Category Archives: Drug Cartel’s

23 Slain in Mexican Border City

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MONTERREY, Mexico – Twenty-three people were found murdered Friday in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, including 14 whose dismembered remains were left in a van, authorities said.

Nine bodies were spotted at about 1:00 a.m. hanging from an overpass at a major intersection, a source in the Tamaulipas state Attorney General’s Office said.

The five men and four women had their eyes covered and bore signs of torture, a municipal official said.

Accompanying the bodies was a message from the Los Zetas gang identifying the victims as employees of the rival Gulf drug cartel killed for “heating up the territory” by carrying out violent acts that attracted more attention from the security forces.

The message from the Zetas accused the victims of involvement in an April 24 grenade attack on municipal police headquarters in Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas.

Just hours later, the dismembered remains of 14 people were found wrapped in plastic bags inside a van abandoned in front of the Mexican customs service office in the city.

The victims’ severed heads were left in coolers near Nuevo Laredo city hall.

The killers did not leave any message.

Los Zetas, a group founded by deserters from a U.S.-trained special forces unit, started out as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but the two criminal organizations later had a falling out and the Zetas went into the drug business on their own account, gaining control of several lucrative territories.

Media reports say the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have formed an alliance to fight Los Zetas, but this has not been confirmed by Mexican officials.

Fourteen dismembered bodies found April 17 in a vehicle parked near city hall were accompanied by a message bearing the purported signature of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, fugitive boss of the Sinaloa cartel.

The note said the Sinaloa outfit had come to Nuevo Laredo to cleanse the city of the Zetas.

Conflict among rival cartels and between criminals and the security forces has claimed more than 50,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against organized crime. EFE

Latin American Herald Tribune – 23 Slain in Mexican Border City.

Special Report: Guns used in Mexico for lawyer’s murder traced to ATF operation

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By Diana Washington Valdez \ El Paso Times
Posted:   05/01/2012 12:00:00 AM MDT

Firearms connected to Operation Fast and Furious were used in the 2010 slaying of the brother of the former Chihuahua state attorney general, according to a U.S. congressional report.

The report said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced two of the weapons suspected in the murder of lawyer Mario González Rodríguez, but did not report this fact to the Mexican government until eight months after the tracing.

The joint congressional staff report “The Department of Justice’s Operation Fast and Furious: Fueling Cartel Violence” was prepared for U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., two lawmakers who are spearheading an ongoing investigation into the ATF’s controversial operation.

“On October 21, 2010, drug cartel members kidnapped Mario González Rodríguez from his office,” according to the 2011 congressional report. “At the time of the kidnapping, his sister Patricia González Rodríguez was the attorney general of the state of Chihuahua.”

Mexican officials said Patricia González Rodríguez was already on her way out because the new governor had been installed and a new state prosecutor was going to be appointed.

“A few days after the kidnapping,” the congressional report said, “a video surfaced on the Internet in which Mario González Rodríguez sat

handcuffed, surrounded by five heavily armed men wearing masks, dressed in camouflage and bullet-proof vest.”

“Apparently, under duress,” the report said, “(González Rodríguez) alleged that his sister had ordered killings at the behest of the Juárez cartel … the video quickly went viral.”

Chihuahua state Attorney General Patricia González Rodríguez denied the allegations of drug corruption and traveled to Mexico City to seek the federal government’s help in investigating her brother’s murder. She is no longer in Chihuahua, and reportedly left Mexico for safety reasons.

A video of Mario González Rodríguez’s “interrogation” by armed men was carried on YouTube. The body of the well-known Chihuahua City lawyer was found Nov. 5, 2010, in a shallow grave.

Then, Mexican federal authorities, following a shootout with drug cartel suspects, seized 16 weapons and arrested eight men in connection with Mario González Rodríguez’s murder.

Mexican officials submitted information about the weapons to the ATF’s e-trace system, and the ATF traced two AK-47s to Operation Fast and Furious.

The congressional report said that an ATF email indicated that ATF officials in Phoenix who knew the two assault rifles came from the controversial operation withheld the information from Mexican officials until June 2011.

In congressional testimony, Carlos Canino, the ATF’s acting U.S. attaché in Mexico, said he’s the one who finally notified Mexican federal Attorney General Marisela Morales about the weapons-tracing and their link to the death of Mario González Rodríguez.

The report said Morales was shocked and remarked, “Hijole!,” which the report said translates into “Oh, my.”

