crime

Gang rules 6 years after start of Mexico drug war

APATZINGAN, Mexico (AP) — Forest-camouflaged pickups roared to life as the Mexican soldiers pulled on their black masks and hoisted their Heckler & Koch G3 assault rifles.

The three-truck convoy pulled out of the base to patrol the rugged, mountainous region of the western state of Michoacan, when a raspy voice burst out of an unencrypted radio inside one of the cabs: "Three R's, 53." Three army vehicles, headed your way.

It wasn't a soldier's voice. The radio had picked up a call from the Knights Templar, a quasi-religious drug cartel that controls the area and most of the state. Its web of spies monitors the movements of the military and police around the clock. The gang's members not only live off methamphetamine and marijuana smuggling and extortion, they maintain country roads, control the local economy and act as private debt collectors for citizens frustrated with the courts, soldiers say.

"Because they're vigilant and well-organized they roll around here with a lot of ease," said Lt. Col. Julices Gonzalez Calzada, the leader of the patrol.

Felipe Calderon launched his presidency in December 2006 by sending the army to Michoacan, his home state, to battle organized crime that he said threatened to expand from drug trafficking to controlling civil society. His administration says it has debilitated many of the cartels with a leadership-focused offensive that has killed or captured 25 of the country's 37 most-wanted men.

But he has failed to stop drug cartels from morphing into mafias infiltrating society in the sun-seared Tierra Caliente, or Hot Country, a region named for its steamy weather, but now also too hot with gang activity for many to live and work safely. The government annihilated the leadership of one previous cartel, La Familia Michoacana, but a splinter group, the Knights Templar, moved in to take control.

Rank-and-file soldiers say they feel largely powerless in the face of an enemy that hides among the population. They say whenever they make strategic strikes, the gang's professional-grade infrastructure is replaced almost as fast as it's taken down.

Now the two sides largely co-exist.
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To get a soldier's eye view of the conflict, The Associated Press spent two days embedded with the 51st Battalion of the 43rd Military Zone, a vast region that's home to about 3,000 soldiers, a force that's more than doubled since Calderon mounted his offensive. Gen. Miguel Angel Patino, commanding officer, said his troops' work against the gangs has "limited a lot of their activity. They don't have the freedom to act that they used to."

But patrols through dry forests, avocado fields and hardscrabble towns show that the cartel operates with few restrictions. Soldiers point out pastel-colored, air-conditioned narco-mansions that stand out from the cluster of humble rural shacks in many of the small towns.

In the deep hills around El Alcalde, a town 12 miles from Apatzingan, is a brand-new sports arena with a cock-fighting pit and a bull-fighting ring that seats hundreds. The stables are filled with dozens of sleek, well-groomed horses. Soldiers say it was built and run by the Knights Templar.

The Calderon government claims its efforts are reducing violence in Mexico, though it stopped reporting the number of drug-related killings more than a year ago, when it reached 47,500 since Calderon started his term. Many private groups now put the number close to 60,000.

Indeed, things are quieter in the Tierra Caliente, where in 2009 La Familia rounded up, tortured and dumped the bodies of 12 federal police officers working the area.

In 2010, police battled with cartel forces for several days as gang members hijacked and torched buses, blocking major highways in the state capital of Morelia. Authorities say it ended with the killing of La Familia founder Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, known as "The Craziest One," though his body was never found.

Soldiers say confrontations are down to about one a month. But even the general agrees it's because the Knights Templar won the war against the rival gang.

"What the Knights Templar is doing is maintaining tight control on organized crime in this area," Patino said. "The dominance allows the area to stay quiet to a certain point."

Most citizens are quiet, too, shaking off questions about the drug gang. Local residents questioned by the AP about extortions or cartel rule declined to talk.

When the then-mayor of Apatzingan was pressed by reporters last year about a string of kidnappings in his town, he practically broke down.

"I want to go away, I want to resign this job, because I wasn't made for this. I can't even ensure the safety of my own children, who are also in danger," Mayor Genaro Guizar said in an emotional interview with the Milenio television station.

Calderon's office declined to comment directly on the situation in the Tierra Caliente, but referred The Associated Press to a speech the president delivered this year in Michoacan emphasizing the importance of purging local, state and federal police forces of corruption in order to produce trustworthy agencies capable of investigating crimes and bringing suspects to trial.
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The cartel's territory begins at the gates of the military base in the center of Apatzingan. Each of the five entrances is watched around the clock by the Knights Templar, as are virtually every highway exit, toll booth and village square, according to the soldiers.

