Archive for March, 2009

Guilty, Your Honor!
March 31, 2009

Members of the Gulf Cartel plead guilty in Houston today to some very serious crimes. Here’s a copy of the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office…

MEMBER OF GULF CARTEL CONVICTED FOR ASSAULT OF FEDERAL AGENTS

 

(HOUSTON) – Juan Carlos De La Cruz Reyna, 36, of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, has pleaded guilty to two counts of threatening to assault and murder federal agents, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. 

The guilty plea was entered today at a hearing before United States District Judge Jilda G. Tagle in Houston. The charges against De La Cruz Reyna arose out of an alleged encounter in November 1999 between members of the Gulf Cartel, including Oziel Cardenas-Guillen, the then head of the Gulf Cartel, and a DEA agent and an FBI agent. At today’s hearing, De La Cruz Reyna admitted he and others stopped the agents as they drove through Matamoros on official business. While stopped, the agents were threatened at gunpoint by De La Cruz Reyna, who was armed with an assault rifle, and others. Cardenas-Guillen, who was allegedly present at the scene, allegedly threatened the agents even after one of the agents identified himself as a United States law enforcement agent. Eventually, the agents were allowed to leave but warned never to return to Matamoros. De La Cruz Reyna is scheduled for sentencing on July 3, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. He faces a maximum of five years  imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and a three-year-term of supervised release on each count. 

 

A co-defendant, Ruben Sauceda-Rivera, 42, of Matamoros, pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to launder monetary instruments before Judge Tagle today. During the course of Sauceda-Rivera’s involvement in the money laundering conspiracy between November 1998 until April 2002, he became the assistant to “Noventa,” the bookkeeper for the cartel. As his assistant, Sauceda-Rivera assisted Noventa in collecting and accounting for millions of dollars in drug proceeds collected in places such as Houston and Atlanta, which were then transported to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, and from there into Mexico. Drug ledgers seized in Atlanta in June 2001 show that in an approximate three-month period, the Gulf Cartel distributed a minimum of 2,927 kilograms of cocaine generating $41,059,000.

Sauceda-Rivera, who is also scheduled for sentencing on July 3, faces up to 20 years imprisonment, a fine of $500,000 or not more than twice the value of the funds laundered, whichever is greater, and a three-year-term of supervised release.

De La Cruz Reyna and Sauceda-Rivera have been in federal custody since their arrest and will remain in federal custody pending sentencing.

In addition to these two defendants, eight others are charged in various counts of the superseding indictment: Oziel Cardenas-Guillen, 41, of Mexico; Adan Medrano, 39, of Mexico; Victor Manuel Vasquez-Mireles, 41, of Mexico; Jorge Costilla-Sanchez, 37, of Mexico; Juan Gilberto Reyes, of Mexico; Rafael Betancourt-Velez, 38, of Mexico; Rogelio Pizana Gonzalez, 35, of Mexico; and Baldomero Gonzalez Ruiz, 50, of Mexico. Cardenas-Guillen is currently in custody in the United States without bond and is set for final pretrial and jury selection on Aug. 31, 2009, and Sept. 8, 2009, respectively. The other named individuals are currently fugitives. These defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law. Anyone having information regarding the whereabouts of the fugitives are asked to contact their local office of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted special agents of the FBI, DEA and ICE. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jody Young and Toni Trevino are prosecuting the case.

An indictment or superseding indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

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Heads Up From FBI
March 31, 2009

I got a hold of this bulletin sent by the FBI’s San Antonio Office as a heads up to law enforcement. Here’s a copy of the bulletin…

March 27, 2009
 
The San Antonio FBI has received information that as of January 2009, the Gulf Drug Cartel had
acquired 40 “bullet proof vests” embroidered with FBI and DEA.  It is believed the Gulf Cartel
intended to use the vests as a distraction tactic while they were conducting enforcement activities against their victims.  There is no indication at this time the Cartel had any plans to use the vests in the United States.  This information is being provided for your situational awareness.

