“Mexico frees drug lord Caro Quintero after 28 years in prison for killing of U.S. agent”

August 12, 2013

The Washington Post on August 9, 2013 released the following:

“By Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Infamous drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero walked free Friday after 28 years in prison when a court overturned his 40-year sentence for the 1985 kidnapping and killing of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, a brutal murder that marked a low point in U.S.-Mexico relations.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday it was extremely disappointed by the release of the man convicted in the killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, calling it “deeply troubling.”

Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said in a statement that he was “worried” about the court’s decision, adding that his office is analyzing whether there are any charges pending against Caro Quintero.

Caro Quintero, 60, was a founding member of one of Mexico’s earliest and biggest drug cartels. The court ruled Wednesday that he had been improperly tried in a federal court for a crime that should have been treated as a state offense. Prison officials were notified of the ruling on Thursday, and an official at the Jalisco state prosecutors’ office said the drug lord left prison before dawn on Friday. The official was not authorized to speak on the record.

News media were not alerted until hours after the release, and U.S. authorities apparently received no prior notification.

“The Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration learned today that early this morning Rafael Caro Quintero was released from prison,” said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr.

The DEA, meanwhile, said it “will vigorously continue its efforts to ensure Caro-Quintero faces charges in the United States for the crimes he committed. “

Caro Quintero still faces charges in the United States, but Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said it was unclear whether there was a current extradition request.

Apparently, the U.S. had requested his extradition for the Camarena killing — something Caro Quintero can’t be tried twice for — but may not have filed extradition requests for pending U.S. drug charges.

The U.S. Department of Justice said it “has continued to make clear to Mexican authorities the continued interest of the United States in securing Caro Quintero’s extradition so that he might face justice in the United States. “

Caro Quintero helped establish a powerful cartel based in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa that later split into some of Mexico’s largest cartels, including the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels.

He is still listed as one of the DEA’s five top international fugitives, and U.S. authorities believe he continued to control the laundering of drug money from behind bars.

“Caro Quintero continues to launder the proceeds from narcotics trafficking and he maintains an alliance with drug trafficking organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel, most notably with Esparragoza Moreno’s network,” said Treasury Department spokesman John Sullivan, referring to Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, also known as “El Azul,” or “Blue” because of the dark color of his skin, who is allegedly a top leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

In June, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against 18 people and 15 companies that allegedly moved money for Caro Quintero.

“Caro Quintero has used a network of family members and front persons to invest his fortune into ostensibly legitimate companies and real estate projects in the city of Guadalajara” said Adam Szubin, Director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Caro Quintero has spent almost his entire sentence at a prison on the outskirts of that city, Mexico’s second-largest city.

Mexico’s relations with Washington were badly damaged when Caro Quintero ordered Camarena kidnapped, tortured and killed, purportedly because he was angry about a raid on a 220-acre (89-hectare) marijuana plantation in central Mexico named “Rancho Bufalo” — Buffalo Ranch — that was seized by Mexican authorities at Camarena’s insistence.

Camarena was kidnapped on Feb. 7, 1985, in Guadalajara, a major drug trafficking center. His body and that of his Mexican pilot, both showing signs of torture, were found a month later, buried in shallow graves.

American officials accused their Mexican counterparts of letting Camarena’s killers get away. Caro Quintero was eventually hunted down in Costa Rica.

At one point, U.S. Customs agents almost blocked the U.S. border with Mexico, slowing incoming traffic to a standstill while conducting searches of all Mexicans trying to enter the United States.

Camarena’s fellow DEA agents considered him a hero in the war against drug trafficking and the El Paso Intelligence Center, where U.S. federal agencies collect information about Mexican drug barons, is dedicated to him.

Times have changed since the low point, and cooperation has strengthened, but Caro Quintero’s release Friday reopened old wounds.

Edward Heath, the former DEA regional director for Mexico at the time of the Camarena killing who was present during the identification of the agent’s body from dental records, said the release reflected a broader lack of cooperation with the U.S. from the new Mexican government, a contrast to the policy of former President Felipe Calderon.

“You had a president that was working very close with our government in a quiet way. These people come in and so, boom, the curtain comes down,” said Heath, now a private security consultant. “It means a disrespect for our government.”

He said he was skeptical of the explanation that there was a justifiable legal rationale for Caro Quintero’s release.

“There’s some collusion going on,” he said. “This guy is a major trafficker. This guy is bad, a mean son of a gun.”

Caro Quintero is said to have pioneered links between Colombian cocaine cartels and the Mexican smugglers who transport their drugs into the United States.

The ruling left many wondering why it took so many years for judges to determine Caro Quintero was tried in the wrong court.

