Alleged Drug lords targeted by Fast and Furious were FBI informants

March 23, 2012

Los Angeles Times on March 21, 2012 released the following:

“Federal agents released alleged gun trafficker Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta to help them find two Mexican drug lords. But the two were secret FBI informants, emails show.

By Richard A. Serrano, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington— When the ATF made alleged gun trafficker Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta its primary target in the ill-fated Fast and Furious investigation, it hoped he would lead the agency to two associates who were Mexican drug cartel members. The ATF even questioned and released him knowing that he was wanted by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

But those two drug lords were secretly serving as informants for the FBI along the Southwest border, newly obtained internal emails show. Had Celis-Acosta simply been held when he was arrested by theBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in May 2010, the investigation that led to the loss of hundreds of illegal guns and may have contributed to the death of a Border Patrol agent could have been closed early.

Documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau show that as far back as December 2009 — five months before Celis-Acosta was detained and released at the border in a car carrying 74 live rounds of ammunition — ATF and DEA agents learned by chance that they were separately investigating the same man in the Arizona and Mexico border region.

ATF agents had placed a secret pole camera outside his Phoenix home to track his movements, and separately the DEA was operating a “wire room” to monitor live wiretap intercepts to follow him.

In May 2010, Celis-Acosta was briefly detained at the border in Lukeville, Ariz., and then released by Hope MacAllister, the chief ATF investigator on Fast and Furious, after he promised to cooperate with her.

The ATF had hoped he would lead them to two Mexican cartel members. But records show that after Celis-Acosta finally was arrested in February 2011, the ATF learned to its surprise that the two cartel members were secret FBI informants.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) are investigating Fast and Furious, which allowed illegal gun purchases in Arizona in hopes of tracking the weapons to Mexican drug cartel leaders. In a confidential memo to Republican committee members, Issa and Grassley said the ATF should have known the cartel members were informants and immediately shut down Fast and Furious.

“This means the entire goal of Fast and Furious — to target these two individuals and bring them to justice — was a failure,” they wrote. The “lack of follow-through” by the various agencies, they said, typified “the serious management failures that occurred throughout all levels during Fast and Furious.”

James Needles, a top ATF official in Arizona, told congressional investigators last year that it was very frustrating and a “major disappointment” to learn too late about the informants.

ATF officials declined to comment about the investigations because they are continuing.

But Adrian P. Fontes, a Phoenix attorney representing Celis-Acosta, who has pleaded not guilty, said he was concerned the federal agencies purposely did not share information.

“When one hand is not talking to the other, perhaps somebody is hiding something,” he said. “Was this intentional?”

Emails and other records show that once the ATF and DEA realized they were both investigating Celis-Acosta, officials from both agencies met in December 2009 at the DEA field office in Phoenix.

It is unclear, however, whether MacAllister later told the DEA that she released Celis-Acosta in May 2010 and that he was headed into Mexico.

Her boss, David J. Voth, the ATF’s group supervisor for Fast and Furious, told committee investigators that the ATF realized the Sinaloa cartel members were “national security assets,” or FBI informants, only after Celis-Acosta was rearrested. He identified the informants as two brothers, and said, “We first learned when we went back and sorted out the facts.””

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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

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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.


Mexican Cartel Kingpin to Plead Guilty in US Federal Court

January 4, 2012

The Associated Press (AP) on January 4, 2012 released the following:

“By ELLIOT SPAGAT
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Mexican drug cartel kingpin Benjamin Arellano Felix will plead guilty to unspecified charges, the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego said Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Debra Hartman said she could not elaborate in advance of the filing. Arellano Felix is expected in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

Arellano Felix headed a once-mighty cartel that came to power in Tijuana, Mexico, in the late 1980s.

Defense attorney Anthony Colombo did not immediately respond to a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Arellano Felix was extradited from Mexico in April 2011 to face drug, money-laundering and racketeering charges. He had been under indictment in the U.S. since 2003 and is one of the highest-profile kingpins to face prosecution in the United States.

Arellano Felix was incarcerated in Mexico since his 2002 arrest and was sentenced in 2007 to 22 years in prison on drug trafficking and organized crime charges.

The U.S. indictment says Arellano Felix was the principal organizer and top leader of the Arellano Felix cartel going back to 1986, and that the cartel tortured and killed rivals in the United States and Mexico as it smuggled tons of Mexican marijuana and Colombian cocaine.

The cartel, which was known to dissolve the bodies of its enemies in vats of lye, began to lose influence along California’s border with Mexico after Arellano Felix was arrested in 2002. A month earlier, his brother, Ramon, called the cartel’s top enforcer, died in a shootout with Mexican authorities.”

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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.


76 Arrested as Officials Break Up Mexico-to-Arizona Drug-Smuggling Ring

November 1, 2011
Guns and Drugs Seized from Mexican Drug Cartel

The New York Times on October 31, 2011 released the following:

“By MARC LACEY

PHOENIX — Law enforcement officials on Monday announced the breakup of a large drug-smuggling ring that used lookouts on hilltops in southern Arizona to move huge quantities of marijuana and other drugs across the Mexican border to users throughout the United States.