Canino feared an international incident might break out with Mexico if the information leaked out to the news media instead of being sent through government channels. He told U.S. lawmakers that he did not want to undermine the trust that U.S. law enforcement had developed with their Mexican counterparts in the war against the drug cartels.

Ricardo Alday, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Saturday in response to the U.S. congressional report’s findings that “the government of Mexico has not granted, nor will grant, under any circumstance, tacit or explicit authorization for the deliberate walking of arms into Mexico.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on ongoing investigations, and therefore will await the outcome of both the U.S. and Mexican investigations, and then react accordingly.”

Last week, the ATF released a report that said 68,000 weapons recovered in Mexico between 2007 and 2011 were traced back to U.S. sources. That report does not mention which of the weapons were part of the undercover Operation Fast and Furious.

Weapons traced back to the operation have been recovered in eight Mexican states and in Mexico City, and most of them were destined for the Sinaloa drug cartel led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the congressional report said.

And, at least eight Fast and Furious-connected weapons were recovered at crime scenes in Juárez and four in Chihuahua City between 2010 and 2011.

The Sinaloa cartel has been waging a bloody battle against the Carrillo Fuentes organization that’s killed nearly 9,500 people in Juárez alone since 2008.

On Jan. 13, 2010, the El Paso Police Department seized 40 rifles on the East Side that the congressional report said were connected to Fast and Furious. Weapons connected to the operation also were recovered in Columbus, N.M.

The number of Fast and Furious weapons found at Mexican crime scenes could be higher because the information provided to congressional investigators remains incomplete, the report said.

Last November, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that it was among local law enforcement agencies asked to assist with Operation Fast and Furious.

El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said then that his department helped a Drug Enforcement Administration regional task force with surveillance but that he was not told it was for Fast and Furious.

ATF officials launched Operation Fast and Furious in 2009 in Phoenix in an attempt to identify high-level arms traffickers who were supplying the Mexican drug cartels with weapons. The operation allowed weapons purchased in the United States to cross the border into Mexico.

ATF shut down the operation about a month after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was found murdered in the Arizona desert in December 2010. Two AK-47s, originally purchased as semiautomatics and connected to Fast and Furious, were found near Terry’s body.

The latest ATF report does not break down the 68,000 weapons traced to U.S. sources by states.

ATF spokesman Tom Crowley said the agency previously reported that most of the guns recovered in Mexico came from Texas, the border state that has the most gun stores.

Statistics in the recent ATF report mirror the trends in Mexico’s drug cartel violence.

For example, in 2008 Mexican officials submitted 31,111 serial numbers to the ATF for tracing, the same year that the Mexican cartels intensified their battles in Mexico.

The number of weapons submitted for e-trace was 17,352 in 2007; 21,555 in 2009; 8,338 in 2010; and 20,335 in 2011.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6140.

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Corpus Christi, Texas: Predator drones (el Mosco) have yet to prove their worth on border

The nine unmanned aircraft are expensive to operate but their results are unimpressive, critics say. But one official says the criticism is shortsighted.

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By Brian Bennett, Washington Bureau
April 28, 2012, 9:16 p.m

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The drug runners call it “el mosco,” the mosquito, and one recent evening on the southern tip of Texas, a Predator B drone armed with cameras buzzed softly over the beach on South Padre Island and headed inland.

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Lyle Belew, the command duty officer in Predator Ops at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, on the night of April 18, communicates with a Predator pilot. (Brian Bennett, Chicago Tribune / April 19, 2012)

“We’re going to get some bad guys tonight, I’ve got a feeling,” said Scott Peterson, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection supervisory air interdiction agent. He watched the drone’s live video feed in the Predator Ops room at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, about 50 miles away.

As the unmanned plane flew up the winding Rio Grande, which forms the border with Mexico, Peterson fielded excited phone calls. One agent had seen known scouts for a Mexican cartel at a Dairy Queen, suggesting a load of drugs was coming through. Another called in the precise spot where the shipment would land.

Soon the drone’s infrared camera picked up a man hauling bales of marijuana from an inflatable rubber boat into a minivan on the Texas side of the river. Then it spotted a second boat. Agents readied for a major bust.

But the April 18 raid was not the success Peterson had envisioned. He wanted the drone to track the smugglers to a stash house, and perhaps to ranking cartel members. Instead, Border Patrol agents rushed to the riverbank, sirens blaring. They seized half a ton of pot, a 1996 Plymouth Voyager van and a boat. The smugglers escaped and no one was arrested.