“They were always ‘political’ prisoners serving sentences for as long as the U.S. kept up the pressure,” said a former DEA official who once worked in Mexico. He is not authorized to talk about the case because he still does work in Mexico.

“The bribe money to get them out was always there. Mexican ‘justice’ is always built on very weak foundations. And they seem to like it that way. Sad,” he added.

Raul Benitez, a security expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, said the ruling may portend more such procedural rulings following the January freeing of French citizen Florence Cassez, who was convicted in Mexico for being part of a kidnapping ring.

The Frenchwoman served seven years of a 60-year sentence before Mexico’s Supreme Court voted 3-2 to release her in January because of procedural and rights violations during her arrest, including police staging a recreation of her capture for the media.

“What appears to be coming is an avalanche of judicial appeals, with the drug traffickers hiring very good, very expensive lawyers, arguing there were violations of due process,” said Benitez. “The government is going to have problems.”

Mexican courts and prosecutors have long tolerated illicit evidence such as forced confessions and have frequently based cases on questionable testimony or hearsay. Such practices have been banned by recent judicial reforms, but past cases — including those against high-level drug traffickers — are often rife with such legal violations.

“The government has to be prepared to keep an eye on judges so that they don’t fall into the easy argument of due process,” Benitez said, “because there may also be judges who are receiving money” to accept such arguments.”


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 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.

Law officials map out strategy to catch more fugitives

January 13, 2012

Chicago Tribune on January 12, 2012 released the following:

“Federal, state, local agencies vow to work more closely together

By David Jackson and Gary Marx, Chicago Tribune reporters

At a 90-minute closed-door meeting Thursday, top federal, state and local law enforcement officials laid out plans to improve the government’s faltering efforts to apprehend violent fugitives who cross U.S. borders to evade justice in Illinois.

The officials from the Justice Department and various northern Illinois agencies pledged to more closely coordinate their international fugitive apprehension programs, better manage their mounting caseloads and train local prosecutors and police in the often-complex and lengthy extradition process.

“There’s a feeling that this is a growing problem, an expensive problem and a large challenge to our system of justice,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who convened the meeting and spoke to reporters afterward. “I think the response at the table was extremely positive at all levels.”

Attending the working session with Durbin were U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole — the No. 2 official in the Justice Department — as well as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the Chicago heads of the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, and Timothy Williams, director of Interpol in Washington.

The local officials included Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, the state’s attorneys from Cook, DuPage and Will counties, representatives from the Illinois attorney general’s office, the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois State Police.

Durbin called together those officials in response to a recent investigative series by the Chicago Tribune that found dangerous criminals were able to cross the border and remain at large because of an astonishing lack of coordination among Justice Department officials, county prosecutors and local police; a failure by these agencies to keep track of their cases; and inexplicable, years-long delays.

After Thursday’s closed-door meeting, Durbin announced that Fitzgerald would train Illinois law enforcement agencies on the extradition system at three upcoming seminars in Chicago, Springfield and a third location outside Chicago.

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow later said through a spokesman that his office would “take full advantage” of the sessions and send “multiple attorneys.”

Durbin also urged county criminal court judges to set higher bonds for violent criminals who present flight risks — a weakness pointed out in the series.

And he endorsed a bill introduced by Illinois lawmakers that will make it possible to prosecute close family members for aiding or harboring a fugitive, another loophole highlighted by one article in the series. Prosecutors said the reform would help them locate fugitives and bring them to justice.

But Durbin did express frustration with significant hurdles that remain. Local prosecutors sometimes find it prohibitively expensive to prepare and translate the extensive legal paperwork needed to request a fugitive’s arrest and extradition from a foreign government. “We’re talking about thousands of dollars,” Durbin said.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who noted that her office has faced recent budget and staff cuts, added that “the cost that really is laid on local prosecutors is enormous.”

Another issue hampering extraditions is continued lack of cooperation between the lead federal investigative agencies: The U.S. Marshals Service is the primary investigative agency and handles about 60 percent of international fugitive pursuits, but the FBI also plays a major role, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies. “It appears there is still some stovepipe culture in the federal agencies,” Durbin said.

Dart said outside the meeting that Justice Department officials need to lay out clear directives showing local officials which of the myriad federal agencies they should deal with when they have evidence that a fugitive has crossed the border.

“Everybody needs to get their act together,” Dart said. Right now, he said, the sheriffs “can go to the FBI or the U.S. marshals — but there’s no rhyme or reason.”

While the officials at Thursday’s meeting focused on international fugitive apprehension problems in northern Illinois, Durbin noted afterward that a number of federal officials have told him there was a higher level of cooperation and effectiveness here than in many other parts of the country.

“Illinois is not the worst situation in the country,” Durbin said. “This is a challenge across the nation.””


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 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.