FBI quietly forms secretive Net-surveillance unit

May 23, 2012

CNET on May 22, 2012 released the following:

“CNET has learned that the FBI has formed a Domestic Communications Assistance Center, which is tasked with developing new electronic surveillance technologies, including intercepting Internet, wireless, and VoIP communications.

by Declan McCullagh

The FBI has recently formed a secretive surveillance unit with an ambitious goal: to invent technology that will let police more readily eavesdrop on Internet and wireless communications.

The establishment of the Quantico, Va.-based unit, which is also staffed by agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency, is a response to technological developments that FBI officials believe outpace law enforcement’s ability to listen in on private communications.

While the FBI has been tight-lipped about the creation of its Domestic Communications Assistance Center, or DCAC — it declined to respond to requests made two days ago about who’s running it, for instance — CNET has pieced together information about its operations through interviews and a review of internal government documents.

DCAC’s mandate is broad, covering everything from trying to intercept and decode Skype conversations to building custom wiretap hardware or analyzing the gigabytes of data that a wireless provider or social network might turn over in response to a court order. It’s also designed to serve as a kind of surveillance help desk for state, local, and other federal police.

The center represents the technological component of the bureau’s “Going Dark” Internet wiretapping push, which was allocated $54 million by a Senate committee last month. The legal component is no less important: as CNET reported on May 4, the FBI wants Internet companies not to oppose a proposed law that would require social-networks and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail to build in backdoors for government surveillance.

During an appearance last year on Capitol Hill, then-FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni referred in passing, without elaboration, to “individually tailored” surveillance solutions and “very sophisticated criminals.” Caproni said that new laws targeting social networks and voice over Internet Protocol conversations were required because “individually tailored solutions have to be the exception and not the rule.”

Caproni was referring to the DCAC’s charge of creating customized surveillance technologies aimed at a specific individual or company, according to a person familiar with the FBI’s efforts in this area.

An FBI job announcement for the DCAC that had an application deadline of May 2 provides additional details. It asks applicants to list their experience with “electronic surveillance standards” including PacketCable (used in cable modems); QChat (used in push-to-talk mobile phones); and T1.678 (VoIP communications). One required skill for the position, which pays up to $136,771 a year, is evaluating “electronic surveillance solutions” for “emerging” technologies.

“We would expect that capabilities like CIPAV would be an example” of what the DCAC will create, says Steve Bock, president of Colorado-based Subsentio, referring to the FBI’s remotely-installed spyware that it has used to identify extortionists, database-deleting hackers, child molesters, and hitmen.

Bock, whose company helps companies comply with the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and has consulted for the Justice Department, says he anticipates “that Internet and wireless will be two key focus areas” for the DCAC. VoIP will be a third, he says.

For its part, the FBI responded to queries this week with a statement about the center, which it also refers to as the National Domestic Communications Assistance Center (even Caproni has used both names interchangeably), saying:

      The NDCAC will have the functionality to leverage the research and development efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement with respect to electronic surveillance capabilities and facilitate the sharing of technology among law enforcement agencies. Technical personnel from other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies will be able to obtain advice and guidance if they have difficulty in attempting to implement lawful electronic surveillance court orders.

      It is important to point out that the NDCAC will not be responsible for the actual execution of any electronic surveillance court orders and will not have any direct operational or investigative role in investigations. It will provide the technical knowledge and referrals in response to law enforcement’s requests for technical assistance.

Here’s the full text of the FBI’s statement in a Google+ post.

One person familiar with the FBI’s procedures told CNET that the DCAC is in the process of being launched but is not yet operational. A public Justice Department document, however, refers to the DCAC as “recently established.”

“They’re doing the best they can to avoid being transparent”

The FBI has disclosed little information about the DCAC, and what has been previously made public about the center was primarily through budget requests sent to congressional committees. The DCAC doesn’t even have a Web page.

“The big question for me is why there isn’t more transparency about what’s going on?” asks Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group in San Francisco. “We should know more about the program and what the FBI is doing. Which carriers they’re working with — which carriers they’re having problems with. They’re doing the best they can to avoid being transparent.”

