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 Mexico's Cartels Number One Threat To US, Mexico's drug wars spread violence
Junior
Posted: Feb 23 2012, 04:27 PM


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Juarez Bullet Hits Texas Woman, Fueling Fears of Spillover Violence
By Christopher Looft, InSight, Thursday, February 23, 2012

A woman in El Paso, Texas, has been injured by a stray bullet fired in Mexico during a gunfight between police and suspected criminals, in an incident that adds to concerns about spillover violence.

Maria Romero (pictured) was pushing a child in a stroller when a bullet, fired across the border in Ciudad Juarez, struck her in the leg. She was released from hospital after treatment for minor injuries.

While stray bullets from Ciudad Juarez, which lies directly across the Rio Grande river from El Paso, have hit buildings in El Paso before, they have never struck a person, according to the Associated Press. Authorities estimate the .223 caliber bullet was fired from more than half a mile away.

InSight Crime Analysis

The shooting incident contributes to fears that violence is "spilling over" the Mexico border into the US. However, El Paso remains one of the safest cities in the US, with one study on 2010 crime statistics giving it the lowest crime ranking of any city over 500,000. Juarez, on the other hand, had been ranked as the world's most violent city for several years before security improvements in 2011 pushed it to second place.

This vast discrepancy between the neighboring cities undermines repeated warnings by US politicians about spillover violence. As InSight Crime has argued, these often seem to reflect political opportunism, or the fears of the population, more than a real danger.
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Junior
Posted: Mar 6 2012, 08:58 AM


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Trial of Rogue Tijuana Gang Raises Question of Violence Spilling Over to San Diego
Written by Elyssa Pachico, InSight.com, Monday, March 5, 2012

The San Diego trial of two gang members once linked to the Tijuana Cartel is a reminder that Mexican groups have long used the city as a base. However, this group was arguably in the unusual position of finding it safer to operate on US rather than Mexican soil.

The two defendants, Jose Olivera Beritan and David Valencia, are charged with involvement in several kidnapping and murder cases in San Diego in 2007. The two men were members of a Mexican gang, the Palillos, which once worked for the Tijuana Cartel (also known as the Arellano Felix Organization). But after the gang leader's brother was killed by the Tijuana command, the Palillos relocated to San Diego circa 2003. They used their knowledge of the Tijuana Cartel's US network to kidnap members who were living in the US. The gang also targeted drug dealers, businessmen, and police.

While active in San Diego, the Palillos used several tactics commonly deployed by gangs across the border. They wore police uniforms when they kidnapped their victims. After collecting the ransom money, they did not always set the hostages free. In at least two cases, the captives were killed and their bodies dissolved in acid. The Palillos are so associated with this practice that the head of Baja California's Association for the Disappeared recently called for the FBI to investigate whether as many 20 people missing in Tijuana were killed and had their remains destroyed by the Palillos in the US.

San Diego law enforcement cracked down on the organization in 2009, issuing charges against 17 members. Some of them fled to Mexico, but at least two were recaptured and extradited back to the US. Beritan and Valencia are the first of the suspected Palillo gang members to go on trial, in a case which has been cited by the FBI as an example of Mexico's drug violence spilling over the border.

But other prominent cases of spillover violence between Tijuana and San Diego involve violence moving southwards rather than north. In the 1990s, the cartel recruited members of San Diego street gang Barrio Logan, also known as Calle 30, as mercenaries. The recruits received combat training and plenty of cash, and in return tortured, kidnapped, and killed on the cartel's behalf. Barrio Logan was reportedly behind the 1993 killing of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo in 1993. In 1997, a Mexican judge charged seven Barrio Logan members with the attempted assassination of Jesus Blancornelas, the publisher of Tijuana-based investigative magazine Zeta.

A 2011 report by Zeta magazine suggested that such recruitment campaigns are not a thing of the past. The piece argued that a former member of the Tijuana Cartel, now working for rival organization the Sinaloa Cartel, has enlisted members of Barrio Logan to cleanse the city of rival drug trafficking cells. One of those Barrio Logan recruits reportedly included Armando Perez, whom the magazine describes as one of San Diego's "most wanted" criminals, after he killed his wife in San Diego City College in 2010.

The Zeta report suggests that the faction of the Tijuana Cartel allied with the Sinaloans sought to recruit US gang members, as a way of gaining an edge during Tijuana's cartel wars. This is a reminder that while it would be easy to label the ongoing Palillos trial as a clear example of Mexico's violence "spilling over" the border, such violence has apparently moved in both directions.

It's worth noting that the Palillos shifted their operations to the US under very specific circumstances: they were in the unusual position of finding it safer to operate on US soil rather than Mexican. They could avoid their enemies, and act on their grudge against the Tijuana Cartel's leadership, targeting victims who were unwilling and unable to go to the police. The group were able to prosper in San Diego in large part by exploiting their knowledge of the Tijuana Cartel's network. The Palillos are, arguably, a unique phenomenon, rather than being indicative of an overall trend of spillover violence.

The more realistic risk is not that Mexican gangs will pack up and move to the US, as happened in the Palillos' case, but that criminal organizations like the Tijuana Cartel will deepen their collaboration with US street gangs, using them to move, protect, and distribute drug shipments. The city of San Diego has as many as 81 street gangs, according to a report by local radio station KPBS. The extent to which the Tijuana Cartel is currently working with such gangs is currently unclear. But when discussing the risk of spillover violence, the deepening of business links between Mexico's cartels and US street gangs is a far more likely prospect than that of Mexican gangs choosing to relocate north of the border. Any gang that did so would probably eventually face a fate similar to the Palillos.
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Junior
Posted: Mar 14 2012, 05:35 PM


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Eliminating Cartel Leaders had 'Little Effect' on Mexico Violence: US
Written by Christopher Looft, InSight, Wednesday, March 14, 2012

During testimony before the US Senate, a top military commander said that the targeting of drug cartel leaders did not have an apparent positive effect in Mexico, an unusual admission by the US.

US Northern Command leader General Charles Jacoby told the Senate's Armed Services Committee that Mexico had successfully killed or captured 22 out of 37 of Mexico's most wanted drug traffickers, as identified by the Mexican government. He added that such results had "no appreciable effect," as violence continued to increase in Mexico. The country saw a 10 percent rise in homicides linked to organized crime between 2010 and 2011, finishing the year with nearly 13,000 murders.

Jacoby declined to give a personal assessment of the current security situation, noting only that violence had risen in 2011 and "trailed off as the year concluded." He described the current homicide statistics as "unacceptable."

InSight Crime Analysis

Jacoby's admission comes amid signs that violence levels may at last be stabilizing in Mexico, as homicide rates grew more slowly in 2011 when compared to previous years. And as analyst James Bosworth points out, Jacoby's statement may also be interpreted as partial recognition by the US that the metrics used to judge success in the drug war -- counting how many cartel leaders have been killed or captured -- do not necesarily reflect overall improvements in security.
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Junior
Posted: Mar 21 2012, 01:48 PM


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US is Negotiating with 'El Chapo': Ex-Mexican President
Written by Geoffrey Ramsey, InSight.com
Wednesday, March 21, 2012

As the Mexican government claims to be getting closer to capturing the country’s most notorious drug lord, an ex-president claims that the US is negotiating the terms of “El Chapo’s” surrender.

According to a Milenio interview (see video below) with former President Vicente Fox, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is in the process of negotiating with several high-profile cartel leaders, offering them reduced prison sentences if they turn themselves in. Among them is Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” the head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.

Fox also pointed out that drug consumption in the US is the cause of much of the violence in Mexico. He argued that, for this reason, the US should take more responsibility in the fight against drug cartels, asking: “Are we not doing their work for them?”

This is not the first time that Fox has made a controversial statement regarding the drug war. In August the former head of state called for the Mexican government to “gather the violent groups to a truce and evaluate the advantages of an amnesty law,” in a bid to reduce violence. Two months later, in an October interview with the BBC, he argued that the US should legalize drugs in order to reduce the demand for illicit substances in Mexico. He has also advocated drug legalization.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although Fox did not cite a source for his assertion about Guzman, it would hardly be surprising if the US were holding talks with the drug lord. Such negotiations are a hallmark of successful law enforcement work. The DEA has engaged in negotiations with drug traffickers in Colombia for years, and is currently rumored to be talking to the leaders of the Rastrojos drug gang as well as trafficking kingpin Daniel Barrera Barrera, alias “El Loco.”

Indeed, there is reason to suspect that such negotiations have already taken place in Mexico. Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of a Sinaloa Cartel head, was arrested in 2009 and extradited to the US. He has alleged that US officials worked out an agreement with the cartel to reduce the law enforcement pressure on the gang in exchange for information on other groups.

If more evidence of these negotiations emerges, it will put the administration of President Felipe Calderon in a tight spot. Calderon has flatly denied rumors that his government engages in negotiations with drug gangs, and has criticized suggestions that it should consider doing so. It will be especially damaging to the president if it comes out that US officials are communicating with Guzman, because the Mexican government has attempted to portray itself as on the verge of capturing him.
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Junior
Posted: Mar 23 2012, 01:53 PM


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'Fast and Furious' Op Targeted FBI Informants: Report
Written by Christopher Looft, InSight
Thursday, March 22, 2012

The US's controversial "Fast and Furious" anti-arms trafficking operation targeted two drug bosses who were already cooperating with the FBI, according to official documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

When Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents released suspected gun trafficker Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta (pictured) in hopes that he would lead them to two cartel bosses, they did not know their targets were actually FBI informants.

Celis-Acosta was detained in May 2010 on the Arizona border carrying an AK-47 style drum magazine and documents pointing to arms sales and payments to an apparent hitman. According to internal memos made available to the LA Times, ATF agent Hope McAllister, lead investigator in the controversial Fast and Furious operation, wrote her phone number on a $10 bill for Celis-Acosta and released him. He had promised to help her catch two high-level Mexican cartel bosses, but he never contacted her again.

When Celis-Acosta was arrested again in February 2011 -- a month after Fast and Furious ended -- ATF officials realized that their two targets had been cooperating with the FBI.

