Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Raided Mexican Ranch Linked to U.S. Drug War Corruption

Monday, June 20, 2011 |

—by Bill Conroy, The Narcosphere

Former CIA Asset Claims U.S. Special Forces Assisted Mexican Soldiers In Assault on Stash Site

The recent raid of a stash site on the Mexican side of the border suspected of containing a cache of guns and/or drugs is drawing attention once again to the U.S. border town of Columbus, N.M. — where 11 people, including the mayor, police chief and a village trustee, were recently indicted on gun-running charges.

The Mexican stash site was raided this past Wednesday evening, June 15, according to former CIA contract pilot and New Mexico resident Tosh Plumlee, who was present at the scene taking photos.

The stash site — actually two warehouse buildings on a ranch just south of the border and some 20 to 30 miles east of Palomas, Mexico, which borders Columbus — was allegedly raided by the Mexican military in cooperation with a U.S. military special-operations task force, Plumlee asserts. That Pentagon task force has been active inside Mexico and along the border region for several years and provided intelligence and other unspecified support for the recent raid, according to Plumlee.

In addition, U.S. Border Patrol agents assisted the operation by providing back-up support along the U.S. side of the border, along with Mexican soldiers on their side of the border, to close down possible escape routes for suspects fleeing the raid site.

As evidence of the operation, Plumlee provided to Narco News date-stamped photos of Mexican soldiers and Border Patrol agents conversing with each other at the border fence shortly after the raid of the ranch location was launched less than a mile behind them inside Mexico. He also provided a photo of a Mexican helicopter that assisted with the raid.

The fact that the suspected stash site in Mexico is located some 20 to 30 miles from Columbus, N.M., raises the possibility that it was being used by criminals active in Columbus as a transshipment location for guns and drugs — with the former flowing south and the latter moving north. Plumlee says the Mexican soldiers he spoke with at the fence line on June 15 would not confirm what was found at the raid site, other than indicating [translated from Spanish] that it was “a good day for us and a bad day for them.”

However, Ramiro Cordero, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman stationed at the Customs and Border Protection Field Office in El Paso, Texas, which oversees the Columbus area, told Narco News that he “has no official report” of Border Patrol cooperating with the Mexican military in a raid operation.

Cordero volunteered that he was sent photographs from “the media” of “Border Patrol agents meeting with the Mexican military at the [border] fence,” but contends that is not evidence that they were engaged in an operation. But Cordero also did not rule out that there was some type of raid carried out on the Mexican side of the border, conceding that he has “no information indicating that there was not an operation.”

Plumlee insists he did not send the photos to any other media besides Narco News. He points out that one of the Mexican soldiers at the fence had a camera as well [seen in the photo] and that the photos sent to Border Patrol in El Paso may well have come from the Mexican side of the border.

As to why Cordero insists that there are “no official reports” of a joint U.S./Mexican operation targeting the alleged stash site, Plumlee suggests that it may be simply that Cordero was not clued into the operation due to a failure of intelligence coordination within Borer Patrol or because Cordero was not privy to the information or otherwise in a position to “officially” confirm the existence of such an operation.

Clear Picture:

Despite Border Patrol spokesman Coredro’s comments casting doubt on his agency's alleged support role in the raid of the Mexican stash site, it is clear that a number of Plumlee’s past reports, including those involving a U.S. task force operating in Mexico, have since proven to be on the money.

Plumlee claims the Mexican stash site just east of the Columbus/Palomas border crossing has been active for years and is part of a larger narco-trafficking and gun-running network that is operating on both sides of the border in that region.

In fact, in 2009, according to media reports, a narcofosa [a mass grave] containing some 10 bodies was discovered not far from the ranch that Plumlee claims was raided earlier this week. The following year, yet another nacrofosa, this one containing some 18 bodies, was discovered near Palomas.

Prior press reports also claim that Columbus is awash in narco-trafficking activity:

As far back as 2009, the Associated Press published a story about Columbus with the following headline: “Drug smugglers allegedly move into N.M. town: Police say Mexican traffickers’ money revving up local economy.”

Ironically, one of the individuals quoted in that AP story saying he planned to get tough on crime was Columbus Police Chief Angelo Vega, who has since become one of the Columbus 11 (a group of village residents that also includes the mayor and a village trustee) who were indicted earlier this year on gun-running charges.

Plumlee, too, as far back as 2009, was making public his concerns about the illegal activity in Columbus. In a May of that year, Plumlee, who flew numerous missions as a CIA contract pilot during the Iran-Contra era, as evidenced in Congressional testimony and letters, told Narco News that Columbus had become a haven for narco-traffickers, specifically a paramilitary group known as the Zetas — who were using the village and surrounding area as a staging site for arms trafficking.

