Sunday, July 31, 2011
By Bill Conroy
The son of a heavy hitter in a powerful Mexican drug trafficking organization has filed explosive legal pleadings in federal court in Chicago accusing the US government of cutting a deal with the the “Sinaloa Cartel” that gave its leadership “carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the United States.”
The source of that allegation is Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia — one of the purported top leaders of the Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization — a major Mexican-based importer of weapons and exporter of drugs.
The top capo of the Sinaloa drug organization, named after the Pacific Coast Mexican state where it is based, is Joaquin Guzman Loera (El Chapo) — who escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico in 2001, only days before he was slated to be extradited to the United States. Chapo has since gone on to build one of the most powerful drug “cartels” in Mexico. With the death of Osama Bin Laden in May, Chapo (a Spanish nickname meaning “shorty”) jumped to the top of the FBI’s “Most Wanted” persons list. He also made Forbes Magazine’s 2010 list of “The World’s Most Powerful People.”
Zambada Niebla, himself a key player in the Sinaloa organization, was arrested in Mexico City in March 2009 and last February extradited to the United States to stand trial on narco-trafficking-related charges.
The indictment pending against Zambada Niebla claims he served as the “logistical coordinator” for the “cartel,” helping to oversee an operation that imported into the US “multi-ton quantities of cocaine … using various means, including but not limited to, Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft … buses, rail cars, tractor-trailers, and automobiles.”
Zambada Niebla also claims to be an asset of the US government. His allegation was laid out originally in a two-page court pleading filed in late March with the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.
The latest allegations being advanced by Zambada Niebla, who is now being held in solitary confinement in a jail cell in Chicago, are advanced in motions filed late this week in federal court. Those pleadings spell out the supposed cooperative relationship between the US Department of Justice and its various agencies, including DEA and the FBI, and the leaders of the “Sinaloa Cartel” — including Zambada Niebla.
That alleged relationship was cultivated through a Mexican attorney, Humberto Loya Castro, whom Zambada Niebla claims is a Sinaloa Cartel member and “a close confidante of Joaquin Guzman Loera (Chapo).”
From Zambada Niebla’s court pleadings, filed on July 29:
Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez also is a suspect in last year's slaying of a U.S. consulate employee near a border crossing in Ciudad Juarez.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said through his Twitter account that Acosta's capture is "the biggest blow" to organized crime in Ciudad Juarez since he sent about 5,000 federal police to the city in April 2010 to try to curb violence in one of the world's most dangerous cities.
Acosta, nicknamed "El Diego," told federal police he ordered 1,500 killings, Pequeno said at the press conference. Investigators believe he was the mastermind of an attack last year that killed a U.S. consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another consulate worker in Ciudad Juarez, he said.
U.S. prosecutors also want to try him in that case. A federal indictment filed in the western district of Texas says Acosta and nine others conspired to kill the three.
Pequeno said he expects an extradition request from the U.S. government.
He is accused of being the mastermind of some of the deadliest incidents in Juárez in recent years while the rival cartels fought for control of a lucrative smuggling corridors to the U.S. drug market. In recent weeks, narco-graffiti threatening the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Consulate employees appeared on public walls in Juárez and Chihuahua City. The messages telling the "gringos of the DEA" to quit meddling were signed "Diego."
Mexican drug cartels typically try to avoid direct confrontation with U.S. law enforcement, and whether the threats were a sign of desperation or a large ego is up for debate.
Many of the public threats from La Linea made frequent references to "El Diego."
Drug cartels in Mexico regularly hang banners, known as "narco mantas," in public as a type of propaganda to taunt rivals or police.
Mexican authorities alleged that Acosta ordered several murders and gave the order for a cartel hit squad to attack a birthday party in January 2010 in the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood of Juárez -- an attack that killed 15 young people.
In March, the FBI announced that Acosta had been indicted in connection with the slayings in Juárez of three people linked to the U.S. Consulate there. The FBI alleged the slayings were carried out by members of the Barrio Azteca gang on orders from the Juárez drug cartel.
On March 13, 2010, consulate employee Lesley Enriquez Redelfs and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, an El Paso County sheriff's detention officer, were fatally shot in a street attack after leaving a children's party.
The El Pasoans were killed along with Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, whose wife worked at the consulate. The Redelfs and Salcido were slain in separate shootings after leaving the party within minutes of each other.
The Redelfs and Salcido were attacked while driving small white sport utility vehicles. The Redelfs' then 7-month daughter, Rebecca, was in the back of the vehicle during the attack but was not injured. Rebecca, who is going to be 2 years old in August, is being raised by Arthur Redelfs' mother and extended family.
Reuben Redelfs, a brother of Arthur Redelfs, said Saturday that the last year and half has been difficult and that the news of the arrest of Acosta was welcomed.
"We're taking it one day at a time to heal. He was my little brother and my buddy," Reuben Redelfs said. "But we are happy to hear that the state arrested him. The Mexican authorities and the FBI have been aggressive to find this man and bring him to justice, and what we'd really like to see is get him extradited as soon as possible and see justice served here."
U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy said at the time of the slayings that "there is no evidence from the indictment it (the attack) was anything but a mistake. The victims that were killed were not specifically targeted by anything they had done."
Reuben Redelfs said Arthur and Lesley Redelfs would visit Juárez often.
"The connection across the border was her family," Reuben Redelfs said. "I'm still not over it, and I still try to understand what happened. But I know there are a lot of families out there in Juárez that go through this every day, and I just want to tell them to stay strong."
An El Paso County sheriff's spokeswoman said the Sheriff's Office would not comment on Acosta's arrest because it was still an ongoing case.
Acosta, who is a Mexican citizen, is charged by the U.S. with murder and conspiracy to kill a person in a foreign country.
A spokesman for the FBI in El Paso, Special Agent Michael Martinez, said Saturday that the agency had no comment to make at this time. The DEA in El Paso also declined to comment on Acosta's arrest.
In Mexico, the government had set up "wanted" billboards in Chihuahua offering a reward of 15 million pesos (about $1.2 million) for information that led to Acosta's capture. Some of the billboards were burned down.
There were recent signs that authorities were closing in on Acosta after some of his close associates were arrested by Mexican authorities in Chihuahua City.
In mid-June, Mexican federal police arrested a reputed lieutenant, Marco Antonio Guzmán Zúñiga, who was thought to be Acosta's right-hand man. Guzmán, who is nicknamed "El Dos" and "El Brad Pitt," is a Juárez native and a former city police officer.
Chihuahua state prosecutors had offered a reward of a half-million pesos for information leading to Guzmán's capture. Officials alleged Guzmán coordinated drug operations in cities throughout Chihuahua, bribed authorities and controlled prisons in Chihuahua City.
Soon after Guzmán's arrest, Mexican army soldiers captured Jose Guadalupe Rivas Gonzalez, alias "El Zucaritas," who was described as being a close associate of Acosta. Rivas' nickname, "Zucaritas," is the Spanish name for Frosted Flakes.