The mixed results highlight a glaring problem for Homeland Security officials who have spent six years and more than $250 million building the nation’s largest fleet of domestic surveillance drones: The nine Predators that help police America‘s borders have yet to prove very useful in stopping contraband or illegal immigrants.

The border drones require an hour of maintenance for every hour they fly, cost more to operate than anticipated, and are frequently grounded by rain or other bad weather, according to a draft audit of the program last month by the Homeland Security Department‘s inspector general.

Last year, the unmanned fleet flew barely half the number of flight hours that Customs and Border Protection had scheduled on the northern or southern borders, or over the Caribbean, according to the audit.

And the drones often are unavailable to assist border agents because Homeland Security officials have lent the aircraft to the FBI, Texas Rangers and other government agencies for law enforcement, disaster relief and other uses.

The audit slammed Homeland Security for buying two drones last year and ordering an additional $20.5-million Predator B system in Cocoa Beach, Fla., this year, saying it already owns more drones than it can utilize. Each drone costs about $3,000 an hour to fly.

“The big problem is that they are more expensive than traditional methods” of patrolling, said T.J. Bonner, former president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union of border agents.

To help pay for the drones, Customs and Border Protection has raided budgets of its manned aircraft. One result: Flight hours were cut by 10% for the P-3 Orion maritime surveillance planes that hunt smuggling ships on the West Coast and in the Caribbean.

The amount of illicit drugs seized in Predator raids is “not impressive,” acknowledged Michael Kostelnik, a retired Air Force major general who heads the office that supervises the drones.

Last year, the nine border drones helped find 7,600 pounds of marijuana, valued at $19.3 million. The 14 manned P-3 Orions helped intercept 148,000 pounds of cocaine valued at $2.8 billion.

In an interview, Kostelnik dismissed criticism of the border drones as shortsighted. He sketched out scenarios, such as a nuclear plant meltdown or detonation of a dirty bomb, where the drones could help assess damage without endangering a pilot.

If a major terrorist attack occurred in Washington or New York City, Kostelnik said, he could put drones overhead in five hours, assuming they could be flown up from Florida or carried on a cargo plane, to help first responders and policymakers.

“It is not about the things we are doing today,” Kostelnik said. “It is about the things we might be able to do.”

The recent raid on the Rio Grande showed some of the pros and cons of the border drones.

Inside the Predator Ops center, the crew watched as the minivan filled with marijuana drove away on a dirt road. The Predator’s camera followed. Suddenly, a figure raced in front of the minivan, waving his hands for the driver to turn back.

“He’s spooked!” said Lyle Belew, the mission commander. “Stay on him!” he ordered the camera operator as the van did a quick U-turn.

Instead of risking a potentially violent standoff in a nearby residential neighborhood, the agents on the ground decided to cut the operation short and try to seize the drugs at the river.

A Border Patrol SUV suddenly appeared on screen, chasing the minivan back to the riverbank. Then six figures jumped out of the minivan and into the water, taking one of the two rubber boats. Several Border Patrol agents ran down the beach in pursuit.

In the Ops Center, Border Patrol liaison Hector Black worried that cartel gunmen might open fire on his agents from the far side of the river.

“Ask them to pan [the drone camera] to Mexico to make sure nobody starts shooting at our guys,” Black said. “See if there are guys with long arms,” meaning rifles.

The banks looked empty, but the camera clearly showed six figures and a rubber boat drifting down the dark river and back into Mexico.

brian.bennett@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

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New York Times Finally Notices Obama’s Unilateral Abuse of Power

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April 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm
by Mike Brownfield

Today’s New York Times offers a stunning revelation for anyone who hasn’t been following the news out of Washington for the past three years: President Barack Obama is bypassing Congress and using his executive authority to unilaterally implement his policies of choice, irrespective of the will of the people.

The Times cites an episode last fall when the president declared in a White House meeting “that the administration needed to more aggressively use executive power to govern in the face of Congressional obstructionism.” And so was born the president’s “We Can’t Wait” slogan, which has become a mantra for the Obama Administration’s unilateral form of governance. The Times overlooks the fact that the president’s “new” slogan had been conceived and implemented well before last fall.

