Thirty-Two Individuals Indicted in Puerto Rico for Allegedly Violating the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

March 28, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on March 28, 2012 released the following:

“SAN JUAN—A federal grand jury has indicted 32 individuals as a result of an investigation by the FBI and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), with the collaboration of the San Juan Puerto Rico, Municipal Police; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez announced today. The 36-count indictment, unsealed today, was brought on March 20, 2012. The defendants are charged with, among other things, violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Activity (VICAR), use of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, and possession of firearms by prohibited persons.

The defendants were members and associates of a criminal organization that engaged in narcotics distribution and committed acts of violence, including murder, in San Juan. Since 2004, the defendants conducted the affairs of the enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity involving narcotics trafficking, murder, and attempted murder.

The indictment alleges that in or around 2004, the leaders of nearly all the drug gangs operating in the San Juan area formed an alliance. This alliance would help them resolve conflicts between the previously rival drug gangs in a way that would not bring about the attention of local and federal authorities, thus ensuring increased profits from drug sales for all and reducing the risk of federal charges. The leaders agreed that if conflicts arose between members of the alliance, the leaders from the different housing projects would discuss the issues with each other in order to resolve the same without violence. The leaders named the alliance “La ONU,” which stands for La Organización de Narcotraficantes Unidos (United Drug Traffickers Organization).

It is further alleged that the alliance initially worked but weakened over time. Several housing project gangs became disgruntled with La ONU and sought to break away from the organization. After several conflicts, La ONU broke into two separate rival factions, La ONU and La Rompe ONU. The housing project gangs were essentially split evenly between those belonging to La ONU and La Rompe.

From the time of the split, the goal of La ONU was to maintain control through the use of force over the drug points in their members’ housing projects and to kill La Rompe members and leaders in order to expand. Members of La ONU who committed murders and other violent acts were given benefits, including weapons, money, and the ability to advance within the criminal enterprise. Though unwritten, the general rules followed by members of La ONU included, but were not limited to: no associating with La Rompe members; kill La Rompe members on sight; no killing of other members of La ONU without leadership authorization; no overtaking housing projects/drug points owned by other members of La ONU; and no cooperating with law enforcement. Any violation of these rules was punishable by death of the violator and/or his/her family members.

The indictment details eight murders, three attempted murders, and one shooting directed toward Puerto Rico police officers, all committed by members of La ONU. These acts are as follows:

  • On or about November 12, 2007, in Puerto Rico, defendants Jean Carlos Ramos-Piñeiro, aka “Jincho,” “Jeanji,” “Jan,” or “Casper”; Ramón Lanza-Vázquez, aka “Ramoncito”; and Antonio Pérez-Medina, aka “Choco,” shot and killed Orlando Medina-Serrano.
  • On or about February 19, 2009, in Puerto Rico, defendants Jean Carlos Ramos-Piñeiro; Luis D. Rivera-Carrasquillo, aka “Danny KX” or “Danny Vorki”; and José Abel Ramos-Cruz, aka “Paleta” or “Tito Paleta,” killed Ángel González-Villanueva, aka “Chaple.”
  • On or about January 5, 2010, in Puerto Rico, defendants Jean Carlos Ramos-Piñeiro; Luis D. Rivera-Carrasquillo; Wesley Figueroa-Cancel, aka “Hueso”; José Abel Ramos-Cruz; Luis Joel Rosario-Santiago, aka “Triple-H” or “Luis Jo”; Carlos H. O’neill-Santiago, aka “Ken-Y”; Christian Figueroa-Viera, aka “Coqueto”; and others killed Luis Antonio De-Jesús-Pérez.
  • On or about April 2, 2010, in Puerto Rico, defendants Jean Carlos Ramos-Piñeiro, Wesley Figueroa-Cancel, and others shot at and fled from Puerto Rico police officers.
  • On or about April 8, 2010, in Puerto Rico, defendants Jean Carlos Ramos-Piñeiro; Jorge E. Asencio-Viera, aka “Macar”; Victor Santana-González, aka “Run Run” or “Pequeño”; Pedro Juan Ramírez-Medina, aka “Peter John” or “Johnson”; Carlos Meléndez-Serrano; and others shot and killed Victor Vega-Ortega, aka “Victor El Nazi.”
  • On or about May 4, 2010, in Puerto Rico, defendant Edwin Bernard Astacio-Espino, aka “Bernard,” shot into a patrolling police helicopter and killed Jesús Quiñones-Santiago and attempted to kill José Rivera-Quinoñes, Eduardo Alvelo-Meléndez and Shakira Vázquez-Nieves.
  • On or about July 7, 2010, in Puerto Rico, defendants Jean Carlos Ramos-Piñeiro; Edwin Bernard Astacio-Espino; Wesley Figueroa-Cancel; Pedro Juan Ramírez-Medina, aka “Peter John” or “Johnson”; Luis Joel Rosario-Santiago; Carlos H. O’Neill-Santiago; Ángel L. García-Velásquez, aka “Wiwo”; and Mike Graciany-Febu, aka “Mikey”; and others shot and killed Puerto Rico Police Officer Blanca De Los Santos-Barbosa and Manuel Medina-Rivera.
  • On or about August 8, 2010, in Puerto Rico, defendants Jean Carlos Ramos-Piñeiro; Edwin Bernard Astacio-Espino; Luis D. Rivera-Carrasquillo; Victor Santana-González; Ismael E. Cruz-Ramos, aka “Chapu”; Pedro L. Ramirez-Rivera, aka “Peter Pai”; José Laureano-Salgado, aka “Geo”; Emanuel Rodríguez Isaac, aka “Manuelito”; and others killed Christian Toledo-Sánchez, aka “Pekeke.” During the course of the murder, Luis Gallardo-Rivera, aka “El Tuerto,” was shot and killed by the rival drug gang.