On July 15, the U.S. Consulate in Juárez issued an emergency alert warning that Mexican drug cartels may target the consulate and the international bridges, possibly in retaliation for the capture of key cartel members.
The alert asked U.S. citizens to be vigilant and cautioned that cartels have used car bombs in the past. The alert was issued on the anniversary of the car bombing on a downtown Juárez street aimed at Mexican federal police.
The capture of Acosta may be a new beginning for Juárez residents and a decrease in violence, said University of Texas at El Paso political science professor Tony Payan.
"This arrest can bring a lot of good if he can produce useful information to authorities," Payan said. "And El Diego was a very hands-on guy. He was a former state policeman during the previous governmental administration, and he knew the state and the government. He had a lot of control over the groups that would kidnap people for extortion money and burglarize them. If his capture produces quite a bit of information and the operation of its armed branch, La Linea, then it could finally be the beginning of the end of the Juárez cartel."
These explosive revelations came on Tuesday, as Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) grilled the former ATF special agent who was in charge of the Gunwalker program, William Newell.
Meehan noted the so-called “plaza bosses” — mid-level bosses within the cartels who were the ones often purchasing the walked guns — expected to get what they’d paid for, when Newell insisted that it had never been part of the plan to allow guns to walk across the border:
You understand if he purchased $70,000 worth of guns he expects $70,000 worth of guns. Where does that come in with “there’s no strategy to allow guns into Mexico?”
Meehan pressed on, angrily, without giving Newell time to answer and demanded to know which agencies were involved with the operation. Newell replied that they had received assistance from ICE, DEA, and IRS. Apparently the FBI knew about it as well — indeed, some of the straw buyers ATF was targeting were FBI informants.
When Meehan, a former federal prosecutor, demanded to know if those agencies knew guns were being walked into Mexico, Newell answered: “they were aware of the strategy.”
It was a rough day for Newell. Several lawmakers grilled him about the program relentlessly, including South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, a freshman congressman and also a former federal and state prosecutor.
Gowdy asked repeatedly if Newell interrogated the first straw purchaser the ATF knew for a fact was buying guns illegally. Newell said no, and several times during his testimony tried to make the case that taking down one straw buyer would have had little or no effect.
Gowdy insisted they should have interrogated the first straw buyer they knew had sold guns across the border, rather than walking more than 2,500 guns with an eye to getting a cooperative witness:
That’s an old fashioned investigative technique, it’s not as complicated as letting guns walk. It is more effective though, to go back and interrogate the person who made the acquisition.
Gowdy then demanded to know how exactly the ATF planned to extradite the drug kingpins, and was told there had never been any intention to do so. Gowdy was incredulous:
So once the guns made it to Mexico there was nothing you were going to do about those drug kingpins.
Newell said there was in fact a plan in place:
Yes sir, there was. One of the things we were going to do was as soon as we had solid information on who those drug kingpins were we were going to share that information with Mexican law enforcement.
So they’re supposed to trust American law enforcement, who’s been conducting an investigation and knows guns are going into Mexico and you told them after the fact and they’re supposed to thank you and be partners in this endeavor? How are you going to dismantle the Mexican cartels if you’re not going to extradite the drug kingpins back to the United States, sir?
We hoped the Mexicans would prosecute them for that.
Gowdy was derisive in his reply:
So you’re going to help the Mexican justice system, you’re just not going to tell the Mexican justice system about it? It was never going to work.
ATF Special Agent Carlos Canino, acting ATF attaché to Mexico, also told the committee that not only was the Mexican government unaware of the program, so were the ATF agents based in Mexico:
At no time, ever, did I know of ATF following known gun traffickers. I had no clue we were allowing guys to act like this.
I was so disgusted, I didn’t want to look at the case file anymore. It goes against everything we’re taught. From the day you walk into academy until the day you leave.
This is a trafficking case, this is what we do. It’s not special.
Gowdy was equally disgusted:
I worked with ATF for six years directly and I worked with ATF indirectly for 10 years. This is one of the saddest days, in fact it might be the saddest day in my 6 months in Congress. ATF has a wonderful reputation in South Carolina. We never once contemplated letting firearms walk, ever. A first year Quantico (the FBI training academy) or Glynco (U.S. Marshall Service) person knows that.
Prior to Tuesday’s hearings, the committee released another report on Operation Fast and Furious of some 60 pages. Among the findings:
• There was little to no information sharing from the Phoenix Field Division, ATF headquarters and the Justice Department to their colleagues in Mexico City. Every time Mexico City officials asked about the mysterious investigation, their U.S. based ATF counterparts in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., continued to say they were “working on it” and “everything was under control.”
• Lanny Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, was clearly aware of Operation Fast and Furious and touted the case during a visit to Mexico.
• ATF officials in Mexico City were incredulous that their agency would knowingly allow guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, and they were incensed when they finally began to learn the full scope of Operation Fast and Furious and the investigative techniques used.
Not only did Brewer know about the program, but Attorney General Eric Holder’s chief of staff did as well. There are now only two possibilities: either Holder simply didn’t want to know about the program, or was so disconnected from his department as to have essentially abrogated his responsibilities.
The former is possibly criminal, the latter merely incompetent, and either should exclude him from continuing as attorney general.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Federal officials confirmed that the information of the pay off was provided by two other officers from the agency known as the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI). The two agents had been assisting in the custody of Guajardo Hernandez and were subsequently arrested after the escape. The other two officers who were paid off were with Guajardo Hernandez in his room and are now fugitives.
Guajardo Hernandez was being hospitalized as a result of injuries he suffered when he was arrested in Mexicali on May 9, 2011. According to a police source the escape happened on Wednesday at about 1930 hours.
Corruption within the AFI has been one of the problems faced by the PGR in recent years and is one arm of the institution that the PGR has sought to permanently purge from this administration.
The AFI was one of the arms of the PGR whose heads were replaced by the Attorney General Marisela Morales after taking office.
Guajardo Hernandez inherited control of the plaza from Teodoro Garcia Simental, "El Teo", who was arrested in La Paz, Baja California Sur, a year and a half after he planted a seed of violence in the north part of the state that resulted in multiple homicides that included executions of police officers - and many kidnappings.
After the arrest of "Teo," Guajardo Hernandez became a priority for federal authorities. The PGR accused him of crimes related to organized crime, aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping. The PGR had offered three million pesos for information leading to his capture.
The arrest of "Guicho" occurred in Mexicali, where the vehicle he was travelling in was intercepted and he fled from police. The State Preventive Police managed to confront him, wounding him during his capture. Before being transferred to Mexico he had been admitted to the General Hospital of Mexicali.
This week as a result of his injuries, "El Guicho" was in a private medical facility in Mexico City, guarded by four ministerial police officers.
According to the information obtained, two of the officers went with "El Guicho," but it's not clear if they are in the company of the "El Guicho" or if they eventually went on their own accord. The other two agents remain in custody of the PGR.
Ease of production, high demand make pot a sure bet for gangs
By DUDLEY ALTHAUS and DANE SCHILLER
But for its problematic pedigree, Mexico's marijuana might be hailed as a marketing miracle.