Captured
March 25, 2009

Apparently money talks. Just two days after Mexico offered millions of dollars for information leading to the capture of 24 drug lords and 13 of their lieutenants, Hector Huerta Rios was caught in Monterrey. Mexican authorities say Huerta was a lieutenant in the Beltran Leyva Cartel. This cartel is based in the southern part of Mexico along the coast. Mexican authorities say Huerta Rios ran the Cartel’s operation in Monterrey. No word was given whether anybody got the reward for Huerta Rios’s capture. Good timing for the Mexican government though, this capture came as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started her two day of Mexico.

Mexico’s Most Wanted, Wanted In Houston
March 24, 2009

I had a very interesting meeting today with the Associate Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Houston Office, Thomas Hinojosa. If you look at the post below you’ll see how Mexico put out a multi-million dollar bounty on the heads of the country’s most wanted drug traffickers. I found out today five of the names on that list are already wanted in Houston. Hinojosa says these five are the upper echelon of the Gulf Cartel (see map below post). The indictments came last year as part of Operation Dos Equis (Double X). This operation was part of the overall “Project Reckoning”.  Here is indictment #1.  Here’s indictment #2.  All this comes as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano released her master plan for the border.

Mexico’s Most Wanted-Update
March 23, 2009

Mexico seems to be intensifying its crackdown on the drug cartels. Mexico’s Attorney General just posted a $2 million bounty for each of the country’s 24 most wanted drug lords. That’s $48 million Mexico is willing to spend on information that leads to the caputre of the men. That’s not all. Mexico is also offering $1 million dollars each for information leading to the capture of 13 top lieutenants. There’s also a seperate $5 million dollar reward for information on Joaquin Guzman (remember this is the guy that made’s Forbes richest people in the world list) and Ismael Zambada. Mexico said both are at the top of the Sinaloa Cartel. Put it all together and that’s a total of $71 million dollars being offered for information. This is not the first time Mexico’s offered rewards for drug lords, but this is the first time a comprehensive list has been put out. This new push is followed by two high profile arrests last week. The first was Vicente Zambada (Ismael’s son). Mexican authorities say Zambada was the operations and logistics chief of the Sinaloa Cartel. The second is Sigifredo Najera. Mexico says he is one of the leaders of the Gulf Cartel. Plus, Najera is accused of attacking the US Consulate in Monterrey last October. Najera is also accused of torturing and killing nine Mexican soldiers.

Here’s the list…

— The Gulf-Zetas Cartel:
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano
Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez

Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, alias “Tony Tormenta”
Miguel Angel Trevino Morales
Omar Trevino Morales
Ivan Velazquez Caballero, alias “El Taliban”
Gregorio Sauceda Gamboa

— Pacific Cartel:
Joaquin Guzman Loera or Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, alias “El Chapo”
Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias “El Mayo”
Ignacio Coronel Villarreal
Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias “El Azul”
Vicente Zambada Niebla, alias “El Vicentillo” (captured)
— Beltran Leyva Cartel:
Arturo Beltran Leyva
Mario Alberto Beltran Leyva and/or Hector Beltran Leyva, alias “El General”
Sergio Villarreal Barragan

Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alias “El Viceroy”
Vicente Carrillo Leyva

— “La Familia” Cartel:

Nazario Moreno Gonzalez
Servando Gomez Martinez
Jose de JesDus Mendez Vargas, alias “El Chango”
Dionicio Loya Plancarte

— Arellano Felix Cartel:

Teodoro Garcia Simental, alias “El Teo”
Fernando Sanchez Arellano, alias “El Ingeniero”

Here’s a map of the Cartels..