After the November 2010 elections, the president — who was suddenly facing a Republican majority in the House after having enjoyed two years of Democrat rule — now had no choice but to compromise with the opposition party if he wanted to get things done legislatively. The thing is, the president didn’t want to compromise — he wanted to enact his agenda. And so he admitted quite plainly that where he could not legislate, he would regulate and do an end run around Congress. In a press conference on November 3, 2010, he discussed how he would apply that method to energy policy:

So I think when it comes to something like energy, what we’re probably going to have to do is say here are some areas where there’s just too much disagreement between Democrats and Republicans, we can’t get this done right now, but let’s not wait.  Let’s go ahead and start making some progress on the things that we do agree on, and we can continue to have a strong and healthy debate about those areas where we don’t.

But energy policy isn’t the only way that President Obama has penned legislation with his own hand instead of choosing the constitutional route — bills getting passed by Congress, arriving at his desk, and then signed into law. On labor laws, immigration, marijuana use, voting rights, the Defense of Marriage Act, regulating the Internet, and making appointments, this president has circumvented the legislative branch via administrative fiat whenever his agenda stalls.

Even when the president legislated, though, he abjured the will of the people. Case in point: Obamacare. Despite pledging that his administration would be the most transparent in history, President Obama hatched Obamacare behind closed doors without the disinfecting light of the media, let alone input from the opposition party. Even worse, special interest groups like Big Labor got a seat at the table while the rest of the country got scraps of information after the main course was over.

Now the president is wearing his “We Can’t Wait” slogan as a badge of honor — and it’s so obvious that even the dean of the mainstream media can’t ignore it.

Posted in Featured, Ongoing Priorities

Is ‘El Chapo’ back in border city of Nuevo Laredo?

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By Dudley Althaus and Dane Schiller
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

MEXICO CITY — Drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman purportedly has come gunning for the vicious Zetas gang on the South Texas border, leaving 14 of their butchered bodies and a message vowing to rid Nuevo Laredo of its criminal scourge as a calling card.

“We have begun to clear Nuevo Laredo of Zetas because we want a free city and so you can live in peace,” proclaims a banner, under which were posed the bodies, as well as the gunmen presumably in Guzman’s employ. “We are narcotics traffickers and we don’t mess with honest working or business people.”

Guzman’s first attempt to seize Nuevo Laredo, bordering Laredo, in 2005 sparked a gangland war with the Zetas and their then-paymasters in the Gulf Cartel. The battles, complete with rocket attacks and massacres, killed more than 300 that year and gave birth to the hyper-violence still tormenting the borderlands and Mexico’s interior.

The Zetas and the Gulf Cartel won that earlier contest. Now Guzman, one of the most wanted men in the hemisphere, looks to be back.

This time he’s presenting himself as a White Knight, succeeding where Mexico’s military and federal police so far have failed in defeating the Zetas and restoring order.

“I’m going to teach these scum to work Sinaloa style,” the banner purportedly signed by Guzman sneers, “without kidnapping, without payoffs, without extortion.”

“As for you, 40,” the banner says, addressing Zetas boss Miguel Treviño by his code name Z-40. “I tell you that you don’t scare me.”

The message also warns Nuevo Laredo’s citizens that anyone who continues paying extortion money to the Zetas would be considered “a traitor.”

“Don’t forget that I’m your true father,” the banner advises in its sign off.

Photos of the mangled corpses first appeared Wednesday on Blog del Narco, a website that often posts up to date crime news in Mexico, and came a day after the 14 bodies were discovered stuffed into a minivan parked near Nuevo Laredo’s city hall. A note left with the bodies declared the victims “traitors.”

“Chapo is going to step up to the plate and become the protector of the poor people against the Zetas,” predicted Mike Vigil, retired chief of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “Obviously it is a vested interest because it behooves him and the other cartels to get rid of the Zetas that are causing a lot of problems for them.”

Vigil is a consultant in Mexico and in regular contact with senior government officials there.

While the banner and the threat it contains appear genuine, its authenticity couldn’t be verified. But officials in Laredo are watching closely.

“There is continued concern but we have dedicated all the resources necessary to ensure we don’t have a spillover on the Laredo side,” said Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas, a retired FBI agent. “Obviously any time we have a situation like this — and other cities on the border would react the same way — we monitor very carefully what happens on the other side of the river.”

Listed by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s wealthiest men, Guzman also is arguably Mexico’s most powerful crime boss. Though widely considered an old-school narcotics trafficker who generally has left civilians in peace, Guzman has been blamed for a number of atrocities in recent years.

The Sinaloan’s four-year struggle for Ciudad Juarez, bordering El Paso, has been blamed for the nearly 10,000 murders tallied there since. Some have credited Juarez’s nearly 40 percent decline in murders in recent months to Guzman’s reported victory in that battle.