The cartel consists largely of men from the Tierra Caliente, and they promote themselves as a mystic Christian order dedicated to protecting the population from abuse at the hands of the military and police. They have self-published at least two books and a variety of pamphlets collecting the sayings and memoirs of their leaders, most prominently the late Moreno, founder of their predecessor gang, La Familia.

Even the troops acknowledge the cartel has a substantial degree of local support due to its family networks, patronage of local communities and exploitation of citizens' anger at the government.

The cartel runs "training schools," including one in Apatzingan, that teach courses in leadership portraying cartel members as clean-living men of honor, steeped in Asian religion alongside Catholicism, and dedicated to protecting the people of Michoacan from a government they say is manipulated by a ultraconservative religious group known as El Yunque, or the Anvil.

According to cartel leaders, it is their duty to go against the government, saying Calderon used insecurity as a pretext for launching a bloody war.

"It has brought death and pain on thousands of homes," according to one book attributed to Moreno, whose philosophy was adopted by Knights Templar after the downfall of La Familia. "It was my obligation, with my comrades, to mount this fight. It's the only way to guarantee a change in our country."

Under Mexican law, soldiers can't formally investigate crimes and can only stop criminal activity that occurs directly in front of them. So they are limited to patrolling, responding to tips about crimes in progress, searching cars at roadside checkpoints and hunting for meth labs and marijuana fields by helicopter and on foot.

Most officers in the 43rd Military Zone carry two radios, one encrypted for military communications, and the other to listen to the Knights Templar watching their men. They also carry laminated cards confiscated from cartel operatives printed with hundreds of the gang's radio codes. The code "53" refers to the army, "69" to the U.S.-made Humvees and "56" to military intelligence operatives.

One army officer said he had heard Templar operatives checking the status of roads all the way to Mexico City, some six hours drive east.

On Monday, the army said, soldiers with the 43rd Military Zone, raided a ranch named "The Horses" in village outside Apatzingan that is believed to be the property of Enrique "Kiki" Plancarte Solis, co-leader of the Knights Templar along with Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez.

The troops were attacked with gunfire and grenades and returned fire, killing one of the attackers, the army said. Inside the ranch the troops found more than 28 pounds of marijuana, a pound of crystal meth, a smaller amount of cocaine, dozens of grenades, anti-tank rockets, pistols and rifles, including a powerful 50-caliber sniper rifle, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

The soldiers have taken down 90 labs so far this year, but the number of arrests they've made — 95 — does not reflect the amount of criminal activity they're aware of.

"All we can do is keep working, keep patrolling, moving through the countryside and the streets, and try to find them from time to time," Patino said.
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The army says it is well-received by people in the Tierra Caliente, though Michoacan's state commission on human rights says complaints against the army and federal police in Apatzingan have risen sharply, from 69 in 2008 to 391 last year.

Riding in groups of six or seven, the riflemen of the 51st Battalion scan the traffic and the roadside from benches mounted in the backs of their pickups. In each truck, one soldier mans a heavy weapon mounted on a pivot behind the roof of the cab.

They pull onto a dirt road and head to a series of little towns that are home to some of the Knights Templar leadership, including the communally owned village of El Alcalde, where they stop at a yellow stucco house filled with new appliances and surrounded by a chain-link fence topped in barbed wire.

The gate is open, and the soldiers walk up to the open windows, pulling aside the shades and peering inside. The house is cleaned every day but rarely occupied. They have no doubt that it's owned by a high-ranking member of the Knights Templar, Gonzalez said.

Each of the little towns in the area has such a house, newly built, assiduously maintained and filled with luxury finishes, thick carved-wood doors, marble floors, faux-Greek concrete columns, and immaculately tended rose bushes. Most sit on high ground at the edge of the towns, offering vistas of the roads and other houses. The money that paid for them didn't come just from avocado trees.

Outside of town, a shrine to La Familia founder Moreno Gonzalez sits atop a steep flight of concrete steps, dominating the road. Dozens of votive candles set on the chapel steps have been smashed to shards, the glass panels of the chapel doors are broken and deep pockmarks, apparently from bullets, mar the doors.