The remainder of the defendants who are part of the organization and participated in its criminal acts include: FNU LNU, aka “Rosco” or “Diablo”; Luis Cordero-Cruz, aka “Chapi”; Roberto L. Aponte-Cordero, aka “Pichu”; Andrés Guerra-Santana, aka “El Negro” or “Pingy”; Teddy León-Ayala; Ángel D. Ramos-Cruz, aka “Api”; Luis Llanos-Skerett, aka “Jomo”; Miguel Feliciano-Boria, aka “Chupito”; Carlos Andino Matienzo, aka “Hoffman”; José Ismael Costoso-Ramos, aka “Magnolia”; FNU LNU, aka “Luigi”; and FNU LNU, aka “José Armero,” “José Niple,” or “El Mecánico.”

“Violent drug organizations whose members hold our community hostage through violence, intimidation, and fear should think twice about the consequences of their criminal activities,” said U.S. Attorney Rodríguez-Vélez. “The investigation which led to today’s arrests is the first ever RICO Act prosecution of its nature in the District of Puerto Rico. We will use all the tools at our disposal to take dangerous criminals off the streets of Puerto Rico until we break their grip on our communities and bring them to justice.”

“The FBI is committed to dismantling street gangs and criminal organizations, such as La ONU, who terrorize and put at risk the good people of our community with indiscriminate acts of violence. These combined and proactive law enforcement efforts are intended to aggressively target these threats and take back our streets,” said Joseph Campbell, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Juan Field Office.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Kidd and Sean Torriente from the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. This unit operates under the Narcotics Unit and will exclusively handle drive-by shootings and other significant RICO and organized crime prosecutions. This unit will be initially staffed with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean Torriente, Brian Kidd, and Justin Martin and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Alberto López Rocafort, from the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, and will be supervised by the Chief of the Narcotics Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Henwood. This unit is yet another component of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico’s initiative against violent crime and illegal firearms.

Twenty of the defendants are charged with capital eligible offenses. The other 12 defendants face up to life in prison. The defendants are facing a forfeiture allegation of $10,000,000. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Eleven People Indicted for Alleged Drug Trafficking

January 26, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 25, 2012 released the following:

“POCATELLO— A federal grand jury in Pocatello on Tuesday returned an indictment charging 11 people with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, announced U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson. Four defendants were arrested earlier today; six others currently in state custody will be transferred into federal custody tomorrow.

The defendants named in the indictment are Samuel Nevarez-Ayon, 25, and Fabiola Esmerelda Marin-Castro, 24, of Rexburg, Idaho; Guadalupe Meraz, 40, of Medara, California; Ana Rosa Valdez-Ceja, 25, Juan Ortiz, Jr., 27, and Antonio Javier Mendoza, 27, of Shelly, Idaho; Isidoro David Herrera, 30, Daniel Quiroz, 24, Everado Tapia Torres, Jr., 29, Ricardo Garcia Lopez, 34, and Nicolas Levi Olsen, 28, of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Nevarez-Ayon, Torres, Olsen, Valdez-Ceja, Mendoza, Quiroz, Herrera, Ortiz, Marin-Castro, and Meraz are scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush. An arrest warrant has been issued for Lopez, who is considered a fugitive.

