Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Feds bust Iraqi-Mexican drug operation in Calif.

Thursday, August 18, 2011 |

AP

Federal officials said Thursday they've busted a drug trafficking ring involving Mexico's most powerful cartel and members of an Iraqi immigrant community in the U.S. who were caught selling illegal drugs, assault rifles, grenades and homemade explosives.

About 60 people from the Iraqi community were arrested after a six-month investigation carried out by the Drug Enforcement Administration and police in the city of El Cajon, a working-class city east of San Diego.

Many of the suspects are Iraqi Chaldeans - Christians who fled their homeland amid threats from al-Qaida and other extremists. Police say at least some of those arrested are suspected of being affiliated with the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate, an Iraqi gang based in Detroit.

Authorities say the suspects were working out of an Iraqi social club in El Cajon and shipping drugs supplied by Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel to Detroit, home to the largest Chaldean population in the United States, according to the federal indictment unsealed Thursday. El Cajon has the second largest Chaldean population.

Officials were tipped off after neighbors and even some of the club members' spouses complained for years about the establishment's criminal activity, which has included attempted murder, sales of meth and marijuana, gambling and illegal firearms sales.

Authorities seized 18 pounds of methamphetamine, narcotics, cocaine and other drugs; more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana; $630,000 in cash; four IEDs; and more than 30 guns, including assault rifles.

In April, a DEA undercover operative was shown a hand grenade by one of the Iraqis and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military source.

Officials believe the weapons and explosives were meant to be sold locally and there were no indications the group was supplying Mexico's most violent cartel with weapons for use in that country's drug war, which has claimed at least 35,000 lives.

William R. Sherman, acting special agent in charge in the DEA's San Diego division, said the ring was going to sell a portion of the 3,500 pounds of marijuana, believed to belong to the Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who has become one of the world's richest and most-wanted men since he escaped from a Mexican prison 10 years ago.

Officials say the Chaldean syndicate has historical ties to the Sinaloa cartel but they said they did not know the origins of those ties. Over the past two decades, Mexican smugglers helped many of the Chaldeans reach the United States. The descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia - what is now Iraq - fled their homeland to escape persecution for their Christianity. Hundreds passed through Tijuana on their way to California.

About half of the 60 arrested face federal charges and half face state charges. Some are also illegal immigrants but officials declined to say whether they will be deported.

Four indictments were unsealed Thursday charging nine people with federal narcotics and weapons trafficking charges and the unlawful possession of various firearms and explosives. One of the suspects, Nofel Noel Suleyman, was also charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Officials said the investigation is ongoing and there could be more arrests. They declined to go into specifics about the ring's business.

The club had armed guards at high-stakes card games and its managers were aware of the criminal activity, demanding a cut of the money, according to authorities.

The establishment's troubles go back to 1998 when police seized illegal slot machines. Four years ago, authorities identified it as a hot spot for Iraqi drug deals and two years later started investigating it for selling weapons and explosives.

Sinaloa has grown bloodier and more powerful in recent years, controlling cocaine trafficking on the Mexican border with California, while expanding eastward to the corridor between Sonora and Arizona and waging a fierce battle for Chihuahua state bordering Texas. That war made the border city of Ciudad Juarez one of the world's most dangerous cities.

In October 2010, Mexico made its largest marijuana bust - 134 tons - in Tijuana and said markings on the packages linked the haul to El Chapo, showing that he was also running drugs smoothly through a city once controlled by his archrivals, the Arrellano Felix gang.

Christians make up more than a third of the 53,700 Iraqis resettled in the United States since 2007, according to State Department statistics.

El Cajon PD Press Release: "OPERATION SHADOWBOX"

Additional links to story:

60 arrested, bombs and drugs seized as part of California crime probe

60 arrested in bust of Iraqi, Mexican organized crime rings

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15 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Texcoco Mex said.

Nice work. To bad the two face MF I know have not been arrested yet. I wonder how long the FBI and the DEA watch a subject before arresting them. Funny thing about gangsters they only men up in a group.

Anonymous said...

and we continue to let people into this country that don't belong...we will never learn

J said...

Very interesting, and not a surprise for anyone who lives in San Diego and knows the criminal element there. But, I hope that no one misconstrues terrorism out of this, when there really is no connection. The Chaldeans operate almost identical to the Italian Mob, they aren't fundamentalists.

J said...

And, I'd also like to see a list of suspects, and where the link to Sinaloa is, though I am not doubting it. I hope I can find the indictment for this online somewhere.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Roman Catholicism is about the only thing they have in common. Chaldos already have a reputation in the middle east as booze dealers, now drug dealers.

J said...

I mean in terms of operating like organized crime, pursuits of profit, not terrorism related goals. I should have said like any other organized crime group, ethnic or not.

Matanzas said...

@Anon 7:44
Then stop invading countries that have nothing to do with you. When whoring around, you'll be bringing nasty bugs home. Didn't your dad tell you that, kiddo?

Anonymous said...

insert AVI file of doctored West Bank video with Alahu Akbar original sound and (Spanish)
Wav files on separate layers, rendered out to low quality video onto 8 kb audio compression settings.

Anonymous said...

Texcoco Mex said.

I like that Matanzas

@and we continue to let people into this country that don't belong...we will never learn

How can some one say thing like this when not everyone how has migrated here is a criminal. History has shown that a lot of immigrants have help this country. Some of the best inventions have been invented by immigrants.

Anonymous said...

Texcoco Mex said.

The targets of this investigation are members of an Iraqi DTO which has suspected affiliation with the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate. This syndicate began in the early 80’s in Detroit, Michigan. Crimes associated with the syndicate include murder, arson, weapons and narcotics trafficking, money laundering, fraud, theft, counterfeiting, racketeering, alien smuggling, assault, kidnapping, and armed robbery. Chaldean organized crime has historical ties to the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Mexican Mafia.

Anonymous said...

Texcoco Mex said

I agree with J don't try to see this people as terrorist this people are not fundamentalist, Pope Constantine was Assyrian/Chaldean.

Anonymous said...

when did el chapo become a rich and powerful drug lord... thats new news... when did he take control of the sinaloa cartel??!!?? how many times do we need to read that in an article? i heard he was even in forbes magazine.

Anonymous said...

Would anyone doubt that one sand dweller would help another when it comes right down to it? The more time passes the closer the mexicans get together the with the islamists.

There's now just one degree of separation left.

Anonymous said...

Oh great just what we needed, the Arabs teaming with the Mexicans.

Anonymous said...

Chaldeans are NOT Arabs! Arabs are always Muslim- Always- And in order to become a Muslim, you must learn the "Father Language" of Arabic- and accept the "Quorun" (Not the Bible) These Chaldeans are the complete opposite of Arabs...They kill each other! Just for the record- Chaldean means Catholic in their language. Christian, not Jewish, not Muslim, Definitely Not ARABS

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