drugs

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.

 

With 60,000 dead, Mexicans wonder why drug war doesn't rate in presidential debate

Mexico City

Mitt Romney’s single mention of Latin America last night, calling it a “huge opportunity" for the United States, generated immediate glee from Latin Americanists across Twitter – but the hemisphere got no nod from President Obama, and then both went silent on the topic.

Given that the final presidential debate Monday evening was dominated by the Middle East and terrorism, most of the world was left out by President Obama and Mr. Romney. That includes the whole of Europe and its debt crisis. India. South Africa. And not a single mention of any country in Latin America or the Caribbean: neither Cuba specifically, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, nor Peru. (Read a transcript here.)

That means no candidate talked about the drug trade, despite historic violence playing out in Mexico, much of it along the 2,000-mile border that the US shares. They did not talk about energy policy in the Americas. Or the economies of Brazil and Mexico.

Think you know Latin America? Take our geography quiz.

The debate opened with promise for Latin America – with moderator Bob Schieffer referring to the 50th anniversary of the disclosure that the Soviet Union had missiles in Cuba. But he did not pose a question about it or anything else in the region, which observers say was a clear missed opportunity – even if hardly surprising.

“In a broader foreign policy context, we have to begin to mainstream the Americas,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a consultancy based in New York. “Brazil is an important international player, not just a Latin American player.… Latin America is of rising importance in the world, [we should have been hearing how the candidates] would work with Brazils, and Mexicos, and Colombias.”

Romney mentioned Latin America in the context of how to boost employment at home. “Trade grows about 12 percent year. It doubles about every – every five or so years. We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America,” he said. “The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China. We're all focused on China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us – time zone, language opportunities.”

But Obama did not respond. And the only other mention of the region came once again from Romney, who mentioned Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro as part of a list of the world’s “worst actors” whom Obama has failed to meet with, he said, despite promises to do so.

Obama has remained popular across Latin America and is favored among Hispanic voters in the US. But some of that support abroad has slipped. In a Pew poll released in June, 39 percent of Mexicans said they approved of Obama’s international policies. That fell from 56 percent in 2009. (Here is the poll.)

Much of that slide could be pegged to record deportations of undocumented immigrants under Obama, although in a huge move this year he gave a reprieve to many undocumented migrants who were brought to the US as children.

While immigration is the topic that Latin America perhaps cares most about, few expected the politically charged issue to feature at the presidential debate. Still, there was hope that the growing role that places such as Brazil and Colombia play in the energy sector would be mentioned. And if nothing else, the drug-fueled violence plaguing Mexico and Central America right now.

Mexican journalist Leon Krauze wrote in a widely shared Tweet: “Mexico, a country facing 100,000 deaths, neighbor to the United States, didn't deserve one single mention tonight. A disgrace.”

Mexican academic Sergio Aguayo added, using a more commonly cited figure for Mexican deaths: “They talk about a humanitarian tragedy in Syria (30,000 deaths) and still don’t say anything about Mex (some 60,000). Will they?

They did not. When asked what the greatest future security threat was to the US, no one mentioned Mexico. Obama cited “terrorist networks,” while Romney mentioned a “nuclear Iran.”

Latin American observers were just as befuddled as those in Latin America. “As George W. Bush rightly said, Mexico is the US's most important bilateral relationship. A presidential debate should focus on whether the United States is doing enough – and doing the right things – to assist Mexico [and Central America] deal with its drug-fueled crime and violence,” says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “If the US is not prepared to do everything possible to stand up for its closest neighbors and allies, then how could it have a credible foreign policy more broadly?”
 

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.

Indo-Canadian truck drivers from GTA caught in web of North American drug trade

An 18-wheeler trundled to a stop at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge on its way into Canada. During an outbound inspection, a U.S. immigration-customs agent asked the driver if he had anything to declare. The man behind the wheel said no, the tractor-trailer was empty.

But he appeared nervous and wouldn’t make eye contact, so the agent asked him to step out of the cab. Uneasy and shaking, the driver almost stumbled out.

The trailer was sent for inspection where it was scanned with a special low-energy x-ray machine used to identify illegal drugs, guns or currency. It showed nothing.

A second scan was carried out, again detecting no abnormalities. A dog trained to sniff out narcotics was brought inside the trailer and noticed nothing suspicious.

Then, two agents noticed screws on the floor boards that appeared to have been tampered with. They removed the boards and found a hidden compartment stretching across the entire floor. Inside, they found 97 bricks of cocaine, more than 100 kilos, worth an estimated $4.4 million on the streets, according to U.S. authorities. The Sept. 8, 2010, narcotics seizure was believed to be the largest ever in the Western District of New York.

The driver, Ravinder Arora, a 31-year-old family man from Brampton, would plead guilty to the charge of conspiracy to export cocaine.