The DCAC concept dates back at least four years. FBI director Robert Mueller was briefed on it in early 2008, internal FBI documents show. In January 2008, Charles Smith, a supervisory special agent and section chief in the FBI’s Operational Technology Division, sent e-mail to other division officials asking for proposals for the DCAC’s budget.

When it comes to developing new surveillance technologies, Quantico is the U.S. government’s equivalent of a Silicon Valley incubator. In addition to housing the FBI’s Operational Technological Division, which boasts of developing the “latest and greatest investigative technologies to catch terrorists and criminals” and took the lead in creating the DCAC, it’s also home to the FBI’s Engineering Research Facility, the DEA’s Office of Investigative Technology, and the U.S. Marshals’ Technical Operations Group. In 2008, Wired.com reported that the FBI has “direct, high-speed access to a major wireless carrier’s systems” through a high-speed DS-3 link to Quantico.

The Senate appropriations committee said in a report last month that, for electronic surveillance capabilities, it authorizes “$54,178,000, which is equal to both the request and the fiscal year 2012 enacted level. These funds will support the Domestic Communications Assistance Center, providing for increased coordination regarding lawful electronic surveillance amongst the law enforcement community and with the communications industry.” (It’s unclear whether all of those funds will go to the DCAC.)

In trying to convince Congress to spend taxpayers’ dollars on the DCAC, the FBI has received help from local law enforcement agencies that like the idea of electronic surveillance aid. A Justice Department funding request for the 2013 fiscal year predicts DCAC will “facilitate the sharing of solutions and know-how among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies” and will be welcomed by telecommunications companies who “prefer to standardize and centralize electronic surveillance.”

A 2010 resolution from the International Association of Chiefs of Police — a reliable FBI ally on these topics — requests that “Congress and the White House support the National Domestic Communications Assistance Center Business Plan.”

The FBI has also had help from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which last year requested $1.5 million to fund eight additional DCAC positions. DEA administrator Michele Leonhart has said (PDF) the funds will go to “develop these new electronic surveillance capabilities.” The DEA did not respond to CNET’s request for comment.

An intriguing hint of where the DCAC might collaborate with the National Security Agency appeared in author James Bamford’s article in the April issue of Wired magazine. Bamford said, citing an unidentified senior NSA official, that the agency has “made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems” — an obstacle that law enforcement has encountered in investigations.

Eventually, the FBI may be forced to lift the cloak of secrecy that has surrounded the DCAC’s creation. On May 2, a House of Representatives committee directed the bureau to disclose “participation by other agencies and the accomplishments of the center to date” three months after the legislation is enacted.”

————————————————————–

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

————————————————————–

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.


Owner of downtown Austin clubs, others face drug, money laundering and firearms charges

March 22, 2012

Statesman.com on March 22, 2012 released the following:

“By Gary Dinges

Update: In federal indictments unsealed this afternoon, 11 people reportedly associated with Yassine Enterprises, operator of several downtown nightclubs, are accused of engaging in a variety of crimes, including distributing cocaine, transferring firearms used to commit drug trafficking and money laundering.

Owner and president Hussein Ali Yassine — known as Mike Yassine — is charged with money laundering, according to court documents, as well as conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

Citing federal money-laundering statutes, federal prosecutors are seeking a court order that would require Mike Yassine, as well as two other defendants, to forfeit $214,500.

Others charged include:

  • Marisse Marthe Ruales — known as Madi: conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and money laundering.
  • Hadi Ali Yassine: conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and money laundering.
  • Mohammed Ali Yassine — known as Steve Austin: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine, transferring a firearm knowing it is to be used in a drug trafficking crime and money laundering.
  • Sami Derder: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and distribution of cocaine.
  • Edgar Orsini: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and distribution of cocaine.
  • Amar Thabet Araf: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine.
  • Alejandro Melendrez — known as Alex and Cueta: distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine.
  • Nizar Hakiki — also known as Nino: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, distribution of cocaine and transferring a firearm knowing it is to be used in a drug trafficking crime.
  • Karim Faiq: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute 5 kilos or more of cocaine.
  • An unidentified defendant is also charged with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine.

