The U.S. consulate worker murdered in Juarez in mid-March was approached in the days prior to her death by a man seeking to get her to sign off on an official document absent the proper paperwork.
Her refusal to cooperate with the man led to an order for her assassination from the top level of the Sinaloa drug trafficking organization. The murder was carried out by Sinaloa hit man with the nickname El Guero, who was assisted by individuals associated with the Aztecas, a criminal gang operating in Juarez and across the border in El Paso, Texas; and with La Linea, a “line” of corrupt Mexican law enforcers.
That information was provided to Narco News recently by law enforcement sources who claim it is credible intelligence that has not, to date, been seriously investigated due to turf wars, both within and between law enforcement agencies involved in the murder investigation.
“An individual approached her [at least twice in consulate-related settings prior to her murder] and tried to get her to do something with a document without the proper paperwork,” one law enforcer claims. “Her murder was ordered because she refused to go along with it.”
On March 13, Lesley A. Enriquez, who worked as an assistant in the American Citizens Services section of the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, a detention officer with the El Paso County Sheriffs Office, were both shot dead in their vehicle after leaving a private birthday party in Juarez.
Enriquez, who was pregnant, died of a gunshot wound to the head (a mark of an assassination); Redelfs was shot in the neck and arm; the couple’s child, an infant, was in the back seat – and left unharmed.
Enriquez' uncle, Jose Antonio Enriquez Savignac, once served as Secretary of Tourism in Mexico, according to Mexican press reports.
At about the same time Enriquez and Redelfs (both U.S. citizens who lived in the El Paso area) were gunned down that Saturday afternoon in March, assassins hit another individual, who also had attended the same birthday party. That attack left Mexican citizen Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros dead in his vehicle. Early media reports indicated that Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes claimed Salcido may have once worked as a Mexican cop. Later media reports claim he worked as a manager at a maquiladora factory.
Facts and Fictions
In fact, many of the facts in this murder mystery keep changing across various media reports. For example, Enriquez’ daughter apparently ranges in age from three months to a year old; Salcido has either two or three children who were with him at the time of his murder; and Enriquez and her husband, Redelfs, have each been identified as the driver of the car on the day of their murders, depending on which media report you choose to read.
One fact that seems to be consistent is that Salcido’s wife, also a Mexican citizen, works for the U.S. Consulate in Juarez as well, in the Consular Services section, according to Silvio Gonzalez, spokesman for the consulate.
In that role, Gonzalez confirms, Salcido’ wife would have had some exposure to visa applications from Mexican citizens seeking to travel to the U.S. However, Gonzalez says Enriquez did not deal with visa applications as part of her duties with the American Citizen Services section. He did confirm, though, that Enriquez would have assisted individuals with various other travel-related documents, such as U.S. passports and consular reports of births abroad.
Last month, the Mexican military arrested a total of six Azteca gang members in connection with the March 13 murders of Enriquez, Redelfs and Salcido. One of those gangsters, according to the Mexican government, allegedly confessed that the primary target of the March 13 murders was Redelfs, not Enriquez. Redelfs was supposedly marked for assassination as payback for his mistreatment of Azteca members imprisoned in the El Paso County jail – where Redelfs worked as a guard.
The Azteca gang member who confessed, Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, claims he was tortured by the Mexican military, according to media reports.
Law enforcement sources who spoke with Narco News say the Mexican government’s line on the murders, which has been repeated as though it were fact in many press reports, doesn’t pass the smell test
“That (jail-guard-abuse) theory is a weak story,” one law enforcement source says. “He (Redelfs) would have known better than to mess with the Aztecas.”
Chris Acosta, spokeswoman for the El Paso County Sheriffs Office, says she knows of no evidence that Redelfs mistreated any prisoners. “He was an outstanding employee,” she adds.
Motive and Theory
The information provided to Narco News by law enforcement sources pointing to Enriquez as the main target of the murders, like the Redelfs-as-target theory of the murder, faces some proof hurdles. However, the law enforcement sources indicate that the veracity of the information could easily be checked out -- even by a mediocre investigator. The fear is that such an investigation has not even been pursued.
Among the questions raised by the Enriquez-as-target theory revolves around the role of the third murder victim, Salcido. Why was he killed?
One theory, advanced in the media, is that Salcido was killed by mistake, because he was driving a vehicle, a white Honda Pilot, that looked similar to Redelfs and Enriquez’ white Toyota RAV4.
The problem with that theory is that an attack as well-planned and coordinated as the one carried out on March 13 would have likely relied on license plates to make sure the right target was in the scope. Enriquez and Redelfs lived in El Paso, and had U.S. plates on their vehicle, whereas Salcido, a Mexican citizen, presumably had Mexican plates on his auto. If that is the case, it raises the doubt bar on the “mistake” theory quite high.
Another theory is that Salcido might have been the individual who allegedly approached Enriquez about approving the document, and as a result he was a loose end that needed to be taken care of if Enriquez was going to be taken out.
That latter theory, however, is pure speculation, with nothing solid at this point to back it up. Law enforcement sources indicate that because the Enriquez-as-target information has not been pursued, as far as they know, no information exists on who the individual was that allegedly approached Enriquez, other than he was male.
Another question raised by the Enriquez-as-target theory is whether she reported the alleged approach by the individual seeking to get her to participate in a corrupt activity.
If so, was her report acted on appropriately and was her security assured in the wake of that report? And if she did not report the alleged approach, why not?
The law enforcement sources who provided Narco News with the information could not say whether Enriquez reported the approach, only that, for whatever reason, she refused to comply with the individual’s request.