A black "Z' has been spray-painted on the front of the chapel, the trademark of the paramilitary Zetas cartel that battled the Knights Templar and La Familia before being largely driven out by the Knights.

Gonzalez said he believes the Knights Templar left the vandalism unrepaired as a way of inspiring their followers to maintain vigilance against future Zeta incursions.

Soldiers say the Knights Templar extort protection money from nearly every legitimate business in the Tierra Caliente, including at least three taxes on the region's famous avocados — one on the owners of the fields based on the area they own, one charged per ton on the middlemen who buy the crop and a third for exporters based on every kilogram of avocados.

The cartel also taxes Michoacan's lemon farmers as well as urban stores and markets.

"They've come as far as fixing the price of a tortilla or a kilo of meat," Gonzalez said. "They give the order that everyone is going to sell it for 60 pesos and all of butchers adjust their price to 60 pesos a kilo."

The military has found ledgers with budgets for road maintenance in rural areas. Around El Alcalde, in the neighboring towns of Guanajatillo, Moreno's reputed birthplace, and Los Laureles, roads are notably smoother than elsewhere, with well-tended culverts and surrounding fields of freshly planted and rigorously cared-for sorghum.

Gonzalez says local people have reported that the Knights Templar have planted hundreds of acres of the crop, and the equipment in the fields is expensive and new, including a shiny green John Deere combine harvester. Following the trail of funds earned from criminal activity falls to civilian prosecutors and investigators, and the soldiers say they see virtually no evidence that authorities are tracking the Knight Templars' money.

National Day of Remembrance

Alert date: 
November 4, 2012
Alert body: 

November 4 marks the 2nd annual National Remembrance Day for American citizens killed by illegal aliens and the politicians who are just as responsible due to continued support of the illegal alien presence in our country and the lack of enforcement of our existing immigration laws.

May those killed and injured by illegal aliens find peace.  Read more about it.

Vote today!

Vote for Bruce Starr for Labor Commissioner.  If your ballot is still kicking around the house, it's not too late to vote, but it might be too late to mail your ballot.

Simply locate a drop site and deliver your ballot before November 6 at 8:00pm.

This election will be a turning point.  Many elected officials fail to respect and uphold the laws of our state.  The result is that those in our country illegally are becoming emboldened ….demanding drivers licenses, Oregon jobs, instate tuition benefits and more all while costing taxpayers over $700 million dollars in services every year.

We need strong leadership...

Vote Bruce Starr for Labor Commissioner.

Send your ballot in today and be certain to sign the outside envelope, as well!

 

 


 

Bust yields big haul of meth

In what may be the largest crystal methamphetamine bust ever in Oregon, narcotics agents seized about 52 pounds of the drug while serving search warrants last weekend at five properties in Lane and Douglas counties.

Authorities have made four arrests in the case, and more are expected. The group allegedly is responsible for distributing multiple pounds of high-grade methamphetamine in Lane and Douglas counties each week for the past several months, and perhaps longer.

The estimated street value of the seized meth is $1 million, said Erik Fisher, a state police sergeant who serves as commander of Lane County’s Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team.

“I’ve never seen this much meth in one place at one time,” Fisher said. “If (the suspects) can move this kind of weight (in drugs), they’re pretty high up” in the alleged trafficking cartel.

Fisher said an investigation of the group’s dealings began “earnestly” in July, although it’s unclear how long it has allegedly operated in Lane and Douglas counties.

Agents on Sunday served warrants at the following addresses: 76919 Mosby Creek Road in Cottage Grove; 2145 31st St., Space 2 in Springfield; 2755 Nova St. in Springfield; 103 Green Lane in Eugene; and 2175 S.W. Jackie Ave. in Roseburg.

In addition to the drugs, agents recovered a stolen handgun, an undisclosed amount of cash and additional evidence of drug trafficking. An investigation is continuing.

The suspects are identified as Martin Bautista-Limon, 30; Miguel Nunez-Villanueva, 29; Ezequiel Gonzales-Jaimes, 42; and Tomas Torres Gonzalez, 27. They are not legal residents of the United States, Fisher said.

The methamphetamine seized in the case was most likely produced outside of Oregon in a so-called “super lab,” Fisher said.

Meth production in Oregon plummeted after the passage of a 2006 state law that made it illegal to sell medications containing pseudoephedrine — the key ingredient of meth — without a prescription.

