    Obama has talked of "sensible policies based on facts, not political ideologies", so I'd like to see him put his words to action.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  66. eagle1966

    One of the biggest money laundering operations around is Bank of America, the illegal are making tax free money in the U.S. and making their deposits at BofA, and their family members in Mexico are getting it out with bank cards. BofA is all over Mexico Search the web you will see.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  67. j

    Gift cards? Get real. Do you really want the Feds looking at what's in your wallet whenever they want? I'm not saying look at suspicious activity, but where does the slippery slope of giving away freedom for security end? Who defines "suspicious" activity? The terrorists and drug lords have won. We've given away the very rights, freedoms we fought and died for in the name of "national security". Soon we will have neither freedom nor security.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  68. Montana

    Think outside the box? How about this... lets develop some kind of an immunization against the effects of these drugs. A shot or pill we could give our kids, so they would never feel good from using certain drugs. Immunize everyone and there is no more market, thus no more problem.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  69. No comment, but...

    Please read "Sense's" input on this matter- simply put, that's what all this is about, 110%, period, end of discussion. This individual nailed it in a few simple senteneces... Thank you. Hopefully, it will get through...

    June 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  70. Jonathan

    "War on Drugs"? more like "War on Minorities"

    June 10, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  71. michael

    Umm, Visa offers these gift cards to Americans travelling abroad to protect us from identity theft and those that would use our bank accounts for their own ends. It isn't a loophole it's a means of using legitimately earned dollars overseas without opening yourself up to fraud or thieves. How are these different from credit cards other than stored cash value other than a loan which could just as easily be forgiven by a dirty bank? Are they now going to make travelling Americans carry cash? That makes wonderful sense. Not! This is going to lead to some knee jerk reaction that harms us all. Law enforcement types jump on anything they don't understand and think is bad. They need to join the 21st Century and get ahead of the curve, but this isn't the way to do it. The money is going to get overseas no matter what – via cash, gold, diamonds, credit cards, or these gift cards.

    If you want to stop the drug industry (and it is an industry), quit bombing Iraq and Afghanistan and bomb Colombia, Mexico, and Nepal where they have killed millions of Americans using drugs instead of bullets.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  72. Hank

    Legalizing drugs would probably only include pot not cocaine and heroin, so you would still have the same problems unless you made pot, coke and smack legal as well.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  73. JMikey

    Yet another problem in the war on drugs. There is no end to it and the violence gets worse every year. When will the politicians ever learn. If we want to end the violence we must change our drug laws. We could start with Marijuana. Once people realize the world will not end as a result of legalizing Marijuana other drugs could be decriminalized. We must take the drug problem out of the hands of the criminals, and the only way to do that is to take the monetary reward off the table. The war on drugs is really a war on ourselves. How stupid is that.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  74. jds

    It's time to legalize drugs, especially marijuana, which accounts for approximately 60% of all revenues of Mexican drug cartels. Why are American citizens content with letting these people reep billions of dollars a year in profit when Americans themselves could be operating dispensaries, and paying taxes on those sales?

    June 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  75. Ed

    This is a loophole that has to be corrected. But the solution will bring a whole new bag of worms. What about actors, rich people, etc. who go overseas and have their ATM card & their accounts have 6, 7 or 8 digits behind them. Does this have to be reported as well?????

    June 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
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