Today, two years later, he languishes in a Buffalo prison awaiting sentencing. He faces a minimum 10 years to life behind bars.

For years, Indo-Canadian gangs in B.C. have been involved in cross-border drug smuggling, infiltrating the trucking industry and fighting turf wars that have often been bloody and vicious.

But now, members of southern Ontario’s Indo-Canadian community, in particular from Brampton and Mississauga, are increasingly being lured into the North American drug trade, according to Crown attorneys, lawyers, police and community leaders on this side of the border.

It is not difficult to understand why. An estimated 60 per cent of Ontario’s long-haul truck drivers are Indo-Canadian, making them logical targets for drug traffickers. They will gladly do long-haul jobs shunned by others that can mean being on the road for weeks. They don’t mind sharing the close quarters of a cab with a co-driver, and the job requires little more than a commercial driver’s licence.

“There are many (Indo-Canadian drivers) who just want to make a decent living,” said Manan Gupta, editor-publisher of Road Today, a monthly trucking magazine in the GTA. “But there are a few bad ones and their numbers are rising.”

“This is ruining our community’s name . . . drivers from Peel are looked upon suspiciously at the border,” he said.

Last month, a trial began in Windsor for transport driver Karamjit Singh Grewal of Brampton, accused of smuggling 82 kilos of cocaine across the Ambassador Bridge on April 12, 2009. The drugs were found between skids of California lettuce. Grewal has pleaded not guilty to possession and unlawfully importing cocaine into Canada.

On Monday, another trial starts for truck driver Kuldip Singh Dharmi, also from Brampton. He was arrested on Aug. 11, 2009, after Canada Border Services Agency officers allegedly discovered 117 kilos of cocaine in his tractor-trailer. He was bringing back a load of aluminum coils. He, too, is pleading not guilty.

And early next year, a trial is scheduled for Baldev Singh, again from Brampton, arrested in March 2009 while transporting California oranges across the Ambassador Bridge. CBSA officers allege the load included 69 kilos of cocaine. Singh is pleading not guilty.

Of the 15 to 18 significant drug seizures at the Windsor-Detroit crossing each year, about 70 per cent involve Indo-Canadian transport drivers, many of them recent immigrants to Canada, said federal prosecutor Richard Pollock.

“I am shocked when I hear the stories,” said Baldev Mutta of Punjabi Community Health Services, a social agency in Peel Region, adding it’s a problem few seem willing to address.

Ecstasy, marijuana and cocaine are the three major drugs smuggled between the U.S. and Canada. Ecstasy and marijuana travel south, cocaine travels north.

Until about a decade ago, cross-border smuggling was almost always by sea and air. As Mexican drug cartels replaced Colombian drug lords, cocaine smugglers started using land routes, specifically tractor-trailers to ship drugs from Mexico to the U.S. and Canada. For a while, Vancouver was where drugs were transported across Canada before hitting the Toronto area.

About six years ago, Canadian authorities determined that the Windsor-Detroit crossing was the preferred route of traffickers, although large drug seizures such as Arora’s have also taken place at Ontario crossings such as Sarnia, Fort Erie and Niagara.

Windsor-Detroit is the busiest border crossing, where more than 7,000 trucks cross daily. Homeland Security in the U.S. and the CBSA would not reveal how many trucks undergo the kind of extensive search that Arora was subjected to, but some sources say as few as 200 a dayabout 3 per centare given a thorough check.

The sheer volume of traffic, in the eyes of traffickers, makes it a risk worth taking, says Richard Pollock, federal prosecutor in Windsor. For every illegal shipment caught, he estimates 200 slip through undetected.

So popular is Windsor-Detroit for marijuana smuggling that shipments are sometimes sent by land from Vancouver to Toronto, then on to Windsor and across to the U.S., according to a 2009 CBSA report.

One RCMP official referred to the drug trade as a continuous “cat and mouse game” as traffickers come up with more sophisticated means of smuggling and authorities develop better ways of detecting the illicit cargo.

In this mélange of drugs, Mexican cartels and Ontario border crossings, some Indo-Canadian truck drivers, as courts have witnessed, become willing or unwitting players in smuggling schemes.

Several years ago, Pat Fogarty, superintendent in charge of operations for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in B.C., said he noticed his drug smuggling investigations on the west coast had an Ontario link — they often involved the Windsor-Detroit crossing and Indo-Canadian drivers.

This nexus started showing up with alarming regularity. He also discovered a growing number of “truck co-ordinators” in Ontario — brokers linked to the drug trade who help find trucks to ship marijuana to the U.S. and cocaine into Canada — were Indo-Canadian.