Mexico’s other gangs, including Guzman’s have pushed back with the same brutality, dramatically escalating the bloodshed.

“The Zetas are trying to take over the country and they are a tremendous force to be reckoned with,” Vigil said. “It is a situation of fighting fire with fire and I think that you are going to see much more of that as the cartels engage them.”

dudley.althaus@chron.com

dane.schiller@chron.com

Read more: MySA.com

Enough, Mr. President. No More!

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On Monday, Mexican president Felipe Calderon continued Mexico‘s tradition of blaming America for its self-induced problems, and continued his personal habit of blaming America’s gun laws for the fact that his policies have failed to dismantle Mexico’s drug cartels and, regrettably, that his failure has contributed to a severe increase in murders in Mexico.

At a White House news conference held in conjunction with his meeting with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, Calderon essentially repeated the claim he made during a speech to Congress in 2010, that Mexico’s murder rate increased when the U.S. “assault weapon” ban expired.

Through a translator, Calderon said that “The expiring of the assault weapons ban in the year 2004 coincided almost exactly with the beginning of the harshest — the harshest — period of violence we’ve ever seen.”

“Almost exactly?”  As the ban’s leading supporter, then-president Bill Clinton, might have said, “it depends on how you define ‘almost.'”

The ban, which prohibited putting attachments such as adjustable-length stocks and flash suppressors on various semi-automatic firearms, expired in September 2004.  Mexico’s sharp increase in murders began after Calderon launched his war against the drug cartels, within days of taking office in December 2006.

Reliable Mexican crime statistics are hard to come by, but cartel-related killings appear to account for the majority of murders in Mexico, and since Calderon put on Mexico’s presidential sash, cartel-related killings have sharply increased.  A chart prepared by the Center of Research for Development (CIDAC) think tank shows that Mexico’s murder rate was gradually decreasing before Calderon took office, then began to rise after his war on the cartels began.  Cartel-related killings rose from 2,800 in 2007, to 6,800 in 2008, 9,600 in 2009, and 15,000 in 2010.

This is not to blame Calderon for trying to destroy the cartels.  We wish him well in that epic struggle.  But if Calderon overestimated his ability to triumph over the corruption that has been entrenched in Mexico for more than a century, he will find no solution in decrying the expiration of the 1994-2004 ban.  Nor will Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer be able to justify his opinion that NRA is a “cartel” that bears a “huge tacit responsibility in the bloodshed that is taking place in Mexico” because we oppose the ban’s reinstatement.  Since the ban expired, the U.S. murder rate has dropped to about an all-time low, while Mexico’s rate has risen to about an all-time high.  Numbers like those tell the story in any language, clearly enough for any politician or two-cent opinion vendor to understand.

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Texas (Laredo): Arrest of Would-Be ‘Zetas’ Shows Risk of US Military Infiltration

imageWritten by  Geoffrey Ramsey

United States drug enforcement agents have broken up a ring involving former and current US military personnel attempting to work for Mexico’s brutal Zetas drug cartel, illustrating the group’s alarming potential to penetrate the US military.

On March 24, First Lt. Kevin Corley (pictured, at left) and arrived with a three-man team at a warehouse in the border city of Laredo, Texas, armed with two semiautomatic rifles, a combat knife and a .300-caliber bolt-action rifle equipped with a scope. The men believed they had been hired by the Zetas to carry out a contracted killing and raid of a rival drug trafficking group’s storehouse, and had been called to receive the final details of the assignment.  What they didn’t know, however, was that they were targets of an elaborate sting operation organized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

For the past six months, Corley had been speaking with DEA agents posing as Zetas representatives, and had promised both to carry out “wet work” (a military euphemism for assassinations) for the cartel as well as equip and train Zetas members in military tactics. According to a federal indictment (.pdf), Corley claimed that his status as an active duty soldier made it easy for him to pilfer weaponry from his post in Colorado, and demonstrated this by providing the agents with bulletproof vests, training manuals and other stolen military equipment.

However, after receiving phony instructions from the undercover operatives in the warehouse, the four men found themselves surrounded by federal law enforcement officers. Although agents killed one of the suspects while attempting to make an arrest, the remaining three were taken into custody. Two other accomplices based in South Carolina were arrested in conjunction with the sting operation.

