crime

The one billion dollar elephant in the room

OFIR Vice President Rick LaMountain hit the nail on the head again in this just published article.

Convicted drug courier suspected of cartel ties

Federal prosecutors believe a man recently convicted of hauling 15 pounds of high-quality methamphetamine up Interstate 5 was involved with a Mexican drug cartel.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Medford, Francisco Hernandez-Figueroa, 29, of San Rafael, Mexico, had entered the country illegally with the purpose of delivering a load of meth on the streets of Seattle.

An Oregon State Police trooper stopped Hernandez-Figueroa's Acura on March 20, 2011, near Medford and found the meth hidden in an intricate compartment system cut into the vehicle, documents show.

Hernandez-Figueroa pleaded guilty to the charges in state court and was sentenced to five years in state prison. Federal prosecutors decided to prosecute him a second time on the same charges, partly because of the man's alleged connection to a cartel.

"You have to be involved with a drug-trafficking organization to attain the amount of pure methamphetamine (Hernandez-Figueroa) had," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Chatfield.

What was most disturbing to prosecutors, aside from the amount of meth hidden in Hernandez-Figueroa's car, was its quality.

Lab tests confirmed the meth was "99.5 percent" pure, with an estimated street value of $873,546, documents show.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that meth purity levels are on the rise, with average levels reaching 88 percent purity in 2012, up from 53 percent in 2000. Prices, however, appear to be dropping.

The agency reports that a gram of high-grade meth sold for an average price of $123 in 2012, less than the $239 average a meth user paid for a gram in 2000.

The cost figures were collected from across the country, the Justice Department said.

An interesting aspect of this case, according to prosecutors, was Hernandez-Figueroa's attempt to avoid a steep federal prison sentence by quickly pleading guilty to state charges in Jackson County Circuit Court.

"It is very uncommon for a defendant to plead guilty to serious charges with little discovery," Chatfield said. "And that's what happened here."

Documents show that Tanya Morrow, a federal public defender in Medford, read about Hernandez-Figueroa's arrest in the Mail Tribune and contacted Justin N. Rosas, Hernandez-Figueroa's state public defender, and advised him that it would be better for the suspect to plead quickly to state charges before federal prosecutors could take the case.

The defense attorneys apparently believed it was unlikely that federal prosecutors would pursue federal charges once the case was adjudicated in state court, documents show.

Chatfield said his office does not often take cases that have been settled in state court. But federal prosecutors will step in when they feel that a large drug case does not adequately punish an offender.

"In this case, because there was such a large amount of narcotics involved, we believed the federal interest was not vindicated," Chatfield said.

A suspect can be tried for the same crime twice as long as the case is pursued in two separate jurisdictions, Chatfield said.

The state and federal courts operate in their own jurisdictions, which allowed Hernandez-Figueroa to be tried twice for his crime.

According to court documents, Hernandez-Figueroa's defense lawyer told him it was possible for federal prosecutors to charge even after he pleaded guilty to the crimes in state court.

Hernandez-Figueroa rolled the dice and pleaded guilty, a gamble he lost.

He was given five years in state prison, but his federal sentence was 10 years. These sentences will be served at the same time, which means Hernandez-Figueroa will serve five years in a state prison and then be moved to a federal pen to serve five more years, Chatfield said.

Film delivers gritty look at drug cartels

About 80 people and several uniformed police officers attended the showing of “Drug Wars: Silver or Lead” on Saturday afternoon at Salem Public Library.

Hosted by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, the showing was originally scheduled to have the film’s director, Rusty Fleming, on hand. But Fleming was called away to Oklahoma City due to a family issue.

The Salem Police were in attendance, however, with several officers on site following threats of disruption, according to OFIR’s Jim Ludwig.

The movie delivered a pointed message that suggested Mexican drug cartels, abetted by corrupt military, law enforcement and border patrols, are delivering a virtually unstoppable stream of drugs into the United States. Gangs within the states are coordinating the efforts locally, lured by money, power and glamour despite the dead-end and potential life-ending inevitability of the trade.

