Rooster breeder testifies at drug smuggling trial
El Paso, TX - A man who breeds roosters for fighting testified today that he helped drug smugglers transport marijuana loads to various U.S. cities.
Paul Quaintance is the latest person to testify in the federal trial against Fernando Ontiveros-Arambula and Manuel Chavez-Betancourt, who are accused of drug smuggling.
Quaintance, who was prosecuted in Oregon for possession of methamphetamine, said he met drug dealers from the Juárez-El Paso region at cockfights in New Mexico.
He said about half of the people who attended cockfights were involved in drug-trafficking.
Some of the smugglers he had worked with included several witnesses who testified in the ongoing trial in U.S. District Judge David Briones' court.
He also said met a smuggler named "Liz," who had been shot 15 times in Juárez.
"She showed me the scars and she still had some bandages on," Quaintance said.
DEA agent links defendants in drug trial to high-level cartel leaders
A DEA agent testified Wednesday that telephones seized as evidence in a major drug trial linked many suspects to high-level Mexican drug leaders affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel.
The agent and other witnesses in the trial of Fernando Ontiveros-Arambula and Manuel Chávez-Betancourt also revealed the new hierarchies of organized crime in Chihuahua state since the drug wars began two years ago.
For example, witnesses said Joaquin "Chapo" Guzmán's Sinaloa drug cartel toppled Vicente Carrillo Fuentes' drug-cartel leaders in the Valle de Juárez -- a corridor across the border from Fabens, Fort Hancock and Tornillo.
Witnesses said Gabino "Ingeniero" Salas-Valencio is in charge of the Valle de Juárez smuggling route for Guzmán, and José Antonio Torres-Marrufo is his new top man in Juárez.
Noel Salguero, who is wanted by the DEA, is a high-level leader of La Gente Nueva (the new people). U.S. drug investigators have said La Gente Nueva is an emerging group that has made incursions into drug-trafficking in Juárez.
Contacts on telephones seized from Ontiveros-Arambula and his associates included those of operatives who adopted feline animals for nicknames -- "puma," "pantera" (panther) and "jaguar."
The DEA agent said "pantera" is the nickname of a Mexican military official who provided the Sinaloa cartel with intelligence about rival drug dealers.
Another contact was for a man who directed the Sinaloa cartel's operations in Juárez out of Panama.
are trying to prove the accused men belonged to a vast drug-smuggling network tied to the Sinaloa cartel that was much bigger and powerful than a typical drug cell.
Government witnesses have alleged that Ontiveros-Arambula worked directly under Guzmán, the Mexican kingpin who is battling for control of the Juárez smuggling corridor. U.S. officials have indicted Guzmán and Carrillo on drug-smuggling charges, but they remain at large.
On Wednesday, a man who raised cockfighting roosters testified that he helped drug smugglers transport marijuana loads to various U.S. cities.
Paul Quaintance, the witness, was one of the latest people to testify in the federal trial.
Quaintance said he first met drug dealers from the Juárez-El Paso region at cockfights in New Mexico before the state banned cockfighting.
He said about half of the people who went to cockfights were involved in drug trafficking.
The smugglers he worked with included several witnesses who have testified in the trial in U.S. District Judge David Briones' court.
Quaintance said he stored marijuana from Juárez at his barn in New Mexico, and arranged to transport it to cities in the United States.
He said he netted about $360,000 during the time he worked with the smugglers. But he stopped his drug activities after he discovered a surveillance camera across from his ranch house.
Among the smugglers Quaintance said he met was a woman nicknamed "Liz," who had been shot at in Juárez at least 15 times.
"She showed me the scars, and she still had some bandages on," Quaintance said.
The woman is Elizabeth Lares-Valenzuela, who was attacked by an armed commando in 2008 in Juárez. Back then, Mexican police said they recovered 19 bullet casings from the shooting.
Last year, Lares-Valenzuela was indicted on U.S. federal drug charges in connection with the U.S. investigation involving Ontiveros-Arambula.
So far during the trial, agents and other witnesses testified that many others formed part of the network, including Antonio "Black Diamond Tony" Contreras, Oscar Ronquillo, Jesús Omar "Arabe" Acosta-Chávez and Jesús "Puma" Fierro Mendez.
Testimony reveals drug lord 'strategy'
Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman insulated himself from his soldiers on the streets of Juárez by having his wife be a go-between, a witness testified Friday in U.S. District Court.
The witness, Jesús Fierro-Méndez, a former Juárez police captain, said Guzman wanted to "remain removed from the lower levels of his organization."
Fierro-Méndez was on the stand for the second day in the drug trial of Fernando Ontiveros-Arambula and Ma nuel Chavez-Betancourt.
Guzman's Sinaloa drug cartel has been muscling in on the Juárez drug cartel to take over the lucrative drug corridor through the El Paso area. Since January 2008, more than 4,700 people have been killed in the city in what Mexican authorities have called a drug war.
Fierro-Méndez testified that the tactic used by Guzman to insulate himself and to not know some of his people is common in the drug underworld. People at the top of the chain of command would never associate with the people at the bottom, Fierro-Méndez said.
"That is a drug-trafficking strategy for them not to know each other," he said.
Prosecutors were trying to show that Ontiveros-Arambula was high in the organization and knew the right names at the top, something lower members of the organization would not know.
A DEA agent testified Friday that Ontiveros-Arambula created suspicion when he began to use the names of known drug traffickers and would tell people to limit their conversations on the telephone, which were being recorded while he was in jail.
The DEA agent said that Ontiveros-Arambula would use certain names in a sequence to get a message to the drug organization hierarchy.
"It's like a combination on a lock. You have to go through one person to the next person to get where you need to go," the agent testified.
Prosecutors have alleged that Ontiveros-Arambula worked directly under Guzman to gain control over the Juárez smuggling corridor. Fierro-Mendez testified that Guzman would have high-level meetings on how to take control of Chihuahua and push Vicente Carrillo Fuentes out of the picture. He said Ontiveros-Arambula was a key part of the plan in the attempted takeover.
Ontiveros-Arambula and Chavez-Betancourt are on trial on charges of smuggling of hundreds of pounds marijuana into the U.S.
You can read more in previous reports; Suspect is Top Cartel Operative.