Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, November 9, 2018

Ex Mexican Police Commander Goes to Prison in Chicago

Posted by Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Chicago Tribune

                                Then Mexican Federal Police Commander Ivan Reyes Arzate
By: Jason Meisner

Before his April 2017 arrest, Reyes Arzate, 46, was the highest-ranking member of Mexico's Sensitive Investigative Unit, a part of the Mexican Federal Police that works in tandem with U.S. authorities on drug trafficking probes, according to court records. In his eight years with the unit, Reyes Arzate was involved in many high-profile cartel investigations, including those against "El Chapo" Guzman.

The meeting between top Mexican federal police officers and the head of the violent Beltran-Leyva drug cartel took place at a quiet ranch in central Mexico.

The officers, including then  Commander Ivan Reyes Arzate, told the cartel leader of an informant in his operation who’d been arrested in Miami and was providing information to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, leading to the seizure of several boatloads of narcotics on the open seas, according to testimony Thursday in a federal courtroom in Chicago.

The officers then identified the informant and handed his photo to an irate Arturo Beltran-Leyva. Within days, the informant was kidnapped and murdered, authorities say.

The details of the 2008 meeting outside Mexico City came at a dramatic, daylong sentencing hearing in federal court in Chicago for Reyes Arzate, who pleaded “no contest” earlier this year to charges he leaked sensitive information to the cartels about U.S.-led drug investigations.

Seized weapons from alleged members of the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel are taken away by federal agents after a news conference in Mexico City on June 26, 2009.

Arzate’s attorney, Joseph Lopez, had asked for as little as 21 months in prison — essentially a sentence of time-served — arguing that Arzate’s actions were simply the norm for law enforcement in a country infamous for rampant corruption.

But in handing down a prison term of three years and four months, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber rejected that argument.

“That’s just clearly not true,” the judge said. “He was a top law enforcement official in a particularly sensitive job … and his work created and will continue to create problems in the apparently unending war on drugs.”

To bolster their request for up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors called to the witness stand Sergio Villarreal Barragán, a former Beltran-Leyva cartel lieutenant also known as “El Grande” who offered a fascinating crash course on how Mexican drug lords corrupted law enforcement to protect narcotics shipments, flush out informants and pursue rivals.

Dressed in a black-and-white striped prison outfit and with his ankles shackled, Barragan, who stands about 6-foot-7, testified that Arturo Beltran-Leyva was responsible for more than 1,000 murders and that he personally witnessed the cartel boss torture and kill people.

“Arturo would only tell me not to get involved, that he knew what he was doing,” said Barragan, who pleaded guilty to drug charges in Texas and is serving a 10-year sentence.

Testifying with the help of a Spanish interpreter, Barragan said Reyes Arzate was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for information that helped kingpins such as Beltran-Leyva and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman keep ahead of law enforcement.

                                              "El Grande", Sergio Villarreal Barragán

In 2010, Beltran-Leyva paid $500,000 to Reyes Arzate and other corrupt Mexican police officers to arrest Edgar Valdez Villareal, also known as “La Barbie,” a rival who was vying for control of lucrative drug routes, Barragan said. Villareal, a Texas native, was later extradited to the U.S. and sentenced to nearly 50 years in prison.

Also taking the stand Thursday was DEA Special Agent Matthew Sandberg, who testified the discovery that one of their trusted Mexican colleagues was living a double life as a paid cartel informant was like “getting punched in the stomach.”

In a voice choked with emotion, Sandberg said Reyes Arzate’s betrayal not only put the lives of informants and police in danger, but also had a chilling effect on the coordinated effort between U.S. and Mexico to take down some of the world’s most violent criminal organizations.

“When this happened, it really damaged everything we were working for,” Sandberg said. “It put a haze over a lot of the successes we’d had. … It set us back incredibly because all of the casework stopped, and we were focused on just damage control and safety.”