The much-maligned weed has suffered decades of punishment — burned, poisoned, ripped from the earth by its roots. Customers have been jailed, suppliers battered by literally cutthroat competition. Better products from Colombia, California and countless suburban back-rooms have somewhat eroded its popularity. Governments refuse to make it honest.
Yet, this pot has persevered. Production grows, quality improves and exports northward hum along. Despite decades of U.S. officials' efforts against it, Mexican marijuana remains widely available, frequently used and commonly disregarded as a danger.
"They are never going to stop it," said Dan Webb, a recently retired anti-narcotics lieutenant with the Texas Department of Public Safety, who now teaches drug enforcement at Sam Houston State University.
"It is just like Prohibition," Webb said, comparing Mexico's cannabis trade to the boom in liquor smuggling after the U.S. government outlawed alcohol sales decades ago. "As long as there is a demand, somebody is going to come up with a supply."
Then again, there's that dark legacy. Marijuana sales to American consumers largely finance the gangster warfare that's killed upwards of 40,000 Mexicans in less than five years.
'Commodity of choice'
Though its slice of the gangs' income may be shrinking — the thugs long have profited from cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, as well as kidnapping, extortion and piracy — marijuana remains a solid bet. Call it the money market fund of the Mexican mob.
"Marijuana remains the constant commodity of choice for the drug cartels because of end user demand and the ease of production," said Tony Garcia, South Texas director of an intergovernmental police alliance that keeps tabs on the illicit drug trade.
"When cartels lose large quantities of other type drugs to law enforcement, their money coffers are replenished through the trafficking of marijuana," he said.
Cheap to grow and relatively easy to bring to market, Mexico's marijuana provides sustenance for entire mountain communities and wide profit margins for the gangsters. One widely challenged U.S. government study five years ago estimated that cannabis exports provided some 60 percent of the gangs' revenues. Other estimates range from 15 to 40 percent.
In addition to trafficking their own loads, gangsters tax competitors moving marijuana and drugs through their territory. Contract disputes usually end in slaughter. Communities through which marijuana is smuggled have become some of the most violent corners of the world.
Acreage devoted to marijuana in Mexico's western mountains has risen sharply as troops once focused on destroying the fields — and those of opium poppies — have redeployed to fight gangsters along the border and in cities and towns.
Nuevo Laredo leaders, including the mayor, say the solution is to re-instate a municipal police force, which was terminated about a month ago.
He wants leaders in Mexico City to give the okay for the return of the officers; even tough they've only taken two out of four mandated tests.
The mayor is making the case saying it's an emergency as crime in the city skyrockets.
Mayor Benjamin Galvan says while the Mexican military focuses on cartel violence, they do nothing about everyday crimes like robberies and assaults.
The police force was taken off patrol and replaced by a special 250 troop military unit as part of a national security agreement aimed at the professionalization and certification of police forces.
The reincorporation of officers into police duties will be made on individual basis, pending the outcome of several exams, training and certification.
Some four hundred municipal officers have taken drug, physical,and psychological tests, now each officer would still have to take three more exams, including a background check.
At this time, the state of Tamaulipas has 22 municipality police forces in the process of professionalization and certification.
José Antonio Acosta Hernández, alias El Diego, a top leader of a group of killers and drug traffickers known as “La Linea”, was captured Friday afternoon in the Colinas del Sol area of the city of Chihuahua.
Acosta Hernandez is believed to have ordered the car bomb attack that killed several Federal police officers and civilians last year in Ciudad Juarez and at the time of his arrest was one of the most wanted men in Mexico with a reward of 15 million pesos for information leading to his arrest.
The manhunt for Acosta Hernandez had accelerated after messages signed by him and his organization threatening attacks on DEA agents had recently appeared in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua. The U.S consulate in Ciudad Juarez had also issued warnings that an unnamed criminal organization was planning car bomb attacks on the consulate and the international bridges linking that city with El Paso, Tx.
La Linea is the operational group that coordinates dug trafficking into the U.S. for the Juarez cartel headed by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes “El Viceroy”. La Linea also coordinates attacks against law enforcement and rival criminal groups, extorsions and kidnappings in the state of Chihuahua and is considered one of the most ruthless armed paramilitary groups in northern Mexico.
Acosta Hernandez is believed to operate under the orders of Juan Pablo Ledezma “el JL” who is Vicente Carrillo's right hand person within the Juarez cartel. El JL also commands Los Linces, a group of ex-military sicarios, or assassins, and Grupo Condor.
Acosta Hernandez is a former member of Chihuahua’s state investigative police and its anti-kidnapping unit. He was dropped from the force in 2007 for failing a vetting exam for state police agents.
The capture of El Diego resulted from a surprise operation where a several block area of the Colinas del Sur neighborhood was sealed off by Federal police and Army troops. Federal preventive and ministerial police then entered a home at the intersection of Avenida Francisco Villa and Fenix. A brief gun battle ensued in which one Federal police official was wounded after which El Diego and an accomplice were arrested.
The operation was undertaken without the knowledge of municipal and state police forces in Chihuahua. Chihuahua is the capitol city of the state with the same name and is part of the Juarez cartel "plaza".
A photograph reportedly taken during the operation and posted on a Chihuahua news website, La Parada Digital, shows what posters to Mexican drug war forums say may be at least two DEA agents in Federal police uniform.
The PGR, Mexico's Attorney General's office, is also offering 15 million peso rewards for information leading to the capture of the two other top operatives of the Juarezcartel, Juan Pablo Ledezma "El JL" and Juan Pablo Guijarro Fragosa "El Mónico".
The reward for information leading to the capture of the Juarez Cartel kingpin, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, stands at 30 million pesos.
The alleged leader of the criminal organization "The Line", the armed wing of the Juarez cartel, Jose Antonio Acosta Hernández "El Diego", was arrested during clashes with federal police in an exclusive subdivision of Chihuahua, Chihuahua.
Acosta Hernandez is reportedly responsible for the Villas de Salvarcar massacre of 15 school children in January, 2010 and with the murder of three Juarez US Consulate employees in March.
Acosta Hernandez is also the alleged mastermind behind the July 16th, 2010 car bomb which killed four, including one Federal police agent.
All security forces in Juarez, especially federal security forces are on high alert in expectation of a possible reprisal attack.
Friday, July 29, 2011
The 5,000 federal police currently deployed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, will not be withdrawn, interior minister Francisco Blake said, contradicting an earlier statement by the mayor of the border city.
Mayor Hector Murguia said Tuesday that he was officially informed the federal cops will begin to leave Juarez in September.
His announcement came hours after a score of federal agents fired on the convoy of Juarez’s police chief, the latest in a series of ugly incidents between the feds and local authorities.
“The federal forces will not abandon Ciudad Juarez nor its citizens in the face of the criminal phenomenon the city is experiencing,” Blake said in a statement after meeting Wednesday with the governor of the surrounding state of Chihuahua, Cesar Duarte.
The efforts of the federal forces in Juarez have been “successful,” Blake insisted.