Federal drug trafficking charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $8 million, and a minimum term of five years of supervised release.

The charges are the result of a nine-month investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), including the Idaho State Police, Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho Falls Police Department, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Rexburg Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.

An indictment is a means of charging a person with criminal activity. It is not evidence. The person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


119 Individuals Charged in Three Countywide Law Enforcement Operations

January 26, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 25, 2012 released the following:

“Two Mexican Mafia Members and 117 San Diego County, California Street Gang Members and Associates with Ties to the Mexican Mafia Charged with Racketeering Conspiracy, Drug Trafficking Violations, and Firearms Offenses

119 Individuals Charged in Three Countywide Law Enforcement Operations

SAN DIEGO—A federal grand jury in San Diego has handed up 17 indictments and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California has filed eight criminal complaints charging a total of 119 defendants with federal racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking violations, and federal firearm offenses, announced U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Laura E. Duffy.

U.S. Attorney Duffy said, “The cases unsealed today make communities stronger and safer. The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to an anti-gang, anti-violence strategy built on close coordination between federal, state and local officials. This coordination provides better intelligence about street gangs and violent crime within our communities. And better intelligence means better law enforcement and prosecutions.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter commented, “Today’s arrests mark one of the largest single takedowns in San Diego FBI history. The FBI and our law enforcement partners stand unified in our efforts to protect this county from the violence, drug trafficking and extortion schemes employed by the Mexican Mafia and its affiliates. San Diego is inherently safer today because of the cooperation between our agencies working together to disrupt and dismantle the criminal activities of these dangerous individuals.”

“This is a traditional case of dishonor amongst thieves,” commented San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. “Gangs were made to pay ‘taxes’ in order to facilitate their trafficking and violent behavior. We answered with a one-two punch: a strong and experienced multi-agency investigation, armed with the RICO statute. The results speak for themselves.”

The charges stem from three investigations entitled, “Operation Notorious County,” “Operation Carnalismo,” and “Operation 12-Step.”

“Operation Notorious County”

The indictments are the result of an 18-month-long investigation entitled, “Operation Notorious County,” led by the North County Regional Gang Task force. Eight indictments charging 51 individuals, including one charging 40 defendants with participating in a federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy were unsealed today. All five indictments were handed up by a federal grand jury sitting in San Diego on Jan. 19, 2012. The RICO conspiracy alleged in the indictment involves the commission of both state and federal crimes, including attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, money laundering, and drug trafficking violations. As set forth in the indictment, the defendants are members, associates and facilitators of violent street gangs operating primarily in north San Diego County under the auspices of the Mexican Mafia or “La Eme.” The gangs named in the indictment include the Diablos and West Side gangs, based in Escondido, Calif., as well as the Varrio San Marcos and the Varrio Fallbrook Locos. The individuals named in the indictment were involved in a long-standing criminal enterprise used to extort money by threat or violence. The money was then sent on to high-ranking members of the Mexican Mafia, including defendant Rudy Espudo. The indictment alleges that Espudo is a validated member of the Mexican Mafia who oversees their activities throughout much of northern San Diego County.

“Operation Carnalismo”

In “Operation Carnalismo,” led by the Violent Crime Task Force-Gang Group, a group of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents led by the FBI, five indictments charging 36 individuals were unsealed today. Eight defendants are charged in one indictment with a conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity (RICO), violent crime in aid of racketeering (VCAR), distribution and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and criminal forfeiture. Four additional indictments, charging 28 defendants were also unsealed. These related indictments charge distribution and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and criminal forfeiture. All five indictments were handed up by a federal grand jury sitting in San Diego on Jan. 24, 2012, and unsealed today. The RICO indictment charges the criminal enterprise was run by Mexican Mafia member Salvador Colabella. Colabella and his associates conspired to distribute methamphetamine and heroin, extorted and robbed others, and laundered drug-trafficking proceeds. Colabella and his associates collected the extortion payments through the threat of violence and the commission of violence. According to the indictment, the Mexican Mafia has about 200 members, but its reach extends to thousands of Hispanic street-gang members in Southern California. A Mexican Mafia member is the highest level one can attain in the Mexican Mafia. A member, also called “Brother” or “Carnal” or “Tio,” controls, exploits and profits from the criminal activity conducted by street-gang members and others. This control over the criminal activity is enforced through acts of violence or the threat of violence.