The Times reports that both the ATF and DEA investigated Celis-Acosta simultaneously at one point, each apparently not knowing of the other's operations. While the ATF was monitoring Celis-Acosta with a clandestine pole camera outside his home in Phoenix, the DEA was listening to his communications with a wiretap system.

InSight Crime Analysis

The lack of communication between the law enforcement agencies involved in the Celis-Acosta case illustrates the difficulty the US has in pursuing Mexican drug trafficking organizations through a variety of government agencies and departments, despite the public emphasis US authorities place on intelligence sharing.

This revelation is also the latest controversy stemming from the Fast and Furious operation, which allowed the sale of thousands of firearms to illegal purchasers in an attempt to trace gun-smuggling routes by Mexican drug gangs. The fallout from the scandal has had wide ranging implications on both sides of the border, with US lawmakers concerned about a lack of oversight and Mexican officials accusing the US of being careless about the impact the arms would have in their country.

Fueling the outrage in both countries is the fact that many of the guns sold in the operation were later used in crimes, including the December 2010 murder of a US Border Patrol official.
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Junior
Posted: Mar 29 2012, 08:18 AM


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Arrest of Would-Be 'Zetas' Shows Risk of US Military Infiltration
Written by Geoffrey Ramsey, InSight.com
Thursday, March 29, 2012

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United States drug enforcement agents have broken up a ring involving former and current US military personnel attempting to work for Mexico’s brutal Zetas drug cartel, illustrating the group's alarming potential to penetrate the US military.

On March 24, First Lt. Kevin Corley (pictured, at left) and arrived with a three-man team at a warehouse in the border city of Laredo, Texas, armed with two semiautomatic rifles, a combat knife and a .300-caliber bolt-action rifle equipped with a scope. The men believed they had been hired by the Zetas to carry out a contracted killing and raid of a rival drug trafficking group’s storehouse, and had been called to receive the final details of the assignment. What they didn’t know, however, was that they were targets of an elaborate sting operation organized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

For the past six months, Corley had been speaking with DEA agents posing as Zetas representatives, and had promised both to carry out “wet work” (a military euphemism for assassinations) for the cartel as well as equip and train Zetas members in military tactics. According to a federal indictment (.pdf), Corley claimed that his status as an active duty soldier made it easy for him to pilfer weaponry from his post in Colorado, and demonstrated this by providing the agents with bulletproof vests, training manuals and other stolen military equipment.

However, after receiving phony instructions from the undercover operatives in the warehouse, the four men found themselves surrounded by federal law enforcement officers. Although agents killed one of the suspects while attempting to make an arrest, the remaining three were taken into custody. Two other accomplices based in South Carolina were arrested in conjunction with the sting operation.

While the fact that six US citizens were so completely willing to work for the Zetas is disturbing, the most worrisome aspect of this case is the fact that all four members of the would-be “kill team” (with the exception of the individual killed by federal agents, who was a cousin of Corley’s) were either current or former members of the US military.

This is a troubling reminder that US military personnel are not immune to the kinds of incentives that lure their military counterparts in Mexico into joining the Zetas. The Zetas’ links to the Mexican military have been a trademark of the group since their early days working as the enforcement wing of the Gulf Cartel. Their original 31 founders were all ex-members of the Mexican special forces, and today the group is thought to have deeply penetrated the military in the states of Hidalgo, Chihuahua and Tabasco, as well as other parts of the country. As the drug gang’s trafficking networks have grown, they have expanded their recruitment pool to include members of security forces in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Until now, however, there had been no hard proof evidence that the cartel was capable of hiring US-trained military professionals to carry out its work. These arrests show that there is a very real possibility of such a trend, no doubt sounding alarm bells for US drug enforcement agents already concerned about the prospect of “spillover violence” in the American southwest.

The case is especially relevant in light of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s recent warnings that the US military is facing "significant criminal threat" from gangs within its ranks. In the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment released in October, the FBI names some 50 criminal organizations that count both current and ex-soldiers among their members. The list includes the Zetas, as well as a handful of transnational street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Barrio 18 and Barrio Azteca. Although they represent only a tiny fraction of veterans and servicemen, the FBI cautions that many gang members enlist in order to “receive weapons and combat training that they may transfer back to their gang.” The report also notes an uptick in gang-related graffiti in military bases overseas.

This phenomenon is a threat not only to the US, but to other countries in the hemisphere as well. If enough members of transnational criminal organizations acquire military expertise in the US, there is a chance that they will share these skills with affiliate cells in other countries in the region, potentially giving them a leg up against local officials. As InSight Crime has pointed out, many gangs already have the organizational infrastructure in place to do so. Both of El Salvador’s largest “maras” (street gangs) got their start in US prisons, and still maintain a strong presence in major cities like Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

Despite these concerns, the US military is a long way from seeing the kind of criminal penetration that plagues the Mexican army. That all six members of the “Zetas” plot had been under surveillance for months and eventually apprehended is a testament to the success that US law enforcement has had in foiling such criminal endeavors. Even still, with the Zetas growing more and more sophisticated, the risk of infiltration grows greater, and the US military may need to step up its internal monitoring to prevent this.
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Posted: Mar 31 2012, 09:24 AM


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US Soldiers Busted in Drug Cartel Murder-For-Hire Plot

By David Amoruso

Two US Army soldiers are among six men charged with running a drug trafficking ring and offering their services as a murder-for-hire team to undercover DEA agents posing as members of the Mexican Los Zetas drug cartel.

The Los Zetas drug cartel is infamous for its ultraviolent ways in a Mexican underworld that is already… read more at: http://gangstersinc.ning.com/profiles/blog...r-for-hire-plot


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Junior
Posted: Apr 2 2012, 01:24 PM


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Tijuana drug cartel's ex-leader to get 25-year-maximum sentence
By Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2012

SAN DIEGO — For years, Benjamin Arellano Felix eluded U.S. law enforcement while running a Mexican drug cartel that terrorized rivals and poured hundreds of tons of cocaine into the country. So when the handcuffed kingpin arrived in San Diego aboard a government plane last year, U.S. authorities gathered on the tarmac, sharing hugs and handshakes as he was handed over to his longtime pursuers.

But the sense of triumph has turned to disappointment in some quarters as Arellano Felix approaches his judgment hour in court Monday. A judge is expected to sentence him to a prison term of 25 years maximum, a fraction of what he could have received for his role in heading one of Mexico's most powerful and ruthless organized crime groups.

Arellano Felix, the 60-year-old former head of the Tijuana-based cartel that bears his family name, may be in his early 80s when he is released. He would be sent to Mexico, where he faces more prison time, but that's cold comfort to critics, among them family members of victims and law enforcement officers who dedicated their lives to wiping out his criminal empire.

Legal observers speculate that prosecutors negotiated the plea agreement to avoid a potentially long and costly trial, or because evidence from crimes that stretch back to 1991 had gone stale.

Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney in San Diego who gained prominence for her tough leadership of the sprawling investigation, declined to comment until after the sentencing, as did other prosecutors.

Critics contend the investigation was airtight. The sentence, they say, undercuts a case of historic significance that targeted a man whose ruthless leadership set the standard for the kind of savagery that grips areas of Mexico.

"The man is a monster; there's no way around it," said John Ziegler, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration special agent who worked on the case for several years. For a trafficker of Arellano Felix's stature, he said, a 25-year sentence undermines U.S. counter-narcotics efforts. "If you're a crook doing terrible things and see that Benjamin gets 25 years — that doesn't exactly inspire fear into you."

The DEA-led investigation of the Tijuana cartel was among the biggest ever undertaken against Mexican organized crime, spanning two decades. It involved a multitude of local and federal agencies and featured unprecedented cooperation from Mexican law enforcement officials, some of whom were brutally slain by cartel assassins who also turned their guns on the news media and religious leaders.

Arellano Felix was captured by Mexican authorities in 2002 and extradited to the United States last year. In January, he pleaded guilty to racketeering and money-laundering charges, admitting that the organization he led generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits that it used to bribe Mexican officials and equip assassination squads with weapons that easily overmatched police firepower.

The cartel was responsible for as many as 1,000 homicides, according to investigators, and it popularized the grim practice of dissolving victims in barrels of caustic liquids. Many of the cartel's enforcers were San Diego gang members, some trained by Middle Eastern mercenaries.

Weighing whether to go to trial against a high-profile organized crime figure can be a tricky calculation. Prosecutors have to consider factors including the safety of witnesses and their families and the potential of gaining valuable intelligence in exchange for a reduced sentence.

"Sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture," said Mark Adams, a San Diego criminal defense attorney. He said the logistics of bringing in witnesses from prisons around the country would have posed a security challenge at the downtown courthouse and neighboring federal correctional center.

Some question whether the evidence would have been strong enough, given that many witnesses would have been trading cooperation for reduced sentences. Those who may have testified represented a who's who of the cartel's leadership ranks, including Arellano Felix's brother Javier, who is serving a life term.

Law enforcement officials familiar with the case noted, however, that prosecutors regularly gain convictions based on testimony of criminals. The sheer number of witnesses would have eliminated any doubt of guilt, they said.

"Every law enforcement person I talk to finds this absolutely baffling," said Nathan Jones, an adjunct lecturer at the University of San Diego who wrote his dissertation on the cartel.

There's no shortage of speculation about why prosecutors didn't go to trial: Did they want to avoid revealing evidence that would have implicated political, law enforcement and church figures in Mexico? Was there concern that defense attorneys would embarrass them by showing "trophy" snapshots authorities took with their arms around Arellano Felix after his extradition?

Several drug kingpins of Arellano Felix's stature have received stiffer sentences. A former head of the Gulf cartel, Juan Garcia Abrego, received 11 consecutive life terms. Colombian drug lord Carlos Lehder got a life sentence, which was reduced to 55 years after he testified against former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega.

But Osiel Cardenas Guillen, another former Gulf cartel boss, received a 25-year term. The extraordinary secrecy surrounding his case — the sentencing hearing in 2010 was closed to the public — suggested that he cooperated with authorities.

Anthony Colombo, the San Diego defense attorney who negotiated Arellano Felix's plea deal, insisted there was no cooperation agreement. Colombo said that a trial could have lasted as long as six months and that prosecutors would have had to prove about 30 murders.

