Franklin said he has seen local cases that investigators were able to tie to the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas -- and there was the 2009 marijuana raid in Ivanhoe -- but drawing a cartel link typically isn't easy.
In recent years, though, law enforcement agencies have been able to put names to some of the cartels they've chased in coordinated strikes.
Operation Xcellerator (Sinaloa Cartel) and projects Coronado and Delirium (La Familia Michoacana) have put thousands of cartel types behind U.S. and Mexican bars. Seizures included tons of marijuana and cocaine, hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine, guns, vehicles and about $100 million, all linked to specific cartels.
In August 2011, the DEA uncovered 90 kilograms of cocaine buried under a barn in rural Robeson County, North Carolina.
Such operations are anomalous. Cartels like their anonymity, according to police and analysts across the nation. Even if couriers or dealers know which cartel they're working for, they're often too scared to say.
Others are so far down the supply chain that they don't know who they're peddling for. There are also instances where cartel operatives co-opt existing street gangs who already controlled their respective markets -- and seasoned drug dealers know better than to ask a lot of questions about the source of their drugs