“Operation 12-Step”

This year-long investigation, known as “Operation 12-Step,” was led by the East County Regional Gang Task Force, a group of federal and state law enforcement led by the FBI and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Operation 12-Step focused on gang-related methamphetamine distribution activities in San Diego County. Today four indictments and eight complaints were unsealed charging 32 individuals with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. According to court records, individuals charged in this investigation belong to nine different criminal street gangs including Varrio Chula Vista, East Side Piru, Old Town National City, Shelltown, National City Locos, Imperial Beach Imperials, Paradise Hills, Varrio Encanto Locos and National City Block Boys. Between Feb. 22, 2011, and Dec. 13, 2011, law enforcement made more than 20 methamphetamine and heroin seizures in connection with this investigation. In addition, search warrants were executed at eight residences in San Diego; Spring Valley, Calif.; National City, Calif.; Imperial Beach, Calif.; and Chula Vista, Calif..

U.S. Attorney Duffy praised the coordinated effort of the law enforcement agencies of the Violent Crimes Task Force-Gang Group, the East County and North County Regional Gang Task Forces under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for the coordinated team effort culminating in the charges filed in these cases. The OCDETF program was created to consolidate and utilize all law enforcement resources in this country’s battle against major drug trafficking.

The cases are being investigated by the FBI, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the National City, Calif., Police Department; the San Diego Police Department; the Escondido, Calif., Police Department; the Carlsbad, Calif., Police Department; the U.S. Marshals Service; the La Mesa, Calif., Police Department; the El Cajon, Calif., Police Department; the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Bureau of Prisons; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the San Diego County Probation Department; Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations; and Customs and Border Protection-United States Border Patrol.

The cases are being prosecuted in San Diego federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Mazza, Jaime Parks, Fred Sheppard and Tara McGrath.

An indictment or a complaint are not evidence that the defendants committed the crimes charged. The defendants are presumed innocent until the government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Michael Fijal Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for Alleged Arson

January 17, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 17, 2012 released the following:

“BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Michael Fijal, 58, of Buffalo, N.Y., with arson. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael L. McCabe, who is handling the case, in May 2011, Fijal, a local bank employee, conspired with others to burn down a duplex at 179 Mackinaw Street, which is located in Buffalo’s Old First Ward neighborhood. The defendant is specifically accused of withdrawing money from a local bank for the purpose of paying an accomplice to burn the building and paying the accomplice both before and after the fire on May 22, 2011.

The indictment is the result of investigation on the part of special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the driection of Special Agent in Charge Christopher M. Piehota: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Resident Agent in Charge Frank Christiano; and investigators from the Buffalo Fire Department, under the direction of Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.

Fijal was arraigned on this charge today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah McCarthy and released. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Fifteen Individuals Indicted in an Alleged Large-Scale Federal Drug Conspiracy Case

January 11, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 10, 2012 released the following:

“Fifteen individuals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit on federal charges, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced. Ms. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso, Drug Enforcement Administration; Special Agent in Charge David McCain, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena, Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.

Indicted were Orlando Ricardo Gordon, 32, of Franklin; Vince Jerome Shivers, 42, of Southfield; Derrick Arnold Terry, 51, of Detroit; Danta Shamu-Parker Johnson, 34, of Detroit; Darren Davon Terry, 35, of Detroit; Trenton Jordan Obamwonyi, 27, of Detroit; Tamiko Mel-Lang Hodo, 36, of Detroit; Anthony Wayne Hall, 46, of Detroit; Anton Jamaill Harris, 32, of Detroit; Ervin Kenneth Vincent, 24, of Inkster; Darnell Darryl Easterling, 48, of Detroit; Courtney Deon Shafi Strickland, 36, of Detroit; Benjamin Isaac Carter, 39, of Detroit; Erik Lee Ross, 34, of Sterling Heights; and Allen Corey Terry, 47, of Farmington Hills.

As alleged in the indictment, the conspiracy lasted for years, dating back to 2008, and involved in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, five kilograms of cocaine, and 280 grams of crack cocaine. Some of the defendants are also charged with being felons illegally possessing firearms. The narcotics trafficking conspiracy carries possible sentences of 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine, and the felon in possession charges carry possible sentences of up to 10 years of prison.

The investigation involved multiple federal agencies, including DEA, ATF, FBI, and IRS. The investigation included seizures of large sums of U.S. currency, including a seizure of more than $500,000 from a residence in Franklin, Michigan, large quantities of drugs, including a seizure of over 1,000 kilograms/2,200 pounds of marijuana, and multiple firearms.