Ciudad Juarez, a metropolis of roughly 1.2 million people just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, has suffered nearly 9,000 homicides since the beginning of 2008.
The carnage is blamed on a turf war between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels, both of which rely heavily on local street gangs to carry out attacks.
Contrary to Blake’s assertion, the deployment of nearly 10,000 soldiers and federal police – the troops were pulled out earlier amid an avalanche of abuse complaints – has had no measurable effect on the level of violence in Juarez.
The city’s top cop, Julian Leyzaola, said at least 20 federal police officers shot at vehicles carrying him and his bodyguards in the wee hours of Tuesday as the chief was traveling to the municipal jail to quell a riot that left 17 inmates dead.
City clerk Hector Arcelus dismissed the federal cops’ claim that the shooting was the result of confusion.
The federal officers are “perfectly” familiar with the vehicles used by Leyzaola and his escorts, according to Arcelus, who said it was “neither logical nor credible that they (the feds) acted randomly.”
Tuesday’s episode followed the killing by federal police of a member of Mayor Murguia’s security detail at a checkpoint in Juarez.
The mayor, who demanded that the officer who shot his bodyguard be charged with homicide, subsequently got into a shouting match with federal cops who pointed their assault rifles at Murguia during a chance encounter in the city.
Spanish Source: Las fuerzas federales no abandonaran Ciudad Juárez; Segob
Thursday, July 28, 2011
EL PASO TIMES
Two new "narco mantas" that were left in Juárez and Chihuahua City on Wednesday repeated previous threats against U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and U.S. Consulate employees.
Someone named "Diego" signed the banners that warned DEA agents who work in Chihuahua state to stop meddling or risk being killed and dismembered.
Diego is believed to be the nickname for Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, an alleged Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel capo who is wanted by U.S. authorities in connection with the 2010 shooting attacks in Juárez that killed three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate in that city.
This is the second such warning in recent weeks that cartel operatives have communicated through large banners placed at busy streets or intersections.
DEA officials had no comment.
U.S. Consulate officials in Juárez said Wednesday that the consulate remains open for services.
They recommend that U.S. citizens who travel to Juárez check for travel warnings and information at www.state.gov/travel.
The U.S. government issued an emergency travel alert for Juárez on July 15 after receiving information that cartels could target the consulate, the international bridges and the public.
Jalisco Cartel has a new unit called Mata Zetas which will focus on killing Zetas. Jalisco Cartel believes the Zetas are negatively affecting hardworking, people who work honestly, and have created terror in the state of Veracruz and other parts of Mexico.
The video, which they claim to have recorded in the state of Veracruz, shows 30 unknown, masked, heavily armed men who are said to have united to support the words of their leader.
The video which lasts almost five minutes, says:
”Good afternoon, today at 4pm in the afternoon on July 27, 2012, we make it known that through the state of Veracruz and through out all of Mexico – The Kill Zeta Group of the New Generation of Jalisco Cartel, has been born.", said the hooded man.
It also states, ” In all organizations there is corruption, from police to public prosecutors. Do not be afraid though, the person who allowed the Zetas to infiltrate the state is no longer our governor. Everyone in the entire country knows that Mr. Fidel Herrera Beltrán, alias Z-1, supported the Zetas. ”
The masked leader also makes important statements about the Veracruz journalists that were recently executed:
”We also want to call upon all journalists to recognize the death of our friends Milo Vela and Yolanda Ordaz. We know the people who killed them were Gilberto Osorio López , alias El Gordo Osorio, Juan Alberto Ramirez Estrada, alias El Caribe, Héctor Méndez Romero, alias El Gordo Chachas, and Tulio, who is head "sicario" of the Zetas: our friends were providing information to authorities to capture many of them.
We ask of the people of Veracruz to take a stand- This is the time to denounce the Zetas and report them to the Ministry of Defense (Army) and the Navy, they are the only two groups here in this state that have not been corrupted by Zetas bribes.
To all families who have suffered the death of a loved one by these filthy Zetas and have information, expose them- Give the information to the authorities. NOW”.
The New Generation Cartel declares everything they do is for the people.
We also send, via this video, our respect and admiration to the Governor Javier Duarte. He is fighting the fight against these filthy Zetas. We have nothing to do with politics, nor do we seek to be involved in politics.
This is for our friends who are sick of injustice. We wish that every one of you could have the opportunity to say what the Zetas have done. Unfortunately not everyone has the financial means to bring justice. We are calling upon citizens to report the Zetas, it is necessary to begin action against them.
We say to all Mexicans that it is Time to act - we are all free, drug trafficking will not end but we can turn this around for peace and tranquility and for the benefit of our children. If we do not act now, what is ahead is living with the fear of Zetas coming to tax, kidnap, and rob us of what we have worked so hard for.
These people do not respect anything; they rape, kidnap, kill and impose their infamous taxes. Lets not allow this to go on any longer- tomorrow it may affect you and those dear to you- the time is now- If you have any zeta information in any state- denounce them now! You do not have long on this issue, for tomorrow you or a loved one may be affected or.
It’s time for anyone who has information of a Zeta, either here or in another state to expose them to us so we can react our way, we have been killing every one of them we find.
Lastly, we want to send greetings to all those who maintain the good fight against Los Zetas, and whoever is their enemy is friend of ours.
Sincerely: Mata Zetas Grupo Cartel Jalisco New Generation. Thank you very much".
Source: Blog Del Narco
The Los Zetas drug cartel is suspected in the kidnapping and murder of a city mayor and a prominent rancher in western Mexico, Zacatecas state Attorney General Arturo Nahle Garcia told Efe Thursday.
Fortino Cortes, mayor of Florencia de Benito Juarez, and Gilberto Perez Escobedo, treasurer of the regional ranchers association, were abducted Wednesday in Zacatecas city, the state capital.
The men were found dead Thursday in Huejucar, a town in the neighboring state of Jalisco, Nahle said.
Bound hand-and-foot and blindfolded, the victims were accompanied by a message accusing them of acting as informants for the Gulf drug cartel, Los Zetas' main rival.
The bodies were identified by the Cortes and Perez Escobedo families, Nahle said, adding that the federal AG's office will lead the investigation because of the apparent involvement of organized crime.
Cortes and Perez Escobedo were taking part in a meeting at the offices of the Regional Ranching Union in Zacatecas city when armed men burst in and grabbed them.
Florencia de Benito Juarez, a town of some 2,700 residents, has witnessed a number of clashes between warring criminal outfits, including a May 20 shootout that left 13 dead, one of them Cortes' brother.
A score of Mexican mayors have been murdered by organized crime elements over the last 19 months.
Note: The title of this video is incorrect, it states CDG killed the mayor when in reality the message left with both bodies says they were killed for supporting two members of CDG
By Richard Marosi and Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Calexico, Calif., and Badiraguato, Mexico
Last of 4 parts
The towering iron gates opened onto a palm-lined driveway that led past the family church, a twisting water slide and two man-made lakes, one stocked with fish, the other with jet skis. With its soaring twin bell towers, each topped by a cross, the estate in the emerald hills outside Culiacan, Mexico, had an almost surreal grandeur. It reminded Carlos "Charlie" Cuevas of Disneyland, without the smiles.