“They (the brokers) find it safe to find truckers from their own community,” said Fogarty. “They also know that these truckers won’t disappear with drugs worth millions of dollars because these co-ordinators know where these truckers are from in Punjab . . . right down to their villages. They have them pretty much marked down.”

Once a truck driver ferries one drug shipment, it becomes impossible to refuse a second or a third, Fogarty said.

“They are trapped.”

It began innocuously enough for Arora.

He came to Canada from India about eight years ago and lived in the basement of an aunt and uncle’s house in Brampton. He had been driving a truck for a few years and had a clean record when he was approached by a man he knew at a Sikh temple in Mississauga. The man offered Arora a job, which for the first few months involved transporting legitimate loads across the border.

Then one day the man told Arora he could make extra money — $8,000 per trip — if his shipments included drugs stashed in a well-hidden compartment, according to the plea agreement.

Arora, soon to be married, agreed. At that point, he became part of an elaborate Brampton-based operation responsible for smuggling 1.5 tons (more than 1,600 kilos) of cocaine into Canada over two years. The group is also believed to have smuggled ecstasy and marijuana, as well as cash, into the U.S., according to court documents.

Over the course of 2009 and 2010, Arora admitted to smuggling at least five shipments of cocaine into Canada. During that time, he also got married in India and brought his wife to Canada.

According to the plea agreement, the modus operandi was simple: Arora would pick up the cocaine at a warehouse in California and truck it to a warehouse in Cheektowaga, a Buffalo suburb, where legitimate cargo — mostly produce — was stacked on top of the false floor, concealing the illicit cargo. After crossing the border, the drugs were then delivered to a warehouse in Mississauga for eventual street sale in the Greater Toronto Area.

Arora’s payment was not a huge sum of money. But it was extra money, and tax-free.

In a news conference in 2011, James Engleman, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, called it a professional job. “They spent a lot of time to build professional-quality concealment on these trailers,” said Engleman.

It’s likely that if Arora hadn’t looked nervous that day in September 2010, the operation may have gone undetected for a long time.

By the time Arora was arrested, his wife was pregnant. His lawyer, Parmanand Prashad, said his client regrets this decision more than anything else in his life.

No one wants to target Indo-Canadian truck drivers. Not the police, not lawyers nor community leaders.

They know it’s a sensitive subject and weigh their words carefully. And they are emphatic in saying most Indo-Canadian truckers are not involved in trafficking; only a small number.

But that number may be growing and, according to Windsor’s federal prosecutor, poses a big worry.

“It is mind-boggling how naive some people are,” said Richard Pollock, adding drug traffickers believe they will get away with it forever.

In most cases, suspects plead not guilty and say they were unaware of the presence of drugs in the trailer. Some stories told in court are heartbreaking, he says.

Gurminder Riar, 33, broke down at his sentencing in Windsor last year, telling Superior Court Justice Gordon Thomson he was innocent. “It is not justice. My parents, my wife is in India. I do care for them. I love them and they love me,” he told the court.

Riar and his co-driver, Jaswinder Aujla, both from Brampton, were convicted of smuggling 37 kilos of cocaine hidden among a shipment of ice cream originating in California.

Justice Thomson noted that the men’s tax records and spartan living conditions indicated they were not wealthy, but said they succumbed to greed in the hopes of a big payday. Riar was sentenced to 14 years, Aujla to 16 years.

Though sentences appear to be getting tougher, Sarnia federal prosecutor Michael Robb says it doesn’t seem to be a deterrent. “There is lots of money to be made,” said Robb, adding younger drivers are more likely to take the risk.

“If you look at their financial status, they have obligations and they have families come in from their home countries and they need to be supported,” he said.

Nachhattar Chohan, president of the Brampton-based Indian Trucking Association, said there is no doubt the trucking industry has been infiltrated by drug smuggling. And he suspects some transportation companies are started just to smuggle drugs, as was noted in an RCMP intelligence report in 2011.

“Some companies make so much money so quickly . . . so you doubt what they are doing,” he said.

That RCMP report noted customized compartments are built within tractor-trailers to conceal drugs and cash, and “criminal groups conceal their illicit activities through layers of company ownership, name changes and transfers and closures.”

But Chohan, who operates a fleet of 35 trucks and employs as many drivers, emphasized the vast majority of Indo-Canadian drivers earn an honest living. Thanks to “these (smugglers), CBSA agents think all transporters do this business,” he said. “They think all our truckers are involved in trafficking drugs. I feel shamed, very shamed.”

Prashad, Arora’s Mississauga lawyer who has represented as many as 50 truckers arrested on both sides of the border, has heard stories of how they were recruited: some were enticed with money, others with the promise of steady work.

He recalls a case where a young Mississauga driver was arrested with cocaine near Chicago. His elderly, widowed mother had just come from India, said Prashad. “She didn’t know what to do, he was her only child . . . she cried for hours in my office.”