Gonzalez of the U.S. Consulate in Juarez declined to comment on whether Enriquez reported any improper requests made of her in the days prior to her murder.
“I’m not going to refute or say yes that something like that happened,” Gonzalez told Narco News. “All I can tell you is that the investigation is ongoing, and I believe the PGR [Mexican Attorney General’s Office] in Mexico has the lead on it.”
In fact, on the latter matter, Gonzalez is correct. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley confirmed in a March 15 press briefing that “Mexican authorities have the lead” in the investigation of the U.S. Consulate-related murders, and “the FBI is consulting and [State Department’s] Diplomatic Security is also consulting.”
El Paso Division FBI spokeswoman Special Agent Andrea Simmons says the FBI has not stated what the motive is for the murders of Enriquez and her husband.
“At this point, we have no reason to believe any of the three victims were targeted because of they were U.S. citizens or because of their jobs, but the investigation is continuing,” Simmons says.
She declined to comment on whether Enriquez was or was not approached about approving improperly any documents prior to her murder.
Likewise, a spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security declined to comment on the case other than to provide the following “press guidance”:
This is an ongoing investigation. American officials are working together with Mexican authorities to bring those who perpetrated the crime to justice.
Now, for those addicted to the mainstream media script on the drug war, the immediate reaction to the information provided to Narco News by law enforcement sources might be that the Aztecas and La Linea work for Vicente Carrillo Fuentes’ Juarez cartel, not “Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel. After all, that’s the whole premise of the MSM’s coverage of the bloodshed in Juarez, that Vicente’s cartel is battling Chapo’s cartel for control of the plaza.
Well, the reliance on the word “cartel” is part of the problem with that MSM narrative. Law enforcers who spoke with Narco News indicate that the situation in Juarez is much more fluid than the simplistic structure assigned to it by most corporate journalists. There are no monolithic organizations in the narco-business, they say, but rather a collection of clan-like cells -- some more powerful than others -- who are loosely associated based on arrangements of convenience, intimidation and profit.
“They [the Aztecas and corrupt law enforcers who have been dubbed La Linea] cross lines all the time,” says one law enforcer who has experience on the border. “They work for whoever can give them the most and for the money.”
Another law enforcement source, a former DEA undercover agent, describes the scene this way:
The story among those who know is that the vast majority of those murders [in Juarez] involve the targeting of cops and officials who have chosen one cartel or the other to work for. It is then the competing cartel that carries out the murders looking at the victims as “members” or “associates” of the competing cartel. …
The history of power struggles within the Aztecas, for example, is evidence of this factionalization factor in the narco-business. In March 2008, the leader of the Aztecas, David “Chicho” Meraz, was found in a parking lot in Juarez, dead, the victim of multiple stab wounds, the presumed victim of a hit ordered by his rival in the gang, Eduardo “Tablas” Ravelo.
But there is one factor that is rarely talked about in the U.S. press that does support the contention that Enriquez was the main target of the murders due to her failure to play ball with a corrupt scheme involving official Consulate documents.
Visa and passport fraud, as well as corruption within U.S. embassies, is a fact of life overseas.
One source told Narco News about the existence of a “drug-lord protective services” organization operating on an international level that involves “corrupted Mexican and U.S. authorities in Mexico.”
“[This organization] provides passports, visas to the U.S. and other real travel documents for Colombian and Mexican drug lords for safe passage to the U.S., Canada and Europe,” asserts the source, who for safety reasons, cannot be identified.
The source’s allegations of embassy corruption dovetail with similar allegations raised in a document known as the Kent Memo, which was written by a Justice Department attorney assigned to a wiretap unit in the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section.
The Kent Memo, which became international news after it was leaked to Narco News, contains some of the most serious allegations ever raised against U.S. antinarcotics officers: that U.S. agents stationed in the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, are on drug traffickers’ payrolls, complicit in the murders of informants who knew too much, and, most startlingly, directly involved in helping Colombia’s infamous rightwing paramilitary death squads to launder drug money.
U.S. authorities have never seriously investigated the allegations in the Kent Memo, however.
But the State Department has investigated other cases of alleged embassy and consulate corruption. According to a recent report by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, its investigators at U.S. diplomatic missions worldwide in 2009 arrested “691 suspects involved in visa, passport and other fraud” and investigated “an additional 89 cases of alleged nonviolent crimes and administrative violations [by embassy and consulate personnel] at post, or involving Department personnel elsewhere.”
Earlier this month, a former federal agent pleaded guilty to charges related to the issuance of false visas approved based on his referrals while he served as the ATF Assistant Country Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
In fact, as evidence of the seriousness and extent of passport- and visa-fraud schemes, in 2009, the State Department’s recently created Consular Integrity Division “conducted its first ‘red cell’ operation to detect malfeasance and corruption within the passport adjudication process,” states the report by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
“As part of this exercise, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security [DS] submitted fraudulent applications into the passport system and then closely monitored the progress of the fraudulent applications,” the report states. “Based on the results of the exercise, DS identified vulnerabilities in the passport process. …”
Given those realities, it seems U.S. agents involved in the ongoing investigation into the March 13 Juarez Consulate murders are surely exploring the passport/visa fraud angle and poring over the voluminous consulate records in that pursuit. It would be a shame if, as Narco News’ law enforcement sources allege, information vital to that line of investigation has been deep-sixed due to petty egos and turf battles or to protect the bureaucratic brass from international embarrassment.
“The U.S. and Mexican government will try to pass on [to the press] some BS story [about the motive for the consulate murders],” says one law enforcer. “And it will be something not as bad as the reality.”
Stay tuned ….