Cuevas, a drug trafficker from Calexico, Calif., had been summoned there by Victor Emilio Cazares, allegedly a top lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel. Cazares was said to be upset by a rash of recent drug seizures by U.S. authorities.
In one of them, police had raided a stash house in Paramount, southeast of Los Angeles, and confiscated nearly 455 pounds of cocaine, worth about $3.3 million. Cuevas had come under suspicion, and not only because he handled the shipment. Raised in California, he was an outsider. He couldn't claim Sinaloan roots. The boss and his heavily armed cronies would make fun of his American-accented Spanish and call him a derogatory term for Mexican Americans.
Cuevas' drivers and lookouts were also suspect. He had been ordered to bring them to Mexico for questioning. He hadn't.
Cuevas feared his boss — he'd guzzle Pepto-Bismol for his frequent gut eruptions — but this time he stood firm."I'm so sure it's not one of my guys that you can kill me if it's one of them," Cuevas said.
In the shadows
The confrontation reflected the frustrations of a cartel in confusion. Cocaine shipments were being seized all over the U.S.: by New Jersey and New York police, California Highway Patrol officers, Oklahoma state troopers and others. The array of agencies was a cover for the main force behind most of the busts: the Drug Enforcement Administration. Cazares didn't know it, but he was a top target in one of the largest DEA investigations ever of a Mexican organized crime group. Operation Imperial Emperor was peeling back layers of a drug distribution ring with hundreds of truckers, packers, money couriers and stash house operators across the U.S.
Local police made arrests while DEA agents stayed in the shadows, piecing together evidence and listening to cellphone chatter. Keeping the DEA's involvement quiet was key.
A major trafficking suspect like Cazares didn't sweat local busts, but a federal investigation would put him on alert. Wiretaps would go silent, evidence would disappear, suspects would flee. The DEA was allowing the drug pipeline to continue running so agents could expand their target list. There would be busts and seizures of drugs and money, but no knockout punch.
The government was trying to bleed the organization to death. It wouldn't be easy.
The cocaine economy gushed millions of dollars a week in revenue for a reputed kingpin like Cazares, whose contacts reached from Colombia to the South Bronx. Cocaine purchased from South American producers for about $3,600 a pound was sold for $7,200 in Los Angeles and $9,000 in New York.
The biggest expense was shipping. Cuevas earned about $250 a pound moving the cocaine across the U.S.-Mexico border to distribution hubs in the Los Angeles area. Trucking cells charged as little as $250 a pound for shipments to the East Coast. By air, a pilot from Carlsbad, John Charles Ward, charged $450 per pound.
The Sinaloa cartel bosses, unlike the Colombian traffickers of the past, didn't control the entire distribution system. Cazares allegedly partnered with local criminal groups — Orange County gang members, Italian Canadian mobsters, Dominicans in the Northeast — to get the drugs to users.
Profit margins at the wholesale level were staggering: One ton of cocaine, after transportation costs, could yield $5.4 million. Over three years, Cazares had allegedly smuggled an estimated 40 tons into the U.S., generating more than $200 million in profit. And that created another logistical challenge: getting the money back to Mexico.
That was handled by Cazares' sister, according to federal agents and an indictment filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors. Blanca, a society-page fixture in Culiacan nicknamed "the Empress," allegedly controlled currency-changing houses in Tijuana and other border cities, where drug proceeds sent via courier from Southern California were converted to pesos. The cash was divided into amounts of less than $10,000 and deposited in banks along the border.
Blanca Cazares could withdraw or transfer the funds at will, distributing profits to associates, distributors and her brother.
In the mid-1990s, Victor Cazares was an illegal immigrant with big dreams living in a run-down cottage in the city of Bell, southeast of Los Angeles. When police arrested him with a baggie of drugs, he said he worked as a $50-a-day landscaper and admitted a fondness for cocaine. He vowed to quit.
"The defendant's plans are to work and become a Christian," his probation officer wrote in his report.
By 2005, Cazares had moved back to his homeland, where he kept one of his promises by building a church on his 25-acre estate in Mexico's historical drug-trafficking heartland of Badiraguato, outside Culiacan. He cultivated a reputation as a generous gentleman rancher, and the Mexican government gave him more than $129,000 in subsidies to raise cattle.
Cazares trucked in locals to harvest his fields of tomato, pepper, eggplant and squash, paying them twice the normal wage.
"He was a good neighbor. He gave people work. He'd pass by, wave a greeting," said Guadalupe Rubio, who lives in a village near the hacienda.
Cazares allegedly was a primary distributor for Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel's leader and the most wanted trafficker in the world. Yet in many ways, he acted more like a vice president of shipping for a U.S. manufacturing firm, obsessing over logistics and cost control.
While cartel soldiers waged war in Mexican border cities, killing hundreds of rivals and police officers, workers in the U.S. primed the drug pipeline in anonymity, driving small cars, renting modest houses and leading low-profile, generally peaceful lives.
Spilling blood on U.S. streets was avoided. Disputes were taken care of in Mexico, where discipline or vengeance could be meted out in the lawless countryside outside Culiacan.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The Knights Templar were created in 1120 by roughly a dozen knights following the First Crusade, which left the area now known as Israel quite hazardous for Christians who fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem.
"The roads in that area, particularly in the roads of Jerusalem, were dangerous with Muslim raiders and general violence, and very often Christian pilgrims would be killed or robbed by Muslims," said Dr. Paul Crawford, associate professor of ancient and medieval history at the California University of Pennsylvania.
To combat that threat, Crawford, who has studied the Knights Templar for two decades, said the group was formed to use its military training and vast resources to protect the helpless pilgrims.
"This was an innovation of Christian society up until that point -- using military skills to protect the helpless," Crawford told FoxNews.com during a phone interview Wednesday. "It was a chivalrous concept; the powerful should protect the weak instead of exploiting them."
By the mid-12th century, Crawford said the Knights Templar became a major element of defense for the kingdom of Jerusalem against Islamic attack. But in 1307, Crawford said hundreds of Knights Templar in France were arrested by orders of Philip IV, king of France from 1285 to 1314. They were charged with dozens of crimes, from heresy to blasphemy to sodomy, Crawford said.
"Philip the Fair," however, had no authority to do so, as the Knights Templar answered only to the Pope. But by 1312, Pope Clement V had dissolved the Christian military order and its grandmaster was burned at the stake by Philip IV two years later.
Crawford said Breivik and the Mexican crime syndicate blamed for murders and drug trafficking are "grossly abusing" the ideals and glamour of the original knights.
"A drug cartel in Mexico for goodness sake and a lone murderer in Norway are trying to appropriate a glamorous and admirable image to cloak the horror of their own deeds," Crawford said. "In neither case would the original organization approve of what is being done and made of their memory."
Crawford said the "bastardization" of the Knights Templar likely stems from the original order's fascinating, sudden and violent end.