United States Attorney McQuade stated that, “Large-scale drug trafficking and accompanying gun crimes create danger and fear in our neighborhoods. The coordinated efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies helped to dismantle this conspiracy.”

ATF Special Agent in Charge David McCain said, “Narcotics trafficking along with violent firearm activity destroys the families and neighborhoods in our communities. ATF along with its state, local, and federal partners will continue to aggressively pursue those violent individuals and organizations that cripple our communities with crime.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso said, “Today’s arrests are significant. These individuals directed a major marijuana and cocaine trafficking ring that operated throughout southeast Michigan. The dismantling of this organization has halted the flow of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of illegal drugs into metropolitan Detroit. This investigation exemplifies the strong collaborative effort that exists between DEA and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, and is a positive step towards making our community safer for everyone.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena said, “Narcotics trafficking continues to plague this region and directly contributes to violence on our streets. The FBI will continue to partner with federal, state, and local law enforcement to address these issues.”

IRS Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez said, “This indictment illustrates the seriousness behind prosecuting drug trafficking crimes. The role of IRS-CI is to take the profit out of these illegal organizations. Drug dealers pollute our neighborhoods with no regret as their actions are only fueled by greed. The seizure of their illegal proceeds, drugs, and weapons brings us one step closer to justice.”

The Detroit Police Department, the Franklin Police Department, the Troy Police Department, the Novi Police Department, the Warren Police Department, the Michigan State Police, and the U.S. Marshals Service also assisted in the investigation of the case.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


U.S. Agents Launder Mexican Profits of Drug Cartels

December 5, 2011
Drug Cartels
Josue Gonzalez/Reuters
“A crime scene in Monterrey, Mexico, last week. Drug-related violence has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people since late 2006, Mexican officials say.”

The New York Times on December 3, 2011 released the following:

“By GINGER THOMPSON

WASHINGTON — Undercover American narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials.

The agents, primarily with the Drug Enforcement Administration, have handled shipments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal cash across borders, those officials said, to identify how criminal organizations move their money, where they keep their assets and, most important, who their leaders are.

They said agents had deposited the drug proceeds in accounts designated by traffickers, or in shell accounts set up by agents.

The officials said that while the D.E.A. conducted such operations in other countries, it began doing so in Mexico only in the past few years. The high-risk activities raise delicate questions about the agency’s effectiveness in bringing down drug kingpins, underscore diplomatic concerns about Mexican sovereignty, and blur the line between surveillance and facilitating crime. As it launders drug money, the agency often allows cartels to continue their operations over months or even years before making seizures or arrests.

Agency officials declined to publicly discuss details of their work, citing concerns about compromising their investigations. But Michael S. Vigil, a former senior agency official who is currently working for a private contracting company called Mission Essential Personnel, said, “We tried to make sure there was always close supervision of these operations so that we were accomplishing our objectives, and agents weren’t laundering money for the sake of laundering money.”

Another former agency official, who asked not to be identified speaking publicly about delicate operations, said, “My rule was that if we are going to launder money, we better show results. Otherwise, the D.E.A. could wind up being the largest money launderer in the business, and that money results in violence and deaths.”

Those are precisely the kinds of concerns members of Congress have raised about a gun-smuggling operation known as Fast and Furious, in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed people suspected of being low-level smugglers to buy and transport guns across the border in the hope that they would lead to higher-level operatives working for Mexican cartels. After the agency lost track of hundreds of weapons, some later turned up in Mexico; two were found on the United States side of the border where an American Border Patrol agent had been shot to death.

Former D.E.A. officials rejected comparisons between letting guns and money walk away. Money, they said, poses far less of a threat to public safety. And unlike guns, it can lead more directly to the top ranks of criminal organizations.

“These are not the people whose faces are known on the street,” said Robert Mazur, a former D.E.A. agent and the author of a book about his years as an undercover agent inside the Medellín cartel in Colombia. “They are super-insulated. And the only way to get to them is to follow their money.”

Another former drug agency official offered this explanation for the laundering operations: “Building up the evidence to connect the cash to drugs, and connect the first cash pickup to a cartel’s command and control, is a very time consuming process. These people aren’t running a drugstore in downtown L.A. that we can go and lock the doors and place a seizure sticker on the window. These are sophisticated, international operations that practice very tight security. And as far as the Mexican cartels go, they operate in a corrupt country, from cities that the cops can’t even go into.”