_45597332_mexico_cartels_466map1

UP Sued Over Drug Shipments
March 20, 2009

A battle is brewing between the U.S. government and Union Pacific Railroad. Customs and Border Protection filed lawsuits in Houston and San Diego accusing UP of not doing enough to prevent rail cars from transporting drugs from Mexico into the United States. Specifically the lawsuits says rail cars have been used to transport mainly marijuana into the United States since 2001. In fact, court records show UP has been fined millions of dollars by the government over drug shipments. However, UP says the government is being unfair. I just spoke with Donna Kush at UP’s headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. Kush says the cars used to smuggle the drugs are owned by a Mexican rail company called Ferrocarril Mexicano, or Ferromex for short. Kush says UP owns a 26% stake in Ferromex, which means UP has no control over daily operations of the rail cars in Mexico. Kush also said Ferromex officials told UP they believe it is ultimately the Mexican military’s responsibility to make sure rail cars leaving Mexico are free of drugs. Kush also said once the rail cars enter the United States it is the US government that takes control of those cars before UP does. In fact, before the government filed its lawsuits UP filed a lawsuit of its own against the federal government. I will post several things to help you better understand what is going on. The first two posting will be PDF files of the lawsuits filed by the government against UP in San Diego and Houston. The third PDF file will be UP’s suit against the government filed last year. After these PDF files I have posted UP’s entire response to this situation….

Houston suit…houston1

San Diego suit….sandiego1

Nebraksa suit…nebraska1

Here’s UP response to the entire ordeal…

Union Pacific released the following statement in response to yesterday’s filings by the Department of Justice, defending its position:
As Union Pacific explained in its lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security in July 2008, it is the government, not Union Pacific that takes initial control over rail cars entering the U.S. from Mexico. Customs Border Patrol is punishing Union Pacific for drug smuggling that the company has no ability to prevent. Union Pacific believes that it has exceeded its legal obligations and will defend these duplicative lawsuits.

SUMMARY OF THE ISSUE:

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is imposing fines on Union Pacific and seizing rail equipment when it finds drugs imported from Mexico.  In order to protect its rights as an American company, Union Pacific initiated a lawsuit in July 2008 because the company believes CBP is violating federal law in taking these actions when Union Pacific has no ability to prevent this drug trafficking. For years, Union Pacific has been a strong supporter of CBP in protecting U.S. borders and preventing illegal drugs from entering the country.  Union Pacific has provided millions of dollars in annual financial support, built buildings for CBP, trained federal officers, and deployed its own private police and K-9 squads.

THE FACTS

CBP is punishing Union Pacific for drug smuggling from Mexico that Union Pacific has no ability to prevent.  

Drug traffic originates on Mexican railroads that Union Pacific does not control.  When Mexican trains reach the U.S. border, CBP takes control of them before Union Pacific.  CBP bars Union Pacific from approaching or inspecting the trains except under CBP direction.  
Even though Union Pacific has no control over trains in Mexico, and CBP asserts control over them at the border, CBP is punishing Union Pacific for drugs CBP finds.
CBP has even seized rail cars and penalized Union Pacific after Union Pacific found drugs that CBP had missed.
Union Pacific cannot send its personnel into Mexico to locate drugs, because they would not be allowed to carry arms or use K-9 teams, would have no legal authority and would be forced to turn over drugs to unreliable authorities in Mexico.  Union Pacific employees would be subject to arrest in Mexico and would be unarmed in the face of vicious drug gangs.  

Union Pacific believes CBP is violating Federal law in imposing fines on Union Pacific and seizing rail cars in connection with the smuggling of illegal narcotics from Mexico to the U.S. in trains.

CBP has legal authority to impose fines (and seize rail cars) only on those who are involved in the drug trade (CBP does not contend that Union Pacific is) and on a party that controls or owns a vehicle coming into the U.S.  Union Pacific does not control or own trains coming into the U.S. from Mexico.  Foreign railroads control and own those trains.
Union Pacific does not have railroad operations or operating facilities in Mexico. Union Pacific is different from airlines and steamship companies that operate their own terminals and equipment to and from Mexico.  
Union Pacific has a 26 percent stock investment in a Mexican railroad, Ferromex.  However, Union Pacific is a minority owner and has no day-to-day operational control.  
Union Pacific has urged Ferromex to take action, and it has responded, but it views the Mexican military as primarily responsible for drug interdiction in Mexico.  
Union Pacific cannot accomplish what the U.S. and Mexican governments cannot.
 
For years, Union Pacific has worked effectively with the Customs Service and the CBP to prevent illegal drugs from entering the US.