In a Windsor courtroom , Karamjit Singh Grewal, 48, dressed in a lemon-coloured shirt, grey pants and a lemon turban, his beard flowing loose, stood next to his lawyer, Patrick Ducharme, and said softly: “Not guilty.”

It was the first day of his trial, on Sept. 17, where he is fighting charges of possessing and unlawfully importing cocaine into Canada.

(Ducharme recently defended one of five former Toronto drug squad officers in this year’s highly publicized corruption trial.)

In his opening statement, Pollock told the court Grewal was the sole occupant of a tractor-trailer when it stopped at the Ambassador Bridge on the night of April 12, 2009, for a routine check. Grewal told a CBSA officer the trailer was loaded with California lettuce and was headed for the Toronto area.

It was an innocuous load and Grewal’s papers were in order. He would have glided through except for two things: the officer asked him how long his trip to the U.S. was and Grewal was vague, replying “eight or nine days;” and, the officer also noticed that the trailer’s metal seal, though not broken, appeared to have been tampered with.

Grewal was referred to a secondary inspection. In a matter of hours his life began to unravel.

A closer inspection would result in the discovery of two white boxes and two plastic pails containing 82 kilograms of cellophane-wrapped cocaine between the skids of lettuce.

Ducharme pointed out that the metal seal was intact when his client was asked to open the trailer. So much so, he said in his opening statement, that Grewal had to break it off with a hammer, cutting his thumb in the process.

During the trial, Grewal’s 20-year-old daughter sat in the courtroom listening intently. She wouldn’t comment on the case, about the impact of her father’s arrest three years ago, or that he filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Grewal’s trial ended last week. Justice Mary Jo Nolan will deliver a verdict on Dec. 10.

Arora’s sentencing has been postponed at least four times as he continues to co-operate with authorities on the vast drug-smuggling operation in which he became involved. (A permanent resident in Canada, he will probably be deported to his native India after serving a prison term.)

Since his arrest in 2010, he has disclosed information that has led to the arrest of three accomplices:

Parminder Sidhu, of Brampton, who hired Arora as a driver at his company, Prime 9, was arrested and then extradited to the U.S. on Feb. 7, 2012. Sidhu is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to export cocaine.

When a search warrant was executed at Sidhu’s home, extensive drug ledgers were discovered, according to Arora’s plea agreement.

A home telephone listing was disconnected and a phone number for Prime 9 could not be located. Prime 9, according to documents, was incorporated in 2009.

Michael Bagri, a third associate from the Toronto area, was arrested in the U.S. Together with Arora, he has pleaded guilty to trafficking more than 1,600 kilograms of cocaine from the U.S. into Canada over two years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Bagri, 51, is yet to be sentenced.

As part of the same operation, Huy Hoang Nguyen, 27, of Massachusetts, also pleaded guilty in July to importing more than 100 kilos of marijuana from Canada into the U.S. He faces a minimum of five to 40 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Arora’s wife has fled to B.C. with their daughter, who was born last year. Prashad says there was fear of a backlash on Arora’s family after he pled guilty. His wife, in her late 20s, has visited Arora a few times at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, N.Y., where Prashad says Arora has been incarcerated since his arrest.

Prashad says Arora has found religion: he now wears a turban, no longer eats meat, and prays. He has never met his young daughter.

Prashad talks to Arora’s wife often and says she doesn’t know what to do. “She can’t go back to India because her husband is here . . . but she doesn’t speak English too well so it is tough here, too,” he said.

“This drug trade has ruined three more lives.”

 

Marion County Correctional Facility Population - What You Need to Know

What follows is information taken from the Marion County Sheriff / Marion County Correctional Facility (MCCF) website for Inmate / Offender Information, Full Jail Inmate Roster, relating to the number of MCCF prisoners the United States (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has identified as possibly being in the county illegally, U.S. DHS–ICE prisoners charged with drug crimes, and the approximate incarceration cost to Marion County to house its U.S. DHS–ICE jail population.


Total MCCF Inmates: 406

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold: 39

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold: 9.60%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL METH: 3

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL METH: 7.69%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL HERION: 2

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL HERION: 5.13%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL COCAINE: 1

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL COCAINE: 2.56%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL MARIJUANA: 0

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL MARIJUANA: 0.00%

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Inmate Per Day: $107.74

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Day of 39 Inmates with ICE Holds: $4,201.86

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Week of 39 Inmates with ICE Holds: $29,413.02

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Year of 39 Inmates with ICE Holds: $1,533,678.90

 

Talk about missing the big picture - even more proof

In a recent article it becomes even more clear that the United States is being penetrated by the malignancy of drug cartels.  Last month I attended National Sheriff's Border School and Border Tour in El Paso, Texas.  Sixty sheriff's from around the country gathered to learn about what they, as law enforcement officers, will be faced with in the very near future.  It was shocking and overwhelming. 