In the end, he said, prosecutors may have balked at the expense, especially if they believed that Arellano Felix's days in jail would be his last. "I mean, he's almost going to be 80 years old," Colombo said. "It's likely in their view that he may not survive prison."
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Junior
Posted: Apr 2 2012, 01:28 PM


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Texas Asks for Iraq Equipment to Defend Mexico Border
Written by Elyssa Pachico, InSight.com
Monday, April 2, 2012

Texas lawmakers and security officials have asked the Pentagon to send surplus military equipment from Iraq to the US-Mexico border. This could include more unmanned planes, even though the effectiveness of the technology in fighting drug trafficking is questionable.

US congressmen Henry Cuellar and Ted Poe, both Republicans representing Texas, recently wrote a public letter to the Pentagon, asking that surplus gear used in Iraq be made more widely available for border security operations.

The letter notes that state law enforcement agencies are facing increasingly tight budgets, which could restrict their ability to monitor the border. Instead of putting military gear left over from Iraq operations into storage, the letter suggests it would be more beneficial and cost-effective to deploy the equipment to the border.

Representative Poe introduced a bill to Congress last year asking that 10 percent of some types of military equipment returning from Iraq be transferred to federal and state agencies responsible for border security. The equipment named in the bill includes aerial drones, night-vision goggles, and Humvee vehicles.

InSight Crime Analysis

Poe and Cuellar's request is indicative of concerns that with state budget shortfalls, Texas is not capable of properly funding law enforcement along its border with Mexico. One small town in east Texas, far from the frontier, had to fire its entire police force last year due to budget tightening. It's unlikely that Texas will see such drastic security cuts in towns along the border -- it would be political suicide -- but one of the main thrusts to Poe and Cuellar's argument seems to be that recycling equipment from Iraq makes sense during lean economic times.

Reusing the military equipment is thrifty, but it may not be effective in terms of actually delivering results. As an assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) pointed out last year, the total cost of putting drones in the air amounts to $3,234 per hour. Intelligence from drones, however, has only contributed to a fraction of the total number of drug smugglers and undocumented migrants arrested in the 2011 fiscal year, according to the Washington Post.
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Junior
Posted: Apr 4 2012, 09:21 AM


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Brother of Sinaloa Kingpin Extradited to US
Written by Edward Fox, InSight
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jesus "El Rey" Zambada Garcia, brother of Sinaloa Cartel kingping Ismael Zambada Garcia, has been extradited to the United States to face drug trafficking charges.

On April 3, Zambada (pictured) was transferred from the maximum security in Matamoros, Tamaulipas to a flight bound for New York. Thanks to a July 2009 indictment issued by a New York Federal court, it is there that he will face the charge of being one of the principal members of an international cocaine trafficking ring that included his brother (alias "El Mayo") and the Sinaloa Cartel head, Joaquin·"El Chapo" Guzman.

Mexican authorities captured Zambada in October 2008 along with 16 other people in Mexico City. At the time of his arrest, Mexico's attorney general accused Zambada of controlling the smuggling of cocaine and methamphetamine precursor chemicals through the capital's airport and touted him as being one of the most high-profile arrests to occur under President Felipe Calderon's administration.

Zambada will appear before the New York court in the following days, reports El Universal.

InSight Crime Analysis

Zambada's extradition marks the second suffered by the family in recent years after Mexico's government detained Ismael's son, Jesus Vicente Zambada, in March 2009 and extradited him to the US the following year to face drug trafficking charges. He is currently being held in a Chicago prison.

More importantly, it marks a growing trend under Calderon's presidency. According to a report by El Universal last year, extraditions to the US since Calderon took office have almost tripled, with 464 suspects extradited between 2006 and August 5, 2011.

Such a dramatic increase is a mixed blessing. While extradition ensures that high-profile suspects avoid the deficiencies of Mexico's judicial system -- where impunity is thought to be around 90 percent, if not higher -- thus increasing the chance they are brought to justice, this also can have the effect of leaving Mexico's courts in a perpetual state of underdevelopment, according to some analysts.

Another potential problem with extradition is that the accused does not face charges for all the crimes they may have committed in their home country. For example, when Jesus Zambada was arrested, Mexican prosecutors stated that he was tied to a number of killings in western and central Mexico. Now that he is extradited, he will not face any charges for these homicides, thus leaving the victims' families with no possibility of recourse through judicial proceedings.
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Junior
Posted: Apr 6 2012, 07:53 AM


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US court sentences Mexican gang leader Acosta to life
BBC News, April 6, 2012

The leader of a Mexican drug gang has been sentenced to life in prison in the United States for the murder of three people linked to the American consulate in Ciudad Juarez in 2010.

Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez pleaded guilty to the murder of Lesley Enriquez, her American husband, and the husband of another consular worker.

Acosta Hernandez allegedly said he had been involved in the murder of 1,500 people in and around Ciudad Juarez.

He was extradited to the US in 2011.

'Reign of terror'

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said that as leader of the Barrio Azteca gang of hitmen, Acosta Hernandez "directed a reign of terror".

Prosecutors said Acosta Hernandez and his gang worked as hired killers for the Juarez cartel, which controls some of the main drug smuggling routes from Ciudad Juarez into the United States.

Acosta Hernandez pleaded guilty to seven counts of murder, but according to officials at the US Justice Department, he also admitted ordering hundreds of other killings in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua.

The officials said among them was the 2010 murder of 16 people, most of them teenagers, at a party in Ciudad Juarez.

Head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration Michele Leonhart called Acosta Hernandez, 34, "a cold-blooded murderer with no respect for human life or the rule of law".
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Junior
Posted: Apr 19 2012, 09:21 AM


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Mexico US border ammunition shipment seized
BBC News, April 19, 2012

Mexican police say they have seized more than 250,000 bullets that were being smuggled into the country from the US.

The ammunition for assault rifles was found on a trailer driven across the border from Texas into Ciudad Juarez.

The driver - a 37-year-old man from Dallas, Texas - was detained.

Mexico says many of the weapons used by violent drugs gangs come from the US. It wants tighter controls on weapons sales north of the border.

The driver told customs officials he had nothing to declare when he arrived at the border, Mexican prosecutors said.

But an x-ray inspection of his cargo hold revealed the metal boxes holding the ammunition.

In total 268,000 bullets for AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles were seized, Ciudad Juarez border control official Juan Ramon Huerta said.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has repeatedly called for the US to implement stricter firearms laws to cut the supply of weapons to drugs cartels.

Around 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Calderon began deploying troops to fight the cartels in 2006.
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Junior
Posted: Apr 20 2012, 12:14 PM


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Further Buildup on US-Mexico Border Unnecessary: Report
Written by InSight Crime Staff, Thursday, April 19, 2012

As conservative voices in the United States clamor for even tighter security along the Mexican border, a new study concludes that any further upsurge of forces would be counterproductive.

In a report titled “Beyond the Border Buildup: Security and Migrants along the US-Mexico Border,” the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and Mexico's College of the Northern Border (COLEF), found that further buildup of the Border Patrol would yield “diminishing returns."

"A closer look at the border reveals that after a historic buildup of the US security presence there, further increases in money, barriers and manpower are unnecessary," according to the report.

Urging Washington to reassess its border policy, the report called on the government to “view the border security buildup as a past policy, not a direction for the present or future."

Conservatives in the United States have been calling for reinforced security along the border, and have insisted more Border Patrol personnel are necessary. Added to this are calls to complete the construction of the fence that demarcates much of the 3,200 kilometer border, and even electrify the barrier to prevent illegal migrants from crossing into the United States. Fears in Arizona about Mexican cartel violence spilling into the US have led to a proposal for a new border militia.

"The facts contradict the call to escalate security along the border," said Adam Isacson, WOLA analyst and the study's co-author. "The whirlwind security buildup should stop now," said Isacson.

The buildup, which started two decades ago at a gradual pace, surged after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. It is aimed at stemming illegal immigration and drug trafficking, while trying to prevent the drug-fueled violence that has wracked Mexico from crossing into the US.

The surge in border control has come at the hands of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and its sub agencies, as well as the Defense Department, which has deployed troops as back-up to the Border Patrol, and to collect intelligence. The Pentagon has been flying reconnaissance drones on both sides of the border. National Guard troops have also been deployed.

Border agents have indeed seen an increase in drug seizures in recent years. Between 2005 and 2010, southwest border seizures of marijuana increased by 49 percent, methamphetamine by 54 percent, heroin by 297 percent and MDMA (ecstasy) by 839 percent, the report says. By contrast cocaine seizures have dropped 21 percent.

Though the number of illegal migrants crossing the border is nearly impossible to estimate, apprehensions by the Border Patrol have fallen by 61 percent since 2005.

But the report says the drop in border crossings can only partially be attributed to tighter security. The economic crunch in the United States since 2008 has driven many migrants back home, and those who haven’t left are staying put. Another factor is the increasingly risky journey faced by migrants travelling through Mexico to the US. Greater control exercised by drug traffickers on the Mexican side along smuggling routes add to the risks.

"The dangerous gauntlet of abuses at the hands of criminal organizations -- and certain Mexican officials -- through which migrants must pass on the way to Mexico's northern border causes some to reconsider the journey," according to the report. Some 20,000 migrants, mostly from Central America, are kidnapped every year and countless others are subject to extortion, sexual assault and other abuses, sometimes with the complicity of corrupt Mexican officials.

At the same time, the feared spillover into the United States of Mexico’s drug-related violence, which has claimed 50,000 lives in the past six years, has not materialized, according to the report. In 2010, El Paso, Texas, across the border from Ciudad Juarez, had the lowest homicide rate of all US cities, with a population of more than 500,000. That same year Ciudad Juarez had one of the highest -- if not the the highest -- homicide rate in the world at 283 homicides per 100,000 people.

One reason that violence is not spilling over, the study’s authors found, was that Mexican trafficking organizations try to avoid any incident on the US side that could trigger a closure of official border crossings, through which most drugs pass.