The film stressed the brutality of the cartels, portrayed as criminal organizations that use murder, torture, kidnapping and bribery as modus operandi. Fleming was quoted throughout the film, which was primarily sourced by pundits, peppered with a few anonymous press people, victims of cartel and/or gang crimes and a few television clips.

“(This film) is live, it’s true, it’s gruesome, it’s brutal,” OFIR President Cynthia Kendoll forewarned before the showing.

Kendoll cited apathy as a huge part of the drug problem, and brought the issue home with a photo of Jorge Ortiz-Oliva, whom she said is currently serving 30 years in prison for major drug distribution crimes, and his base of operations was in Salem.

Fleming noted that the “silver or lead” in the title comes from the Spanish “plata o plomo.” The reference, he said, was to cartel bribes: take our money or take our bullets. He said there was hardly an institution in Mexico that was untouched by corruption, in large part because the cartels spend 50 percent to 60 percent of their earnings corrupting the people who can keep their drug-running operations streamlined.

Legalization as a combative method was brushed upon in the movie and in the ensuing discussion. OFIR officials, for the most part, dismissed the tactic. Ludwig referred to legalization as making a pact with the devil.

OFIR’s overriding recommendation to those on hand was to contact their local representatives to air their concerns about drug cartels and illegal immigration’s part in it.
 

Rep. Schrader to hold Town Hall meetings

Alert date: 
January 26, 2013
Alert body: 

Milwaukie Town Hall Meeting

Date: Tuesday, January 29th

Time: 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Location: Milwaukie Center, 5440 SE Kellogg Avenue, Milwaukie 97222

Salem Town Hall Meeting

Date: Wednesday, January 30th

Time: 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Location: Salem Library, Loucks Auditorium, 585 Liberty Street SE, Salem 97301

Please plan to attend and ask specific questions about Rep. Schrader’s immigration views.

For suggestions about what to ask please read this.


 

Great turnout for DRUG WARS event

OFIR extends a warm, sincere thank you to all those who chose to give up a rainy Saturday afternoon and join us to view the chilling, but true, documentary titled DRUG WARS: Silver or Lead.  Well over one hundred people decided it was time to get educated about drug cartels and the damage they are wreaking on our society and the danger they pose to our children.

The OFIR Board will consider the adamant suggestions of many that attended to schedule another showing soon.  We will keep you posted!
 

Cocaine Incorporated

Cocaine Incorporated;

How the World’s Most Powerful Drug Traffickers Run Their Business

By Patrick Radden Keefe

in The New York Times Magazine,  June 15, 2012

 

[Following is the first part of a lengthy, detailed description of how Mexican drug cartels operate.  To read the entire shocking account, see illustration and map, view the article on the New York Times website.]

One afternoon last August, at a hospital on the outskirts of Los Angeles, a former beauty queen named Emma Coronel gave birth to a pair of heiresses. The twins, who were delivered at 3:50 and 3:51, respectively, stand to inherit some share of a fortune that Forbes estimates is worth a billion dollars. Coronel’s husband, who was not present for the birth, is a legendary tycoon who overcame a penurious rural childhood to establish a wildly successful multinational business. If Coronel elected to leave the entry for “Father” on the birth certificates blank, it was not because of any dispute over patrimony. More likely, she was just skittish about the fact that her husband, Joaquín Guzmán, is the C.E.O. of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, a man the Treasury Department recently described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. Guzmán’s organization is responsible for as much as half of the illegal narcotics imported into the United States from Mexico each year; he may well be the most-wanted criminal in this post-Bin Laden world. But his bride is a U.S. citizen with no charges against her. So authorities could only watch as she bundled up her daughters and slipped back across the border to introduce them to their dad.