Before his April 2017 arrest, Reyes Arzate, 46, was the highest-ranking member of Mexico's Sensitive Investigative Unit, a part of the Mexican Federal Police that works in tandem with U.S. authorities on drug trafficking probes, according to court records. In his eight years with the unit, Reyes Arzate was involved in many high-profile cartel investigations, including those against "El Chapo".

Beltran-Leyva, whose cartel split from Sinaloa in a bloody fallout in 2008, was killed in a firefight with Mexican authorities in 2009 before he could be brought to Chicago to face sweeping narcotics trafficking charges.

The charges against Reyes Arzate stemmed from an investigation involving Chicago and San Diego authorities of a Beltran-Leyva-connected drug trafficking network that was allegedly importing multiple tons of narcotics from Colombia to Mexico for distribution in the U.S., according to charges filed last year.

Sandberg, the DEA agent, testified that in September 2016 he asked Reyes Arzate to assist in the surveillance of several targets of the probe in Mexico City. He said he sent Reyes Arzate a surveillance photo that had been taken in Cancun to help him identify the players and gave him the name of a restaurant where they often met.

On Nov. 1, 2016, Reyes Arzate secretly met in person with the main target of the investigation and shared the surveillance photo with him as well as other details about the probe. Authorities also intercepted text messages between that target and an associate discussing how the cartel had leverage over Reyes Arzate because his code name — “La Reina,” or “the Queen” — had already surfaced in investigative files as a corrupt law enforcement officer.

“We can screw Ivan," the unidentified associate said, according to the complaint.

Sandberg testified that when Reyes Arzate was confronted at the U.S. Embassy about the leaks, he started crying. “I knew this day would come,” he said.

In a brief statement to the court before he was sentenced, Reyes Arzate said in Spanish that whatever he did was motivated “by the love I feel for the people of my country.”

Asked by Leinenweber if he illegally shared information with the cartels, Reyes Arzate let out a sigh.

“I do acknowledge that, your honor, but not under the circumstances that have been stated,” he said.


  1. That picture is not Reyes, that’s Manelich Castilla Craviotto, the current chief or commissioner of la federal.

    1. I love seeing pigs go to prison :)

  2. Joe "the shark" still the dirtiest lawyer in chicago..

    1. Yup ... 100.
      Dirty as they come
      You can pay his ass in
      Bricks... 😎 . so they say.and he'll take ur case

  3. Con que te dicen La Reina? Pos fíjate que allá en la prison de van a dar tus buenos sentones en el trono perra. No más se va escuchar RIACATA en cada senton. Ya que disfrutes esos ejercicios maravillosos les pides tu panecito pumpernickel con café. Y dale unos buenos mordidones al pan. Para que recuerdes que lindo era tu vida cuando fuiste libre. Espero nunca mas te permiten poner te esa placa de quinta pinche traidor. - Sol Prendido

  4. Filthy snitch ass cop,,,,been pulling this shit since camarena got murdered...Cant they straighten up and for once do the right thing...

  5. The article fails to tell how he turned corrupt. Was it plomo-o-plata or was it greed.

    I would not expect a propaganda machine like the CT to tell anything but one side of the story, but to really understand (information instead of propaganda) it would be important to know this.

  6. So he was corrupt and working with US authorities and it took them more than 10 years to figure this out?

    1. Agree with you 100%. The DEA always has their favourite cartels and at some point Arzate fell out of favour with someone within a US alphabet organization and he got in shit.

  7. Reading discontent comments from readers here on bb pertaining this official's sentence. Why would this be any surprise to anyone?
    Despite jeopardizing undercover officers and intelligence. This unsavory practice shouldn't have been unseen. Rather to be expected.

    A walk in the park in a country club housing facility. His Christmas presents will be there the following year.

    Gotta love government!


  8. Which Beltran leyva paid the commander back in 2010 to capture la Barbie? Arturo was killed in 09!

  9. Blo did and will continue to have high government officials on payroll.

  10. Glad he got a bigger sentences, teach him a lesson not to f$#@, with the US government.


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