The report concludes: “The present moment -- marked by flattening budgets, plummeting migration, and new presidential terms about to begin in both countries -- offers a golden opportunity to pause and reconsider.”
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Posted: Apr 25 2012, 12:06 PM


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US Unseals Latest 'El Chapo' Indictment
Written by Christopher Looft, InSight
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

US federal authorities have unsealed the latest indictment against Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman and 23 of his alleged associates -- but unless Mexican authorities plug the leaks in their forces, this is unlikely to bring the drug lord's capture any closer.

Guzman was charged along with his "co-leader" Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias "El Mayo," and 22 others. Mark Morgan, who heads the FBI's division in El Paso, said the indictment was based on an investigation that began in 2000, not long before Guzman's escape from a Mexican prison.

This indictment·focuses on the cartel's operations in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, and El Paso. According to the Associated Press (AP), US authorities say some of the 22 people indicted have been detained by authorities in Mexico, and that the US will seek their extradition. The AP notes that Sinaloa lieutenant Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, arrested February 2012 in Mexico, was among those named.

Guzman has already been indicted by courts in Arizona, San Diego, Chicago, and New York. At least one of the murder counts in the El Paso charges against Guzman and alleged co-leader Zambada Garcia could carry the death penalty.

InSight Crime Analysis

This indictment is evidence of US authorities' commitment to capturing Guzman, whose Sinaloa Cartel is among the largest drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. At least some of Guzman's lieutenants appear likely to be extradited under this indictment to face US justice, rather than the porous Mexican system.

Since escaping from prison in January 2001, Guzman has proven an elusive target. There are signs that the authorities might be getting closer to the drug lord; he narrowly escaped a February 2012 raid on one of his hideouts in the Mexico resort town of Los Cabos in Baja California. This year would be an opportune time for the ruling PAN party to catch the fugitive drug lord, as it could boost their chances in the upcoming election, in which security will be a key issue.

One of the main reasons that Guzman has managed to remain at large for so long is thought to be his networks of informants within the Mexican security forces, who tip him off about impending raids. For this reason, the latest indictment might not on its own do much to bring the authorities closer to capturing him.

Ismael Zambada, who heads the Sinaloa Cartel alongside Guzman, is likely feeling the pressure of US efforts against the group. His brother Jesus Zambada Garcia, alias "El Rey," was extradited to the US earlier this month, while his son Jesus Vicente Zambada was extradited in 2010.
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Posted: May 4 2012, 01:02 AM


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US Seizes 3 Tons of Meth Precursor Chemicals Bound for Mexico
Written by Edward Fox, InSight, Wednesday, May 2, 2012

US officials seized close to three tons of methamphetamine precursor chemicals reportedly heading for Mexico, potentially a rare instance of Mexican cartels using the US as a transhipment point.

The two shipments in question originated from China and were of methylamine chloride, a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamine. They were seized on April 19 and 23 at Los Angeles International airport (LAX), both bound for central Mexico, and amounted to 2.85 tons. The amount seized could have been used to produce about $40 million worth of methamphetamine, reports the LA Times.

According to officials, though the shipments were correctly labelled -- the chemical is also used to manufacture certain pharmaceuticals and pesticides --suspicions were raised when it was discovered that neither had the necessary permits from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Customs and Border Protection regional director Todd C. Owen commended the work of officials for "preventing [the chemicals] reaching the cartels in Mexico."

The production and trafficking of synthetic drugs like methamphetamine has become a major financial resource for Mexican gangs in recent years with the Sinaloa Cartel now thought to be the largest supplier of methamphetamine to the US.

InSight Crime Analysis

The seizure of such a large amount of precursor chemicals on US soil -- what one official called "the biggest so far out of LAX" -- highlights the audactiy of Mexican cartels, if indeed they were behind this. The fact that cartels appear to be trafficking these chemicals through the US, where border agencies are far better funded and resourced than their Latin American counterparts, suggests an extremely high level of confidence and sophistication in their operations.

Although CBP officials recently seized another large shipment of 1.5 tons of methylamine chloride last September at LAX, it was reportedly bound for Illinois, making this latest discovery and its destination all the more rare.

As a leaked 2010 US Department of Justice report entitled "National Methamphetamine Threat Assessment" outlines, transhipment points for precursor chemicals used by Mexican cartels are typically located in Central America where the gangs have been pushing their production operations recently. Guatemala has been one of the countries most affected by this, seeing a four-fold increase from the amount of drug precursor seizures in 2010 when 1,600 tons were detained last year.
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Posted: May 9 2012, 07:26 AM


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US blacklists sons of Mexico drug lord Joaquin Guzman
BBC News, May 9, 2012

The US treasury department has put two sons of Mexico's most wanted man Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on its drugs kingpin blacklist.

The move bars all people in the US from doing business with Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, and freezes any US assets they have.

Joaquin Guzman, on the list since 2001, runs the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.

Mexico has seen an explosion of violence in recent years as gangs fight for control of trafficking routes.

The US administration "will aggressively target those individuals who facilitate Chapo Guzman's drug trafficking operations, including family members," said Adam Szubin, director of the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control .

"With the Mexican government, we are firm in our resolve to dismantle Chapo Guzman's drug trafficking organisation."

Ovidio Guzman plays a significant role in his father's drug-trafficking activities, the treasury department said.

Ivan Archivaldo Guzman was arrested in 2005 in Mexico on money-laundering charges but subsequently released.

As well as the Guzman brothers, two other alleged key cartel members, Noel Salgueiro Nevarez and Ovidio Limon Sanchez, were listed under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.

They were both arrested in Mexico in 2011 and are still in custody.

Under the Kingpin Act, US firms, banks and individuals are prevented from doing business with them and any assets the men may have under US jurisdiction are frozen.

More than 1,000 companies and individuals linked to 94 drug kingpins have been placed on the blacklist since 2000.

Penalties for violating the act range include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $10m (£6m).

The US has offered a reward of up to $5m a for information leading to the arrest of Joaquin Guzman, who escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001.
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Posted: May 17 2012, 11:55 AM


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US Congress Passes Law to Fight Narco-Tunnels Under Mexico Border
Written by Christopher Looft, InSight.com, Thursday, May 17, 2012

The US Congress has passed a bill to tighten penalties on building illicit tunnels under the border from Mexico, closing a loophole in previous legislation in an attempt to clamp down on this increasingly popular method of smuggling drugs, arms, and people.

The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012 passed the House with over 400 votes, with four votes against. The press secretary of congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso), the bill's main sponsor, told InSight Crime it expands on a 2006 law criminalizing the construction of border tunnels, by allowing prosecutors to target those who conspire or attempt to build illegal tunnels. The secretary said the earlier law contained a "loophole" in that it could only be used to prosecute those who had successfully completed tunnels.

The law, pending approval by the Senate and a signature by the president, would also allow for wiretapping and asset seizures aimed at those who build and operate illegal tunnels.

InSight Crime Analysis

US authorities have reported a rise in the use of border tunnels to smuggle drugs, arms, and people under the southwest border with Mexico since the first illicit underground passageway was discovered in 1990. According to statistics quoted in the draft bill (see pdf) 149 illegal tunnels were discovered on the US-Mexico border between fiscal years 1990 and 2011, mostly in Arizona and California.

The tunnels seem to be becoming more common -- 139 of them were found since 2001, and 114 since 2006. The bill notes that the tunnels are mostly used to smuggle drugs, but can also be used to move "people and other contraband."

If this law passes, and its overwhelming bipartisan support suggests it will, authorities will have more investigative and legal tools to fight illicit tunnels on the border. This could mean a rise in the number of tunnels discovered, especially if the 2006 law was responsible for the subsequent spike in tunnels found.

Aside from this law, the US is stepping up its fight against illicit tunnels by investing in advanced technologies to keep pace with the increasing skill and ambition of their builders. Given that most of the busts so far have resulted from policing and intelligence work, it appears unlikely that high-tech systems will be able to cost-effectively stem the illicit flows underneath the US's borders. Instead, laws like the Border Tunnel Prevention Act may be more effective, by equipping prosecutors and investigators to bring a broader range of cases, intercept more communications, and seize more assets.
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Posted: May 22 2012, 07:02 PM


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Arizona is Money Laundering Hub for Mexican Cartels
Written by Christopher Looft, InSight
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A border official has claimed that more than half of the drug cash seized by border officials on the United States' southwestern border in 2011 came from Arizona, suggesting the state is a key hub in the evolving practice of transnational money laundering.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security on May 21, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Matthew Allen said that along the southwest border with Mexico, "approximately 23 percent of the narcotics and approximately 53 percent of the currency and monetary instruments" linked to the drug trade and seized by ICE officials came from Arizona last fiscal year.

During the Congressional field hearing on information sharing in Arizona's drug fight, Allen said that Sonora, the Mexican state bordering Arizona to the south, is dominated by the Sinaloa Cartel. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement believes the state is a "consolidation point for drug proceeds owed to the Sinaloa Cartel for drugs smuggled into Arizona and distributed to other illicit markets within the United States," according to a transcript (see .pdf) of Allen's statement.

Allen said a Mexican banking regulation established two years ago placed strict limits on deposits of US currency in Mexican financial institutions, forcing cartels to change their laundering patterns. One change, he said, was that cartels may now favor making deposits in US banks before wiring the money to Mexico, transferring small amounts at a time to avoid detection.

InSight Crime Analysis

The fact that more than half of the currency and less than a quarter of the drugs seized by ICE were in Arizona shows that money from other drug proceeds is likely diverted there, where it can be smuggled back into Mexico. This suggests that Sonora is a key financial hub for the Sinaloans.

Arizona's large share of cash seized may result from the shift in money laundering tactics to smaller-scale "funnel account" transfers which make border states important because the practice requires a physical cash exchange between a designated account holder and the trafficking organization they are working for.

This decentralization of laundering seems similar to another alleged Sinaloa practice in the region, in which crews of smugglers brought drugs accross the border in backpacks. Both trends could be a response to heightened enforcement, with the organization adapting by decreasing the scale of both its individual cash and drug transfers.
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Posted: May 23 2012, 05:48 PM


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Mexico extradites 'drug kingpin' Sergio Villarreal
BBC News, May 23, 2012

Mexico has extradited a suspected drug lord to the United States.

