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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Vancouver Canada-Mexican cartel connection

Lucio Borderland Beat republished from National Post
Mexican Cartels Money Laundering and operations
Ariel Julian Savein would drive to classes at Vancouver’s Point Grey secondary a decade ago in his father’s green BMW.
In his 2003 graduation yearbook, Savein thanked his parents and teachers for getting him through school: “Looking back, it’s hard to put things in perspective but I think I’ve learned a lot.”
His privileged existence was dramatically different from those 3,000 kilometres away in rugged Culiacán, Mexico, headquarters of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking organization.
The Vancouver Sun has traced how these two worlds collided on the streets of Metro Vancouver, where millions of dollars in dirty money owned by the Sinaloa and La Familia cartels was laundered.
Millions flowed into the bank account of Sinaloa kingpin Joaquin Guzman, known colloquially as El Chapo ( Shorty).
Some cartel cash was delivered by Savein.
Vancouver money even ended up in Colombia and Ecuador, where Sinaloa brokers used it to purchase thousands of kilograms of cocaine.
The Vancouver connection is detailed in several U.S. criminal prosecutions of drug traffickers, smugglers and money launderers linked to both the Sinaloa and La Familia cartels.
Hockey bags full of cash handed over in Metro Vancouver mall parking lots. Cartel frontmen posing as simple house cleaners. Cryptic emails arranging pickups using code phrases like “Looking for Ernie on behalf of Bert” and references to Guzman himself as the “strongest one from Sinaloa.” Five of those indicted in the U.S. — Savein and four Mexicans — were arrested in Vancouver and Montreal in 2011.
Savein, now 30, fought his extradition for more than three years before the B.C. Court of Appeal recently ordered him to surrender to American authorities.

He was flown to San Diego in early September on money laundering charges. Despite his initial proclamation of innocence, he pleaded guilty Sept. 30 and is to be sentenced in early 2015. Like others in the Sinaloa investigation, details of Savein’s plea bargain with U.S. authorities have been sealed.

But The Sun has pieced together the story of the cartel’s Canadian connections from court documents in related cases, as well as source information and interviews.

Savein’s world began to unravel four years ago in the parking lot of the Rona Home and Garden store on Grandview Highway in east Vancouver.

The young man went there in April 2010 with $811,850 stuffed in bags to meet someone he thought was a gangster working for a Mexican cartel.
June 2014 Veracruz 28 bodies discovered in clandestine grave (fosa)
In fact, the man who collected the bags of cash that day was an undercover Vancouver Police officer working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

So how did Savein get involved with a notorious foreign gang?

His high school years were uneventful, according to several former classmates who didn’t want to be identified. He projected a tough-guy image and was voted one of the most “hardcore” in his Grade 12 class.

“I can’t see myself missing this place much but Point Grey wasn’t all that bad,” he wrote in his 2003 yearbook comment.

One friend who asked that his name not be used said Savein left for university in the east, but he wasn’t sure where. Within a couple of years, however, Savein was back in B.C. and already on Vancouver Police radar.

He was suspected in a lottery scam that targeted British seniors through the mail, asking them to pay service charges in the thousands to collect even bigger prizes.

The VPD investigated the fraudulent telemarketing scheme in 2006, according to a suit filed against Savein by the B.C. director of civil forfeiture.

“Savein operated a fictitious lottery sweepstakes competition. The scheme involved sending a bait letter to prospective victims whereby the victims were enticed into registering for a fictitious lottery sweepstakes draw to be made subsequent to registration,” the statement of claim alleged.

The VPD set up an elaborate sting to crack the scheme, sending an officer to the U.K. to pose as a potential victim. The police traced the ensuing money transfers to a computer in a Yaletown Internet café.

Savein was seen at the café accessing the money orders on March 13, 2007.
He was arrested the same day. Vancouver Police searched his apartment on the 21st floor of 939 Expo Blvd. and found a safe containing $68,109.

While he was never charged, the B.C. government took him to court to get the cash, saying it was clearly connected to criminal activity and should be forfeited.

Savein filed a statement of defence, denying all the allegations. But he settled a few months later, with two-thirds of the cash going to Victoria and the rest returned to Savein through his lawyer.