It was disappointing, however, to read the angle the Oregonian chose to take on the story.  Even after extensive interviews, providing the Border School agenda and disturbing maps outlining the penetration of the cartels into several cities along the I-5 corridor, the Oregonian, clearly being led by their noses by Francisco Lopez of Causa, focused on the minimal cost of sending an undersheriff to the intensive training.

Talk about missing the big picture!  It's here now folks...coming soon to a neighbor or family member you know.  What a shame the Oregonian missed an opportunity to educate their readers about such a dangerous situation.

Cartels flood US with cheap meth from 'superlabs'

Mexican drug cartels are quietly filling the void in the nation's drug market created by the long effort to crack down on American-made methamphetamine, flooding U.S. cities with exceptionally cheap, extraordinarily potent meth from factory-like "superlabs."

Although Mexican meth is not new to the U.S. drug trade, it now accounts for as much as 80 percent of the meth sold here, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. And it is as much as 90 percent pure, a level that offers users a faster, more intense and longer-lasting high.

"These are sophisticated, high-tech operations in Mexico that are operating with extreme precision," said Jim Shroba, a DEA agent in St. Louis. "They're moving it out the door as fast as they can manufacture it."

The cartels are expanding into the U.S. meth market just as they did with heroin: developing an inexpensive, highly addictive form of the drug and sending it through the same pipeline already used to funnel marijuana and cocaine, authorities said.

Seizures of meth along the Southwest border have more than quadrupled during the last several years. DEA records reviewed by The Associated Press show that the amount of seized meth jumped from slightly more than 4,000 pounds in 2007 to more than 16,000 pounds in 2011.

During that same period, the purity of Mexican meth shot up too, from 39 percent in 2007 to 88 percent by 2011, according to DEA documents. The price fell 69 percent, tumbling from $290 per pure gram to less than $90.

Mexican meth has a clearer, glassier appearance than more crudely produced formulas and often resembles ice fragments, usually with a clear or bluish-white color. It often has a smell people compare to ammonia, cat urine or even burning plastic.

"You can look at it and see it has a much more pure look," said Paul Roach, a DEA agent in Denver.

The rise of Mexican meth doesn't mean American labs have disappeared. The number of U.S. meth labs continues to rise even as federal, state and local laws place heavy restrictions on the purchase of cold and allergy pills containing pseudoephedrine, a major component in the most common meth recipe.

The crackdowns that began a decade ago have made it more difficult to prepare large batches, so many American meth users have turned to a simpler method that uses a 2-liter soda bottle filled with just enough ingredients to produce a small amount of the drug for personal use.

But south of the border, meth is being made on an industrial scale. Sophisticated factories put out tons of the drug using formulas developed by professional chemists. The final product often is smuggled into the U.S. taped beneath tractor-trailers or hidden inside packages of other drugs.

While clandestine U.S. labs generally supply rural areas, Mexican meth is mostly targeted to urban and suburban users. Increasingly large quantities are turning up in dozens of American cities, including Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis and Salt Lake City, according to the DEA.

The marketing format follows a well-established pattern. By simultaneously increasing the purity and cutting the price, the cartels get people hooked and create a new customer base.

"They're marketing geniuses," said Jack Riley, the agent in charge of the DEA office in Chicago.

When Illinois authorities recently confiscated 1,000 pounds of Mexican marijuana, they found 10 pounds of meth hidden among the pot — essentially a free sample for the distributor to give out to drug users, Riley said.

Until recently, meth was seldom seen in major urban areas, except in biker gangs and parts of the gay community, Riley said.

"We've never really seen it on the street like we've seen cocaine and heroin," Riley said. He worries that if the estimated 180,000 members of street gangs in Chicago get involved in meth trafficking, violence could follow.

Like the U.S., Mexico has tightened laws and regulations on pseudoephedrine, though some labs still are able to obtain large amounts from China and India. To fill the void, cartel chemists have turned to an old recipe known as P2P that first appeared in the 1960s and 1970s in some parts of the western U.S.

That recipe uses the organic compound phenylacetone. Because of its use in meth, the U.S. government made it a controlled substance in 1980, essentially stopping that form of meth in the U.S. But in Mexico, the cartels can get phenylacetone from other countries, DEA experts said.

In the third quarter of 2011, 85 percent of lab samples taken from U.S. meth seizures came from the P2P process — up from 50 percent a little more than a year earlier, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said.

Federal agents say the influx of meth from Mexico illustrates the difficulty of waging a two-front war on the drug in neighboring countries. When one source of the drug is dealt a setback, other suppliers step in to satisfy relentless demand.

