Google searching for human traffickers, drug cartels, to break up illicit networks

July 17, 2012

The Washington Post on July 17, 2012 released the following:

“By Associated Press,

Forget videos of cute kittens or good deals on iPads. For the past few months, Google has been quietly turning its search capabilities to something far more challenging: criminals.

Drug cartels, money launderers and human traffickers run their sophisticated operations online — and Google Ideas, Google Inc.’s think tank, is working with the Council on Foreign Relations and other organizations to look for ways to use technology to disrupt international crime.

Officials from Google and groups that combat illicit networks will meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Westlake Village, Calif., to develop strategies for fighting global crime.

“Google is in a great position to take these on,” said Rani Hong, a survivor of child trafficking in India who is now a special adviser to the United Nations. “They’re a powerful medium and they have great tools to solve this problem.”

Dozens will attend the summit, including Kimmie Weeks, a former abducted child soldier from Liberia; Juan Pablo Escobar, son of slain Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar; assistant U.S. defense secretary Andrew Weber; and Brian Dodd, who directs the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s counter-terrorism and transnational crime efforts.

“It might sound like a different path for Google, but technology companies today have a lot of powerful tools for bringing transparency to these illicit networks, to fight back against corruption and empower those who are trying to combat transnational crime,” said Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who helped organize the conference.

“We all know that bad guys use the Internet, but now we’re saying the Internet can also help stop these criminals, and help survivors and advocates find each other and work together,” said Pardis Mahdavi, an assistant professor of anthropology at Pomona College who is working with Google to put a human face to criminal networks on the Web.

This week’s gathering follows a conference held in Dublin, Ireland, last year that brought together more than 60 former gang members to focus on how to end violent extremism.”

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

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense 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 Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

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.


US Indicts 14 In Alleged Drug and Money Laundering Scheme Involving Horses

June 13, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on June 12, 2012 released the following:

“By Samuel Rubenfeld

A federal grand jury in Texas voted to return an indictment against 14 defendants in connection with a conspiracy to launder Los Zetas drug money by buying, training, breeding and racing American quarter horses in the U.S.

Among those charged was Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the leader of Los Zetas, along with his brothers, Oscar Omar Trevino Morales and Jose Trevino-Morales, the Justice Department said.

The indictment, unsealed Tuesday, charges the defendants with one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. It accuses the Zetas of directing part of the cash generated from selling drugs to buy, train, breed and race quarter horses in the U.S.

Miguel and Oscar sent their brother Jose and his wife cash to operate Tremor Enterprises LLC, the business they created for the horse training, the indictment said.

“This case is a prime example of the ability of Mexican drug cartels to establish footholds in legitimate U.S. industries and highlights the serious threat money laundering causes to our financial system,” said Rich Weber, chief of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division, in a statement (pdf).

“This attack on one of the Zeta’s most profitable money laundering schemes is an essential front in the war on drugs and will financially disrupt and help dismantle this violent international criminal organization,” Weber said.

The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of several quarter horses, including Tempting Dash, winner of the Dash for Cash at Lone Star Park race track in Grand Prairie, Texas, on Oct. 24, 2009; Mr. Piloto, $1 million All American Futurity winner at Ruidoso Downs on Labor Day, 2010; Dashin Follies; Coronita Cartel; and Separate Fire.

It also seeks the forfeiture of farm and ranch equipment; horse racing equipment; property in Lexington, Okla. and Bastrop County, Texas; and money contained in bank accounts used in the scheme.

Earlier Tuesday, authorities arrested seven of the 14 defendants, including Jose Trevino-Morales and his wife, Zulema Trevino, in Lexington, Okla. Also arrested were Fernando Solis Garcia in Ruidoso, N.M.; Carlos Miguel Nayen Borbolla, Adrian Farias and Felipe Alejandro Quintero in Los Angeles; and Eusevio Maldonado Huitron in Austin, Texas. They remain in federal custody, the Justice Department said.

