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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, July 30, 2010

Drug lord Cardenas' whereabouts no longer a secret

Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
July 29, 2010, 12:21AM

Former Mexican drug lord Osiel Cardenas Guillen is out of hiding for the first time in nearly four years, having reported to a U.S. medium-security prison to serve a comparatively comfortable sentence negotiated by his attorneys.

Unlike some other major drug cartel figures, Cardenas avoided the harshness of the tomb-like Supermax in Colorado, where inmates are locked in cells and rarely see the sun.

Instead, records posted Wednesday show he is checked in at the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta, where he can walk the razor-wire-surrounded facility to go to meals, the library or recreation time. Up until now, he had been in custody in secret locations for security reasons.

Inmates at the 108-year-old facility wear khaki uniforms, are counted at least five times a day, can let their hair grow to any length and have access to a salad bar, according to the inmate handbook.

It is the place that in the 1980s housed Mariel Boat Lift Cubans who staged an infamous riot.

Cardenas' whereabouts have been kept secret since he was extradited to the United States in January 2007.

Even his sentencing in Houston was kept private from the public and guarded by federal marshals.

Documents related to his plea agreement were sealed "in perpetuity" by a federal judge, but he avoided a high-security lockup and received other considerations as part of the agreement.

Cardenas was the chief leader of the Gulf Cartel as it pushed tons of cocaine into the United States and made millions of dollars. He pleaded guilty to an array of crimes, including pointing an AK-47 at the heads of two U.S. federal agents caught on the streets of his hometown in the Texas-Mexico border city of Matamoros.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons' website notes that the 43-year-old Cardenas, known as inmate 62604-079, has a release date of Nov. 1, 2028. His home is among the 2,032 inmates considered to be lower-risk prisoners.

"In a medium-security facility, they can go from one place to another," Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Traci Billingsley said. "You have some freedom of movement."

Some details unknown

Exactly where Cardenas is staying, including whether he'll be in some sort of solitary area or have cell mates, is private information, she said.

The Gulf Cartel boss before him, Juan Garcia Abrego, is locked away in the legendary Supermax, where he is serving multiple life sentences. Garcia went to trial and took his chances with a jury rather than make a deal.

While as a gangster Cardenas was known to have an arsenal of equipment, such as helicopters, gold-plated automatic weapons and a bulletproof bomber jacket, he now has restrictions on his everyday existence. Guidelines note he can have one pair of shoes, three pair of pants and three pair of underwear.

Most of his mail will be screened by prison staff, with the exception of letters sent to the media and government officials, such as the president of the United States or a governor.

Aircraft seized in Seattle opens crack in secrecy

In his deal with the U.S. government, imprisoned Mexican drug cartel king Osiel Cardenas Guillen surrendered a $1.3 million helicopter dubiously parked in Washington state — the first public clue his massive syndicate shuttles cocaine into the Great White North.

A judge in Houston ordered the AS350 B3 helicopter — the same type to land for the first time on Mount Everest's summit — be forfeited, part of a deal in which former Gulf Cartel boss Cardenas must hand over $50 million and tell what he knows about drug crimes.

Unlike millions in cash he's forked over in the Texas-Mexico border city of Brownsville — the heart of the cartel's home turf — the helicopter was seized in Spokane close to Canada, and it provides yet more evidence that Cardenas is offering up information on people who did business with his empire.

According to court records, Cardenas concedes buying the aircraft with drug proceeds and keeping it in other people's names, even though when it was imported and purchased from Japan, he was in a maximum security prison in Mexico.

He never set eyes on the aircraft with tail number N61EH.

Agents interviewed people coast to coast, and likely in Canada and Guatemala.

Eurocopter calls the copter a high-performance craft for hot climate and high altitude.

"As the matter is still under investigation, we are unable to confirm or discuss any other details of the case," said Lloyd Easterling, spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, which has the bird.

The same goes for the $27 million in cash Cardenas gave up in 10 installments.

Keeping silent

Secrecy is the standard in the Cardenas prosecution. He privately pleaded guilty and was sentenced behind locked courtroom doors in Houston. Prosecutors have not granted a single interview about the case since he was extradited from Mexico in 2007.

"They are looking for all the people, all the assets, and they don't want them to suddenly disappear," said Larry Karson, a retired Customs Service agent, now a criminal justice lecturer at the University of Houston Downtown.

"The feds don't want to talk about it, because the moment they do the chances of assets disappearing increases exponentially," he said.

A Houston Chronicle review shows that until February, the helicopter was registered to a Canadian company .

U.S. agents interviewed people associated with the helicopter as recently as last month in Washington and as far back as four years ago in New York, where they questioned people about why the aircraft was making unauthorized fights into Mexico.

Staff Sgt. David Goddard, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said Mexican cartels do business with Canadian traffickers that use helicopters. Cocaine goes north and potent Canada-grown marijuana goes south to be sold in the United States, he said.

"We have gangs that will deal with the Mexican cartels, but they will go down there and deal with them," he said.

Last year, a Canadian helicopter pilot hanged himself in a Spokane, Wash., jail rather than face prison for trafficking.