Plumlee contends that Border Patrol agents stationed in the area also knew this and reported their concerns to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — specifically related to two homes in Columbus suspected of being used by narco-traffickers as weapons stash sites. It was not until January of 2010, nearly a year later, however, that ATF initiated its investigation into the arms-trafficking activity of the Columbus 11 — which resulted in an indictment in March 2011.

From the ATF’s PR announcement on the indictment in Columbus:

The indictment alleges that, between January 2010 and March 2011, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to purchase firearms for illegal export to Mexico. During this 14-month period, the defendants allegedly purchased about 200 firearms….

The ATF press release also makes clear that only about 40 of those 200 or more weapons were recovered by the agency. More from the ATF press release, issued at the time of the indictment of the Columbus 11:

The indictment alleges that twelve firearms previously purchased by the defendants later were found in Mexico and were traced back to these defendants. As part of the investigation, every effort was made to seize firearms from defendants to prevent them from entering into Mexico, and no weapons were knowingly permitted to cross the border.

However, a close reading of court pleadings filed in the case against the Columbus police chief, the mayor and the village trustee, and the eight others comprising the Columbus 11, indicates that the ATF press release appears to have left out some important details not so far reported in the media.

Gun Victims:

In addition to the gun running by the Columbus 11, federal court pleadings in the case against them also allege that the corrupt U.S. officials may well have been involved in drug smuggling as well.

U.S. attorneys allege in a court motion filed on March 30, 2011, in U.S. Court in New Mexico that while acting as the Columbus police chief, “[Angelo Vega] … was paid thousands of dollars by [village trustee] Blas Gutierrez and other co-conspirators for 'protection services,' among other things ... [and] conspired to alter a Village of Columbus van to transport 600 pounds of illegal narcotics.”

On another and far more bloody front, there are, to date, according to court pleadings, a total of 15 firearms (three more than reported in the ATF press release) that have been recovered in Mexico and are linked to the Columbus 11 gun-smuggling “conspiracy.” And even more disturbing, court records show, is the fact that six of those 15 weapons were discovered at murder scenes in Mexico involving a total of five victims in Palomas and three victims in Juarez — the murder capital of the drug war. That's eight homicides in Mexico involving only six of the smuggled weapons, with nearly 150 weapons seemingly still unaccounted for as part of the Columbus 11 investigation.

And at least one of those murders, court pleadings show, was supposedly carried out with a weapon (an AK-47 pistol) purchased by one of the Columbus 11 in July 2010 — some six months after ATF initiated its investigation. It was later smuggled into Mexico where it was recovered at a murder scene in Palomas in February of this year — a month prior to the indictment of the Columbus 11 and some 13 months after ATF opened the investigation.

It should be pointed out that ATF is already under the public microscope due to alleged bungled investigative practices that have allowed thousands of illegally purchased firearms to be smuggled into Mexico by warring narco-trafficking organizations.

As part of an operation dubbed Fast and Furious, ATF whistleblowers contend that at least 1,800 firearms illegally purchased in the U.S. were allowed to “walk” across the border in an effort to target the kingpins behind Mexico’s gun-running enterprises.

Two of the guns linked to the Fast and Furious operation allegedly were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who was shot to death by Mexican border marauders in Arizona late last year.

Stay tuned…..

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14 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Ala verrrrrga! Ora si ya salio toda la sopa. What I never understand is how many of these losers are never caught on this side. Look to the ranching families that live along the border, they know the best smuggling routes to circumvent the checkpoints, and use their families and friends to transport shipments with livestock. That mexican weed smells like pig-shit.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid that this type of article trying to suggest that the US sent people into Mexico to assist with an operation against cartels could very well sign the death warrant of some Americans living in Mexico...the older, retired people is whom I fear for most. I think that you should be VERY Careful and 100% sure before you print something that would turn the Cartels against Americans.

Anonymous said...

Robert "Tosh" Plumlee is taco short of a combination plate.

Anonymous said...

How cold you expect for good willed citizens to report these type of activities to the 800 numbers provided by the US government if they are the ones partaking in cahoots with the cartels?

This is way past our control and we have to fend for ourselves, it is only a matter of time before something bigger happens.

Think Tank said...

Village Idiot said - "be Careful before you print something that would turn the Cartels against Americans." -

Are you kidding? Why do you think that stash house is there on the border? To help the Americans?

We have a very real problem that demands very real action. Don't you dare attack our people who are on the RIGHT side of this fight when they speak or take action.

The cartels are against America and everything that makes our country great is in danger of being lost.
Failure to fight them now, will be the death of America and possibly the world.

Thousands of groups are running around chopping peoples heads of, ripping skin from peoples faces and blowing away tens of thousands.

It is a struggle for power that is fought with glee by hoards and hoards of maniacal serial killers that make Jeffery Dalmer look like "the guy next door.."

Do you think the struggle for power ends at the imaginary line at the border?