At some point, Savein connected with gangster Shane (Wheels) Maloney, a former Burnaby resident and member of Montreal’s West End gang. Maloney was charged two years ago along with a B.C. Hells Angel and another man as alleged kingpins in a cross-country cocaine ring that worked closely with Mexican cartels. 

A document obtained by The Sun shows that Maloney, Savein and three Mexicans involved in the Vancouver cartel transactions are all listed associates of Montreal’s premier pot smuggler Jimmy Cournoyer, who a New York judge sentenced to 27 years in August for running a major international drug ring linked to the Hells Angels, the Mafia and the Sinaloa cartel.

Vancouver a lucrative market

Vancouver is one of the most lucrative drug markets in the world, police sources say, with millions and millions flowing into the hands of mid-level gangs and those above them who supply their cocaine and other drugs.

Think of a pyramid with major criminal organizations like the Sinaloa cartel at the top and those working on Metro Vancouver streets doing deliveries for dial-a-dope operators at the bottom.

In between are B.C. gangs like the Hells Angels, the Independent Soldiers and the United Nations.

When the international suppliers want their cash, soldiers like Savein working for the mid-level traffickers scramble to collect from those under them selling their products.
Moving the drug profits across international boundaries without being intercepted by authorities has always been a challenge for organized crime.

The DEA exploited that weakness and pulled off a spectacular ruse, despite the wealth and sophistication of the murderous Sinaloa cartel. An undercover DEA agent dubbed José posed as the manager of a worldwide criminal organization that could transport tons of cocaine and launder tens of millions of dollars undetected.

When Savein and Mexicans Carlos Camet and Adalberto Urbina were dropping off millions in Metro Vancouver parking lots in 2010, they had no idea the DEA was well into a multi-continent investigation of the Sinaloa gang.

The probe focused on Victor Manuel Felix-Felix, known as El Señor — the Lord. His daughter is married to Guzman’s son and he’s a close confidante of the cartel boss, as well as a principal Sinaloa financier. He’s now in jail in Mexico, fighting extradition to the U.S., where he is charged on the same indictment as Savein and 23 others.

For two years, the DEA agent arranged pickups of cartel money in Vancouver, Montreal and across the U.S. He later deposited the cash, minus his “fee,” into bank accounts specified by Sinaloa and La Familia representatives or — when requested — delivered it in person to Mexico and even Colombia.

By the time the arrests went down in March and July 2011, the DEA had seized more than $6 million in drug proceeds and more than 6,700 kilograms of cocaine.

Cartels set up shop

José first learned of the Sinaloa’s B.C. links in December 2009 when one of his new underworld contacts told him she had a client who had $100 million Canadian that he needed converted into U.S. dollars and moved from Vancouver and Toronto to Mexico City.

As the DEA agent brokered more deals with the cartel, police monitored the money transfers to gangs and groups across North America, including the Vancouver couriers. José’s DEA counterparts in B.C. brought in Vancouver Police. 

Investigators learned the cartel had sent Camet and Urbina to set up shop in Vancouver, where the two Mexicans worked with Savein and others still unidentified to move mountains of drug money.

A Sinaloa rep in Mexico named Rodrigo Colmenares was pulling the strings of the Canadian operation — contacting the couriers in Vancouver and other cities directly and passing along their information to the DEA agent. On April 10, Colmenares told the agent to collect $1 million in Vancouver. He said the cash belonged to La Familia — a smaller cartel with close ties to Sinaloa.

Colmenares called Savein into action, unwittingly putting the Vancouver native in contact with an undercover VPD officer.

On the morning of the drop, Savein confessed over the phone to the cop that he was nervous about having “all this stuff.”

At 10:26 a.m., the pair met in the parking lot of Rona Home & Garden in east Vancouver. Savein gave the cop a duffel bag and two cloth shopping bags containing $811,850 in Canadian and $100 U.S.

Savein was worried that someone would see the money sticking out of the top of one of the shopping bags that couldn’t be closed.

Over the course of several months, the DEA agent and his Sinaloa contacts continued to call, email and meet — in Canada, California, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador.