All of the alleged crimes, according to court records, occurred in 2008 and 2009.

Earlier: Agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are at the offices of Yassine Enterprises, which operates several downtown nightclubs, this morning collecting documents as part of an investigation.

Agents were spotted hauling boxes into the Yassine offices at 213 W. Fourth St. shortly after 10 a.m.

An FBI spokesman called the investigation “usual and routine,” but said he could provide no additional details, while an IRS spokesman said the agency was conducting “official business.”

Austin police police were also on scene. A spokeswoman confirmed police had been called at the FBI’s request. She referred all other questions to the FBI’s spokesman, as did a spokeswoman for the TABC.

The IRS spokesman said there have been “several” arrests made in connection with the case, but declined to elaborate. A federal hearing was slated to be held on the case this afternoon in Austin, the spokesman said.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency and state comptroller’s office are also part of the investigation, officials said.

Yassine owns Pure, Spill, Kiss & Fly, Stack Burger Bar, Treasure Island, Hyde, Fuel, Malaia and Roial.

The company is the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed this year that alleges more than 200 employees were paid less than federal law requires.

It was not immediately clear if today’s searches are related to the suit.

Jake Webb, a one-time bartender at Roial, claims in legal documents that Yassine was “generally paying no wages at all to tipped employees,” such as bartenders and waiters.

“When (Webb) went to pick up his check, he was told bartenders don’t get paychecks,” Dan Byrne, one of Webb’s attorneys, told the American-Statesman in January. “After talking with him, we had an inkling this was a bigger deal.”

Yassine’s attorneys released this statement after learning of the suit: “Yassine is cooperating in the class action and is committed to complying with all laws regarding the payment of tipped employees.””

————————————————————–

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 C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


‘Merchant of death’ trial to open in New York

October 11, 2011

CNN on October 11, 2011 released the following:

“By Mick B. Krever, CNN

New York (CNN) — After evading international authorities for nearly two decades, alleged international arms and drug smuggler Viktor Bout, widely dubbed the “merchant of death” by his accusers, will go on trial in New York Tuesday.

The Russian businessman is charged with a wide range of counts, including conspiracy to kill Americans, attempting to sell arms to undercover federal agents, wire fraud and violating U.N. Security Council sanctions. Bout pleaded not guilty to all charges last year.

“I’m very confident that the trial will make it transparent that Viktor Bout did not intend to sell arms to anyone,” Bout’s lawyer, Albert Y. Dayan, said during pretrial hearings.

International security experts say that the charges encompass only a small fraction of what they believe Bout is responsible for.

Kathi Lynn Austin, an arms researcher, called Bout “the quintessential war profiteer” in an interview with CNN. By providing larger and more-powerful arms than rebels would otherwise have had access to, Austin said, Bout “has actually initiated wars in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.”

“He unquestionably made some of the worst wars of the 20th century, early 21st century, much worse than they would have been,” said Douglas Farah, a national security consultant who co-wrote a book about Bout.

The 2005 movie “Lord of War,” starring Nicholas Cage, was inspired by Bout’s life.

The heart of the charges against Bout stem from a 2008 sting operation in Thailand by the Drug Enforcement Agency. According to a 2008 federal indictment, undercover agents, posing as rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, attempted to buy larges caches of weapons from Bout.

Agents attempted to buy 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of AK-47s, and landmines, according to the indictment. They told Bout that they wanted the arms “to kill Americans,” to which Bout said that he “was going to prepare everything the FARC needed.”

“It’s like getting Capone for a single homicide or a single jug of whiskey,” Farah said. “It’s actually what he was doing, but on a much smaller scale.” Al Capone was a powerful Chicago gangster of the 1920s who was sent to prison on tax evasion charges.