None of those arrested could be reached for comment.

The New York Times, in a blockbuster 4,000-word story, reported earlier Tuesday about the scheme. The Times reported that an FBI affidavit said the Zetas channeled about $1 million a month into buying quarter horses in the U.S, and that authorities were tipped off in January 2010, when the cartel paid more than $1 million in a single day for two broodmares.

In its report, the paper said it became aware of Tremor’s activity in December 2011 while reporting about the Zetas and learned of the U.S. government probe last month, but agreed to hold the story until Tuesday morning’s arrests.

Among those charged but not arrested is Francisco Antonio Colorado Cessa of Veracruz, Mexico. Colorado Cessa is accused in the indictment of acting as a straw buyer for various horses. In connection with the indictment, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control slapped Kingpin Act sanctions [OFAC SDN Sanctions] on him that label Colorado Cessa as a narcotics trafficker.

“Our action cuts Colorado Cessa off from the U.S. financial system and it is yet another signal to Miguel and Omar Trevino Morales, and the Zetas, that OFAC will target their financial and business network wherever it is found,” said Adam Szubin, director of OFAC, in the statement.

The Zetas were designated under the Kingpin Act as a narcotics trafficker by the president in 2009. The group is notorious for its violence; officials blamed the Zetas for a dump of 49 headless and handless bodies in May along a Mexican highway. Since 2009, OFAC has designated several of its top leaders and dozens of its lieutenants.”

US v. Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, et al. – Federal Criminal Indictment

18 U.S.C. § 1956

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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 Criminal Defense 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 Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

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.


US prosecutors: Ex-Mexican governor’s Texas properties bought with bribes from drug cartels

May 23, 2012

The Washington Post on May 22, 2012 released the following:

“By Associated Press

McALLEN, Texas — Federal prosecutors allege the former governor of a Mexican state bordering Texas accepted millions of dollars in bribes from drug cartels and invested the money in Texas real estate.

The allegations were levied in two property forfeiture cases filed Tuesday against Tomas Yarrington, who served as governor of Tamaulipas state from 1999 to 2004. No criminal charges have been filed.

Yarrington’s attorney says he’s reviewing the documents.

Yarrington was named earlier this year in the federal indictment of a man charged with money laundering in San Antonio. That indictment alleged leaders of the Gulf and Zetas cartels paid millions to Institutional Revolutionary Party members, including Yarrington.

In the forfeiture cases, U.S. authorities are trying to confiscate a condominium in South Padre Island and a 46-acre property in San Antonio.”

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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

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense 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 Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

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.


Federal prosecutor to take 5th Amendment in Fast and Furious probe

January 20, 2012

Politico on January 20, 2012 released the following:

“By JOSH GERSTEIN

A senior federal prosecutor in Arizona intends to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights rather than testify before a House committee next week looking into the Justice Department’s handling of the Fast and Furious gunrunning investigation, the prosecutor’s attorney told Congress in a letter on Thursday.

On Wednesday, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued a subpoena to Patrick Cunningham, the chief of the criminal section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona. The deposition subpoena came after a plan to have Cunningham appear for a less formal interview fell apart.

Sources say Cunningham is concerned that he’s caught in a pincer of sorts between senior Justice Department officials in Washington eager to shift blame to lower-ranking staffers and Congressional investigators eager to see heads roll over the investigation, which allegedly allowed more than 1000 weapons to cross the border into Mexico despite suspicions they were destined for drug cartels.

“Department of Justice officials have reported to the Committee that my client relayed inaccurate information to the Department upon which it relied in preparing its initial response to Congress. If, as you claim, Department officials have blamed my client, they have blamed him unfairly,” Cunningham’s personal attorney, Tobin Romero of Williams & Connolly, wrote to Issa.

“As a professional courtesy and to avoid needless preparation by the committee and its staff for a deposition next week, I am writing to advise you that my client is going to assert his constitutional privilege not to be compelled to be a witness against himself,” Romero wrote. “My client is, in fact, innocent, but he has been ensnared by the unfortunate circumstances in which he now stands between two branches of government. I will therefore be instructing him to assert his constitutional privilege.”