Considering the relatively untapped market of bigger American cities, the rise of Mexican meth is not surprising, said Illinois State University criminologist Ralph Weisheit, a meth expert.

"It's something that was inevitable," Weisheit said. "This wasn't hard to predict."

American authorities are not the only ones taking notice. The sharp spike in meth activity also is evident from the other side of the border. Seizures of labs and chemicals have increased nearly 1,000 percent in the past two years.

Last year, Mexican authorities made two major busts in the quiet central state of Queretaro, seizing nearly 500 tons of precursor chemicals and 3.4 tons of pure meth with a street value of more than $100 million. In Sinaloa, investigators found a sophisticated underground lab equipped with an elevator and ventilation systems as well as cooking and sleeping facilities. The facility was reachable only by a nearly 100-foot tunnel with its opening concealed under a tractor shed.

And in February, soldiers in western Mexico made a historic seizure: 15 tons of pure methamphetamine, a haul that could have supplied 13 million doses worth more than $4 billion.

The meth problem is spilling into other parts of Latin America too. In December and January, Mexican authorities seized nearly 900 tons of precursor chemicals at Mexican ports, almost all of it bound for Guatemala, which seized about 1,600 tons of meth precursors in 2011 — four times the 400 tons seized there a year earlier.

For now, cocaine remains far and away the cartels' most profitable drug. The RAND Corp. estimates the annual street value of cocaine is about $30 billion, heroin about $20 billion and meth about $5 billion.

But cocaine is getting more expensive and less pure. According to the DEA, the price per pure gram of cocaine rose 59 percent from 2007 through September 2011. At the same time, the purity level dropped 25 percent.

Cocaine also typically comes from Colombia, meaning Mexican cartels serve as middle men who compete against each other to smuggle it into the U.S. That marginalizes their profits.

Because methamphetamine is a synthetic drug the cartels can make for themselves, the profit potential is enormous.

"It's not plant-based," Weisheit said. "It can be completely produced in Mexico. It's very compact, and that makes it easy to smuggle."
 

Babeu: Docs prove Obama officials treated bounties on agents as acceptable risks

As the investigation into the Oct. 4 shooting of two border patrol agents continues, an Arizona borderlands sheriff condemned President Barack Obama for treating turmoil and danger caused by his policies as acceptable risk.

“We now have further evidence that the Obama administration at every level thinks the border situation is entirely acceptable,” said Pinal County Sheriff Paul R. Babeu, whose jurisdiction is nearby Cochise County, where the agents were shot and one, Nicolas Ivie, was killed, although the shooting was actually on federal lands designated by the Interior Department as environmental sanctuaries, and thus off-limits to both federal and local law enforcement officers.

Babeu said he has read documents that contained exchanges where Obama officials acknowledge that creating environment areas will create zones of lawlessness.

“They lack full border enforcement security within designated wilderness areas that risks our border patrol agents and law enforcement deputies’ safety,” said the native of North Adams, Mass.

“The responsibility for securing this international border is the core primary responsibility of the United States government and I believe the federal government has failed to do that,” said Babeu, whose county lies outside of Phoenix, 70 miles north of the border.

“They have failed to adequately protect the citizens of my county and my state. That threat to our country is not just the volumes of illegals and drug cartels, but more importantly, the threat that is posed when people of countries of interest cross our borders,” he said.

These people harbor or sponsor terrorism and are not friendly to the United States,” the sheriff said, who as an Arizona National Guardsman, deployed to Iraq and commanded a battalion-sized border task force.

“Leadership failed and everything I’ve learned as a rank-and-file police officer, Army private and field grade officer; whoever’s in charge is responsible in the end,” he said.

Babeu said Atty. Gen Eric H. Holder Jr., must be held responsible for Justice Department failures on his watch, including the failed Fast and Furious scandal.

“Whether he knew it or whether he should have known, Eric Holder created an environment and a dynamic that resulted in the murder of not only one agent that we can prove, but also hundreds of Mexicans have been killed with Fast and Furious weapons,” he said.

“This guy was not held accountable; he has not resigned so he should be fired. I believe he, and others in the government, should be held accountable even criminally,” he said.

Documents cited by the sheriff and made available to this reporter buttress Babeu’s charges and depict administration officials as determined to leverage federal environmental regulatory authority to open up the Mexican borderlands regardless of warnings from border patrol agents assigned to the region, local law enforcement, activist groups and border region ranchers.

These warnings by personnel with ties to the borderland, made through emails, meetings and videotapes, specifically cited threat to national security breaches and homicidal violence.

The documents prove that Obama officials were aware of national security issues, agent safety issues, bounties placed on Border Patrol agents by drug cartels, and the trafficking of drugs and humans.