The DEA struggled to draw Bout out of his Russian homeland, which had long sheltered and defended him. Undercover agents met with Bout’s associates the world over, from Curacao to Copenhagen, in an attempt to set up a meeting with their target, according to the indictment.

“He wanted to close the deals himself, he liked to shake hands with the person he was selling the weapons to,” Farah said. “Ultimately, that was his undoing in Bangkok, because he wanted to fly in and close the deal himself.”

Bout has maintained that he was simply in the business of shipping, and has never been involved in arms sales.

“I’m not afraid. I don’t do anything in my life I should be afraid,” Bout told CNN’s Jill Dougherty in a 2002 interview in Moscow. “This whole story looks to me like a witch hunt.””

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.

Bookmark and Share


Kingpin’s Son: US Traded Immunity for Information

September 9, 2011

The Associated Press (AP) on September 8, 2011 released the following:

“By MICHAEL TARM
Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — The handsome, square-jawed young man held in isolation in a Chicago jail doesn’t deny he was a top lieutenant in his father’s Mexican drug cartel but instead has offered a novel defense for his drug-trafficking.

Vicente Zambada’s lawyers claim he and other cartel leaders were granted immunity by U.S. agents – and carte blanche to smuggle cocaine over the border – in exchange for intelligence about rival cartels engaged in bloody turf wars in Mexico.

Experts scoff at the claim, which U.S. prosecutors are expected to answer in a filing Friday in federal court. But records filed in support of his proposed defense have offered a peek at the sordid world of Mexico’s largest drug syndicate, the Sinaloa cartel, which is run by his father, Ismael Zambada, and Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

It’s a world of brutality, greed and snitching, and federal agents would love to have the younger Zambada pass along more intelligence, especially if it could help bring down his family’s operation or lead to the capture of Guzman, a billionaire who escaped from a Mexican prison in a laundry truck in 2001.

“It comes down to whether he would be willing to give up his dad or Guzman,” said David Shirk, who heads the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. “Would he be willing to give up his own dad? It seems unlikely.”

Zambada, 35, has rarely been seen since his 2009 arrest in Mexico City, after which Mexican authorities paraded him before TV cameras in a stylish black blazer and dark blue jeans. His suave image was a sharp contrast to a photo of him with moustache and cowboy hat released by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2007.

He may have upgraded his look after he assumed control over cartel logistics in 2008 and, federal officials say, received authority to order assassinations. He was arrested and extradited to Chicago a year later to face trafficking conspiracy charges punishable by up to life in prison.

The Sinaloa cartel is one of Mexico’s most powerful. Named after the Pacific coast state of the same name, it controls trafficking on the border with California and is battling rival cartels in an effort to expand east along the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border.

Accustomed to luxury in Mexico, Zambada has been held in a 10-by-6 foot cell in Chicago, is often served meals that have gone cold and hasn’t been outside in 18 months, his attorneys say. U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo told the government Thursday to file a response to those complaints.

Armed marshals led the shackled Zambada into Thursday’s hearing. He appeared at-ease, even smiling and winking at woman sitting on a spectators’ bench.

Castillo will decide later whether Zambada’s provocative immunity claim has any credibility, but many experts said they were skeptical.

“Personally, I think it is a bunch of malarkey,” said Scott Stewart, who analyzes Mexico’s cartels for the Texas-based Stratfor global intelligence company. “I mean, what the defense is saying is that a huge amount of cocaine was allowed to pass into the United States unimpeded. Why would you even have sought his extradition if there was this potential backlash?”

U.S. prosecutors briefly discounted Zambada’s claim in one filing, but more details are expected in Friday’s documents. A spokesman for U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald would not comment on the allegation. Neither would a Washington spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, whose agents Zambada claims to have dealt with in Mexico.

However, clandestine intelligence deals are not uncommon, and conspiracy theories abound in Mexico about the government going easy on one cartel to keep the others under control.

The Sinoloa cartel’s adept use of information has helped it gain power as some others waned, trafficking experts say. The government has had only limited success battling it since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels five years ago. Since then, more than 35,000 Mexicans have died – mostly in cartel-on-cartel violence.