Issa said Friday that the Fifth Amendment claim signals serious wrongdoing at the Justice Department.

“The assertion of the fifth amendment by a senior Justice official is a significant indictment of the Department’s integrity in Operation Fast and Furious,” Issa said in a statement. “This is the first time anyone has asserted their fifth amendment right in this investigation and heightens concerns that the Justice Department’s motivation for refusing to hand over subpoenaed materials is a desire to shield responsible officials from criminal charges and other embarrassment.”

In his letter [], Romero indicates that Cunningham passed on accurate information about the investigation to his supervisor, presumably U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke who resigned last August amidst the furor over the operation. Romero says the answers to be delivered to Congress were vetted with others in Cunningham’s office but not included in DOJ’s February letter to Congress, which DOJ formally withdrew late last year because of inaccurate information it contained about so-called “gunwalking,” a technique under which law enforcement relinquishes control of weapons or fails to prevent them from falling into criminal hands.”

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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.


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
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.


D.E.A. Squads Extend Reach of Drug War

November 7, 2011

The New York Times on November 6, 2011 released the following:

“By CHARLIE SAVAGE

WASHINGTON — Late on a moonless night last March, a plane smuggling nearly half a ton of cocaine touched down at a remote airstrip in Honduras. A heavily armed ground crew was waiting for it — as were Honduran security forces. After a 20-minute firefight, a Honduran officer was wounded and two drug traffickers lay dead.

Several news outlets briefly reported the episode, mentioning that a Honduran official said the United States Drug Enforcement Administration had provided support. But none of the reports included a striking detail: that support consisted of an elite detachment of military-trained D.E.A. special agents who joined in the shootout, according to a person familiar with the episode.

The D.E.A. now has five commando-style squads it has been quietly deploying for the past several years to Western Hemisphere nations — including Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize — that are battling drug cartels, according to documents and interviews with law enforcement officials.

The program — called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team — was created during the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2008 and continuing under President Obama, it has expanded far beyond the war zone.

“You have got to have special skills and equipment to be able to operate effectively and safely in environments like this,” said Michael A. Braun, a former head of operations for the drug agency who helped design the program. “The D.E.A. is working shoulder-to-shoulder in harm’s way with host-nation counterparts.”

The evolution of the program into a global enforcement arm reflects the United States’ growing reach in combating drug cartels and how policy makers increasingly are blurring the line between law enforcement and military activities, fusing elements of the “war on drugs” with the “war on terrorism.”

Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami professor who specializes in Latin America and counternarcotics, said the commando program carries potential benefits: the American teams could help arrest kingpins, seize stockpiles, disrupt smuggling routes and professionalize security forces in small countries through which traffickers pass drugs headed to the United States.

But there are also potential dangers.

“It could lead to a nationalist backlash in the countries involved,” he said. “If an American is killed, the administration and the D.E.A. could get mired in Congressional oversight hearings. Taking out kingpins could fragment the organization and lead to more violence. And it won’t permanently stop trafficking unless a country also has capable institutions, which often don’t exist in Central America.”

Because the presence of armed Americans on their soil raises sensitivities about sovereignty, some countries that have sought the assistance of the United States will not acknowledge it, and the D.E.A. is reluctant to disclose the details of the commando teams’ deployments. Others — like Mexico, which has accepted American help, including surveillance drones — have not wanted the commando squads.

Federal law prohibits the drug agency from directly carrying out arrests overseas, but agents are permitted to accompany their foreign counterparts on operations. The Americans work with specially vetted units of local security forces that they train and mentor. In “exigent circumstances,” they may open fire to protect themselves or partners.

The firefight in Honduras last March, described by officials of both countries, illustrates the flexibility of such rules. The Honduran minister of public security at the time, Oscar Álvarez, said that under the agreement with the D.E.A., the Americans normally did not go on missions.