Of the $8 million in cartel cash collected by undercover police in Canada during the probe, almost $7 million of it was delivered by Vancouver couriers. Colmenares, the Mexican puppet master, would snap his fingers and the B.C. cash would be pulled together and driven to parking lots — Rona, Superstore, a mall on Cambie Street — in amounts ranging from a few hundred thousand to more than $3 million.

In one of several clandestine operations outlined in court documents, Camet and Urbina arrived in June 2010 at a Safeway on Kingsway in east Vancouver and handed the undercover Vancouver cop a heavy duffel bag containing $524,020 in Canadian currency.
When the cop asked if the bag was “all of it,” Urbina said they were “a little short.”

The officer asked the pair how much money was missing. Urbina pulled out a laptop computer and showed the officer an Excel spreadsheet detailing more than half a million dollars.

Colmenares told the DEA agent to transport money picked up in Canada and New York to Mexico City so it could be used to pay for cocaine sitting in Ecuador waiting to be smuggled north.

There was still more than $3 million of Sinaloa money to be collected in Vancouver.

A few months later, in October 2010, Camet and Urbina got a call from Mexico telling them their services were needed again. They rented a car, ditched their regular cleaning jobs and headed to Burnaby’s Lougheed Mall.

In the mall parking lot, they met a man who drove with them to the underground lot of his apartment building on Gildwood Drive. There he took three black hockey bags out of his vehicle and put them in the rental car. The Mexicans drove away with more than $3.2 million in the trunk.

Even the veteran money launderers were nervous about having so much cash on them. They weren’t supposed to drop it off until the following day. But neither wanted to take it home. So they rented a room at a downtown Vancouver hotel and parked the rental car, with millions inside, in the underground lot.

They headed to their own apartments for the night and returned the next day to get the car.
Camet went alone to a mall on Cambie Street to deliver the hockey bags to the undercover VPD officer. They contained $3,291,970 Canadian and $8,060 U.S. — the money the Sinaloa cartel needed to move four tons of cocaine from South America to their northern markets.

With all the cash in place, Felix-Felix called the agent directly and said he was sending high-ranking Sinaloa contacts to Ecuador to prepare the cocaine, which he expected the agent to be ready to move by early November.

The agent flew to Ecuador and told Felix-Felix’s men he was ready to receive their cocaine. But the DEA was also making arrangements with the Ecuadorean National Police, who seized a cargo truck carrying more than 2,500 kilograms of cocaine.

Undeterred, the Sinaloa cartel continued collecting large quantities of drug money across the U.S. and in Canada. Another $1 million was transported from Vancouver to Colombia. But again, it was a doublecross. As the money was being driven to Cali, it was intercepted by the Colombian National Police.

The seizures of both cash and cocaine in South America didn’t seem to affect the cartel’s resolve to keep the drugs and money flowing north and south. Felix-Felix had no idea his massive international network was about to collapse and he was weeks away from capture.
They’re just going to make disappear my family

In March 2011, José received an email from Felix-Felix. It said the “contract had been signed” — meaning the cocaine had been delivered in Ecuador.

The Sinaloa money man known as “The Lord” ended his message to the man who would bring him down with a simple: “God Bless You.”

The next day Felix-Felix, Colmenares and 16 of their Sinaloa associates were arrested in Mexico.

Police question cartel men

Vancouver police picked up Camet and Urbina on July 19, 2011 as part of a North America-wide sweep by law enforcement of the cartel’s suspected money launderers.

The two Mexicans were questioned days later while they were jailed at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre.

The Sun obtained transcripts of those interviews, which provide fascinating insight into the scope of the DEA investigation and the VPD’s role in it.

“We’ve been watching you,” Det. Derek Hill told Urbina. “We’ve been using helicopters, lots of police officers. Okay. So we know you’ve been involved here.”

Urbina, who was then 27, told the three VPD detectives that he was “very afraid.”

He said he wanted to cooperate but was worried something would happen to his family in Mexico.

“They’re just going to make disappear my family,” he said, sobbing.

I believe that you don’t really understand what’s going to happen

The police tried to reassure him that all the key Sinaloa players were in jail in Mexico, with limited ability to retaliate.