Known as El Chapo for his short, stocky frame, Guzmán is 55, which in narco-years is about 150. He is a quasi-mythical figure in Mexico, the subject of countless ballads, who has outlived enemies and accomplices alike, defying the implicit bargain of a life in the drug trade: that careers are glittering but brief and always terminate in prison or the grave. When Pablo Escobar was Chapo’s age, he had been dead for more than a decade. In fact, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chapo sells more drugs today than Escobar did at the height of his career. To some extent, this success is easily explained: as Hillary Clinton acknowledged several years ago, America’s “insatiable demand for illegal drugs” is what drives the clandestine industry. It’s no accident that the world’s biggest supplier of narcotics and the world’s biggest consumer of narcotics just happen to be neighbors. “Poor Mexico,” its former president Porfirio Díaz is said to have remarked. “So far from God and so close to the United States.”

The Sinaloa cartel can buy a kilo of cocaine in the highlands of Colombia or Peru for around $2,000, then watch it accrue value as it makes its way to market. In Mexico, that kilo fetches more than $10,000. Jump the border to the United States, and it could sell wholesale for $30,000. Break it down into grams to distribute retail, and that same kilo sells for upward of $100,000 — more than its weight in gold. And that’s just cocaine. Alone among the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa is both diversified and vertically integrated, producing and exporting marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine as well.

Estimating the precise scale of Chapo’s empire is tricky, however. Statistics on underground economies are inherently speculative: cartels don’t make annual disclosures, and no auditor examines their books. Instead, we’re left with back-of-the-envelope extrapolations based on conjectural data, much of it supplied by government agencies that may have bureaucratic incentives to overplay the problem.

So in a spirit of empirical humility, we shouldn’t accept as gospel the estimate, from the Justice Department, that Colombian and Mexican cartels reap $18 billion to $39 billion from drug sales in the United States each year. (That range alone should give you pause.) Still, even if you take the lowest available numbers, Sinaloa emerges as a titanic player in the global black market. In the sober reckoning of the RAND Corporation, for instance, the gross revenue that all Mexican cartels derive from exporting drugs to the United States amounts to only $6.6 billion. By most estimates, though, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.

The drug war in Mexico has claimed more than 50,000 lives since 2006. But what tends to get lost amid coverage of this epic bloodletting is just how effective the drug business has become. A close study of the Sinaloa cartel, based on thousands of pages of trial records and dozens of interviews with convicted drug traffickers and current and former officials in Mexico and the United States, reveals an operation that is global (it is active in more than a dozen countries) yet also very nimble and, above all, staggeringly complex. Sinaloa didn’t merely survive the recession — it has thrived in recent years. And after prevailing in some recent mass-casualty clashes, it now controls more territory along the border than ever.

Read the rest of the article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/magazine/how-a-mexican-drug-cartel-makes-its-billions.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

 


 

OFIR President spells out cartel danger

How many Oregonians know that Mexican drug cartels seek to addict U.S. grade-school children to cheap, potent new drugs?

How many know cartels’ technology is 10 years more advanced than the U.S. Border Patrol’s and that cartels even track border patrol movements by satellite?

And how many know that cartels are entrenched in Oregon, distributing heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine through major hubs in Portland, Salem and Eugene?

Late last year, I learned this and more from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Joe Arabit, former FBI agent Richard Valdemar and other experts at the National Sheriffs Border School in El Paso.

Read the entire guest opinion Kendoll: Drug cartels pose a huge threat  here.


 

Meth traffickers aren't able to dodge federal penalties

A pair of large-scale methamphetamine traffickers arrested in Jackson County last year could not escape steep federal prison sentences after attempting to rush plea deals through state court that carry shorter incarceration terms, officials said.

The suspects were arrested while driving on Interstate 5 in March of 2011. The two were arrested by the Oregon State Police in unrelated incidents, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

On March 16, an OSP trooper stopped Jamie Eugene Muniz, 28, from Sacramento, on the freeway near Ashland. A search of his car turned up 10 pounds of meth wrapped in eight packages and hidden in a secret compartment in the center console. The estimated street value of the meth was $600,700.

The meth was destined for sale in the Portland area, officials said.

Four days later, an OSP trooper stopped a car driven by Francisco Hernandez-Figueroa, 29, of San Rafael, Mexico, on the freeway near Medford.

A search of the car found that it had been wired with an electronic activation system leading to two hidden compartments located behind the side panels in the rear passenger compartment. A switch hidden in the steering column opened the secret compartments, revealing 16 packages wrapped in black duct tape.

