Monday, August 11, 2008

Prosecution of "replaceable" cartel smugglers fail to reduce I-35 drug trafficking

Guilty pleas last week by drug traffickers working for Los Zetas, the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel drug trafficking organization, offer rare insight into the mechanics of drug smuggling up and down the I-35 corridor, the Dallas News reports ("Traffickers used I-35 buses to get drugs to Dallas, court records show," Aug. 11):

Raul Castillo, 31, and Jorge Rodriguez, 21, pleaded guilty a week ago in Laredo federal court to charges that they moved up to 600 kilograms of cocaine a week to Dallas between March 2007 and February.

After they were arrested this year, the two Laredo men admitted to federal agents that they worked for Miguel Treviño Morales, a fugitive who is the reputed commander of the Zetas in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Authorities say that locally, a kilogram of cocaine goes for about $25,000, meaning these men are responsible for well over a half-billion dollars worth of narcotics moving up I-35. ...

Mr. Castillo and Mr. Rodriguez both face up to life in prison and more than $4 million in fines.

Five other men also have pleaded guilty in the case: Roberto Camacho, 22, Arturo Palencia, 21, Gustavo Fabian Chapa, 22, and Rene "Rana" Garcia, 29, all of Laredo; and Eduardo "Negro" Carreon-Ibarra, 24, of Nuevo Laredo. Some of them admitted taking part in murders and attempted murders in South Texas.

Court records do not link the five to Dallas-area activity. Two other people allegedly worked with Mr. Castillo and Mr. Rodriguez on the Dallas connection, but their names remain sealed while authorities try to arrest them.

According to court papers, Mr. Castillo and Mr. Rodriguez admitted that they used El Conejo and Turimex passenger buses, as well as tractor-trailers, to transport the drugs from Laredo to Dallas.

When tractor-trailers were used, the men told authorities that they would meet the northbound rigs at a truck stop near Waxahachie. They would take the drugs to a nearby warehouse to a man identified in court papers only as Guero.

Using buses is more complicated, the man told authorities.

Once an El Conejo bus crossed the border into Laredo, the men would wait for it to exit I-35 about four miles inside the city and stop at a restaurant to let passengers eat, court documents say. While everyone was inside the restaurant, Mr. Rodriguez and an accomplice loaded the bus with suitcases brimming with bundles of cocaine.

Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Castillo would then follow the bus in separate vehicles to Dallas. Mr. Rodriguez would then take the bundles to a stash house in Irving.

When they used Turimex buses, the men would first put cocaine-laden suitcases in a Nissan Xterra, then leave it, locked, at a bus station in Laredo. They would leave the vehicle's keys in the fuel door, and, according to court papers, a Turimex employee – not named in court papers – would move the bags into the buses. ...

Mr. Castillo admitted to transporting drug-sale proceeds from Dallas back to Laredo. He said the money went to someone known as El Dentista, who took the money over the border to Mr. Treviño Morales, the reputed Zeta commander.

The Webb County Sheriff's Department caught the men in February taking $870,000 to Laredo, authorities say.

This news follows on the heels of revelations last month that a Collin County deputy constable was working as a snitch for Los Zetas. Last year authorities claimed to have arrested Los Zetas' Dallas-area cell leader and more than 30 others affiliated with the Gulf Cartel, but obviously that didn't slow down the organization, which continued to ship up to 600 kilograms of blow per week from Laredo to Dallas before and after last year's arrests.

Despite the massive amounts of dope involved, the federal prosecutor doesn't appear sanguine about the effectiveness of making these cases:

Jose Angel Moreno, the Laredo federal prosecutor on the case, said it's unclear whether cases like this make a big dent in drug trafficking.

"Everyone is replaceable in these organizations," he said. "We keep chasing them."


Anonymous said...

600 kilos a week works out to 1,320 pounds x 52 weeks a year becomes 34.32 (English) tons a year. TONS. A. YEAR. And this by using relatively primitive means of trans-shipment.

Aircraft intercepted...with tons of blow on board. Ships intercepted at sea...with tons of nose candy below decks. TONS. This, after there's been 'fumigations' of tens of thousands of hectares of coca plants in Colombia since since Plan Colombia/The Andean Initiative was initiated nearly ten years ago.

Yet...the pipeline suffers nary a dent, as there's evidently more where that came from. The cartels just hum merrily along, hardly a speed bump for them. And our politicians keep belting out the same old tune about attacking the 'supply side'.

Maybe there's some truth to the idea that the educational system has precipitated a 'dumbing down' in America; our grandparents knew how to put paid to the likes of Al Capone and his thugs via eliminating their profit base by re-legalizing alcohol. Are we any less intelligent than Gramps was?

Anonymous said...

Hi Grits, an explanation now exists for the federal prosecutors appearance about the effectiveness of making these cases. The DEA led Project Reckoning, part of a coalition of international investigative agencies targeting the Gulf Cartel and its affiliates, has just been completed. Project Reckoning, resulted in more than 500 arrests in the United States, Mexico and Italy. Three alleged leaders of the Gulf Cartel; Ezequiel Cardenas-Guillen, Heriberto Lazcano-Lazcano, Jorge Eduardo Costilla-Sanchez, were among those arrested.

Furthermore, DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart is quoted as saying, "We successfully completed a hard-hitting, coordinated and massive assault on the powerful and extremely violent Gulf Cartel. We have arrested U.S. cell heads, stripped the cartel of $60 million in cash, imprisoned their brutal assassins and significantly disrupted their U.S. infrastructure. DEA will continue our relentless attack against this cartel, aiming to dismantle them and stop the violence they inflict on Southwest Border communities."

As for the writer above, if your country had the money to spend on Coca powder, Crystal Meth, and other dangerous drugs, these guys would have shipped this stuff to your kids.