“If it’s not your money, then you need to let us know where it came from,” Hill said. “Right now it looks like it’s your money and you’re a big drug trafficker from the Sinaloa cartel.”

Urbina broke down again as he explained that things are different in Mexico, that police aren’t “honest” like in Canada.

“If I tell you exactly what I know, I think or I believe that you don’t really understand what’s going to happen,” he said, sobbing again.

His mom, sister and girlfriend could be kidnapped, mistreated or even killed, Urbina said.
He finally admitted that he knew Rodrigo Colmenares through an old friend in his hometown in Mexico.

Det. Scott Rollins said Colmenares claimed to police in Mexico that he sent Camet and Urbina to Vancouver “to help him move money from Canada to the United States.”

“That’s not true,” Urbina said.

It was $6.1 million. It’s a lot of money, right?

He came to Canada in 2008 because he wanted a better life, not to work for a Mexican cartel, he said.

“I’ve been working here hard for over three years, cleaning toilets, cleaning all the poop from dogs, cleaning and giving my best to all the persons in Canada.”

Camet, then 36, was interviewed two days later at North Fraser by the same detectives. He came to Canada legally in November 2009 and met Urbina at the company where they both worked as cleaners, he said.

Camet claimed he made a few hundred dollars every time he delivered the cash. He knew it was “dirty money” but not that it was linked to drug cartels.

Rollins commented on the huge amounts of cash dropped off by Camet.

“It was $6.1 million. It’s a lot of money, right?”

Camet agreed: “It’s not easy to clean this money right? If I go to the bank with six millions and put in my account, they arrest me this moment.”

Rollins said VPD wanted to “focus on the people that live in Canada that are doing the crimes, bringing the drugs.”

Camet said he didn’t know anything and never asked about the source of the millions.

He told police he wanted to stay in Canada and not be sent to the U.S. to face prosecution.

“Do you think I can get my life back in Canada … if the police catch the big fish?” he asked.
Rollins suggested Camet was minimizing his role. He said police found a money-counting machine and a closet full of suitcases that could have been for future cash transfers when they searched Camet’s apartment.

Rollins noted that Camet used an alias — Rocky — and that he and Urbina rented cars and bought pay-as-you-go phones “to avoid police detection.”

Said Rollins: “Everything about these transfers, these money transactions, to me even if I wasn’t a police officer, looks bad.”

Camet and Urbina were extradited to the U.S. where both pleaded guilty last year. They were sentenced to 46 months each.

Savein was arrested on July 31, 2011.

He will be sentenced in San Diego on Jan. 12 by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn L. Huff. The maximum penalty for money laundering is 20 years.


  1. And while they're caught up in the underworld to make big cash etc. they are always concerned about getting caught so they are never at peace SO WHY BOTHER entering such a world?! That's not living -- and life is short

    1. Millie the chimp is evolving into a 'normal person'? lol

    2. They are everywhere. Propogating like rodents. By now they must have establishments in China, Africa, Australia, Saudi Arabia & other places. Because not all of them get caught that easily, sinaloa still has a lot of big fishes out there with private hangars where the jets, helicopters & car collections are stored. El chapo was only one of them. There still are more chapos out there all over mexica

    3. Where is Zambada

  2. So la familia still moves alot of weight or.....

  3. So MC's like The hell's angels have had ties to mexican cartels.... Wow that's some Sons of anarchy shit right there!

  4. ****His high school years were uneventful, according to several former classmates who didn’t want to be identified. He projected a tough-guy image and was voted one of the most “hardcore” in his Grade 12 class.****

    Pffffft. He looks as tough as cookie-dough. I can't wait till his ass enters a USA prison. Lets see how tough he tries to act. Hahahahaha enjoy your shitty life canadian boy.

  5. Interesting read, thanks!

  6. "Camet and Urbina were extradited to the U.S. where both pleaded guilty last year. They were sentenced to 46 months each." 46 months, THAT'S ALL? I guess crime does pay.

