Evidence Surfaces of Mexican Drug Cartel Activities in the U.S.

October 21, 2010 04:16

The evidence disputes Napolitano’s assurances as recently as Oct. 18 that border enforcement is up and illegal immigration is down. Is her job defending the border or propagandizing for Obama?

The Americano

For months now, politician and law enforcement officials from states on the border with Mexico keep telling the American public and the Obama administration that the border is not secure and drug cartels who operate with impunity in Mexico could easily bring crime into this country.

Not possible was the response from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who as recently as Monday was crowing about how a 17 percent drop in Border Patrol arrests this year shows heightened enforcement is slowing illegal immigration.

The figures came in an Associated Press story published in The Washington Post Monday. It said that the Border Patrol made about 463,000 arrests during the federal government’s fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, down from 556,032 the previous 12 months. It marks the fifth straight year of declines.

That was Monday. On Tuesday, a new story published in The Washington Post questioned much of what Napolitano has been saying.

The story written from San Diego, California, cited U.S. authorities who tapped the cell phones of a major Mexican drug cartel who had opened a branch office on the U.S. side of the border.

“Their surveillance effort captured more than 50,000 calls over six months, conversations that reached deep into Mexico and helped build a sprawling case against 43 suspects – including Mexican police and top officials – allegedly linked to a savage trafficking ring known as the Fernando Sánchez Organization,” the story said.

It added that wiretaps and confidential informants disclosed that the suspects ” plotted kidnappings and killings and hired American teenage girls, with nicknames like Dopey, to smuggle quarter-pound loads of methamphetamine across the border for $100 a trip. To send a message to a rival, they dumped a disemboweled dog in his mother’s front yard.”

U.S. law enforcement officials quoted in the story say the most worrisome thing about the Fernando Sanchez Organization was how aggressively it moved to set up operations in the United States, working out of a San Diego apartment it called “The Office.”

The Post said that this evidence came at a time of “heightened concern in Washington that drug violence along the border may spill into the United States, the case dubbed ‘Luz Verde,’ or Green Light, shows how Mexican cartels are trying to build up their U.S. presence.”

What the story did not clarify is how the comments made by Napolitano Monday make sense in light of the information U.S. officials disclosed Tuesday.

The Fernando Sanchez Organization’s San Diego venture functioned almost like a franchise, prosecutors say, giving it greater control over lucrative smuggling routes and drug distribution networks north of the border.

“They moved back and forth, from one side to the other. They commuted. We had lieutenants of the organization living here in San Diego and ordering kidnappings and murders in Mexico,” said Todd Robinson, the assistant U.S. attorney who will prosecute the alleged drug ring next year.

As The Washington Post portrays it, “the case shows that as the border becomes less of an operational barrier for Mexican cartels, it appears to be less of one for U.S. surveillance efforts. Because the suspects’ cell phone and radio traffic could be captured by towers on the northern side of the border, U.S. agents were able to eavesdrop on calls made on Mexican cell phones, between two callers in Mexico – a tactic prosecutors say has never been deployed so extensively.”

The story told of a cartel leader hear on a wire tap order a former homicide detective from Tijuana, negotiating with a Mexican state judicial police officer about a job offer to lead a death squad.

Recorded on other calls: the operation’s biggest catch, Jesus Quiñones Máquez, a high-ranking Mexican official and alleged cartel operative code-named “El Riñón,” or “The Kidney.” As he worked and socialized with U.S. law enforcement officials in his role as international liaison for the Baja California attorney general’s office, Quiñones passed confidential information to cartel bosses and directed Mexican police to take action against rival traffickers, prosecutors say.

He and 34 other suspects are now in U.S. jails. The remaining eight are still at large.

Investigators told The Washington Post that it is not unusual for Mexican cartel leaders and their underlings to move north to seek refuge, or place representatives in such cities as Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta to manage large deliveries of drugs. But the Fernando Sánchez Organization was more ambitious. It was building a network in San Diego, complete with senior managers to facilitate large and small drug shipments and sales.”

The gang being organized in San Diego is an offshoot of the Tijuana cartel, led by baby-faced Fernando Sanchez Arellano, a nephew of the once fearsome Arellano-Felix brothers who ran the Tijuana drug trade for almost 20 years before they were captured or killed. The nephew’s organization is a weaker syndicate, at war with itself and rivals, police say, and locked in a desperate struggle to maintain market share in the highly competitive billion-dollar drug corridor into California.

“Unlike the cartel crews in Mexico, which are typically built on strong ties between families or friends, the San Diego franchise recruited from U.S.-based Latino street gangs. Some were illegal immigrants, others U.S. citizens,” the story said citing evidence obtained from arrest warrants.

Twelve of the 43 indicted have alleged gang affiliations in San Diego. Six of the 43 are current or former Mexican law enforcement officers. Eight are women.

“You couldn’t pick these people out of a crowd,” Leonard Miranda, a retired captain in the Chula Vista, Calif., police department who worked on the investigation told The Washington Post. “Some of them kept a very low profile. Their family members didn’t even know.”

According to the 86-page federal racketeering indictment unsealed July 23 quoted by The Post, cartel members operated stash houses, managed smuggling crews, distributed marijuana and methamphetamine, trafficked weapons, laundered money, committed robberies and collected drug debts. When people did not pay, they were kidnapped or targeted with execution on both sides of the border.

According to U.S. law enforcement officials, the Mexican government was not involved in the investigation.

The Americano / Agencies

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