Over the last month and a half, federal, state and local officials have arrested 76 people, from organizational bosses to stash-house guards to those who transported the drugs in backpacks and in vehicles, the authorities said. All were linked to the Sinaloa cartel run by Joaquín Guzmán, Mexico’s richest and most wanted outlaw, who goes by the nickname El Chapo, officials said.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Arizona officials estimated that the ring had been in operation for at least five years and had generated more than $2 billion in profits by smuggling more than three million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin into the United States. Such large smuggling rings usually use tractor-trailers to get their contraband across, the authorities said, but this operation relied mostly on migrants on foot straining under their loads.

The authorities acknowledged that the huge smuggling ring operated under their noses, in rugged terrain that is difficult to patrol. The drugs would be carried across the border in relatively small quantities and then transported north to a network of stash houses in the Phoenix area. From there, the contraband would be sold to distributors nationwide.

The route was through the most desolate desert areas of southern Arizona, from Yuma to just east of the border community of Sells, including the sprawling Tohono O’odham Indian reservation. Spotters with radios or cellphones were used to point out the presence of law enforcement and divert loads, the authorities said.

The investigation began in June of last year with a traffic stop in Pinal County of a suspect who later provided details of the operation, said Sheriff Paul Babeu. Sheriff Babeu, who is considering a run for Congress, cited the arrests to buttress his argument that the border remains porous, despite the Obama administration’s insistence that it was more secure than ever. About half of those arrested were illegal immigrants and the other half were American citizens or holders of valid visas, officials said.

While calling the arrests a blow to the smugglers, the authorities were cautious in declaring victory.

“I expect there will be a shift,” said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of Arizona for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. “One investigation is not going to put them out of business. We have to continually adapt.”

Last month, the authorities were reminded of how challenging the drug war had become when they arrested a Homeland Security official stationed at the border, charging him with leading the police on a chase through the desert during which he hurled packages of marijuana from his government vehicle.

Last week, a federal grand jury in Tucson handed up an indictment charging a Border Patrol agent with accepting a bribe to let a truck that he believed was smuggling drugs and migrants past a checkpoint in southern Arizona, federal officials said. When the agent asked the driver if he was a United States citizen, the driver responded “buenos dias” and was waved through, officials said.

Mr. Guzman has made buying off the Mexican authorities his trademark, which has frustrated efforts to capture him from the mountain hamlets where he operates. President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, who has been criticized for not catching the country’s No. 1 drug lord, recently said he suspected that Mr. Guzman may be hiding in the United States. American officials said they had no evidence to back up that claim.”

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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.


Member Of Arellano Felix Drug Cartel Pleads Guilty To Federal Racketeering Charge

July 7, 2011

KPBS on July 7, 2011 released the following:

“By CITY NEWS SERVICE

A high-ranking member of the Arellano Felix drug cartel who acted as an intermediary between the AFO and Colombian cocaine traffickers supplying drugs to the Mexican drug organization pleaded guilty today to federal racketeering charges.

Rigoberto Yanez-Guerrero, who was extradited from Mexico to the United States last December, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 3 by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns. In a hearing today before Magistrate Barbara Major, Yanez admitted that between 1995 and his arrest in March 2001, he worked for a top AFO lieutenant, serving as a point of contact with Colombian cocaine traffickers wishing to do business with the Mexican drug cartel.

Yanez, 42, also admitted that he helped with the importation and distribution of “many tons” of cocaine into the United States from Baja California. The defendant admitted that he personally participated in the shipment of 5-to-10 tons of cocaine. As part of his plea, the defendant also agreed to forfeit up to $1 million in proceeds from the criminal enterprise. Yanez told Major that he participated in the drug conspiracy “indirectly” and didn’t have any money or profits from the operation.

The defendant admitted that the AFO obstructed the investigation into its illegal activities by bribing law enforcement and military personnel. He pleaded guilty to conducting the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. Long reputed to be one of the most notorious multi-national drug trafficking organizations, the AFO controlled the flow of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs through the Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali into the United States. Its operations also extended into southern Mexico and Colombia.

According to authorities, the Arellano Felix cartel — run by four brothers, Benjamin, Eduardo, Javier and Ramon — monopolized routes for illegal drugs through Tijuana to the United States for more than 20 years. Ramon Arellano Felix, the organization’s top enforcer, was killed in a shootout in Mexico in 2002. Javier Arellano Felix, captured in 2006, is serving a life sentence in the United States. Eduardo Arellano Felix was captured in 2008 after a shootout in Tijuana and U.S. authorities are still seeking his extradition. Benjamin Arellano Felix, once considered the financial operator of the AFO, was extradited to San Diego recently after spending nine years in a Mexican prison.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The 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.

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Dandrae L. Jones, Edward W. Jefferson, and Miguel Villa Convicted at a Federal Criminal Trial by a Federal Jury Relating to a Multi-Million Dollar Drug-Trafficking Conspiracy

July 7, 2011

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on July 6, 2011 released the following:

“Jury Convicts Three Defendants of Charges Related to Multi-Million Dollar Drug-Trafficking Conspiracy
Mexican Drug Cartels Smuggled Hundreds of Kilograms of Cocaine to Kansas City

JUL 06 — KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri announced that two Kansas City, Missouri men and a St. Paul, Minnesota man were convicted by a federal jury for their roles in one of the largest cocaine trafficking rings in the Kansas City area.