Support to the CBP has consisted of millions of dollars of funding, and includes constructing buildings, fencing, lighting and inspection towers.
Additionally, Union Pacific has provided K-9 training to DEA and FBI task forces, conducted joint exercises and developed computer profiles to identify traffickers.  
Union Pacific wants to work quickly toward finding a resolution so the company can continue to work with CBP in cooperative efforts preventing illegal drugs from entering the United States.

Human Smuggling
March 20, 2009

I covered a story Sunday night regarding several illegal immigrants being held hostage inside a home in Channelview. The whole thing started when a young man called 9-1-1 to report his father was being held hostage in the house. Sheriff’s deputies moved and arrested several people. I found out today the federal government charged several people as being involved in a human smuggling ring. The criminal complaint is an interesting read. Here it is…human-smuggling3

Imminent Gang Attack
March 19, 2009

OK, so the internet has been buzzing with an e-mail claiming a gang initiation was about to take place in the Houston area. Specifically random people would be shot in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Naturally this is another in a long line of hoaxes. I checked around with local law enforcement and received these two responses.

From Baytown Police…

Threats of Gang Initiation Perpetuate Internet Hoax

Email warnings of a gang initiation in which 3 women will be killed or attacked at various local stores seems to be making the rounds of inboxes around the region. The Baytown Police Department is advising residents concerned about recent internet and text message rumors, that these rumors are an unsubstantiated hoax.

The email and text messages received by Baytown residents are similar to ones coming out of Galveston County and other locations around the State. There has been no credible information discovered by either the Baytown Police Department or the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) that would substantiate these internet and text messaging warnings. The City of Baytown’s 911 dispatch has received hundreds of calls since yesterday regarding the emails. No local law enforcement agencies have issued any warnings.

“While this emailed warning is a hoax, the Baytown Police Department takes our residents’ safety seriously,” said Police Chief Keith Dougherty. “Our officers thoroughly investigate each claim to determine its validity.

According to Snopes.com, the online urban legends reference website, the gang initiation murder urban legend has been making the rounds of inboxes since July 2005 and is unsubstantiated.

The Baytown Police do advise that people should always use caution when entering or exiting their vehicles, and when in doubt report any suspicious activity to the local police.

From Fort Bend County…

The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office has received numerous inquiries from citizens who are concerned about an email and text message being disseminated warning that women and children will be shot at an unidentified Wal-Mart store. The context of the message warns of an alleged gang initiation planned in which women and children will be killed and urges all women not to shop at Wal-Mart.

Law Enforcement Officials of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office have found no credible information to substantiate this as a real threat including an open resource revealing this threat as an urban myth or hoax and has in fact been circulated throughout numerous states across the country.

While this is considered a hoax, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division has advised their field deputies and will be stepping up patrol in and around the Wal-Mart located in the unincorporated area of Fort Bend County at 5660 Grand Parkway, in order to ensure the safety of our citizens.

More Resources on the Border
March 19, 2009

Just got a hold of this letter sent by Texas Senator John Cornyn to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano…The full story at six pm. Here’s the letter….

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

 

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on February 6 regarding the escalating levels of drug-related violence in Mexico.  I write today to keep you informed of developments since our conversation and invite you to come to Texas and witness the situation firsthand.

 

As you know, more than 7,000 lives have been lost from drug-related violence in Mexico since January 2008. This includes the brutal killing of many courageous Mexican law enforcement officers and public officials. Drug cartels are intent on undermining the Mexican state, threatening to spread this violence across our nation’s southern border and jeopardize our own national security. Recent reports from Department of Defense officials estimate that the Sinaloa and Gulf drug cartels that are responsible for this violence may have as many as 100,000 foot soldiers in their ranks.  Just across the border from El Paso, Texas, in Ciudad Juarez, more than 1,800 people have been killed since January 2008, according to the U.S. State Department and Mexican authorities. 

 

Since our conversation, I visited Laredo to receive a security briefing from Customs and Border Protection, the FBI, ATF and other federal agencies on U.S. efforts to reduce the flow of weapons and cash fueling the cartels’ ability to carry out narcoterrorism. Mexican law enforcement officials were also present. It is important we address this situation not only to safeguard families living along the border, but also to ensure that legitimate trade and travel essential to the South Texas economy is preserved. We must do everything we can to help President Calderon and the Mexican government confront the criminal gangs causing terror along our border, and we must coordinate efforts across our government and with our Mexican partners to stem the tide of money and guns flowing south and bolster Mexican government institutions. 