Zambada’s lawyers say the U.S. government believed turning a blind eye to the Sinaloa kingpins was an “an acceptable price to pay, because the principal objective was the destruction and dismantling of rival cartels.”

To bolster their claim, they point to the way the U.S. and Colombia fought that country’s once mighty cartels.

The Medellin and Cali cartels were laid low in the 1990s, in part by a divide-and-conquer strategy in which U.S.-backed authorities brought down the former before going after the latter, trafficking experts say. In some cases, they relied on informants.

The demise of Colombia’s cartels and U.S. successes in disrupting smuggling routes in the Caribbean contributed to the spectacular rise in influence and wealth of the Mexican cartels. Today, about 90 percent of U.S.-bound cocaine goes through Mexico, according to the DEA.

Mexican authorities arrested Zambada just hours after he supposedly met DEA agents in a Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City. He told the agents he wanted to start providing information directly to them rather than through a cartel attorney, according to the defense filings.

Experts, though, say the kind of collusion described by Zambada’s attorneys goes far beyond what U.S. authorities were likely to have contemplated.

“I know of no case where immunity like this has been granted,” said George Grayson, author of the book, “Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?”

However, Zambada and other Sinaloa leaders may have given information to U.S. or Mexican agents even if the immunity claim isn’t true, Stewart and other experts say.

“The Sinaloa cartel has been better than any other cartel in Mexico at framing rival cartels – leaking information that gets their enemies in trouble,” Shirk said.

Jorge Chabat, an international relations professor in Mexico City, said it’s also possible that Sinaloa continued to thrive simply because Mexican authorities decided to focus first on more violent cartels, including a notorious gang in northeastern Mexico known as the Zetas.

“By comparison, the Sinaloas aren’t exactly the Sisters of Charity – but they’re less violent,” he said. “Sinaloa is a little more rational about its violence.””

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.

Bookmark and Share


Roy Christopher West Sentenced by U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts on Murder-for-Hire

August 27, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 26, 2011 released the following:

“Akron Man Sentenced to Life for Ordering Murder-for-Hire

Roy Christopher West, 36, of Akron, Ohio, was sentenced late yesterday on charges of Conspiracy to Use Interstate Commerce Facilities in the Commission of Murder-for-Hire, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced.

U.S. Attorney McQuade was joined in the announcement by Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

West was sentenced by United States District Judge Victoria A. Roberts to life in prison without parole. West was found guilty on April 15, 2011, by a federal jury in Detroit, Michigan following a 10-day trial.

The jury found that West conspired to murder Leonard Jermone Day in retaliation for stealing approximately $100,000 in cash and $250,000 worth of jewelry from Roy West.

During the trial, the jury listened to wiretaps which revealed that, after the theft, West began calling his family and associates, saying that he would give money to anyone who found Day. On December 20, 2005, Detroit Police found Day sitting in his truck after being ambushed by gunfire.

A separate jury found co-defendant Marcus Freeman guilty for his participation in the conspiracy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on June 20, 2011. Michael Bracey pled guilty to the murder conspiracy on October 25, 2010, and Alvino Cornelius pled guilty to a superseding information that charged him with drug trafficking on October 21, 2010. Bracey and Cornelius are awaiting sentencing. One remaining defendant, Christopher Scott, is scheduled to begin trial on October 17, 2011.

United States Attorney McQuade thanked the Detroit office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Detroit Police Department, the Greater Akron Area HIDTA Initiative, which is a task force led by the Akron offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency for their efforts that lead to this successful prosecution.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth A. Stafford and Michael C. Leibson.”

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 extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List 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.

Bookmark and Share


DEA Allegedly Cut a Deal With Sinaloa Cartel, Say Court Documents

August 5, 2011

Fox News on August 5, 2011 released the following:

“By William Lajeunesse

America’s Third War: The U.S. Cut a Deal With the Sinaloa Cartel, Say Court Documents

U.S. federal agents allegedly cut a deal with the Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed it to traffic tons of narcotics across the border, in exchange for information about rival cartels, according to documents filed in federal court.