Sergio Villarreal, known as El Grande (Big One) because of his height, is facing charges of drug trafficking and money laundering in a court in Texas.

Police arrested Mr Villarreal in a raid east of Mexico City two years ago.

He is alleged to have been the top lieutenant in the once-powerful Beltran Leyva drug cartel, accused of smuggling large quantities of cocaine, marijuana and heroin to the US.

A former policeman, Mr Villarreal is alleged to have worked for a number of criminal organizations before joining the drugs cartel led by Arturo Beltran Leyva.

Mr Beltran Leyva was shot and killed by the Mexican navy in December 2009, sparking a brutal fight for control of the cartel.

His brother Hector took over the leadership of the cartel.

Mexican authorities say continued infighting and the arrest of all of its major leaders except for the still-fugitive Hector Beltran Leyva have led to the cartel being disbanded.
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Posted: May 28 2012, 03:03 PM


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Mexico Extradites Key Witness in Case Against Generals
Written by Christopher Looft, InSight.com
Monday, May 28, 2012

Mexico has extradited a former leader of the Beltran Leyva Organization to the US, less than two weeks after the arrest of four high-ranking army officials he has accused of cooperating with the drug trafficking group.

Sergio Villarreal Barragan, alias "El Grande," was taken into custody by US Marshals at the Mexico City international airport on Tuesday, EFE reported.

El Grande, who ranked second in the Beltran Leyva Organization, is wanted by a Texas federal court for criminal conspiracy, money laundering, and drug trafficking. He was captured by Mexican marines in September 2010.

Milenio reported that part of the case against four high-ranking army officers (three of them generals) arrested this month on suspicion of collaborating with the Beltran Leyvas is based on testimony from El Grande.

InSight Crime Analysis

The timing of El Grande's extradition is noteworthy, coming nearly two years after his capture, and less than two weeks after the scandal broke over the military arrests. He is the first leader of the Beltran Leyva Organization to be extradited to the United States, ahead of his former colleagues Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias "La Barbie," who was captured in November 2010, and Alfredo Beltran Leyva, alias "El Mochomo," arrested in 2008.

As Milenio points out, though El Grande may be able to testify over video link, there is a poor record of witnesses continuing to collaborate with Mexican justice once they have been sent to the US. The case of the three generals and the lieutenant colonel who have been detained could turn into the biggest corruption scandal of the Calderon presidency, and has·spawned many questions and conspiracy theories, with some connecting it to the upcoming presidential elections.

Extraditions to the United States have increased dramatically under the administration of Felipe Calderon, drawing criticism from some who say it undermines the Mexican justice system. However, US prisons are better able to protect inmates, which could give them more incentive to testify against former associates without fear of reprisals.
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Posted: Jun 4 2012, 02:25 AM


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5 bodies found in burned-out SUV likely victims of Mexican drug violence: police
The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Sunday, June 3, 2012

An Arizona sheriff says five bodies found burned beyond recognition inside the shell of a charred SUV are likely the result of drug cartel violence.

The bodies and vehicle were found in the Vekol Valley, a rugged, mountainous desert area that’s a well-known smuggling corridor for drugs and illegal immigrants headed from Mexico to Phoenix and the U.S. interior.

The bodies were so badly burned that investigators couldn’t immediately determine their gender or ethnicity. While it’s unclear whether the victims were from Mexico, the sheriff’s office has notified the Mexican Consulate.

“Given all these indicators, you don’t have to be a homicide detective to add up all this information,” Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said Saturday.

A Border Patrol agent first spotted the white Ford Expedition driving at around 4:30 a.m.

The vehicle disappeared despite an effort by federal and local authorities to track it down. Why the vehicle first drew attention from authorities is unclear.

At daybreak, an agent spotted tracks leading from Interstate 8 into the desert. The vehicle that left the tracks had apparently launched off the highway, going airborne for a short distance before landing in the desert. The tracks continued on for a couple of miles.

Agents could see the smoldering vehicle from a distance through binoculars.

They approached with extinguishers. Inside, they found the bodies — one in the rear passenger seat and four lying in the back cargo compartment. The front seats were empty, Babeu said.

Babeu said investigators will try to determine whether the victims were dead before the SUV was set ablaze or whether they were alive when the fire was started.

“Clearly these people were murdered, but we don’t know the manner of death,” he said.

The sheriff said the extent of the violence, particularly in the western part of the county — about 35 miles south of Phoenix — is more evidence that drug smuggling north of the border hasn’t subsided.

Pinal County deputies were involved in more than 350 high-speed pursuits last year, and Babeu said most of those involved cartel members. There have been shootings, the bodies of murder victims have been left in the desert and just this week, several loads of drugs were confiscated, he said.
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Posted: Jun 6 2012, 03:04 AM


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Fight between rival Mexican gangs in Coney Island leaves one dead
By Rocco Parascandola And Sarah Armaghan
N.Y. Daily News, Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A 30-year-old man was knifed and beaten to death with a baseball bat in Brooklyn early Monday, in what investigators believe to be a fight between rival Mexican gangs, police sources said.

The victim was found by cops in front of a residence on W. 15th St. near Neptune Ave. in Coney Island around 2 a.m. after they received a call for an assault, police said.

The man, whose name is being withheld by officials until his family is notified, has four previous arrests including felony assault and drug possession, police said. He had multiple stab wounds to his body and head trauma, authorities said, and died at the scene.

Three other men were also stabbed in the fracas and were all taken to Coney Island Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, officials said.

The four men who were jumped were part of the same clique, said police sources, but it was unclear what sparked the dispute.

No arrests have been made.
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Posted: Jun 9 2012, 03:01 AM


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Mexico Judges To Allow 'Queen of the Pacific' Extradition
By Christopher Looft, InSight, Friday, June 8, 2012

Mexican judges have removed a major legal obstacle preventing the extradition of Sandra Avila Beltran, a drug trafficker known as the "Queen of the Pacific," to the US on cocaine trafficking charges.

Three federal appellate judges ruled that Avila could be extradited to the US to face charges connected to a series of cocaine busts in Chicago in 2001.

In 2004, a Florida district court issued an indictment against Avila, but it did not spell out her role in the Chicago busts. She was arrested in Mexico City in 2007 on drug trafficking and organized crime charges stemming from a 2001 seizure of 9 tons of cocaine in the port of Manzanillo, El Universal reported. The judges ruled that she could not be tried in the US in connection with this case, as she has been acquitted of it in Mexico, reported the Associated Press.

Insight Crime Analysis

Avila, born into an organized crime dynasty headed by her uncle Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, alias "The Godfather," is perhaps best known for her relationship with Juan Diego Espinoza Ramirez, alias "El Tigre." Together, they worked as a key link between Mexico's Sinaloa and Colombia's Norte del Valle Cartels. After Espinoza was arrested alongside Avila in 2007, he was extradited to the US, where he cooperated with authorities.

There is a chance Avila will do the same if her extradition is completed; since she was once involved with Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias "El Mayo," a key Sinaloa Cartel figure, she could be a asset for US authorities and win a reduced sentence.

The ruling on Avila's extradition comes soon after the arrest of Judge Guadalupe Luna Altamirano, who had updeld her acquittal of the Manzanillo charges, and is now accused of ties to organized·crime.
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Posted: Jun 13 2012, 04:37 AM


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Mexico drug gang 'used US horse racing as front'
BBC News, July 13, 2012

US officials say they have dismantled a major money-laundering ring used by Mexico's Zetas drug gang to funnel drug proceeds through American horse racing.

Police raided a number of locations including a racetrack in New Mexico.

Among several people arrested was Jose Trevino, a brother of a suspected Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino, who has been indicted but remains at large.

US authorities say the case shows how Mexican gangs are able to infiltrate legitimate American businesses.

Jose Trevino and his wife, Zulema, were arrested at their stables near Lexington, south of Oklahoma City.

Federal agents also made arrests in California and Texas, as well as the Ruidoso Downs racetrack in New Mexico.

A total of 14 people have been indicted with money-laundering.

Prosecutors say Miguel Angel and Jose, along with another brother Oscar Omar, used drugs money to buy American quarter horses, which race over short distances.

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Some of the horses carried names with drug references, such as Corona Coronita Cartel and Number One Cartel.

The company that allegedly acted as a front, Tremor Enterprises, was quite successful with some of its horses winning important races in the US.

And success on the track meant that Jose Trevino was able to hire top trainers and jockeys, the New York Times reported.

"This case highlights the capacity of Mexican drug gangs "to establish footholds in legitimate US industries," said Richard Weber, chief of the US Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigation division.

"This attack on the Zetas' most profitable money laundering schemes is an essential front in the war on drugs and will financially disrupt this violent international criminal organisation."

The Zetas are one of the most powerful and ruthless drug cartels in Mexico.

They were formed by deserters from the Mexican special forces and originally worked as hitmen for the Gulf Cartel.

Miguel Angel Trevino, known as "Z40", is believed to be a key figure in the organisation.

He and Oscar Omar Trevino are thought to be in Mexico.
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Posted: Jun 26 2012, 11:21 AM


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"Texas Navy" fights drug traffickers' escapes on the Rio Grande
By Anna Werner, CBS Evening News, June 25, 2012

(CBS News) DALLAS - One of the central issues in Monday's Supreme Court ruling on immigration was whether states can police their international borders. In Texas, they've decided to defend themselves from drug smugglers -- and authorities are using a surprising new weapon to combat the cartels.

The drug runners, once cornered, race back to the border to escape capture.

"They do not care who they run over," said Lt. Charlie Goble, who patrols the Rio Grande Valley. "They do not care how many felonies they commit while they're doing so, their goal is to get away from law enforcement."

The cartels' latest escape technique is something called a "splashdown."

"They just splash their vehicle right into the river," Goble said. "We have seen them jump off 30-foot cliffs into the river."

After the drug runners abandon their vehicles in the river, other cartel members in boats rush in to save their bales of drugs, and whisk them back to the Mexican side of the river, determined to get the drugs back to Mexico.

"The cartels that are controlling these situations -- they're very ruthless," Goble said. "Their life literally depends on them either getting the load to where it's going, or safely getting it back."