 

Recently I wrote to President Obama and urged him to make reducing drug-related violence along the Mexican border a top priority and to visit the Texas border. I encourage you to do the same to witness firsthand the urgency of this situation and the compelling need to devote Homeland Security resources to this crucial issue.

 

As a former border state governor, you are aware of the severity of this problem and I am encouraged by the priority you have placed on addressing it. It is my hope you will join me in the near future in visiting the region, so we can meet with local officials, communities and law enforcement on the ground to discuss additional steps the U.S. can take to help President Calderon and the Mexican government confront this tremendous problem.

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this critical national security issue, and I look forward to hearing your response on visiting the region. 

 

Sincerely,

 

JOHN CORNYN

United States Senator

Border Wars
March 17, 2009

All apologies for taking so long to put up a new post, but I’ve been travelling a lot lately. Between my gun smugglers story and the stories I have running tonight and tomorrow I’ve spent a lot of time on the road. There has been a lot of debate about the violence in Mexico spilling into Texas, as well as other border states. I spent time with the Sheriff’s Departments on the border to get first hand accounts of what they are dealing with. These sheriff’s departments are in a different predicament then those in major cities. These are counties where there is a lot of wide open space and few checkpoints. Most of the sheriff’s I spoke with say their counties are preferred by smugglers because these isolated spots make it easier to get across the border. Since Mexico has stepped up its crackdown in cities like Juarez and Nueva Laredo, the drug runners have gotten a lot more aggressive. Both Sheriff Arvin West (Hudspeth) and Oscar Carrillo (Culberson) say the game has changed. Before drug runners would usually surrender without a fight, now there willing to go toe-to-toe with law enforcement. West said he’s even been directly threatened by a local drug lord in Porvenir (across the border from Fort Hancock) to back off. West and Carrillo say that’s because the cartels and local drug lords in smaller border towns are now making their smugglers responsible for the loads.  In other words you get caught we’re still going to get our money, either from you or your family. If we can’t the money then we’ll kill you and your family. Plus, the cartels and gangs are recruiting younger and younger members to haul their loads. The border Sheriff’s believe this because the Feds won’t prosecute anyone 17 or younger, which puts a big burden on small counties to take on the prosecutions. Since Mexico sent 7,000 soldiers and 2,300 federal police officers to Juarez the violence has calmed down a great deal. However, everyone we spoke with in Juarez believes this is temporary as the cartels regroup and figure out their next move. Plus, Mexico has seen a lot of soldiers and federal police defect to the Cartels. A good portion of these defections boil down to economics. The average Mexican soldier makes $196 to $229 US a month. The cartels pay more. Plus, you have the cartels “Plata o Plomo” mantra. This translates to “silver or lead”, meaning you either take our money or you take our bullets. And remember all the violence a few years ago in Nueva Laredo? That was prompted by the troops moving in. The Zetas (enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel) wanted to show everyone who was boss and were angry that the troops  brought too much attention to the area so a bloodbath ensued, including the murder of two police chiefs (one was killed eight hours after being sworn in as Chief).  As for the cartels in Houston, the DEA says not exactly. It’s no secret Houston is a major shipping and distribution point for the cartels (especially the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels). Read this  report from HIDTA about how intertwined Houston is in the drug trafficking business. But the Houston DEA says it’s not actual cartel members working here, rather different cells that answer to the cartels. Plus, these cells switch alliances quickly and often. I have also reported how the Zetas have been actively recruiting “straw buyers” in Houston to purchase their weapons.  Just this past Monday Customs and Border Protection agents working in Laredo busted a Houston man smuggling 48 pounds (about $1.5 million street value) of cocaine into Texas.  Here’s a pic of the cocaine found in the rocker panel of the guy’s car.

$1.5 Million worth of Cocaine

$1.5 Million worth of Cocaine