Click here to view the Sinaloa Cartel case document.

The allegations are made by Vicente Zambada-Niebla, a top ranking cartel boss extradited to the U.S. last year on drug charges. He is a close associate of Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and the son of Ismael “Mayo” Zambada-Garcia.

Both remain fugitives, in part, because of the deal Zambada- Niebla made with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, according to a defense motion filed last Friday in the case.

Alvin Michaelson, the Los Angeles attorney representing Zambada- Niebla who wrote the brief, refused comment.

The deal allegedly began with Humberto Loya-Castro, a Sinaloa cartel lawyer who became an informant for the D.E.A. after a drug case against him was dismissed in 2008.

According to the motion, the deal was part of a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, where the U.S. helped finance and arm the Sinaloa cartel, through Operation Fast and Furious, in exchange for information that allowed the D.E.A. and FBI to destroy and dismantle rival Mexican cartels. Operation Fast and Furious is the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives anti-gun trafficking program which allowed thousand of guns to cross into Mexico.

“Under that agreement, the Sinaloa Cartel, through Loya, was to provide information accumulated by Mayo, Chapo, and others, against rival Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations to the United States government. In return, the United States government agreed to dismiss the prosecution of the pending case against Loya, not to interfere with his drug trafficking activities and those of the Sinaloa Cartel, to not actively prosecute him, Chapo, Mayo, and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, and to not apprehend them.”

Zambada- Niebla was arrested in Mexico City in March 2009 and extradited to the U.S. in February to stand trial on narco-trafficking-related charges. The indictment claims he served as the cartel’s “logistical coordinator” who oversaw an operation that imported tons of cocaine into the U.S. by jets, buses, rail cars, tractor-trailers, and automobiles. Zambada-Niebla is now being held in solitary confinement in a Chicago jail cell.

The motion claims Mayo, Chapo and Zambada- Niebla routinely passed information through Loya to the D.E.A. that allowed it to make drug busts. In return, the U.S. helped the leaders evade Mexican police.

It says: “In addition, the defense has evidence that from time to time, the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel was informed by agents of the DEA through Loya that United States government agents and/or Mexican authorities were conducting investigations near the home territories of cartel leaders so that the cartel leaders could take appropriate actions to evade investigators- even though the United States government had indictments, extradition requests, and rewards for the apprehension of Mayo, Chapo, and other alleged leaders, as well as Mr. Zambada-Niebla.”

In 2008, “the DEA representative told Mr. Loya-Castro that they wanted to establish a more personal relationship with Mr. Zambada-Niebla so that they could deal with him directly.”

In March 17, 2009, Loya set up a meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City with two D.E.A. agents, identified as Manny and David. There, the four men met and Zambada-Niebla claims he received immunity from an indictment out of federal court in Washington D.C.

“There is also evidence that at the hotel, Mr. Zambada-Niebla did accept the agreement and thereafter in reliance on that agreement, provided further information regarding rival drug cartels. Mr. Zambada-Niebla was told that the government agents were satisfied with the information he had provided to them and that arrangements would be made to meet with him again. Mr. Zambada-Niebla then left the meeting. Approximately five hours after the meeting, Mr. Zambada-Niebla was arrested by Mexican authorities.”

Experts who reviewed the document say the U.S. typically has written agreements with paid informants that spell out each other’s responsibilities. They doubt Zambada-Niebla had one, although Loya probably did. The defense here is hoping to obtain DEA reports that detail the agencies relationship with the Sinaloa cartel and get the agents on the stand.

In response in court, the U.S. doesn’t dispute that Zambada-Niebla may have acted as an informant – only that he did not act with D.E.A. consent.

The D.E.A. and the federal prosecutors in Chicago had no comment.

Former D.E.A. director Karen Tandy told Fox News “I do not have any knowledge of this and it doesn’t sound right from my experience.””

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 extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List 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.

Bookmark and Share