The laundering operations that the United States conducts elsewhere — about 50 so-called Attorney General Exempt Operations are under way around the world — had been forbidden in Mexico after American customs agents conducted a cross-border sting without notifying Mexican authorities in 1998, which was how most American undercover work was conducted there up to that point.

But that changed in recent years after President Felipe Calderón declared war against the country’s drug cartels and enlisted the United States to play a leading role in fighting them because of concerns that his security forces had little experience and long histories of corruption.

Today, in operations supervised by the Justice Department and orchestrated to get around sovereignty restrictions, the United States is running numerous undercover laundering investigations against Mexico’s most powerful cartels. One D.E.A. official said it was not unusual for American agents to pick up two or three loads of Mexican drug money each week. A second official said that as Mexican cartels extended their operations from Latin America to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, the reach of the operations had grown as well. When asked how much money had been laundered as a part of the operations, the official would only say, “A lot.”

“If you’re going to get into the business of laundering money,” the official added, “then you have to be able to launder money.”

Former counternarcotics officials, who also would speak only on the condition of anonymity about clandestine operations, offered a clearer glimpse of their scale and how they worked. In some cases, the officials said, Mexican agents, posing as smugglers and accompanied by American authorities, pick up traffickers’ cash in Mexico. American agents transport the cash on government flights to the United States, where it is deposited into traffickers’ accounts, and then wired to companies that provide goods and services to the cartel.

In other cases, D.E.A. agents, posing as launderers, pick up drug proceeds in the United States, deposit them in banks in this country and then wire them to the traffickers in Mexico.

The former officials said that the drug agency tried to seize as much money as it laundered — partly in the fees the operatives charged traffickers for their services and another part in carefully choreographed arrests at pickup points identified by their undercover operatives.

And the former officials said that federal law enforcement agencies had to seek Justice Department approval to launder amounts greater than $10 million in any single operation. But they said that the cap was treated more as a guideline than a rule, and that it had been waived on many occasions to attract the interest of high-value targets.

“They tell you they’re bringing you $250,000, and they bring you a million,” one former agent said of the traffickers. “What’s the agent supposed to do then, tell them no, he can’t do it? They’ll kill him.”

It is not clear whether such operations are worth the risks. So far there are few signs that following the money has disrupted the cartels’ operations, and little evidence that Mexican drug traffickers are feeling any serious financial pain. Last year, the D.E.A. seized about $1 billion in cash and drug assets, while Mexico seized an estimated $26 million in money laundering investigations, a tiny fraction of the estimated $18 billion to $39 billion in drug money that flows between the countries each year.

Mexico has tightened restrictions on large cash purchases and on bank deposits in dollars in the past five years. But a proposed overhaul of the Mexican attorney general’s office has stalled, its architects said, as have proposed laws that would crack down on money laundered through big corporations and retail chains.

“Mexico still thinks the best way to seize dirty money is to arrest a trafficker, then turn him upside down to see how much change falls out of his pockets,” said Sergio Ferragut, a professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico and the author of a book on money laundering, which he said was “still a sensitive subject for Mexican authorities.”

Mr. Calderón boasts that his government’s efforts — deploying the military across the country — have fractured many of the country’s powerful cartels and led to the arrests of about two dozen high-level and midlevel traffickers.

But there has been no significant dip in the volume of drugs moving across the country. Reports of human rights violations by police officers and soldiers have soared. And drug-related violence has left more than 40,000 people dead since Mr. Calderón took office in December 2006.

The death toll is greater than in any period since Mexico’s revolution a century ago, and the policy of close cooperation with Washington may not survive.

“We need to concentrate all our efforts on combating violence and crime that affects people, instead of concentrating on the drug issue,” said a former foreign minister, Jorge G. Castañeda, at a conference hosted last month by the Cato Institute in Washington. “It makes absolutely no sense for us to put up 50,000 body bags to stop drugs from entering the United States.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Senate votes to end ‘Fast and Furious’ gun program

October 19, 2011

Associated Press (AP) on October 18, 2011 released the following:

“By ANDREW TAYLOR
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted Tuesday to effectively block the Justice Department from undertaking gun-smuggling probes like the flawed “Operation Fast and Furious” aimed at breaking up networks running guns to Mexican drug cartels but that lost track of hundreds of the weapons, some of which were used to commit crimes in Mexico and the United States.