In 2005, drug agents in the Portland area confiscated more than 40 pounds of methamphetamine in what was described at the time as the largest amount ever seized in the state.

It was not clear Thursday whether a single investigation in Oregon has ever yielded more than the 52 pounds seized in last weekend’s bust in Lane and Douglas counties.

Throughout 2011, authorities in Oregon seized a total of approximately 242 pounds of methamphetamine, according to statistics compiled by state police.

Salem man sentenced in hit-and-run crash

A Salem man was sentenced to almost six years in prison Monday for his role in a hit-and-run near Gervais in August that injured three people.Eleazar Martinez-Ortiz, 20, pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and was sentenced to 70 months in prison and three years of probation.

He was convicted of driving his van into three people who had been standing on the shoulder of the road trying to jump-start a car. Martinez-Ortiz then reportedly left the Dodge Caravan he was driving and ran away.

The crash occurred at 11:30 p.m. Aug. 6 on Howell Prairie Road NE near Mt. Angel-Gervais Road NE.

Marion County sheriff’s deputies along with other area law enforcement including police dogs searched the area that night but did not find the driver.

After a three-day investigation, Martinez-Ortiz was arrested at a berry farm where he worked in Molalla.

 

MARTINEZ-ORTIZ, ELEAZAR - ICE hold

Criminal Aliens in State Prisons as of Oct. 1, 2012

According to the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) Inmate Population Profile dated October 1, 2012 DOC indicated there were 14,234 prisoners incarcerated in DOC’s 14 prisons.

Not included in DOC’s October 1st Inmate Population Profile was DOC data indicating there were 1,242 foreign nationals (criminal aliens) incarcerated in its prison system.

All 1,242 criminal aliens incarcerated on October 1st by DOC had United States (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), detainers. The U.S. DHS–ICE is responsible for indentifying whether a DOC inmate is a criminal alien or a domestic inmate. If an inmate is identified as being a criminal alien, at U.S. DHS–ICE’s request, the DOC places an “ICE detainer” on the inmate that directs DOC officials to transfer custody to ICE following completion of the inmate’s state sanction.

Criminal aliens made up approximately 8.72% of the DOC October 1st prison population.

Comparing DOC criminal alien incarceration numbers from October 1, 2007 (985 criminal aliens) and October 1, 2012 (1,242 criminal aliens), the DOC prison system incarcerated 257 criminal aliens more than it did on October 1, 2007, a 26.09% increase.

A review of the 1,242 criminal aliens in DOC prisons by number per county and percentage (%) per county equated to the following: 0-Baker (0.00%), 14-Benton (1.13%), 91-Clackamas (7.33%), 7-Clatsop (0.56%), 2-Columbia (0.16%), 8-Coos (0.64%), 3-Crook (0.24%), 0-Curry (0.00%), 19-Deschutes (1.53%), 5-Douglas (0.40%), 1-Gilliam (0.08%), 0-Grant (0.00%), 2-Harney (0.24%), 7-Hood River (0.56%), 50-Jackson (4.02%), 12-Jefferson (0.97%), 7-Josephine (0.56%), 11-Klamath (0.88%), 0-Lake (0.00), 67-Lane (5.39%), 8-Lincoln (0.64%), 29-Linn (2.33%), 11-Malheur (0.88%), 282-Marion (22.70%), 7-Morrow (0.56%), 286-Multnomah (23.03%), 1-OOS (0.08%), 19-Polk (1.53%), 0-Sherman (0.00%), 3-Tillamook (0.24%), 21-Umatilla (1.69%), 2-Union (0.16), 0-Wallowa (0.00%), 4-Wasco (0.32%), 229-Washington (18.44%), 0-Wheeler (0.00%), and 34-Yamhill (2.74%).

Your listeners should be aware the types of crime committed against their fellow Oregonians by the 1,242 criminal aliens.

A review of the 1,242 criminal aliens in the DOC prison population by numbers per crime and percentage (%) per crime equated to the following: 4-arsons (0.32%), 129-assaults (10.39%), 28-burglaries (2.25%), 28-driving offenses (2.25%), 175-drugs (14.09%), 1-escape (0.08%), 4-forgeries (0.32%), 153-homicides (12.32%), 50-kidnappings (4.02%), 71-others (5.72%), 175-rapes (14.09%), 79-robberies (6.36%), 233-sex abuses (18.76%), 93-sodomies (7.49%), 12-thefts (0.97%), and 7-vehicle thefts (0.56%).