A total of 15 pounds of high-quality meth, with a street value of $870,000, was packed in the compartments.

Troopers also found $4,500 in $100 bills, believed to be proceeds from drug trafficking. The meth was bound for Seattle, officials said.

Law enforcement found that Hernandez-Figueroa had illegally entered the country with the intent of selling the large haul of meth.

Within a few days of their arrest both men demanded to plead guilty to the drug charges in state court. Their defense attorney advised them to do so to avoid a possible longer federal sentence, officials said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office had not reviewed the cases by the time each entered guilty pleas in state court, officials said.

Both were sentenced to nearly five years in Oregon prison, officials said.

However, this did not stop federal prosecutors from pursuing drug-trafficking crimes against the men. U.S. District Judge Owen Panner then sentenced Hernandez-Figueroa to 10 years in federal prison, while Muniz received five years of federal time.

The sentences will be served concurrently with the state convictions, officials said.

"These were some of the largest seizures of nearly 100 percent pure methamphetamine in Southern Oregon," said Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney for Oregon, in a news release. "The Department of Justice authorized our prosecution because the state convictions and sentences did not adequately vindicate the interest the United States has in prosecuting major drug traffickers."

Talent man faces attempted kidnapping charge

A Talent man arrested Saturday for allegedly attempting to drag a woman into his vehicle in east Medford Jan. 13 also attempted to lure at least two other women into his vehicle in the week before his capture, authorities say.

Fidel Flores-Avalos, 39, was taken into custody on one count of attempted second-degree kidnapping for allegedly trying to force a 22-year-old Medford women into his vehicle on the morning of Jan. 13 while she was walking through a Medford Center parking lot near Safeway, according to Medford police.

After repeatedly attempting to coax the woman into his Jeep, Flores-Avalos allegedly got out and grabbed the victim's body and purse and tried to force her into the vehicle's passenger seat before she escaped and fled, Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said.

He also was suspected of trying to talk a 38-year-old woman into entering his car Thursday morning in the area of East Main and Almond streets, but his efforts were reportedly thwarted when he was interrupted by an unknown man, Budreau said.

A similar incident occurred Saturday along East Main and Genessee streets, and the 51-year-old woman escaped untouched but was able to provide investigators with a license plate number and description of the man and vehicle that matched the Jan. 13 incident, police said.

Medford police identified Flores-Avalos, of the 200 block of Talent Avenue, as the owner of that vehicle, police said. He then agreed to be interviewed at the Medford Police Department, where he told investigators he talked to the victims but insisted it was them asking him for rides, Budreau said.

"Obviously, he had a different version of the events," Budreau said.

Flores-Avalos was lodged in the Jackson County Jail on the single count of attempted second-degree kidnapping, which is a Class C felony in Oregon.

The charge stems from his allegedly grabbing the victim and trying to force her into the Jeep near Safeway, police said. In the other incidents, there was no force or touching involved, reports state.

"In some of the other cases, the behavior was concerning, but not criminal," Budreau said. "It didn't quite rise to the level of attempted kidnapping."

A fourth victim of a suspected attempted kidnapping came forward after news reports of the case surfaced Sunday, Budreau said. The 40-year-old woman, who lives on Royal Avenue, told police she believed Flores-Avalos was the man who has attempted to get her to ride in his Jeep several times since June, Budreau said.

Flores-Avalos has a history of misdemeanor arrests and traffic violations in Jackson County dating back to 1991 but no previous felony arrests here, court records show.

Flores-Avalos was being held Monday in jail on $5,000 bail, jail records show.

ICE HOLD - Fidel Flores-Avalos

Rick LaMountain, OFIR VP, clearly explains the folly of driver licenses for illegal aliens

Rick LaMountain, once again hits the nail on the head with his decisive, clear and well documented letter explaining why the upcoming Oregon Legislature should not restore driver's licenses to illegal aliens in our state.  Please, pass this article along to your Legislator so that they, too, can understand the folly of the idea.
 

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