Police say the drug traffickers have made these splashdown getaways at least 65 times in the past three years. Texas police don't have the boats they need to stop them -- and the drug runners know it.

"They know once they get back into the water, they're safe," Goble. Said. "All they gotta do is swim home."

The Texas-style solution? Launching its own mini-navy. Six boats, each equipped with multiple machine guns, will soon be patrolling a 54-mile stretch of the Rio Grande.

Steve McCraw heads the Texas Department of Public Safety.

"We're not gonna cede any part of Texas to the Mexican cartels or the gangs that support them," he said. "It's our number one goal to protect Texans from all threats, including criminals -- and certainly the cartels pose a threat to Texas.

How big do you think could the "Texas Navy" water force get?

"As big as it needs to be," McCraw said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it supports the Texas gunboat strategy and will coordinate with state officials on how best to stop smugglers from slipping, or swimming, away.
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Posted: Jun 28 2012, 05:02 AM


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Did US Link Arrests to 'Chapo' to Influence Mexico Elections?
By Geoffrey Ramsey, InSight, Wednesday, June 27, 2012

US anti-drug officials in Mexico have been accused of pressuring captured drug suspects to claim to be relatives of the most wanted Mexican drug kingpin in order to influence upcoming presidential elections in the country.

When brothers Felix and Kevin Beltran Leon (pictured) were arrested on June 22, many news sources incorrectly identified him Felix as the son of Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo.” When his true identity was revealed a day later, it was dismissed as an embarrassing mishap for Mexican authorities.

Now however, it has emerged that there may be more to this initial mix-up. La Jornada reports that the defense lawyer of the brothers, Juan Heriberto Rangel Mendez, is claiming that his clients were offered incentives to pretend that they were related to El Chapo. Rangel says that the brothers spoke with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), personnel who said the ruse only had to last until the upcoming July 1 elections, after which they would be freed.

Felix refused to cooperate, according to Rangel, despite the assurance of officers that he would be freed if he did so.

InSight Crime Analysis

Amidst concern over presidential frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto’s commitment to combating organized crime with US assistance, it makes sense that the US would seek to boost the chances of the National Action Party (PAN) candidate by making it seem as though the current PAN government is hot on El Chapo’s trail.

However, the evidence for Rangel’s allegations is extremely flimsy. As proof that his clients spoke with DEA agents, he says Felix claimed that those who questioned him were “blonde, tall and spoke English,” which is far from indisputable proof and sounds more like a fabrication based on stereotype.

More likely, the claim is an attempt by the lawyer to exploit endemic mistrust of the US and its role in the war on drugs to drum up support for his clients. Peña Nieto is leading PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota by at least 15 points in the polls, and the US would not likely risk a damaging controversy on a move that would likely have limited effect on that lead.
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Posted: Jun 29 2012, 01:22 PM


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'ATF Never Intentionally Allowed Mexican Gangs to Receive US Guns'
Written by Elyssa Pachico, InSight.com, Friday, June 29, 2012

An investigation by Fortune magazine reveals that contrary to allegations by Republicans in Congress and other critics, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) anti-gun trafficking team based in Arizona never purposefully allowed guns to be trafficked illegally to Mexico.

The magazine’s six-month investigation included reviewing thousands of pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewing several law-enforcement agents with direct involvement in the affair for the first time.

The scandal involves charges that the ATF deliberately allowed middlemen, or “straw buyers,” to purchase guns that later ended up in the hands of Mexican criminal groups. The subsequent investigation into the affair has had wide-reaching consequences, culminating with a vote yesterday in the House of Representatives that found US Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for withholding documents related to the investigation. It is the first time in history that a sitting Cabinet member has been found in contempt by Congress.

The Fortune magazine piece argues that claims by Republicans that the ATF intentionally allowed these guns to slip away from US enforcement is political theater:

Five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

The magazine documents incident after incident of ATF agents trying to present Arizona prosecutors with gun trafficking cases, only to be told that there wasn’t enough evidence to support a prosecution. Other efforts by the ATF team to try and speed up the investigation, such as applying to carry out wiretaps for certain cases in Arizona, took weeks to be approved.

The Fortune investigation also finds that the one proper case in which the ATF team could be described as having intentionally allowed guns to “walk” into the hands of a straw buyer involved agent John Dodson. Dodson was one of the first whistle blowers to claim that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican cartels.

InSight Crime Analysis

The AFT-led operation in Arizona, known as “Fast and Furious,” was supposed to track the sale of automatic rifles and other weapons from the point of purchase to the point of lethal use in Mexico. But as Fortune points out, there are a couple of misconceptions about the affair that allowed it to become today’s political scandal. The fundamental misunderstanding is that the ATF did little to stop these guns from “walking” into the hands of straw buyers, and then to Mexican criminal groups. As the magazine argues, the ATF team worked diligently to bring the gun trafficking cases to the attention of Arizona authorities, but were blockaded at every turn.
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Junior
Posted: Jun 30 2012, 01:07 PM


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Ex-U.S. agent who helped cartels gets 30 months in prison
By Paul M. Ingram, Chicago Tribune, June 29, 2012

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - A former U.S. federal immigration agent was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Friday for accessing police databases and passing on sensitive information to family members with ties to Mexican drug cartels.

Jovana Deas was accused of illegally obtaining and disseminating classified government documents while working as a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agent in Nogales, Ariz., a city on the border with Mexico. She also was charged with obstruction and lying to investigators.

In February, she pled guilty to seven felonies and 14 misdemeanors in the case.

"I ask my family to forgive me. I'm sorry for what I did. It was a horrible mistake. I feel like I betrayed my country and my agency," a sobbing Deas told a federal court in Tucson before U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson handed down her sentence.

"I'm asking for your mercy your honor, so I can go back to my family."

Prosecutors said Deas, who resigned from ICE last year, passed information pulled from restricted crime and immigration databases to her former brother-in-law, Miguel Angel Mendoza Estrada, a Mexican cartel associate with ties to drug traffickers in Brazil.

Some of the information - concerning the prior criminal history and immigration status of a convicted Mexican national - was later discovered on Mendoza Estrada's laptop by Brazilian police, according to court documents.

U.S. Attorney James Lacey unsuccessfully pushed for a 10-year prison term, arguing that Deas' crimes made her a "mini-Aldrich Ames" - a reference to the CIA agent who was convicted for spying for the Soviet Union and Russia in 1994.

Deas' career with the federal government began in 2003 when she became a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspector assigned to the Nogales port of entry. In 2008, she became an ICE special agent in the city.

Also named in the indictment was Deas' sister, Dana Maria Samaniego, a former Mexican law enforcement official with alleged ties to drug trafficking organizations who remains a fugitive.

Corruption cases involving federal officers and agents have increased in recent years as the U.S. government has ramped up recruitment in a drive to secure the southwest border with Mexico.

Between October 2004 and May of this year, 138 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents were arrested or indicted for corruption, including drug and illegal immigrant smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Investigations by ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility last year resulted in the arrest of 16 ICE and U.S. Customs and Border protection employees. It was not clear how many of those cases have resulted in a conviction.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 1 2012, 12:34 PM


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Why the secrecy over ‘Fast and Furious'?
Philly Inquirer, Sunday, July 1, 2012

In another geological era, I served as a special attorney with the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. Way back then, working with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, we conducted investigations with the quaint object of making prosecutable cases against actual felons.

Well, so much for the good old days. The Obama Justice Department has apparently come up with a novel, new mission. "Operation Fast and Furious" sanctioned and promoted illegal sales by American gun shops of thousands of military-style semiautomatic rifles to straw purchasers for the Mexican drug cartels. Thereafter, no serious effort was made to trace the whereabouts of these weapons. Instead, the government simply allowed them to disappear into the underworld, where, as could be expected, they were used to commit hundreds of murders.

All of which prompts this question: What on earth was the legitimate law enforcement purpose of this exercise? How could it have conceivably produced a provable criminal case against anyone?

We already knew that the Mexican drug cartels were heavily armed. So why supply them with even more guns?

In his inept appearances before Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder has provided conflicting stories about the very existence and scope of "Fast and Furious," while withholding related documents under his control. And now, President Obama has asserted executive privilege to keep those documents under seal.

The claim of executive privilege certainly suggests direct White House involvement in this operation. If so, what was the Obama administration trying to accomplish by increasing the drug dealers' firepower?

Recall that, in 2009, Obama advocated resurrecting the Clinton-era ban on the sale of military-style semiautomatic rifles by fatuously claiming that 90 percent of the guns seized after shootings in Mexico came from the United States. This startling statistic became an oft-repeated talking point for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), and other gun-control advocates.

Unfortunately for them, their statistical proof was readily and embarrassingly debunked by gun advocates, as well as nonpartisan groups such as the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Now we learn that the Justice Department has been running guns to Mexico for no rational law enforcement purpose. Could it be that Holder — at the direction of the White House — was trying to inflate the number of guns sold in America and found to be used in Mexican crimes? Was this idiotic operation nothing more than an attempt by the Obama administration to manufacture bogus "proof" of the purported need for stricter gun controls in this country?

If not, then why has Holder stonewalled Congress, to the point of being held in contempt? And why has Obama placed himself in the middle of this fiasco by asserting executive privilege?

But if this was just an antigun stunt, then we may well be looking at Watergate redux — with several hundred murder victims, including U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, thrown in for good measure.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 8 2012, 09:21 AM


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Mexico's Pena Nieto Will Use US Help in Drug War
Fox News Latino, July 6, 2012

After a heated election season that saw candidates spar over how best to handle the country’s ongoing drug war, Mexico's president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto told a U.S. newspaper that he plans to expand his country’s drug-war partnership with the United States.

Peña Nieto told the Washington Post that he would consider allowing U.S. military instructors into Mexico to train Mexican soldiers in counterinsurgency tactics learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that more-involved measures like those the U.S. employs in Central America would not be implemented in Mexico.

“Without a doubt, I am committed to having an intense, close relationship of effective collaboration measured by results,” Peña Nieto told the Washington Post.

But he emphasized that he doesn’t support the presence of armed American agents in Mexico.