"It's natural for people to be interested in them and to be attracted to them," he said. "Because the fall of the Templars was so dramatic and so difficult to understand even at the time, it appeals as an event to the sort of person who is drawn to conspiracy theories and mysteries -- and even the occult."
The modern International Order of the Knights Templar (OSMTH) -- a Christian order with no ties to the church and an accredited United Nations non-governmental organization -- has quickly distanced itself from Breivik and the Mexican cartel. In a statement posted on its website, the organization deplored Breivik's "senseless acts" and reiterated its mission as building bridges worldwide for peace and understanding.
"Christ's message is one of love, understanding and tolerance of all peoples in the World," the statement read. "How Anders Behring Breivik so misunderstood Christ's message is beyond reason or belief … Mr. Breivik is NOT NOW and HAS NEVER been a member of OSMTH."
The grand commander of the order, U.S. Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Bob Disney, told FoxNews.com the organization has entities in 16 countries and is in the process of finalizing four additional delegations. It also maintains permanent delegations at the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Vienna. Disney said OSMTH officials have not received any threats in response to the perceived connection to the Norway attacks or the Mexican crime syndicate.
Crawford, meanwhile, said he expects the message of the original Templars to continue to be usurped and used maliciously.
"Oh dear, I hope not, but it's been going on from at least the 18th century," he said. "It's not going to stop. The only thing that those of us who are Templar historians can do is to keep telling the truth. But there are these people who want a glamorous cover for their misdeeds, so we're stuck with it."
Five men were gunned down in the wee hours while walking down a street in the town of Yurecuaro, a source in the state Attorney General’s Office said.
The assailants were armed with assault rifles, the weapon of choice for Mexico’s drug cartels. None of the four Yurecuaro victims who have been identified so far is known to have had links to organized crime, the source said.
Police in Morelia, the state capital, found the bodies of three men who were bound, gagged and blindfolded.
Messages pinned to the chests of two of the victims indicated the killings were an act of reprisal of the Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug gang against the rival La Familia Michoacana.
The Caballeros group comprises former La Familia members who splintered from the main organization after then-boss Nazario Moreno died in a December 2010 confrontation with federal police.
La Familia’s main business was manufacturing synthetic drugs such as crystal meth for export to the United States, using ingredients smuggled in through Michoacan’s Pacific ports.
The state is also home to significant plantations of marijuana and opium poppies.
Los Caballeros Templarios, like La Familia, requires members to adhere to a code of conduct and portrays itself as working for the good of the community despite its criminal activities.
“We energetically reject the accusation as unjust, irresponsible and foolish, and we demand a public apology and Reynaldo Escobar’s resignation,” the editorial read.
Notiver, the largest-circulation newspaper in the port city of Veracruz, responded to comments made Tuesday by Escobar, who said the crime was regrettable but had nothing to do with Ordaz’s work as a journalist.
Escobar said investigators were looking at the possibility that Ordaz – who was found with her throat slit in the port town of Boca del Rio, just south of Veracruz, and apparently had been tortured – may have had links to a criminal organization and been killed by a rival gang for that reason.
Ordaz, who had written about the war on drugs and the police beat, had been kidnapped Saturday by gunmen.
A message was left with the reporter’s body that referred to a possible betrayal by Ordaz of a cartel, the state AG said.
Notiver said in the editorial that “it respectfully but forcefully” calls on Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte “not only to dismiss Reynaldo Escobar but to bring charges against him for his irresponsible and criminal actions.”
“Pointing out that this man is good for nothing is unnecessary. You just have to go out in the street to see the insecurity and anxiety and the impact it’s having not only on journalism but all of society – on trade, tourism, industry and the golf club. Criminals move about with impunity on our streets,” the editorial said.
It added that Notiver, which specializes in covering drug and security issues, has been “under pressure and threats” for six years yet has continued to report the news despite “all the risks and the total lack of support from authorities.”
Law enforcement “doesn’t exist, doesn’t function, is invisible and in the worst-case scenario, or really almost always, is in cahoots with the criminals; if not, what explains how they can ... operate with impunity in broad daylight?”
“The old slogan ‘plata o plomo’ (lead or silver: accept a bribe for looking the other way or get killed for refusing) doesn’t apply. It’s only lead and if you don’t like it you risk not only being killed but also having the attorney general throw a garbage truck on top of you,” the editorial said.
“In this case, as in most of the previous ones, which are still unpunished, we are outraged by the way the local authorities rule out any link with the victim’s work as a journalist and encourage nasty rumors about the victim even before they start investigating the case,” said a statement issued Wednesday by the Paris-based group, known as RSF.
As someone who covered the police beat, Ordaz “was one of those journalists who were exposed to danger because of their reporting specialty,” RSF said.
“At the same time, a link to organized crime obviously cannot be excluded in a state where three feared gangs, the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel and Michoacán’s La Familia, operate,” the press-freedom watchdog said,.
Those cartels and several others are blamed for Mexico’s alarming rate of drug-related violence, which has claimed more than 40,000 lives since late 2006.
RSF also said there may be a connection between Ordaz’s murder and that of Notiver colleague Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, whose columns “may have upset certain officials.”
About a month before Ordaz went missing, Lopez Velazco and his wife and 21-year-old son were shot dead inside their home in the city of Veracruz.
A total of 77 Mexican journalists have been killed since 2000 and 23 others have gone missing since 2003, according to RSF, which said seven reporters have been murdered and another has disappeared in the country since the start of this year.
In two of the 2011 slayings, there was a direct link with the victims’ work, RSF said.
Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists in the past few years, and the most perilous country for members of the media in Latin America, non-governmental organizations say.
Authorities have not solved any of the cases of the journalists listed as missing since 2005 in Mexico, the Inter American Press Association, or IAPA, said in a report released last November.
The judge in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas issued formal detention orders against the ex-warden of the prison in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Alfonso Daniel Ramirez, ex-coordinator Juan Lorenzo de la Cruz and five guards, two of them women.
Investigators say the 61 inmates who escaped – 21 of whom were sentenced or held on federal charges – presumably made their way out through a tunnel on the facility’s north side after a fight in which seven prisoners were killed.
The federal government says more than 400 inmates escaped from Tamaulipas prisons between January 2010 and March of this year due to corruption in the prison system in that state, which has been beset in recent years by turf battles pitting the Los Zetas and Gulf cartels.
Over the past few weeks, more than 1,000 soldiers have been deployed to Tamaulipas to support local, state and municipal authorities in their struggle against organized crime.
After the July 15 break-out, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, or Fedecaco, said the federal government is to blame for mass prison escapes in Mexico because it allows severe overcrowding to persist.
It also noted that the prisons in Tamaulipas are holding more than 2,000 dangerous inmates arrested on federal charges who belong to drug cartels and other organized crime groups.
The interior secretary of Tamaulipas, Morelos Canseco, told reporters last week that prison overcrowding is not a serious problem in the state, saying it “barely exceeds 3 percent.”