Heavily redacted emails acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Association of Former Border Patrol Agents, confirm that before the Dec. 14. 2010 death of Brian A. Terry, a member of the elite Border Patrol Tactical Unit, parties to the inter-agency planning for the wilderness sanctuaries, including officials from Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Interior, congressional representatives were warned about national security and law enforcement concerns regarding the sanctuaries.

Some of the personnel taking part in exchanges captured in the documents: David Aguilar, deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection; Michael J. Fisher, chief of Border Patrol, Sen. Jesse F. “Jeff” Bingaman (D.-N.M); Alan D. Bersin, then-CBP commissioner and previously dubbed the “border czar” because of his international affairs portfolio at Interior and then-Rep. Mark E. Udall (D.-Colo.), who is now a senator and is a native of Arizona.

In one email, a border patrol agent said it was ridiculous to suggest that the human traffickers, or coyotes, would not use the wilderness areas as safe passage for their crimes.

“Do you really think that the coyotes or drug cartels are going to read a little sign in English/Spanish declaring it is unlawful to enter a federal preserve?” he said. “No. That means one thing to these banditos, Border Patrol will not be patrolling.”

Federal officials were also told that the creation of wilderness reserves in the Mexican borderlands would facilitate the “bounty program,” where Mexican crime organizations incentivized smugglers to kill agents and other law enforcement officers.

Babeu said the bounties should have been a top priority for the Obama administration.

“The primary concern for agents is, of course, the bounties placed on their lives for patrolling the border. Justice for murdered agents is extraordinarily slow; the Terry family is still waiting for his murder to reach a trial and government officials to be held accountable,” he said.

“When it was discovered that the New Orleans Saints football team coaches put bounties on the heads of opposing players, the league held the coaches responsible and they were rightly disciplined,” he said.

Babeu said in his dealings with Bersin, it was clear he favored environmental considerations over national security and public safety.

In a July 2010 video watched by this reporter, Bersin said to a questioner that he was aware of the bounty program, including a $250,000 prize for a law enforcement officer kidnapped or killed along the southern border.

The sheriff said Bersin, who left office when the Senate refused to confirm his recess appointment to his post, should have done more.

“Bersin and other high level cabinet members acknowledged that there are bounties placed on federal and even local law enforcement members by the drug cartels and what we have seen in Pinal County, which is 70 miles north of the border,” he said.

“This continuation is proof of the threat that illegal immigration and drug smuggling have not subsided,” he said.

“It should not be a surprise that that we have had four Arizona border patrol agents murdered in the last two years and the Obama administration, even some members of the media, do not want us to talk about this and say we make this political,” Babeu said. “These are deaths of our heroes!”

The sheriff said he rejects claims by administration officials, such as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, that the border is more secure and he thinks Washington meddling has made the borderlands more dangerous.

“The four border states risk their lives to a more significant degree than we need to because of the failures of this administration and bureaucrats who make decisions thousands of miles away without our safety and security in mind,” he said.

“Contrary to Janet Napolitano’s proclamations that the border is more secure than ever, last year in October we had the largest drug bust in Arizona history with “operation pipeline express” that netted nearly $3 billion in product, money and weapons that we seized from the Sinaloa drug traffickers,” he said.

Officers’ recovered 108 weapons, including two came tagged as from the Operation Fast and Furious program, he said.

“These were not handguns that our police and sheriffs carry, these were scoped rifles and AK-47s, semi automatic weapons. These are all prohibited processors for violent criminals from a foreign country and they think they own the place,” he said.
 

Deputies borrow garden tractor to assist in arrest of burglary suspect

Two Marion County sheriff’s deputies borrowed a garden tractor to arrest a burglary suspect Thursday morning.

The owners of Frank Henny and Sons Nursery interrupted a man trying to steal a tractor from their business, 9295 72nd Ave. NE about 8:30 a.m.

The burglary suspect, later identified as Demitry Naumov, 25, of Mt. Angel, had reportedly ridden his bicycle to the business and loaded his bike into the rear of the John Deere Gator and was trying to start the vehicle when the owners found him.

Spokesman for the agency Don Thomson said that initially, Naumov was cooperative with the owners and agreed to wait for law enforcement. However, as deputies approached, Naumov ran away into a nearby field, Thomson said.

Deputies tried to search the rough field, setting up a perimeter. To help with the search, the owners allowed deputies to use a tractor to navigate the field and ultimately capture Naumov.

Naumov was found in possession of methamphetamine and charged with the crime along with three counts of unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, possession of burglary tools and second-degree burglary.

Deputy Martin Bennett reports that he's seen an increase in the number of thefts and attempted thefts involving Marion county farms and those thieves are focusing on the equipment and vehicles regularly stored in open barns and sheds. Bennett recommends that precautions be taken to protect the valuable property.
 