Lars Larson Show listeners should also be aware of the source of the preceding crimes, the country of origin of the 1,242 criminal aliens in DOC prisons.

The self-declared counties of origin of the 1,242 criminal aliens in the DOC prison population by numbers and percentage (%) per country equated to the following: 8-Canada (0.64%), 11-Cuba (0.88%), 17-El Salvador (1.37%), 31-Guatemala (2.49%), 12-Honduras (0.97%), 8-Laos (0.64%), 1,018-Mexico (81.96%), 99-others (7.97%), 6-Russia (0.48%), 14-Ukraine (1.13%), and 18-Vietnam (1.45%).

Beyond the DOC criminal alien incarceration numbers and incarceration percentages, per county and per crime type, or even country of origin, criminal aliens pose high economic cost on Oregonians.

An individual prisoner in the DOC prison system costs approximately ($84.81) per day to incarcerate.

The DOC’s incarceration cost for its 1,242 criminal alien prison population is approximately ($105,334.02) per day, ($737,338.14) per week, and ($38,446,917.30) per year.

None of the preceding cost estimates for the DOC to incarcerate the 1,242 criminal aliens include the dollar amount for legal services (indigent defense), court costs, nor cost estimates to cover victim assistance.

An unfortunate fact, the State of Oregon is not fully cooperating with the U.S. DHS–ICE to fight crime committed by criminal aliens who reside in Oregon.

In year 2007, a United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) report titled “Cooperation of SCAAP (State Criminal Alien Assistance Program) Recipients in the Removal of Criminal Aliens from the United States, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General Audit Division, Audit Report 07-07, October 2007, Redacted-Public Version” identified the State of Oregon as having an official “state sanctuary statute,” ORS 181.850 Enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The USDOJ, the federal governments top law enforcement agency, identified Oregon as a “sanctuary” for criminal aliens.

The State of Oregon should no longer be classified by U.S. federal government law enforcement as having an official “state sanctuary statute” for criminal aliens, nor should Oregon be a sanctuary for criminal aliens to kill, rape, or maim Oregonians.

Report by David Olen Cross, for delivery on the Lars Larson Show, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012.

Trooper Fired From Chopper To Stop Truck, Kills Two

LA JOYA, Texas (AP) -- A Texas state trooper who fired on a pickup truck from a helicopter and killed two illegal immigrants during a chase through the desert was trying to disable the vehicle and suspected it was being used to smuggle drugs, authorities said Friday.

The disclosure came a day after the incident that left two Guatemalan nationals dead on an isolated gravel road near the town of La Joya, just north of the Mexico border.

State game wardens were the first to encounter the truck Thursday. After the driver refused to stop, they radioed for help and state police responded, according to Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Mike Cox.

When the helicopter with a sharpshooter arrived, officers concluded that the truck appeared to be carrying a "typical covered drug load" on its bed and was travelling at reckless speeds, police said.

After the shots were fired and the truck's tires blown out, the driver lost control and crashed into a ditch. State police said a preliminary investigation revealed that the shots fired from the helicopter struck the vehicle's occupants.

Eight people who were in the truck were arrested. At least seven of them were also from Guatemala. No drugs were found.

The Guatemalan consul in McAllen, Alba Caceres, told The Associated Press that the surviving witnesses told her "one died immediately, the other was apparently taken to a hospital and died on the way."

The sharpshooter was placed on administrative leave, a standard procedure after such incidents.

An expert on police chases said the decision to fire on the truck was "a reckless act" that served "no legitimate law enforcement purpose."

"In 25 years following police pursuits, I hadn't seen a situation where an officer shot a speeding vehicle from a helicopter," said Geoffrey Alpert, professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina. Such action would be reasonable only if "you know for sure the person driving the car deserves to die and that there are no other occupants."

In general, he said, law enforcement agencies allow the use of deadly force only when the car is being used as a weapon, not "just on a hunch," Alpert added.

The Texas Department of Public Safety referred questions about its policy governing the use of deadly force to its general manual, which says troopers are allowed to use such force when defending themselves or someone else from serious harm or death. Shooting at vehicles is justified to disable a vehicle or when deadly force is deemed necessary.