But he did call on the national government to move some 700 inmates out of Tamaulipas penitentiaries and into federal prisons, adding that 300 prisoners who have been sentenced for federal crimes and 400 others still awaiting a court ruling in their cases have been identified.
Mexico’s drug cartels sometimes engineer mass prison breaks in response to the killings and arrests of their gunmen.
The killers left a narco message signed by Los Caballeros Templarios.
It was reported that the body remain hanging for some time before authorities arrived, and the body of what appeared to be a young man had been tied with a chord, they cut off his ears and had wounds from firearm on his upper body.
By his feet was a message:
"This will happen to the scourge and cowards, stop kidnapping innocent people and fight with us, Tilde Toribio Renteria scourge. Att: Caballeros Templarios."
The victim was not identified.
The Associated Press
Surveillance video and police reports showed inmates illegally brought a woman, a 15-year-old girl and guns into the prison in violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, while federal police responding to the fight Tuesday opened fire on a local police chief visiting the scene.
State prosecutors in northern Chihuahua state added that they were investigating reports that the inmates were holding a party in the prison before the riot broke out and that jail guards may have attended. The party, like the girl, the woman and the guns, were all prohibited by rules at the all-male prison.
Video aired on a local television channel Wednesday suggested the guards may have, in fact, allowed the bloodbath to happen. The footage showed hooded, armed inmates talking with guards, who then leave the area before inmates grab cell keys, open a door and apparently fire on those inside with a machine pistol and an assault rifle.
Federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire called for changes at the city-run prison, saying Wednesday, “Obviously, in the case of Ciudad Juarez there are things that have to be cleared up. Fundamentally as we have said, security at the state and local jails all across the country has to be reviewed and strengthened and everything has to be done to avoid tragic events like the one we had there (in Juarez).”
Local authorities slammed their federal counterparts for firing at Juarez police Chief Julian Leyzaola, a former army lieutenant colonel known for his get-tough attitude on crime.
Federal police had thrown up a security ring outside the prison late Monday to prevent escapes when Leyzaola drove up to the scene. Leyzaola was unhurt, largely because he was in a bulletproof vehicle.
The incident marked the latest outburst of tension between local authorities and federal forces who took over most security duties in the border city after an upsurge in killings in 2008. Federal police replaced soldiers in April 2010 amid accusations that the soldiers had abused their authority.
The city has been the scene of bloody turf battles between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels, and the street gangs that have allied with them.
The murder rate in Juarez, a city of 1.3 million across the border from El Paso, has fallen by about 22 percent so far this year. Nonetheless, 1,314 people were murdered in the city from this January through July 27, compared to 1,696 murders in the first seven months of 2010. The full-year total of homicides for 2010 was 3,097, making Juarez one of the most violent cities in the world.
It’s unclear whether the drop in homicides has been triggered by the presence of federal police, a law enforcement clean-up campaign launched by Leyzaola when he was hired in March or a partial truce between warring drug gangs.
In an interview with Milenio Television Tuesday, Juarez Mayor Hector Murguia defended the city’s security situation while announcing that some 5,000 federal police officers sent to help patrol the city will start leaving in September.
Murguia said federal officials decided to withdraw the officers because they believed security in the city is under control and that their duties will be returned to local police officers. Murguia added that the city has gone through extensive efforts to get rid of officers working for drug cartels.
Murguia, in particular, has had angry confrontations with federal police, whom he’s accused of running roughshod over local authorities.
In January, federal officers shot to death one of Murguia’s bodyguards on a city street corner, even though the mayor claimed the bodyguard had obeyed the officers’ orders to lay down his weapon.
Leyzaola also painted a picture of trigger-happy federal authorities in his account of Tuesday’s scrape.
“I saw a federal officer in front of my sport utility vehicle firing at me and in turning to a side, there was a group of between 10 and 15 federal officers firing at my vehicle,” Leyzaola said.
The federal Public Safety Department said in a statement late Tuesday that officials had opened fire because Leyzaola had refused to stop and identify himself.
“During an operation to prevent an escape of prisoners, he broke through the security cordon and, acting against security protocol, went through a checkpoint without stopping,” the statement read. “And for this reason his vehicle was fired upon to make it stop.”
The federal police also said they sent to the prison on Tuesday armored units, which fired at regular police units. Authorities finally regained control of the facility and found 17 people dead, two inmates with gunshot wounds and 72 others with lesser injuries.
The federal police statement also said two females, including a woman who was killed in the fight, were found inside the prison.
Julio Cesar Castaneda, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office, said it’s investigating reports that even more women had entered the prison for a party held by members of one of the city’s street gangs, and that most left after the fight. The office is also investigating reports that some prison employees may have attended the party.
By Richard Marosi—Los Angeles Times Staff Writer (Part 3)
John Charles Ward would take flight in the half-light before dawn, when he could race down the runway without headlights and ascend into the cloaking embrace of an overcast sky.
Soaring above the crowded California freeways in the single-engine aircraft, he'd relax, pour himself a whiskey and Seven and plan his hopscotch route to Pennsylvania. Inside the plane were 242 pounds of cocaine; outside, nothing but clouds.
"There are no curbs in the sky," Ward said. "There's no place for anybody to pull you over."
Flying shipments for the Sinaloa drug cartel was Ward's best gig in years. No street dealing, packaging or other grubby chores required. He delivered cocaine to a distributor in Pennsylvania and returned with duffel bags stuffed with up to $2.8 million, keeping a few 6-inch stacks of cash for himself.
Taking off from Riverside County's Corona Municipal Airport at dawn, Ward could be back the next day, feeding twenties and hundreds into the counting machine at his home in Carlsbad.
Still, he had some nagging concerns. The Mexican distributors in Pennsylvania were trying to cut costs by hiring immigrant truckers to haul drugs from Southern California. And U.S. agents were keeping a close watch on traffickers in the historic towns of Lancaster County, Pa., a distribution hub.
Ward was an expert at covering his tracks. He usually stayed at a cottage-style motel just off the runway at Smoketown Airport, the self-described "Gateway to Pennsylvania's Amish Country." After midnight he donned black clothing and lugged cocaine-filled gym bags from the plane to his room. He avoided people, paid cash for most purchases and, if anybody asked, said he was an aircraft broker.
"The money never stopped. The product never stopped," he said. "Everything was moving continuously."
Veteran of the trade
By the time President Nixon declared the "war on drugs" in 1971, Ward had been transporting dope to California for years. He grew weed at a farm he owned in Missouri and shipped it by truck. A few years later, responding to demand for better pot, he partnered with marijuana farmers in Mexican villages and hired pilots -- some of them Vietnam War veterans -- to fly the drugs across the border.
But they were unreliable prima donnas. So he decided to get a pilot's license. He went to Hawaii to train in crosswinds, headwinds and on island hops.
"I said to myself: 'I'm going to be the best smuggler there is. I'm going to be the one without an attitude,' " Ward said.