While the fact that six US citizens were so completely willing to work for the Zetas is disturbing, the most worrisome aspect of this case is the fact that all four members of the would-be “kill team” (with the exception of the individual killed by federal agents, who was a cousin of Corley’s) were either current or former members of the US military.

This is a troubling reminder that US military personnel are not immune to the kinds of incentives that lure their military counterparts in Mexico into joining the Zetas. The Zetas’ links to the Mexican military have been a trademark of the group since their early days working as the enforcement wing of the Gulf Cartel. Their original 31 founders were all ex-members of the Mexican special forces, and today the group is thought to have deeply penetrated the military in the states of Hidalgo, Chihuahua and Tabasco, as well as other parts of the country. As the drug gang’s trafficking networks have grown, they have expanded their recruitment pool to include members of security forces in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Until now, however, there had been no hard proof evidence that the cartel was capable of hiring US-trained military professionals to carry out its work.  These arrests show that there is a very real possibility of such a trend, no doubt sounding alarm bells for US drug enforcement agents already concerned about the prospect of “spillover violence” in the American southwest.

The case is especially relevant in light of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s recent warnings that the US military is facing “significant criminal threat” from gangs within its ranks. In the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment released in October, the FBI names some 50 criminal organizations that count both current and ex-soldiers among their members. The list includes the Zetas, as well as a handful of transnational street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Barrio 18 and Barrio Azteca. Although they represent only a tiny fraction of veterans and servicemen, the FBI cautions that many gang members enlist in order to “receive weapons and combat training that they may transfer back to their gang.” The report also notes an uptick in gang-related graffiti in military bases overseas.

This phenomenon is a threat not only to the US, but to other countries in the hemisphere as well. If enough members of transnational criminal organizations acquire military expertise in the US, there is a chance that they will share these skills with affiliate cells in other countries in the region, potentially giving them a leg up against local officials. As InSight Crime has pointed out, many gangs already have the organizational infrastructure in place to do so. Both of El Salvador’s largest “maras” (street gangs) got their start in US prisons, and still maintain a strong presence in major cities like Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

Despite these concerns, the US military is a long way from seeing the kind of criminal penetration that plagues the Mexican army. That all six members of the “Zetas” plot had been under surveillance for months and eventually apprehended is a testament to the success that US law enforcement has had in foiling such criminal endeavors. Even still, with the Zetas growing more and more sophisticated, the risk of infiltration grows greater, and the US military may need to step up its internal monitoring to prevent this.

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Texas (Austin): Yassine Brothers Funneled Money To Hezbollah

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Owners of some of Austin’s most lucrative nightclubs were dealing in drugs, laundering the money through the clubs then funneling it to a family member with ties to a terrorist group in the Middle East, according to federal authorities.

During bond hearings in federal court in Austin Tuesday, an Internal Revenue Service investigator said Hussein “Mike” Ali Yassine and Mohammed “Steve Austin” Ali Yassine sent money in $2,500 increments to their uncle, Mohammed Ishmael in Lebanon.

Authorities say he is associated with Hezbollah, a militant group and political party in Lebanon.  The U.S. Department of State lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

The Yassines, their brother, Hadi Ali Yassine and seven business associates were arrested last week on narcotics trafficking, money laundering and firearm charges.

Yassine Enterprises owns nine nightclubs — Pure, Stack, Fuel, Spill, Kiss & Fly, Hyde, Roial, Malaia and Treasure Island.  The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has temporarily shut down the clubs.

Tuesday Hussein Ali Yassine and Mohammed Ali Yassine were denied bond.  Four were granted bond — Hadi Yassine, Marisse “Madi” Marthe Ruales, Amar Thabet Araf and Sami Derder.  No decision has been made on bond requests for Nizar “Nino” Hakiki, Karim Faiq, Edgar Orsini and Alejandro Melendrez.

During three hours of testimony, Assistant U. S. Attorney Gregg Sofer questioned Randall Gillette, special agent with the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency and James Neff, criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service.

The agents explained its undercover sting operation in which a confidential source was used to arrange two sales of cocaine between Steve Yassine and Nizar Hakiki.  The agents testified the proceeds from the deals were then funneled through Yassine`s nightclubs and Famous Vodka, owned by Hadi Yassine, the third brother.

Neff also stated in the hearing that the business was reporting income of $1 to $2 million when it actually was taking in between $7 and $10 million.

According to testimony, the Texas Comptroller‘s Office has frozen Mike Yassine’s accounts.  It was also revealed that he has bank accounts in Switzerland and Lebanon.

Several of the defendants are under investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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