The 99-0 vote would block the government from transferring guns to drug cartels unless federal agents “continuously monitor or control” the weapons. The amendment’s sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the vote “just the first step towards ensuring that such a foolish operation can never be repeated by our own law enforcement.”

The Justice Department has already stopped the program.

A Justice Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress did not ask the department for its views, said the amendment essentially reflects DOJ policy.

In an interview Tuesday with ABC News, President Barack Obama said “we will find out who and what happened in this situation and make sure it gets corrected.”

The vote came as the Senate debated a $128 billion spending measure that would fund Justice Department operations and those of several other Cabinet agencies for the 2012 budget year already under way.

Operation Fast and Furious was a gun-smuggling investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives aimed at tracking small-time illicit gun buyers up the chain to major traffickers in an effort to take down arms networks. In the process, ATF agents lost track of many of the weapons.

Fast and Furious came to light after two assault rifles purchased by a now-indicted small-time buyer under scrutiny in the operation turned up at a shootout in Arizona where Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry was killed.

The operation has caused something of a firestorm in Washington and is the focus of an investigation by House Republicans, who have questioned whether Attorney General Eric Holder has been candid about all he knows about the botched operation.

Holder already has called a halt to the practice of allowing guns to “walk” in an effort to track them to arms traffickers, saying in a recent letter to lawmakers that “those tactics should never again be adopted in any investigation.”

In the past two weeks, two gun-trafficking investigations from the Bush administration have surfaced using the same controversial tactic for which congressional Republicans have been criticizing the Obama administration on Fast and Furious.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show how in a 2007 investigation in Phoenix, ATF agents – depending on Mexican authorities to follow up – let guns “walk” across the border in an effort to identify higher-ups in gun networks. Separately, it was disclosed that ATF agents carried out an operation in 2006 called Wide Receiver that resulted in hundreds of guns being transferred to suspected arms traffickers.

Fast and Furious was designed to respond to criticism that the agency had focused on small-time gun arrests while major traffickers had eluded prosecution.

As recently as 11 months ago, the Justice Department’s inspector general criticized ATF for focusing “largely on inspections of gun dealers and investigations of straw purchasers, rather than on higher-level traffickers, smugglers and the ultimate recipients of the trafficked guns.”

The IG said some ATF managers discourage agents from conducting complex conspiracy investigations that target high-level traffickers.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Justice Department rejects Darrell Issa’s talk of third gun

October 18, 2011

Politico on October 17, 2011 released the following:

By: Josh Gerstein

“No third gun was recovered from the scene of the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona last December, the Justice Department said Monday, rejecting suggestions from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) that irregularities in evidence collected by the FBI at the scene of Terry’s death raise the possibility of a “third weapon.”

Issa has been investigating the case as part of the broader Congressional probe into “Operation Fast & Furious,” a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms investigation that may have allowed more than 1000 guns to flow from legal U.S. dealers to Mexican drug cartels despite law enforcement suspicions that they were headed to the violent narcotraffickers. Two of the weapons from the operation were found at the scene of Terry’s death.

“The FBI has made clear that reports of a third gun recovered from the perpetrators at the scene of Agent Terry’s murder are false,” Justice Depatment spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in a statement Monday evening. “Unfortunately, this most recent false accusation not only maligns the dedicated agents investigating the murder of Agent Terry, it mischaracterizes evidence in an ongoing case. The prosecution arising from the murder of Agent Terry is ongoing. Therefore, further public comment is inappropriate.”

Issa said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday that he wasn’t saying anyone tampered with the evidence but that questions about it remained.

“We’re not suggesting [tampering] but when you have tickets that are numbered 2 and 3 and there’s no ticket 1, when agents who were at Brian Terry’s funeral made statements to his mother indicating that there were three weapons, when the two weapons that they have tested don’t conclusively match up — then you look and say, ‘Well, was there a third weapon at the scene? Were there additional people who escaped with weapons?’” Issa told CBS

Schmaler said Issa misunderstood the coding of the evidence and that he was told before his CBS appearance that the Justice Department insisted there were only two weapons recovered.

“When law enforcement analyzes evidence from a crime scene, it refers to some of the items seized as ‘known’ items or ‘Ks’ for shorthand. Certain items were analyzed as ‘known’ items from the crime scene of Agent Terry’s murder, including the two firearms referenced by Chairman Issa and designated by the FBI as Known Specimens ‘K2′ and “K3’. According to the FBI, the item that Chairman Issa refers to as ‘K1’ is a blood sample from Agent Terry, not a firearm. For this reason, it was not listed on the ballistics report prepared by the FBI,” Schmaler explained in the statement.