Not in his name

None of the helicopter documents is in Cardenas' name, though the aircraft blazes quite a paperwork trail. Interviews and records indicate it was quickly owned or operated by at least five companies in the United States and has been based out of Canada, Guatemala and perhaps the Bahamas.

A helicopter salesman, speaking on the condition his name not be printed, said he spoke with agents in Washington a few weeks ago. He said that in 2006, the aircraft was sold by his firm to a brokerage company.

"We were only told it was going to Texas," he recalled. "It was a strange sale, I'll tell you that."

"When you sell a helicopter or an airplane, you kind of know who is buying it and what they'll use it for; that was not the case with that helo. In this case, it was very vague."

Paper trail

Eagle Helicopters of Spokane imported the helicopter, which sold it to Allied Aircraft Sales and Leasing, registered in Delaware, according to records. From there it went to Paradise Island Helicopters, which did business in Florida before being exported to Guatemala, a refuge for cartel figures fleeing Mexico's military. Then, in 2008, it was registered in Canada, again to a company named Allied.

At one point, federal agents came to Serge Gasparini's home in New York. They were looking for his daughter, owner of Paradise Island Helicopters.

"So all of a sudden, these FBI agents happened to come to the door," he recalled. "They had these questions about this helicopter making unscheduled flights to Mexico," he continued. "She said, 'I know nothing about it.' "

Her now ex-husband had put the business and helicopter in her name, Gasparini said.

Reached by the Chronicle, Trevor Moore said it was "effectively sold years and years ago, leased" to a man from McAllen, and he hadn't seen it since. He couldn't immediately recall the man's name.

Karson, the retired customs agent, said smugglers will go to extremes to cover their tracks.

"One of their problems is the paper trail of aircraft, so they'll play Three Card Monte with purchases and sales trying to conceal true ownership," he said.


  1. Man should be ashamed of himself, disclosing information about his people for a reduced sentence, and more comfortable life in a federal prison.

  2. shut the f-up man... ...ya no vez todo el cagadero que se ha vuelto nuestro Mexico y te queries presumir que este buey hubiera seguido la ley del silencio... no tienes cesos...

    No me importa tanto que lo hayan zambutido en Camp Snoopy; con que se quede enjaulada esta vibora... ...Y que truene la Tormenta tambien. Y chinguese su mami!

  3. shut the f-up man... ...ya no vez todo el cagadero que se ha vuelto nuestro Mexico y te queries presumir que este buey hubiera seguido la ley del silencio... no tienes cesos...

    No me importa tanto que lo hayan zambutido en Camp Snoopy; con que se quede enjaulada esta vibora... ...Y que truene la Tormenta tambien.
    Y chinguese su madre!

  4. to the first post your a fucking moron he should be snitching on every single one of the to stop this genocide. seriously go to nuevo laredo and get murked.

  5. hey, in the narco world you don't have friends, just close enemies and then your nemesis. In reality, it's every man for himself out there. You trust no one!

  6. He was extradited to the U.S. in 2007, whatever alleged information he provides will probably be irrelevant (by now) and of no help to the Feds or the DEA.

  7. the jailer should microchip osels' ass so they can see who he locks lips with.

  8. Ha, ha, ha... In the heat of the moment, do you think he'll be on top or bottom? Nimodo compadre; puro Hershey Highway para ti!

    Remember all those nice Chevrolet custom pickups all over the Valley in the 90's and early 2000'S? I had JGA and OCG to thank for mine... ...yea right!

    Osiel was the man here for a few years; Alot a good that did him, huh? Pa este buey, el fin comenzo ese noviembre; te acuerdas de la Bronco? Dubois y Fuents?

    Although he isn't dead (yet), his leadership's mark within the organization and Mexican history (it seems) was the corporatization of the organization's mafiosi function; as opposed to the narco-trafficing function. His motto might have been to leave the deal-making and logistics to the businessmen and the muscle work to the cannon-fodder. Unfortunately, he wasn't there to settle the skirmish after what happened with Victor Mendoza; but by then las letras & the BLO ya se estaban bañado con los Laredos.

    It apears to be that Matamoros and Reynosa will continue being CDG country; Laredo and Monterrey is another matter. We're likely to continue to see them struggled for; everything else in between and around these Metros is by default a part of the deal. This is where the stalemate to the death is being fought; the Laredos and Monterrey mean life or death to Las Letras, especially.

    And it seems like that their death knell is being precipitated by events outside Las Letra's control. The BLO has sustained some serious leadership losses recently; and that doesn't fare well for their strategic partnership.

    For stability's sake (we're now reduced to begging for peace), yo le voy a los del golfo. Even though I hope they quickly meet an untimely death, they're after all the home team. << shrug >>

    Por Las Culturas en

  9. He's at USP Atlanta, the medium federal facilities are bad, but not that bad. At least he's not a FCI Milan (Medium) or FCI Yazoo (Medium). If he really did provide the US government with useful information, he wouldn't be coming up on the BOP, he would be in protective custody. Otherwise, they wouldn't be able to use him as a star witness in any future trials. So, I doubt the information he provided was of any use whatsoever.

  10. Se lo truenan antes que salga


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