“It is just as if I asked you: Should our police operate on the other side of the border? No. That would not be allowed by U.S. law. Our situation is the same,” he said. Mexican laws will be enforced by Mexicans, Peña Nieto added.

The incoming president takes over from current President Felipe Calderón, who came into office in 2006 amid his own election scandal. A few days after coming into office, Calderón declared war on the country’s drug cartels.

Since the beginning of the country’s offensive on the cartels, many cartel members have been killed or detained, but over 50,000 people have been slain in the ensuring violence.

There are worries among some in Mexico and U.S. that Peña Nieto may abandon Calderón’s policy toward the cartels and revert back his party’s old way – which saw widespread corruption between politicians and drug traffickers.

Peña Nieto deflected those accusations, saying that instead he planned to refocus the drug war’s effort away from capturing high-level traffickers and instead on reducing the number of homicides in the country.

“We should set measurable objectives over a determined period of time that are agreed by both governments,” he said.

The announcement of Peña Nieto’s victory came on the heels of widespread accusations of vote buying and miscounted ballots.

The count by the country's electoral authority, which included a ballot-by-ballot recount at more than half of polling places, showed Peña Nieto getting 38.21 percent of votes. His top challenger, leftist Andres Manuel López Obrador, got 31.59 percent.

The final count of the roughly 50.3 million valid ballots was almost exactly the same as the quick count released hours after the elections.

López Obrador said he will file a formal legal challenge to the vote count in electoral courts next week, based on the allegation that Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, engaged in vote-buying that illegally tilted millions of votes. PRI officials deny the charge.

"Rivers of illicitly obtained money were used to buy millions of votes," López Obrador told a news conference Friday. He also claimed that the recount of ballots at over half of polling places had not been carried out as thoroughly as promised.

Josefina Vazquez Mota of the conservative National Action Party got 25.41 percent of votes cast in Sunday's elections, and the small New Alliance Party got 2.29 percent, barely passing the two-percent barrier needed to preserve the party's place on future ballots.

Almost 2.5 percent of ballots where voided; while some voters in Mexico void their ballots as a form of protest, some also simply make mistakes in marking them.

The final vote count must be certified in September by the Federal Electoral Tribunal. The tribunal has declined to overturn previously contested elections, including a 2006 presidential vote that was far closer than Sunday's.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 8 2012, 09:24 AM


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Gang Linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel Busted in Arizona
Fox News Latino, July 7, 2012

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and police in the Arizona city of Tempe have arrested 20 members of a criminal gang linked to Mexico's powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, authorities said.

In addition to the arrests, made within the scope of "Operation Nayarit Stampede," authorities also confiscated $2.4 million in cash, an airplane, 10 vehicles, three tons of marijuana and 30 pounds of methamphetamine.

The gang was led by three individuals identified as Leonel Gálvez Leal, Norberto Meza Montoya and José Alonzo Rodríguez Rosas, the Tempe Police Department said in a media release Friday.

The investigation began six months ago when police in Tempe, a city in southwestern Arizona, learned of the existence of purported stash houses used to store drugs for eventual delivery to customers in that city, as well as in New York, Alabama, California and other states.

The special agent in charge of the DEA field office in Phoenix, Doug Coleman, said the operation dismantled an organization that operated along the U.S.-Mexico border and in the interior of the United States.

"DEA and our partners have taken large quantities of drugs, millions of dollars in drug trafficker assets, and powerful weapons off our streets," Coleman said of the operation, which also received the backing of other DEA field offices and police departments in several other Arizona cities.

The Sinaloa cartel is considered to be Mexico's most powerful criminal organization and is led by Joaquín "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzmán, whose estimated fortune of $1 billion qualified him for a spot on Forbes magazine's list of the world's richest people.

Guzmán was captured in Guatemala in 1993 and extradited to Mexico, where he was convicted and sentenced to prison. But the drug lord escaped from a maximum-security prison in 2001 and remains at large.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 9 2012, 07:48 PM


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Mexico Drug Cartel Funneled Money through Bank of America, FBI Says
Fox News Latino, July 9, 2012

A notoriously violent cocaine-trafficking cartel funneled drug money through accounts at Bank of America to purchase race horses in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Los Zetas routed roughly $1 million per month for two years through Bank of America accounts, FBI Special Agent Jason Preece said in an affidavit filed June 11. The money allegedly flowed through a personal and business account owned by José Trevino Morales, the brother of two of the drug gang’s top leaders—Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Omar Trevino Morales.

José Trevino Morales has pled not guilty to money laundering charges.

Bank of America is not accused of wrongdoing. The second-largest U.S. bank is cooperating with the authorities, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The Los Zetas leaders set up José Trevino as the front man for the alleged money laundering operation, according to the filing, sending him to Texas to establish Tremor Enterprises, LLC. The company bought quarter horses, a type of horse known for its skill at sprinting, according to the Journal.

One of the horses allegedly financed with the Zetas’ cocaine profits, Mr. Piloto, won the $1 million first-place prize at the All American Futurity race at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico—one of the sport’s most important races, according to the Journal.

The FBI bases its case against the Trevino brothers on bank records, state racing commission records, surveillance, border crossing records and other sources, the affidavit says.

Preece filed the affidavit to a request a warrant to search José Trevino’s property for records documenting the suspected laundering of drug money through purchases of horses.

It wouldn’t be the first time a major U.S. bank has been put under scrutiny over its relations with Mexico’s drug cartels. In 2010, Wells Fargo settled a case brought by the Justice Department alleging its bank controls failed to detect money laundering. The settlement cost the bank $160 million.

Bank of America defended the safeguards it has set up against money launderers.

“We have strong anti-money-laundering procedures and work closely with the authorities when suspicious activity is discovered,” Larry Di Rita, a Bank of America spokesman, told Bloomberg News
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Junior
Posted: Jul 9 2012, 07:51 PM


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5 'Fast and Furious' Suspects Indicted
Fox News Latino, July 9, 2012

Pressured by Congress, authorities disclosed the identities of five men accused of fatally shooting a U.S. Border Patrol agent 18 months ago during the botched gun-smuggling investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious.

The U.S. House Republicans led a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, prompting the announcement. The House criticized the nation's top prosecutor for withholding information related to the probe.

Operation Fast and Furious was launched in 2009 to catch trafficking kingpins, but federal agents lost track of many weapons they were trying to trace.

Since the fatal shootout near the U.S.-Mexico line in December 2010 revealed deep flaws in the government's weapons trafficking case, federal authorities have repeatedly declined to reveal material related to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, such as what became of the gun used to kill him.

The same day their names were released, authorities announced they were indicted. The indictment says Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza are charged with first degree murder, second degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery, use and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

A sixth defendant, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, is charged only with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.

Critics have hammered federal authorities for allowing informants to walk away from gun shops with weapons, rather than immediately arresting suspects and seizing firearms.

Operation Fast and Furious focused on an accused smuggling ring suspected of purchasing guns for the brutal Sinaloa cartel. Some of the weapons acquired illegally with the government's knowledge were later found at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S.

U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents eventually lost track of about 1,400 of the more than 2,000 weapons -- including AK-47s and other high-powered assault rifles -- that authorities believed were headed for Mexican drug cartels.

Smuggling operations often seek out firearms in the U.S. because they have limited access to weapons in Mexico, due in part to very restrictive laws there.

Criminal organizations have operated at the border for decades, running weapons and drugs and robbing and sexually assaulting illegal immigrants.

The release of the suspects' identities Monday came with the offer of a $1 million reward for information leading to their capture.

It marked the first time all five people accused of being involved in the shooting were named by authorities.

The FBI says it is seeking information related to fugitives Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza.

Authorities had released Manuel Osorio-Arellanes' name last year. He has been in custody since his arrest on the night of the shooting.

The disclosures are among few released by authorities despite repeated requests from congressional leaders and news organizations, including The Associated Press. The FBI, ATF, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have all denied Freedom of Information Act requests that seek reports and other documents in the investigation of the shooting.

The information regarding Terry's death is the first update in the case since the contempt vote against Holder in June.

The previous disclosure in the case came when a straw buyer who purchased two rifles found at the shootout scene pleaded guilty to firearms charges in April. Jaime Avila faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in September.

So far, 11 people in what the government says was a 20-member smuggling ring have pleaded guilty to various charges.

It remains unclear whether the bullet that killed Terry came from the Fast and Furious investigation.

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes faces murder charges in Terry's death.

He has pleaded not guilty. Manuel Osorio-Arellanes was shot during the gunfight and later told investigators that he had raised his firearm toward the agents but didn't fire at them, the FBI said in records.

Much of the information in Manuel Osorio-Arellanes' case has been kept from public view after a judge sealed records in spring 2011.

Six news organizations, including The AP, asked for the records to be unsealed, and earlier this year prosecutors agreed to make the information public.

However, the records released have disclosed little about the circumstances of Terry's death.

Another man, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, was in custody prior to the shootout and has pleaded not guilty to a lesser charge in the case.

Terry, a former Marine and Michigan police officer, was part of an elite squad similar to a police SWAT team that was sent to the remote areas north of Nogales known for border crime, drug smuggling and violence.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 10 2012, 01:25 PM


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US Busts 'Zetas' Gun Ring in Texas
By Michael Kane, InSight.com
Monday, June 10, 2012

Twenty people have been arrested in Texas accused of being members of a ring which trafficked weapons to the Zetas drug gang, drawing attention again to the role of the US in supplying weapons to Mexican criminals.

The detainees are accused of forming part of a “straw buying” ring that provided at least 33 automatic rifles to the Mexican drug gang late last year. Ten of the 20 accused pleaded not guilty in a court in San Antonio, reported Notimex. According to the indictment, they claimed on the federal form for gun buyers that the weapons were for their personal use, when they were in fact buying them for the Zetas.

The indictment names a Mexican citizen as the ringleader of the group, who asked each buyer to purchase automatic weapons, paying them $300 per gun. He allegedly told one of the buyers that he was supplying the guns to the Zetas, reported the San Antonio Express-News website.