Other law enforcement agencies that patrol the border say they have similar limits on the practice.

For instance, federal Customs and Borders Protection agents "are trained to use deadly force in circumstances that pose a threat to their lives, the lives of their fellow law enforcement partners and innocent third parties," agency spokesman Doug Mosier said.

But a report presented Thursday to the United Nations by the American Civil Liberties Union said shootings and excessive force by Customs and Border Protection agents on the border have left at least 20 individuals dead or seriously hurt since January 2010.

Of those, eight cases involved agents responding to reports of people throwing rocks. Six involved people killed while standing on the Mexican side of the border.

In recent years, Texas state police have increased their presence in the border area, deploying more agents, more helicopters and more boats to patrol the Rio Grande.

Troopers are regularly involved in high-speed pursuits, often chasing drug smugglers into the river and back to Mexico.

Agency Director Stephen McCraw has said state police were pushed into that role because the federal government's efforts to secure the border have been insufficient.

Diplomats quickly began their own investigation into the chase.

The head of the Guatemalan Consulate in McAllen said she is demanding federal and state authorities provide an explanation.

"I am baffled. I can't understand how this could happen," Caceres said. "I understand that the agents are doing their job, that they are protecting their border. But if there is someone who is responsible for this, he has to pay."

The Guatemalans started their journey 19 days ago near Guatemala City, with plans to stay with friends and relatives in New York, New Jersey and Houston, she said.

They were covered with a tarp, but as the car sped away from the game warden and the helicopter, the men "were having lots of trouble holding on to that tarp, Caceres said. "They must have seen them."

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Associated Press Writer Romina Ruiz-Goiriena in Guatemala City contributed to this report.

 

Kansas case puts face on 'total identity theft'

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- When Candida L. Gutierrez's identity was stolen, the thief didn't limit herself to opening fraudulent credit and bank accounts. She assumed Gutierrez's persona completely, using it to get a job, a driver's license, a mortgage and even medical care for the birth of two children.

All the while, the crook claimed the real Gutierrez was the one who had stolen her identity. The women's unusual tug-of-war puts a face on "total identity theft," a brazen form of the crime in which con artists go beyond financial fraud to assume many other aspects of another person's life.

The scheme has been linked to illegal immigrants who use stolen Social Security numbers to get paid at their jobs, and authorities fear the problem could soon grow to ensnare more unsuspecting Americans.

"When she claimed my identity and I claimed it back, she was informed that I was claiming it too," said Gutierrez, a 31-year-old Houston elementary school teacher. "She knew I was aware and that I was trying to fight, and yet she would keep fighting. It is not like she realized and she stopped. No, she kept going, and she kept going harder."

A 32-year-old illegal immigrant named Benita Cardona-Gonzalez is accused of using Gutierrez's identity during a 10-year period when she worked at a Topeka company that packages refrigerated foods.

For years, large numbers of illegal immigrants have filled out payroll forms using their real names but stolen Social Security numbers. However, as electronic employment verification systems such as E-Verify become more common, the use of fake numbers is increasingly difficult. Now prosecutors worry that more people will try to fool the systems by assuming full identities rather than stealing the numbers alone.

For victims, total identity theft can also have serious health consequences if electronic medical records linked to Social Security numbers get mixed up, putting at risk the accuracy of important patient information such as blood types or life-threatening allergies.

Federal Trade Commission statistics show that Americans reported more than 279,000 instances of identity theft in 2011, up from 251,100 a year earlier. While it is unclear how many of those cases involve total identity theft, one possible indicator is the number of identity theft complaints that involve more than one type of identity theft — 13 percent last year, compared with 12 percent a year earlier.

Nationwide, employment-related fraud accounted for 8 percent of identity theft complaints last year. But in states with large immigrant populations, employment-related identity fraud was much higher: 25 percent in Arizona, 15 percent in Texas, 16 percent in New Mexico, 12 percent in California.

Prosecutors say that the longer a person uses someone else's identity, the more confident the thief becomes using that identity for purposes other than just working.

Once they have become established in a community, identity thieves don't want to live in the shadows and they seek a normal life like everybody else. That's when they take the next step and get a driver's license, a home loan and health insurance.

"And so that is a natural progression, and that is what we are seeing," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson, who is prosecuting the case against Gutierrez's alleged impostor.