Demitry Naumov - ICE hold
 

Crime at the US-Mexico border goes corporate

When a regional manager for the Mexican Gulf cartel moved his operation to a more lucrative territory on the border, he took along not only his armored trucks and personal army, but also his department heads and a team of accountants.

In the grotesque violence that has enveloped Mexico it's easy to lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, these criminal organizations are complex businesses that rely on careful accounting as much as assault rifles. The structures underlying the most successful criminal organizations are stable in a way that means capturing or killing the man at the top may only be a temporary setback and pinching one revenue stream will only drive a search for others.

Rafael Cardenas Vela, a Gulf cartel member who ran three important "plazas," or territories, testified this week about the organization's structure and operations in such detail that it could compose a short course _ Narco 101, perhaps.

When prosecutors asked Cardenas to walk jurors through a decade of moves in the cartel's command and control structure, he turned to a giant organizational chart that would be recognizable to anyone in the corporate world except for spaces at the bottom for those "arrested" and "deceased."

Cardenas explained that in his plaza he had managers in charge of each revenue stream, including marijuana, cocaine and "cuota," or extortion payments demanded of legal and illegal businesses. Each department had an accountant. An additional accountant tracked the "piso," or tax that was charged on any drug loads moving through his territory. Another accountant supervised them all.

"I can't do everything myself," Cardenas said. "That's why we have someone in charge of every department."

That structure means simply removing the head is often not enough.

"You have to keep attacking the command and control elements again and again," said Will Glaspy, who oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration's operations in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, across the border from Gulf cartel territory.

Since Osiel Cardenas Guillen, Rafael Cardenas' uncle, was extradited to the U.S. in 2007, the cases have been building on themselves.

The man who took over for Osiel Cardenas was captured this month. Osiel Cardenas' brother was killed by Mexican marines in 2010. Most recently, a third brother was arrested in Mexico this month. Juan Roberto Rincon-Rincon, the plaza boss convicted Friday in Brownsville, is one of three Gulf cartel plaza bosses arrested in the U.S. last year. And Mexican authorities captured another alleged boss this week.

"It's the government of Mexico that has had such tremendous success targeting the Gulf cartel over the last five or six years," Glaspy said. "They're the ones who have continued to attack and focus on the command and control of the Gulf cartel."

"(The Gulf cartel's) corporate structure doesn't exactly look like a Fortune 500 company, but it's probably not far off," he said.

The structure reflects diversified interests. The cartel is still known primarily as a drug-trafficking organization, but it receives important revenue from smuggling immigrants and its extortion rackets.

The U.S. Border Patrol sector that covers much of the Gulf cartel's territory seized just over 1 million pounds of marijuana in 2011 and apprehended nearly 60,000 illegal immigrants. The cartel receives a cut for every kilogram of drugs and every illegal immigrant that passes through its territory.

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, chairwoman of the government department at the University of Texas-Brownsville, credits Osiel Cardenas with leading the cartel's structural evolution. She said his nephew's testimony revealed the similarities between today's drug-trafficking organization and a legitimate corporation with transnational networks and diversified interests.

Osiel Cardenas' biggest move was creating the Zetas, former special forces troops, as a new department to handle the cartel's security and enforcement, she said.

"When (Osiel Cardenas) introduced the Zetas he changed the whole panorama of drug trafficking and organized crime in the hemisphere," she said. Their expansion into other criminal enterprises beyond drug trafficking served as a lesson for their longtime patrons and other criminal organizations. The Zetas split from the cartel in 2010 and became an independent criminal organization.

Without the critical smuggling corridors controlled by the Gulf cartel or its supply lines, the Zetas initially couldn't count on drug-trafficking revenue so they diversified to piracy and extortion, Glaspy said.

"It's all about the money, and if they're not making the money from drugs they will seek out other criminal activity to reinforce or find other revenue streams," he said.

The younger Cardenas testified that it cost him about $1 million a month when he ran the Rio Bravo plaza to cover payroll, rent, vehicles and bribes. He had to recruit, train and equip his own gunmen. When they were killed, he continued paying their salaries to their families.

He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and marijuana and is cooperating with U.S. authorities in other cartel cases with the hope of receiving a shorter sentence.

Bribes went to every level of law enforcement, the press, members of the military and corrupted U.S. officials, he said.

"In order to have your plaza well, all organized, you have to pay all the police agencies," Cardenas said. Paying off the local police in Rio Bravo alone cost $20,000 per week, he said.

And when the Gulf cartel began going head to head with the Zetas in early 2010, he said, costs rose to the point where they were just breaking even.

Cardenas worked for nearly a decade as a plaza boss. Each of his plazas was within an hour's drive of the Texas border.

"All of the plazas that have river on the border are better," he said. More drugs and immigrants crossing, as well as border businesses such as pharmacies popular with American tourists. "More money."

 

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