Operation Blockbuster dismantled a local drug-trafficking organization that smuggled hundreds of kilograms of cocaine worth millions of dollars from Mexico to distribute in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Operation Blockbuster was a multi-agency investigation that also involved the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas, resulting in three separate indictments charging 31 defendants.

Dandrae L. Jones, also known as “Bird,” 35, and Edward W. Jefferson, 39, also known as “Black Walt,” both of Kansas City, were found guilty on Thursday, June 20, 2011, of a drug conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine from Jan. 1, 2007, to Feb. 11, 2010, which was charged in a Feb. 11, 2010, federal indictment. Jefferson was also found guilty of using a telephone to facilitate the distribution of cocaine. Miguel Villa, 31, of St. Paul, was found guilty of bulk cash smuggling for attempting to transport $300,000 in hidden compartments of a Ford F-150 truck.

Co-defendants Marlon Jordan, 29, and Michael D. Davis, 26, both of Kansas City, MO, pleaded guilty earlier this month to their roles in the drug-trafficking conspiracy.

In two separate but related cases, five defendants have been convicted at trial and 15 pleaded guilty.

Evidence introduced during the trial indicated that the leader of the conspiracy, Alejandro S. Corredor, also known as “Lou Lou,” “Rolo,” and “Alex,” 36, a citizen of Colombia residing in Kansas City, MO, had connections with a Mexican drug cartel. Corredor is among the defendants who pleaded guilty in a separate but related case.

Corredor called his supplier in Mexico to order cocaine to be delivered to the Kansas City metropolitan area. A normal load of cocaine would be from 20 to 50 kilograms, which was smuggled in vehicles driven to Kansas City from Mexico. After Corredor sold the cocaine and collected the money, he packaged the cash in bundles that were hidden in false compartments of various vehicles. The vehicles would then deliver the money to the El Paso, Texas area, where it would be transported across the border into Mexico.

Jones, a local rap artist and owner of Block Life Entertainment, was one of Corredor’s biggest distributors in the Kansas City area. Corredor invested from $200,000 to 250,000 in Block Life Entertainment, and allowed Jones to live rent-free in one of his residential properties.

Jefferson was also a rap artist and one of Corredor’s distributors. Villa was a courier who transported $300,000 in drug-trafficking proceeds from Kansas City to Mexico in hidden compartments of his Ford F-150 truck.

During Operation Blockbuster, law enforcement officers seized large quantities of cocaine and marijuana and millions of dollars in drug proceeds. For example, while executing a search warrant at a Kansas City, Missouri residence, officers seized 46 kilogram-bundles of cocaine, $151,000, and a drug ledger. The ledger showed that during a four-month period, this drug-trafficking organization distributed more than 800 kilograms of cocaine and received $10 million in drug proceeds.

Law enforcement officers also seized more than $1.6 million that was hidden in two vehicles on March 9, 2009. Agents were conducting surveillance at a Kansas City residence that day when they observed conspirators hiding what they learned were bundles of cash inside the door panels of a Jeep Cherokee. The Jeep was stopped by a trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol while traveling through Cass County, MO. During a search of the Jeep and a Nissan that was being towed, the trooper recovered 163 bundles of cash. Among several other cash seizures, officers seized nearly $654,000 in a traffic stop on May 9, 2009, and more than $50,000 from another vehicle on May19, 2009, all of which was proceeds from the drug-trafficking conspiracy.

Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City deliberated for close to eight hours before returning the guilty verdicts to U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey, ending a trial that began Monday, June 27, 2011.

Under federal statutes, Jones and Jefferson are each subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, up to life in federal prison without parole. Villa is subject to up to five to years of imprisonment for bulk cash smuggling. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph M. Marquez and Patrick D. Daly. It was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The 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.

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U.S. Launches Roundup for Alleged Mexican Drug Cartel Members

February 24, 2011

Federal, state and local authorities conducted a massive sweep today in the United States and Latin America of suspected Mexican drug cartel members in the United States in a widespread domestic response to the killing of U.S. agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico last week.

A Houston Police Department narcotics officer involved in a raid was shot and wounded, though the injury was not life-threatening. The shooting occurred during a raid by agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Houston police. The suspected shooter is in custody.

The roundup, which began Wednesday and is expected to continue into Friday, is targeting suspected criminals with ties to any Mexican drug cartel to try to disrupt drug trafficking operations in the United States.

The sweep, which is being mirrored this week in Brazil, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, and Mexico, is being coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

By Thursday morning, thousands of law enforcement officers in areas including Atlanta, St. Louis, Denver, Detroit, San Antonio, San Diego, Chicago, Newark and Miami had seized more than $4.5 million in cash and nearly 20 guns, arrested more than 100 people and confiscated about 23 pounds of methamphetamine, 107 kilograms of cocaine, 5 pounds of heroin and 300 pounds of marijuana at several hundred locations.

See the detailed AP release here.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Litigation.

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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