Liberal goofballs who have no clue of the facts and much less the true nature of this beast are facilitating the deadly delay in action that is precipitating our nations demise.

If you are an American in Mexico you are in a war zone. If you have not figured this out yet, then perhaps it is time for your children to come and get you. You are too senile to be living abroad..

Anonymous said...

@ Think Tank

Are you kidding me? The US buys more drugs than any other country. And you say we are not to blame? Youre CRAZY! Youre prob just another honkey that wants to shut down the border and then bitch when your fruits and veggies quad in price.
The cartels are never going to wage an all out war on Americans! Why? Because of MONEY! You dont bite the hand that feeds you!

Everyone that complains that there is "spill over" is just full of shit. Infact the moment they find out YOU ARE AN AMERICAN, these ppl leave you alone. You read the news too much and have not seen this so called "war" in person.

Anonymous said...

I guess the killed border agent a few months back and the beheaded people in Phoenix that was called drug cartel violence is not spilling over the border. Or better yet all the hawks that stay on the US side of the border and tell Drug smugglers when to cross is not spill over either. Before you start calling people names maybe you need to read some more. You will never hear us in the US blaming our problems on any other country like other countries do to us and we have done the work that immigrants do now in the past and with unemployment rate as it is people will do that work again. Stay tuned in man you might learn something.

Anonymous said...

Ass hole I live on the border and go to mexico all the time. I know what is going on. Just because the news says something it does not mean it is 100% true. Look at Texas, they blow everything out to be bigger than it is. Maybe you should try coming down and seeing it for your self. Stop watching Fox News

Think Tank said...

Been there, done that. 2004-2008. Enough stories to write damn big book. I've seen it all. Shootouts, heads chopped off. I've been in the middle of many exciting dramas, kidnappings, extortions, car thefts, gang attacks, friends killed. Plus I used to kick it at Hanks.

Dont assume people don't know what they are talking about Anonymous user.

Mexico is in BAD shape. The whole "spillover" concept is a diversion. It is the SAME people doing the SAME THING on both sides of the border.

Quantifying cartel/gang infiltration based on violence stats is foolish, misleading and dangerous. Who's stupid idea was that anyway?

Forget the violence. The cartels are taking over America. The violence will come later.

The violence is only the end result of "Village Idiots" going around Mexico with their heads up there arses for the last 30 years.

Now the "Village Idiots" in America are trying to put my head up my arse.

It could be said that the violence is the most positive thing to come out of all of this so far.

I remember Julian Layzaolas' comments a few years ago right at the beginning of the "war" It was after one of the first big shootouts. His response was, "We hope to see more incidences like this."

note: said "war" was in full swing way before Calderon was even elected. These guys were already fighting for POWER. Calderons soldiers are just getting in the way.

Cartels have even said it over and over again. "We have no quarrel with the goverment."

Why do people keep blaming Calderon? These guys are going to fight for control where ever they go.

Violence is but one tool. What should really scare you is the political coercion, the bribed and planted drug agents and border patrol, and the long list of cartel politicians holding office or running for office in America.

Anonymous said...

This article is terribly mislabeled and mis-written.

How does the US and Mexico coordinating efforts have anything to do with corruption? FLAG!!

I think the corruption part was the 11 narco-politicos in N.M. (I keep telling you guys) Then the article gets twisted into the US/Mexico joint effort being the "suspect activity".

As far as the Border Patrol not confirming - they are not supposed to tell all their plans to every guy who calls on the phone. What an idiot that would even call them asking such questions. Plumlee sounds like a wanna-be. Someone needs to take his camera and lead the old fella to a chair.

no offense BB Reporter Layla but this is unacceptable writing.

Anonymous said...

-Village Idiot said: "The cartels are never going to wage an all out war on Americans! Why? Because of MONEY! You dont bite the hand that feeds you!"

Is that supposed to sound good? Comforting? "Lets not worry about cartels because as long as we buy cocaine and meth they wont hurt us".

Americans will not just keep sitting around while organized crime groups quietly slip into control of our nation like they have/did/do in Mexico.

Our system is kind of like a big elephant. Kinda' slow to get it going, but once it gets going, it'll stomp your ass all over the place.

If anything, THE AMERICANS will wage the "all out war" on the cartels/gangs. We don't want to be the hand that feeds them.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is in the best interest of cartels to avoid the heat from the US. However, transactions still occur in our states. This means that there will be bad deals, and there will be extra fees attached. These fees may range from getting your ass whooped, to kidknapping and murder. Plus, most immigrant crimes in the US go unreported, for fear of deportation. The spillover has always been here. It is true, also, that the violence is steadily increasing in the states.

Anonymous said...

I have not been able to confirm this raid even happened from any trusted sources inside Palomas, a small town were word travels like fire...

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