But in that case, he said, a training exercise went live: an American squad was working with a Honduran police unit in La Mosquitia rainforest when they received word that a suspicious plane from Venezuela was being tracked to a clandestine landing strip nearby.

After the plane landed, the Honduran police identified themselves and the traffickers opened fire, officials of both countries said. After a 20-minute gunfight, the Hondurans and Americans seized the cocaine and withdrew to evacuate the wounded officer.

“I don’t want to say it was Vietnam-style, but it was typical of war action,” said Mr. Álvarez; he declined to say whether the Americans took part in the shooting, but another person familiar with the episode said they did.

The FAST program is similar to a D.E.A. operation in the late 1980s and early 1990s in which drug enforcement agents received military training and entered into partnerships with local forces in places like Peru and Bolivia, targeting smuggling airstrips and jungle labs.

The Reagan-era initiative, though, drew criticism from agency supervisors who disliked the disruption of supplying agents for temporary rotations, and questioned whether its benefits outweighed the risks and cost. The Clinton administration was moving to shut down the operation when five agents died in a plane crash in Peru in 1994, sealing its fate.

In 2000, when the United States expanded assistance to Colombia in its battle against the narcotics-financed insurgent group called FARC, the trainers were military, not D.E.A. But after the invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration assigned Mr. Braun, a veteran of the earlier effort, to design a new program.

Begun in 2005, the program has five squads, each with 10 agents. Many are military veterans, and the section is overseen by a former member of the Navy Seals, Richard Dobrich. The Pentagon has provided most of their training and equipment, and they routinely fly on military aircraft.

The deployments to Afghanistan have resulted in large seizures of drugs, and some tragedy: two of the three D.E.A. agents who died in a helicopter crash in October 2009 were with FAST. Last week, an agent was shot in the head when his squad came under fire while leaving a bazaar where they had just seized 3,000 kilograms, about 6,600 pounds, of poppy seeds and 50 kilograms, about 110 pounds, of opium. Airlifted to Germany in critical condition, he is expected to survive, an official said.

The commandos have also been deployed at least 15 times to Latin America. The D.E.A. said some of those missions involved only training, but officials declined to provide details. Still, glimpses of the program emerged in interviews with current and former American and foreign officials, briefing files, budget documents and several State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.

For example, an American team assisted Guatemalan forces in the March 2011 arrest of Juan Alberto Ortiz-López, whom the D.E.A. considered a top cocaine smuggler for the Sinaloa cartel, an official said. Videos of the raid show masked men in black tactical garb; it is unclear if any are Americans.

A diplomatic cable describes another mission in Guatemala. On July 21, 2009, seven American military helicopters carrying D.E.A. and Guatemalan security forces flew to the compound of a wealthy family, the Lorenzanas — four of whom were wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

After a “small firefight” in which a bullet grazed a Lorenzana family member, agents found “large numbers of weapons and amounts of cash” but not the targets, who may have been tipped off, according to the cable. The Guatemalan news media documented the failure, portraying the joint operation as a “D.E.A. raid.”

A former head of Guatemala’s national security council, Francisco Jiménez, said in an interview that American participation in such operations was an “open secret” but rarely acknowledged.

In October 2009, another official said, the agency deployed a squad aboard a Navy amphibious assault ship, the Wasp, off the coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it focused on planes used for smuggling.

Cables also show the agency has twice come close to deploying one of its units to the Darién region of Panama, where FARC incursions have established cocaine smuggling routes. But both missions were aborted, for fears that it was too unsafe for the Americans or that their involvement could escalate the conflict.

FAST has repeatedly deployed squads to Haiti, helping to arrest three fugitives this year and train 100 Haitian counternarcotics officers this fall. Mario Andresol, the Haitian police chief, says he needs such help. “We know the smuggling routes,” he said, “but the problem is we don’t have enough people to go after them.””

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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.


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.

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