    1. Well it didn't pay them. Didn't you read it all? they were only payed a couple of hundred bucks for each money move they made. Idiots risking their life and their families, also the freedom for a couple hundreds. They should had ran with the bags of money that had the 3.2 millions. The damn cartel thugs would had gotten real pissed off.... like the monkey of z40. Hahha

  7. Hahahaha He looks like he can be B-Rad from Malibu's Most Wanted and Justin Bieber's love child.

  8. At the top nothing changes, the good ol'money keeps getting to the banks, minus some police bonus or sompin, all the money is accounted for, and the product still makes it home, just taking down the independents for all the money, the money is then used to finance privatization of latin american oil, gas, charcoal, railroads,energy production, agro, education, prisons, the skies and the bought with drug profits by foreign banks...

  9. It's funny how they say sinaloa is the most powerfull cartel, how bout colombians? Every body goes to colombia to get the coke from all over the word and colombians just chill and sell without exposing themselves that's why you never hear about them their probably laughing at chapos corridos that say he's the biggest drug lord lol

    1. So true. Colombians don't tweet/instagram their activities

    2. Lmao NOBODY flys under the DEA or CIA's radar if there was anyone even as close to being as big or bigger than chapo we would've heard of them already and besides its obvious you dont know much considering the fact that Columbia isn't even at the top in cocaine production anymore its peru and its been proven that chapo gets most of his cocaine straight from peru.

      there's a reason chapo reigns supreme in the drug game. You dont get on forbes by being someones middle man.

    3. @8:56 Yeah those "geniuses" (lol) ...think that is possible to hide forever when someone gets that "big" ke pendejos estan... Ha.

    4. And in case the "geniuses" didn't know some times even the same mexican cartels control and own the same production of coke in S.A.

      Why do you all think that there are a lot of mexicans leaving in South America?. Esas rratas malditas....

    5. This is a perfect example of a chapo cheerleader. Ochoas had him beat and were on forbes

    6. 3 brothers lmao compared to ONE guy i know what im talking about dumb ass pound for pound neither one of tgose brothers can match chapo.

    7. Chapo is just a coward ass snitch!!

    8. You guys thinking Chapo isn't all that, guess you didn't read the memo.

      Chapo controls much of Colombia's production now. Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, you name it. Chapo's put his people into those SA countries.

      If you think people make him out to be something he's not, you have no bloody idea. His product reaches Asia, Europe and Australia. You know about the MCs in Australia? Ruthless. Some of those gangs are off shoots of American originals. They made a lot of money, murder a lot of people. They're under the control of Mexican cartels.

      So don't act like you know everything, buddy. If a man like Chapo wanted you, he has thugs from all areas of the globe. Bloodthirsty gang members from any gang you could imagine, ready to point a gun at you.

      CDG and Zetas have executed adults and kids on video in Honduras. There's a whole bunch of assassinations in Honduras.

      You know they've got their operations good if those places have been silenced. No news reports on Narco stuff from those places anymore. Unless it's a big fish going down.

    9. @ 4:12 PM
      Just so you know, even Capos in the original Mafias snitched! Any leader that goes in eventually snitches. Happens every day in USA.

      Don't think just about they profess that never snitch policy on the outside, that they're going to do that when they're by themselves on the inside!

      The leaders of most modern gangs say that crap. Once they go in, they're the first and only ones making the deals! All the disciples, well most, stick to the no snitching policy. Spending their lives in jail over some idea that has never been kept true from the start.

      Don't snitch, don't snitch.. Easy to say when you're not facing decades or your entire life in prison

  10. True the Colombians have put trafficking cocaine to US and Europe to the side and left it all to the Mexicans and focus only on the production of cocaine. But the big money is in introducing the products to foreign markets. Colombians sell each kilo at 1500-2000 and Mexicans put it on US and European streets where prices per kilo range from 24000-45000 depending the city. The Sinaloa cartel is responsible for 70% of the coke that hits the US market. This is why I am guessing that they are considered the most powerful cartel. But all that stupid social networking and showing off is getting them caught up though.

  11. Mil mascaras is evolving into a blabberin'baboon, he you, mil mascaras, they may take your ass back at the school of the assassins...

  12. Jeez....when I graduated from Pt. Grey in the ´60´s, getting an older brother to buy booze for a weekend piss-up was a big deal, and we all took the bus to school. Hah!!


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