Over three decades, he piloted more than 50 planes, from cramped Beechcraft Musketeer three-seaters to an Aero Commander 500 that he'd jam with 1,500 pounds of marijuana. In the 1970s and '80s, he made short trips to northern Mexico, landing on runways marked by burning tires, and made long flights through the Sierra Madre, where joyous farmers rode alongside his plane on horseback, shooting pistols into the air.
Ward was scrappy and resourceful, an adrenaline junkie with a taste for the finer things. His smuggling paid for a desert estate, a sailboat named Romancing and Dom Perignon-fueled parties. He relished the challenges of aerial smuggling and devised ingenious ways to avoid detection.
He'd fly across the border skimming treetops to evade radar. He'd land in the desert, at improvised airstrips where his crews laid generator-powered runway lights. For engine troubles, he packed a tool bag with fuses and wrenches. For human problems, he tucked a 9-millimeter handgun in his waistband.
One step ahead
Federal authorities, who had been aware of Ward's air smuggling since 1975, chased him in the desert sky, bugged his phones and planted tracking devices on his aircraft, some of which he found and kept behind his bar at home to show off to his drinking buddies.
In 1981, customs agents seized three of his planes at airports in Riverside County. He was convicted of drug conspiracy charges as the leader of 13 pilots and ground crew members. He served four years of an eight-year sentence, and took to the skies again.
In 1990, federal agents saw Ward's plane touch down on a landing strip near Death Valley. The ground crew unloaded 500 pounds of marijuana, and Ward flew off into the night. A government pilot gave chase with his lights out but lost him. Agents found the plane later at Banning Municipal Airport. The belly was coated with dirt, the engine still hot. But Ward was gone.
The agents caught his crew members, who fingered Ward. He faced conspiracy charges in that case and another in Riverside County. He was looking at up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
His attorney, Tom George Kontos, a former federal prosecutor from Los Angeles, negotiated a plea agreement that resulted in a year's house arrest.
Ward was forever grateful to the sharp-dressing attorney who he said was skilled at swaying judges. "He could charm the birds out of the trees," Ward said.
Kontos and Ward became close friends, attending each other's weddings and investing in a used-car business. Ward referred several traffickers to Kontos; Kontos sold Ward his house in Carlsbad, paid for with drug money.
Ward named his second son after Kontos. "He described me as the brother he never had," Ward said. "He was my hero."
Ward and his wife lived in a large, two-story home that backed onto an ocean-fed lagoon in Carlsbad. Neighbors would see him tinkering in his garage where he was designing an airplane-towing device. They rarely got so much as a wave hello, but they figured it was the aloof manner of an eccentric amateur inventor. They had no idea that Ward buried money in his yard or flew drugs across the country.
Ward began flying for the Sinaloa cartel in 2004, teaming with Rafael Dominguez, a racehorse breeder from Riverside County who had connections to drug distributors in Southern California.
When Dominguez had a cocaine load ready for shipment, he'd phone Ward, telling him that he had lined up another job "pouring concrete."
The cocaine was the best Ward had ever tasted, and was believed to come from a drug distribution network headed by Victor Emilio Cazares, allegedly a top cartel lieutenant in Sinaloa. The bricks were labeled with a scorpion logo.
"It was uncut … a pearly color, flaky, with a candy kind of smell to it," Ward said. "People would pull your arms off for that stuff."
Ward could carry nearly 250 pounds of cocaine per flight and he charged $450 per pound, earning about $110,000 per trip, plus $5,000 for expenses.
Truckers, some with spotty records, delivered nearly double that amount for half Ward's fee.
Ward didn't like the cost-cutting and careless behavior of the East Coast distributors to whom he delivered the drugs. He'd had words with one of them, Noe Coronado, who cultivated a Culiacan clubster look -- pompadour and shiny rayon pants -- that stood out in the bluejeans-and-baseball-cap world of Lancaster, Pa.
Ward worried that Coronado's lack of discretion put them both at risk. Nevertheless, it was hard to resist the tug of another deal. "It wasn't just a smuggling job. It was my career," Ward said. "I put a lot of thought into it and tried to see where others made mistakes."
When Ward got a call about another shipment, he would drop the tools in his garage, pocket his two-way radio and grab his GPS case and overnight bag. At the door, he would kiss his wife goodbye.
"Don't ask me when I'm coming home. Don't ask me where I'm going…. I'll just see you later," he would say.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
BY SANDRA DIBBLE
Sign on San Diego
Former Tijuana Police Chief Julian Leyzaola, no stranger to gunfire and controversy, is now is the spotlight in Ciudad Juarez, where he has been heading the municipal police force since March.
Leyzaola is accusing members of Mexico's Federal Police of opening fire on his vehicle on Monday night as he was heading to a penitentiary where a riot had claimed 17 lives.
“I don’t understand the reason for the aggression,” Leyzaola said Tuesday during a news conference in Ciudad Juarez. “Fortunately, the vehicle was armored, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
Hector Arcelus, the city’s secretary, said that there were 20 identified aggressors, and that the city was preparing to take legal action. According to El Diario de Juarez, “the incident showed the lack of coordination among agencies.”
On Monday, the city announced that Federal Police would be withdrawn from the city beginning in September.
Additional video source: Intentan federales asesinar a Leyzaola
A Mexican judge on Tuesday sentenced a 15-year-old U.S. citizen to three years in prison for organized crime, homicide, kidnapping, and drug and weapons possession.
A judge gave Edgar Jimenez Lugo the maximum sentenced allowed for a minor in the central state of Morelos, said state prosecutor Jose Manuel Serrano Falmerol. Jimenez was tried in a state court because Mexico does not have a justice system to try minors at the federal level.
Authorities say the teenager confessed to working for the South Pacific drug cartel, led by reputed drug lord Hector Beltran Leyva, and to killing four people whose beheaded bodies were hung from a bridge in the tourist city of Cuernavaca.
Jimenez, known as "El Ponchis," was born in San Diego, California. He and a sister were arrested in December as they tried to board a plane to Tijuana, where they planned to cross the border and reunite with their mother in San Diego.
The teenager has been in a juvenile detention center in Morelos since his arrest and will serve his time there, Serrano said.
The two siblings allegedly worked for Julio "El Negro" Padilla, a reputed drug trafficker who authorities say has been fighting for control of the drug trade in Morelos. Morelos was formerly under the control of the Beltran Leyva gang, which broke up after alleged leader Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed in a shootout with Mexican marines a year ago.
The battle among remnants of the gang has caused an unprecedented spike in violence in Morelos and in neighboring Guerrero state, where the resort city of Acapulco is located.
Stories of a hit boy, maybe as young as 12, spread after a YouTube video appeared in November with teens mugging for the camera next to corpses and guns. One boy on the video alleged that "El Ponchis" was his accomplice.
A relative has said Jimenez was nicknamed "Ponchis" by his family because he was a pudgy child.
When he was handed over to federal prosecutors, the boy calmly said in front of cameras that he participated in four killings while drugged and under threat.
Related link: THE CARTELS' GRIP / A BOY, HIS FAMILY, TWO NATIONS: How boy from San Diego became accused cartel hitman
Video of El Ponchis Executing 2 Victims