InSight Crime Analysis

The case is an example of a method commonly used by Mexican drug gangs to get weapons, commissioning “straw buyers,” who usually have clean criminal records, to circumvent laws that prevent foreigners from buying guns in the US. Once legally purchased, the guns are smuggled into Mexico. Indeed, last year a high-ranking member of the Zetas told the authorities that all of the group's guns were bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico across the Rio Grande.

Despite some attempts by the Obama administration to stem the flow of weapons across the border, there is little political will for real reform to US gun control legislation. The furor over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) botched “Fast and Furious” operation, which critics say allowed guns to “walk” across the border in the hopes of building cases against more high-ranking criminals in Mexico, has made gun control reform an even more heated issue.

A recent piece in Fortune magazine, however, reported that contrary to the claims of Republican critics in Congress, the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to illegally move across the border.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 11 2012, 10:04 AM


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Mexican army uncovers drug tunnel into the U.S.
By The Associated Press, New York Daily News
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

MEXICO CITY — MEXICO CITY - Mexico's army has uncovered a 755-foot (230-meter) tunnel running under the Sonora-Arizona border that was used to smuggle drugs into the United States.

Mexico's defense secretariat says the tunnel linked a soon-to-be-opened ice and purified water business in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora to a business in San Luis, Arizona.

Gen. Raul Guereca said Saturday that the tunnel was 4.25 feet (1.3 meters) high and reached a depth of almost 60 feet (18 meters) below ground. It had electricity, ventilation and small cars to transport the drugs through the tunnel.

Officials did not say which cartel they thought had built the tunnel. As U.S. authorities have tightened land crossings, tunnels have become a popular way for Mexico's cartels to smuggle drugs and people into the U.S.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 12 2012, 06:24 PM


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Sophisticated US-Mexico 'drugs tunnels' discovered
BBC News, July 13, 2012

Two sophisticated tunnels probably built to smuggle drugs into the United States have been found on the border with Mexico.

The tunnels were more than 200m (656ft) long and had lighting and ventilation.

A US agent said their design "wasn't something that an ordinary miner could have put together".

More than 150 tunnels have been found criss-crossing the US-Mexico border since 1990; most were crude passageways.

The first tunnel, discovered by the Mexican army on Wednesday, was still unfinished. It started underneath a bathroom sink in a warehouse in Tijuana.

The second tunnel led from an ice plant in the Mexican town of San Luis Rio Colorado to a storage room in what officials described as a "nondescript building" in San Luis, Arizona.

It ran beneath the border at a depth of 16m (55ft) and was lined with plywood.

Counter-narcotics agents believe it had not been in operation for long because there was little wear on its floor.

Special Agent Douglas Coleman, of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, estimated that the tunnel cost $1.5m (£972,000) to build.

Three people were arrested in connection with the Arizona tunnel.

The use of underground tunnels for smuggling has increased in recent years as the US authorities have clamped down on overland smuggling activity.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 18 2012, 08:53 AM


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US Deploying Drones To Counter Caribbean Drug Traffickers
Written by InSight Crime, Tuesday, July 17, 2012

US authorities declared they are expanding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or "drones," to track drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sources have confirmed that drones are being deployed to trace drug trafficking movements in the Caribbean due to the inability of previously utilized technologies·to meet surveillance requirements,·reported the Caribbean Media Corporation. For example, the P-3 Orion, a large manned-aircraft used for surveillance, can only operate for ten hours whereas a drone is able to "loiter" for twice as long.

DHS officials stated that drug traffickers in the Caribbean are increasingly turning to semi-submersibles and making night trips with go-fast boats to move narcotics. Statistics from the DHS showed that since 2011, the US has interdicted five semi-submersibles in the region. However, this is only a fraction of the amount believed to be travelling through the Caribbean.

The executive director of air national security operations for DHS Customs and Border Protection said, "It doesn't matter what the target is. It matters that we are able to stay out and look for it," adding that one of the drones, the Guardian, will be mounted with infrared sensors, enabling night flights.

According to the LA Times, the DHS has been testing its drones over the Bahamas for 18 months in preparation for expanding their use to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Homeland Security officials pointed out to the CMC that drones have twice the loiter time of a P-3 Orion, they failed to address another key issue: cost. According to a report by the Economist, a drone can require up to 20 ground crew members in a supporting role, significantly more than a manned aircraft. What's more, the US Coast Guard, for example, can launch helicopters from its boats for surveillance. Drones do not have this luxury, needing the use of runways. Simply expanding the use of piloted aircraft, therefore, could be more cost-effective than the use of drones.

The DHS already uses drones along the US-Mexico border in drug and migrant interdiction functions. To date, the craft have had a minor impact on border security, contributing to the capture of less than two percent of the undocumented migrants apprehended on the US' southwestern border in the 2011 fiscal year.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 18 2012, 12:52 PM


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Traffickers Use Service Roads to Avoid US-Mexico Border Controls
Written by Tracey Knott, InSight, Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Drug traffickers are bribing workers and using oil and gas company roads and in southern Texas to avoid border checkpoints, presenting a new challenge to border security.

The Houston Chronicle reports that energy companies in southern Texas are unintentionally providing drug trafficking organizations with new ways of entering the United States undetected. Citing a threat assessment by US law enforcement officials at the South Texas High Intensity Drug Traffic Area (HIDTA), the article notes that traffickers are using roads originally built by the energy companies to transport oil-field service vehicles to instead smuggle drugs into the US. The roads are located away from densely populated areas and circumvent border patrol checkpoints, allowing drug smugglers unmonitored access into the country.

Tony Garcia, the director for the South Texas HIDTA, told the Chronicle that the largest concern for law enforcement officials is how to address the changing security situation, which is hindered by their inability to move checkpoints to cover the service roads.

Authorities have caught smugglers using the oil field roads several times. In March, two trucks were caught smuggling 18,665 pounds of marijuana disguised by supplies that appeared to be used in oil field operations. It was the most marijuana the Border Patrol's Del Rio Sector had ever seized in one day. The one truck driver admitted to being paid $7,500 to drive the shipment.

Authorities are also worried about the cartels making counterfeit copies of the energy companies’ trucks to avoid detection. In July 2011, traffickers did just that, using a fake oil field truck to carry 1,373 pounds of marijuana into the US, where they were stopped by Border Patrol agents.

InSight Crime Analysis

As security increases along the southern US border, drug smugglers must find new ways of getting their merchandise into the country. While previously, drug smugglers hoping to avoid checkpoints would have to circumnavigate desert terrain, the new roads effectively facilitate the traffickers’ movements across sections of the border.

The bribery of the truck driver caught by the Del Rio Border Patrol demonstrates the drug smuglers’ ability to buy US employees. As Javier Pena, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Houston division, told the Chronicle, many truck drivers and security personnel find it hard to ignore the traffickers’ bribes. They can offer thousands of dollars, and there is no easy way to counter this incentive.

Organized crime has long plagued energy companies on the southern side of the US-Mexico border. Pemex, Mexico’s state-operated oil company, as reported many thefts of petroleum, by both individuals and the cartels, resulting in a loss of 70,000 barrels of oil a day during the first five months of 2012.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 25 2012, 12:03 PM


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US Adds Family of Sinaloa Boss 'El Azul' to Kingpin List
Written by Michael Kane, InSight.com
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The US Treasury has added nine organizations and 10 individuals to the “Kingpin List” for their links to Sinaloa Cartel head Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias “El Azul.”

On Tuesday, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that two woman identified as El Azul's wives and four of his children were joining the blacklist. This freezes their US assets, and bars US citizens from doing business with them.

OFAC said that El Azul’s network of associates, including family members, helped him run a collection of businesses, including a real estate company in Jalisco and gas stations in Sinaloa (see Treasury's diagram of the network).

InSight Crime Analysis

The addition of El Azul’s associates to the Kingpin List is the latest in a string of actions taken by US authorities this year to increase pressure on the Sinaloa Cartel leadership.

In early April, Jesus “El Rey” Zambada Garcia, a leading member of the cartel and brother of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, was extradited to the US to face drug trafficking charges. Later that month, the FBI unsealed the latest indictment against the Sinaloa Cartel bosses. In May, the Treasury added two of Sinaloa head Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman sons and two high-ranking members of the cartel to the Kingpin List. The same designation was placed on another of Guzman’s sons and an ex-wife last month after the US Treasury Department said they were key operatives in the cartel.

The three top leaders of the cartel have up to now eluded law enforcement, however. In February, El Chapo escaped a raid by Mexican authorities on his hideout in Los Cabos. El Azul avoided arrest during a raid conducted by 120 soldiers last month on a ranch in Colima.

The director of OFAC said that El Azul has tried to avoid detection by maintaining a low profile. Nonetheless, the kingpin, who has been involved in the drug trade for more than three decades, is wanted by both Mexican and US authorities. He was indicted by a federal court in 2003 on drug trafficking charges and US authorities are offering $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
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Junior
Posted: Jul 31 2012, 08:05 AM


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US worried by organised crime attacks on Mexican media
BBC News, July 31, 2012

The US has voiced its concern at how organised crime is targeting Mexican reporters in an attempt to intimidate them and limit news coverage.

"We are on the side of journalists who are risking their lives," said Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

He was speaking a day after the offices of a newspaper in northern Mexico were attacked for the third time in a month.

Pressure groups say Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist

"The United States is deeply worried by acts of violence and intimidation that are aimed at limiting the free movement of news," said Mr Burns during a visit to Mexico City.

Free speech was a cornerstone of democracy, he said, with the work of journalists "vital".

Self-censorship

On Sunday, hooded attackers broke into the offices of El Norte newspaper in San Pedro Garza Garcia, near the northern city of Monterrey.

They subdued the security guard, poured petrol in the reception area and set it alight.

No one was hurt but it followed two recent attacks on other regional offices of El Norte.

Dozens of journalists have been killed in Mexico over the past decade, although it is not clear how many were killed as a direct result of their profession.

Pressure groups say that whatever the exact figures, Mexico is highly dangerous for reporters.

Many of the killings have been linked to organised criminal gangs, with journalists targeted because of their coverage of drug-trafficking.

There is also widespread intimidation, leading some media outlets to practise self-censorship to protect their staff.
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