Gutierrez first learned her identity had been hijacked when she was turned down for a mortgage more than a decade ago. Now each year she trudges to the Social Security Administration with her birth certificate, driver's license, passport and even school yearbooks to prove her identity and clear her employment record.

She spends hours on the phone with creditors and credit bureaus, fills out affidavits and has yet to clean up her credit history. Her tax records are a mess. She even once phoned the impostor's Kansas employer in a futile effort to find some relief.

Both women claimed they were identity theft victims and sought to get new Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration turned down the request from Gutierrez, instead issuing a new number to the woman impersonating her. And in another ironic twist, Gutierrez was forced to file her federal income tax forms using a special identification number usually reserved for illegal immigrants.

"It is such a horrible nightmare," Gutierrez said. "You get really angry, and then you start realizing anger is not going to help. ... But when you have so much on your plate and you keep such a busy life, it is really such a super big inconvenience. You have to find the time for someone who is abusing you."

When Gutierrez recently got married, her husband began researching identity theft on the Internet and stumbled across identity theft cases filed against other illegal immigrants working at Reser's Fine Foods, the same manufacturer where Cardona-Gonzalez worked. He contacted federal authorities in Kansas and asked them to investigate the employee working there who had stolen his wife's identity.

The alleged impostor was arrested in August, and her fingerprints confirmed that immigration agents had encountered Cardona-Gonzalez in 1996 in Harlingen, Texas, and sent her back to Mexico.

Cardona-Gonzalez did not respond to a letter sent to her at the Butler County jail, where she is awaiting trial on charges of aggravated identity theft, misuse of a Social Security number and production of a false document.

Her attorney, Matthew Works, did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment. Court filings indicate the two sides are negotiating a plea agreement.

Citing privacy issues, the Social Security Administration declined to discuss the Gutierrez case. Reser's Fine Foods did not return a message left at its Topeka plant.

Anderson expects more cases of total identity theft "because we all know what is going on out there — which is thousands and thousands of people who are working illegally in the United States under false identities, mostly of U.S. citizens, and very little is being done about it. But we are doing something about it, one case at a time."

 

What about the National Security risk just across our border?

While President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney were exchanging verbal blows about the biggest threats to our National security and who would do the best job protecting the American people, I was disappointed that neither one of them acknowledged the risk on our own border.  Having traveled, toured and learned from specialists all along Arizona border and parts of the Texas border, I believe one of our greatest threats is the sieve that is our southern border. Those that want to hurt us the most are coming across with little or no detection.  Law enforcement all along the border told us repeatedly they are desperately concerned about who and what is getting over the border.  The fact that the issue was never even addressed in any of the debates is troubling.  Read more here.

Federal Authorities Arrest Maverick County Commissioner Rodolfo Heredia and Two Others in Connection with a Money Laundering and Bulk Cash Smuggling Scheme

Scheme involved the sale of vehicle to a known associate of the Los Zetas Drug Trafficking Organization In Eagle Pass this morning, federal agents arrested Maverick County Commissioner Rodolfo Bainet Heredia and two accomplices charged in connection with a money laundering and bulk cash smuggling scheme announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Armando Fernandez.

A four–count federal grand jurry indictment, returned yesterday and unsealed today, charges Heredia, age 54; 62-year-old Jose Luis Aguilar of Eagle Pass; and 28-year-old David Gelacio of Eagle Pass with one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering; aiding and abetting money laundering; conspiracy to commit bulk cash smuggling; and aiding and abetting bulk cash smuggling.

According to the indictment, on January 4, 2011, Heredia had Aguilar travel to a ranch in Mexico owned by a known associate of the Los Zetas Drug Trafficking Organization for the purpose of selling Heredia's Ford F-250 King Ranch truck for $13,000. Following the sale, at Heredia's bidding, Aguilar and Gelacio, carrying $7,000 cash and $6,000 cash, respectively, crossed the money from Mexico into the United States via the Eagle Pass Port of Entry. They are alleged to have divided and concealed the money in order to avoid a reporting requirement at the Port of Entry.

Upon conviction, each faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each money laundering-related charge and up to five years in federal prison for each bulk cash smuggling-related charge. All three remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Del Rio before U.S. Magistrate Judge Collis White.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant United States Attorney Michael Galdo is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government. An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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