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Tag: Mexico

Fast and Furious Redux? DEA Launders Drug Money to Get to Mexican Cartels

Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Shades of Operation Fast and Furious?

DEA agents have laundered or smuggled–or, “let walk”–millions of dollars in drug proceeds in an effort to trace the money to the end recipients, reports the New York Times. The DEA sought to understand how cartels moved their money, where assets were kept and, ultimately, who the leaders were. Money was put into trafficker accounts or shell accounts set up by agents, according to the Times.

The DEA said the operations began in Mexico only within the past few years, but similar operations have been used internationally before. The controversial tactic lets cartels continue their activities while the investigation is ongoing, and raises serious some questions about the agency’s effectiveness, diplomacy and Mexican sovereignty and the distinction between surveilling and facilitating crime, the Times reported.

Former DEA officials reject any comparison between the laundering operation and the  gun-walking program Fast and Furious, saying that money poses far less a threat to public safety and can lead more directly to the top ranks of cartels, the Times reports.

To read more click here.

One More Tunnel Found on US-Mexico Border in Growing Trend

Border fence along Juarez-El Paso border/istock photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The latest in a series of secret passages used to smuggle drugs from Mexico to the US was found on Tuesday, linking warehouses in San Diego and Tijuana, reports the Associated Press.

“It is clearly the most sophisticated tunnel we have ever found,” Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego, said, according to AP.

The Tijuana warehouse, next to a packaging company and a tortilla distributor, sits on the same block as a federal police office.

Less than two weeks ago US authorities seized 17 tons of marijuana when they discovered a 400-yard passage linking the two towns, according to the AP. The passage had lighting and ventilation.

Tunnels have emerged as U.S. authorities increased on-land enforcement. More tunnels have been found along the border since October of 2008 than in the previous six years, many clustered around San Diego, California’s Imperial Valley and Nogales, Ariz., AP reported.

To read more click here.

20 Charged in Chicago-Mexico Drug Network, Ties to Zetas Drug Cartel

The logo of the Los Zetas Cartel/baltimore city paper

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The tentacles of the Mexican cartels can be found throughout the U.S.

The latest: 20 defendants — five of them suspected members of a Chicago cell of the violent Zetas Mexican drug cartel — were charged in major drug indictment in Chicago following a joint FBI-DEA investigation, Chicago’s US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office announced Wednesday.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of more than $12.4 million in cash and about 250 kilograms or more than 500 pounds of cocaine during 2010 in the Chicago area.

Arrests were made on Tuesday in Chicago and Laredo, Tex. Along with the Tuesday arrests, an additional $480,000 in cash and two kilograms of heroin were also seized.

“The extensive cash seizures made during the course of this investigation illustrates how lucrative the illicit drug trade can be,” said Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Chicago Office in a statement. “Combined with the apparent presence of the Zetas in the Chicago area, the charges announced today should serve as a wake-up call to law enforcement throughout the state.”

Five of the defendants in the case remain at large.

 

 

Face of Mexico’s War Against Drugs Dies in Helicopter Crash

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The face of Mexico’s drug war went down in a fatal helicopter crash caused by foggy weather on Nov. 11, reports Bloomberg. Authorities ruled it was an accident and not sabotage as many had suspected.

Interior Minister Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, Mexico’s point man in the war against drug traffickers, died in the crash, along with 15 others,  Bloomberg reported. Mora was traveling from Mexico City to Cuernavaca for a meeting of prosecutors.

After initial suspicion of sabotage, or other nefarious causes, authorities determined the crash was caused by foggy weather. Mexican authorities said radar readings show the pilot did not lose control before crashing, Communications and Transportation Minister Dionisio Perez-Jacome told the press, according to Bloomberg.

A team of 16 experts including US National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration officials are working on the investigation.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

Feinstein, Breuer: ATF Needs Improved Gun Laws

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) defended the ATF at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, reports the website Main Justice, saying the real problem is lax gun laws.

“The number of deaths caused by American guns are up in the tens of thousands,” she said, claiming that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico were traced to the US.

Later on, reports Main Justice, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) had entered into the record a report refuting Feinstein’s numbers.

Agreeing with Feinstein, Asst. Attorney General Lanny Breuer said that if the ATF had more information on gun sales and enhanced its regulatory function, the agency would be better positioned to stem the violence.

To read more click here.

DEA, ICE and Ariz. Police Bust 70 Linked to Cartel That Provides 65% of Drugs to U.S.

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

A major drug bust in Arizona targeted folks linked to a Mexican cartel believed to handle 65 percent of all drugs illegally transported to the United States, and resulted in the seizure of thousands of pounds of narcotics and at least 70 arrests, reports Reuters.

The raids, overseen by the DEA, Arizona state officials, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the contraband confiscated was “jaw-dropping.”

The operation included three raids conducted over 17 months and led to the arrests of Mexican and American nationals working with a drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

In what officials called a “sophisticated network” of international drug smuggling, drugs were smuggled from Mexico into Arizona by car, plane, on foot, and through tunnels.

“This is one of the more substantial drug-smuggling operations going on right now. This is a billion-dollar drug trade organization linked to the cartel,” an official told MSNBC.

To read more click here.

 

Mexican Officials Upset by US Secrecy on ATF’s Fast and Furious

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Patricia Gonzalez has worked for years with US officials on combatting and prosecuting drug violence. Last fall, Gonzalez, the Mexican state of Chihuahua’s top state prosecutor, watched helplessly as the media reported on her brother Mario’s kidnapping and torture at the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Mario was forced to record a video “confession” stating that his sister was on the take.

It would be “many months later,” reports the LA Times, until Gonzalez would find out, through media reports, that the cartels that kidnapped her brother possessed AK-47 assault rifles brought to Mexico via the botched ATF program Fast and Furious.

“Months after the deadly lapses in the program were revealed in the U.S. media,” says the LA Times report, “…top Mexican officials say American authorities have still not offered them a proper accounting of what went wrong.”

The Times calls Marisela Morales a “longtime favorite of American law enforcement agents in Mexico.” Morales is Mexico’s attorney general, and to this day, she told the Times, U.S. officials have not briefed her on the operation nor offered an apology.

Morales stated in unequivocal terms that Mexican authorities would never have permitted the program. “[The Fast and Furious program] is an attack on the safety of Mexicans,” said Morales.

US concealment of the program and it’s bloody toll–at least 150 killed or wounded, according to the Times–occurred while officials spoke about growing cross-border cooperation on law enforcement, and as Mexican president Felipe Calderon complained publicly about the flow of US guns into Mexico, says the Times.

“The basic ineptitude of these officials [who ordered the Fast and Furious operation] caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims,” said Gonzalez.

To read more click here.

Different Twist: Mexican Police Gather in U.S. Before Returning to Mexico for Raids

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In a different twist on the war on drugs, Mexican police on a couple occasions in the past 18 months have first gathered in the U.S. before crossing back into Mexico to stage raids, the New York Times reports.

The boomerang operations are designed to throw off the cartels, the Times reports.

“The cartels don’t expect Mexican police coming from the U.S.,” one senior military official told the Times.

The Times reported that the DEA provides logistical support on the American side of the border, “arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.”

Authorities said the operations are meant to make it more difficult for the cartels, which closely monitor the movements of security forces inside Mexico.