A spokesman for Issa, Frederick Hill, stressed that Issa’s comments were based not solely on the FBI markings, but also on an ATF agent’s statement to a gun dealer that three weapons were found at the Terry scene as well as similar comments made to Terry’s mother. Hill said Issa would still like Justice Department to make clear whether they believe the bullet that killed Terry came from the seized Fast & Furious weapons or not.

“This is something that Justice needs to clarify and not just get into wordgames about the evidence,” Hill told POLITICO.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Issa to press FBI for “gunwalking” info

October 17, 2011

CBS News on October 17, 2011 released the following:

“By Sharyl Attkisson

(CBS News) WASHINGTON – The head of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, said he plans to send a letter to the FBI this week to ask about apparent discrepancies in the investigation of a murder related to “Fast and Furious,” the government’s controversial “gunwalking” case, CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down near the U.S.-Mexico border last December, and at least two assault rifles from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Fast and Furious case were found at the scene.

That focused blame on the controversial ATF operation that monitored suspects who trafficked the weapons instead of arresting them and seizing the guns.

Holder subpoenaed for documents in “Gunwalker”
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But 10 months after the murder, there are questions about how many weapons the FBI recovered at the scene and other key details.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Issa, R-Calif., told moderator Bob Schieffer there’s reason to ask whether there’s a third, missing weapon.

“When agents who were at Brian Terry’s funeral made statements to his mother indicating that there were three weapons … then you look and say, well was there a third weapon at the scene?” Issa asked. “Were there additional people who escaped with weapons?”

Issa: Holder hiding Fast and Furious facts
Dem: Issa is on “Fast & Furious” witch hunt
Congressional investigators seek DOD records

Also, a ballistics report turned over to Congress mentions just two rifles, saying it “could not be determined” if one of them fired the bullet that killed Terry.

There’s also talk of a third weapon, called an “SKS” rifle, in secret recordings obtained by CBS News. In the following partial transcript of a March 2011 conversation, the lead ATF case agent on Fast and Furious is speaking to a gun dealer who cooperated in selling weapons to suspects.

Gun dealer: “There’s three weapons.”
ATF agent: “There’s three weapons.”
Dealer: “I know that.”
Agent: “And yes, there’s serial numbers for all three.”
Dealer: “That is correct.”
Agent: “Two of them came from the store.”
Dealer: “I understand that.”
Agent: “There’s an SKS that I don’t think came from … Dallas or Texas or something like that.”

The FBI wouldn’t comment but has implied in the past that there was no third gun. Issa said he’s seeking clarity and that, until key questions are answered, it fuels speculation.

The FBI has kept nearly everything about Terry’s murder secret, saying that releasing anything would jeopardize their investigation, now beginning its eleventh month.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Chambers County Woman Charged with Conspiring and Aiding Her Deceased Husband to Make 122 Destructive Devices

October 7, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on October 6, 2011 released the following:

“HOUSTON— A federal grand jury has charged 32-year-old Pamela Leggett of aiding and abetting her deceased common-law husband, Gilbert Ortez, in the making and possessing, along with conspiring to make and possess, destructive devices and firearms, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge J. Dewey Webb.

The six-count indictment returned by the grand jury today alleges that beginning in March 2006 through July 2009, Leggett and her deceased common-law husband, then residents of Baytown, Texas, Chambers County, accumulated a supply of precursor chemicals that they used to assemble a total of 122 destructive devices. In some instances the chemicals were allegedly obtained via eBay. The destructive devices, according to the indictment, were improvised explosives that, in some cases, contained pieces of rebar, nails, and bullets. Leggett is also accused of being in possession of a machine gun, a short-barreled rifle, and three illegal silencers in violation of federal firearms statutes.

The United States has sought a court order to transfer Leggett from state custody into federal custody to face the charges and appear for arraignment on a date to be set by the court.

Each of the four counts accusing Leggett of aiding and abetting the possession or making of destructive devices and firearms, to include the illegal silencers and the short-barreled rifle, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000 upon conviction. Possession of a machine gun carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 upon conviction. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment as well as a $250,000 fine.

This investigation leading to the federal charges was conducted by the Texas Rangers, FBI, ATF, the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, the Baytown Police Department, the Bay Area Regional Bomb Squad, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Houston Police Department, Metro Police Department Bomb Squad and the Pasadena Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney John D. Jocher is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.

A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty by due process of law.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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