Tag Archives: DEA

3 Famous Billionaire Drug Kingpins and the Art They Adored

joaquin-el-chapo-guzman

In the wake of the daring prison escape pulled off on July 11 by notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzmán, aka “El Chapo” (shorty), artnet News looked into how big a role art has played in his illicit activities and money laundering.

Continue reading 3 Famous Billionaire Drug Kingpins and the Art They Adored

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60 arrested in El Cajon Chaldean organized crime case

— For its many regulars, the Chaldean social club in El Cajon is a place to drink tea or coffee, play Dominoes and discuss the news of the day.

But federal and local authorities say the social club, tucked in a nondescript brick strip mall behind a metal security door, is also the headquarters of an Iraqi drug- and gun-trafficking organization with ties to a Mexican drug cartel and a Detroit crime syndicate.

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Sixty people associated with the social club at 811 E. Main St. have been arrested over the past 10 days in the investigation, dubbed “Operation Shadowbox,” and investigators were continuing to hunt for others implicated in the scheme.

SWAT teams served search warrants on the club late Wednesday night, seizing more than $16,000 in cash as well as evidence of illegal gambling, authorities said.

The Chaldean social club, at 811 E. Main St., in El Cajon. Investigators allege the club is the hub of an Iraqi drug- and gun-trafficking organization.

More than 100 people inside the club at the time were detained and then released.

The cornerstone of the alleged operation involves club members arranging narcotics shipments from Mexico with help from the Sinaloa drug cartel. The illicit products were then trafficked to the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate in Detroit, officials said.

The syndicate has operated since the early 1980s in Detroit, which has the largest concentration of Chaldeans in the nation, and has been associated with crimes including murder, arson, money laundering, fraud, human smuggling, kidnapping and armed robbery.

The El Cajon area boasts the second-largest concentration of Chaldeans, with a population of more than 47,000.

Undercover agents made several drug buys over eight months, in El Cajon and around San Diego County, with the amounts getting bigger and bigger, said El Cajon Police Chief Pat Sprecco. Agents and confidential informants also purchased or were offered guns, explosives and even a hand grenade supplied from a Mexican military source.

The operation began in January, two months after Sprecco asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for help to combat a spike in drug sales and violence on the city’s streets.

After a number of hand-to-hand undercover drug buys, investigators realized all roads led to the social club, Sprecco said.

The club has long been a source of complaints from the public and a suspected hub of criminal activity, officials said.

Crimes documented there have included attempted murder, drug sales, gambling, illegal liquor sales and firearms sales.

Complaints have also been plentiful over the years. Wives of men who attend the club have complained about how their family’s money is being gambled away.

Neighbors have complained about drug sales and prostitution. Even club members have registered their distaste for a criminal element hanging around the club.

Investigators learned that the club managers were aware of the criminal activity and demanded a portion of the proceeds. Armed guards are often on hand during high stakes card games, Sprecco said.

There have been a number of busts and arrests at the club over the years, including a 1998 investigation into illegal gambling and a 2009 probe of gun and grenade sales.

Infiltrating the tight community of Iraqis proved to be difficult, Sprecco said. Help from the DEA, as well as from a host of state and federal agencies, helped strike at the heart of the organization this time, he said.

“We didn’t expect this level of success,” Sprecco said. “We were happily surprised with the inroads of this investigation.”

Eight defendants, including one of the alleged leaders, Nofel Noel Suleyman, 22, were arraigned in federal court in San Diego Thursday afternoon, and a ninth has also been indicted.

At least 21 defendants are being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office, mostly on methamphetamine-related charges.

Other agencies that participated included Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, Internal Revenue Service, sheriff’s and FBI bomb squads, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“This is one case that has the ability to have a real impact on life and on the enjoyment of the quality of life,” said San Diego U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.

The investigation has culminated in the seizure of more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine; more than 5 pounds of ecstasy, pharmaceuticals, crack cocaine, heroin and cocaine; and more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana, most of which was likely smuggled through maritime routes controlled by the Sinaloa Federation.

The cartel, headed by one of the world’s most wanted men, Joaquin “El Chapo,” Guzman Loera, has recently been allowed access to areas the Tijuana cartel once controlled.

Investigators also seized more than $630,000 in cash, three luxury cars, 34 firearms and four improvised explosive devices. The club has been shut down by the city and will undergo an abatement process.

Several club patrons said Thursday that for the most part the club hosted good Chaldeans who were just there to socialize. But they said the club also drew a bad element, with illegally stashed liquor and people doing drugs in the back alley late at night.

Saud Khairo, who has run the Kevin’s Hair Salon barbershop at the front of the strip mall for 12 years, said he hopes the raid will help his business by bringing back customers who may have been scared away by the club’s activities.

Mark Arabo, a local Chaldean and president of the Neighborhood Market Association, applauded police for making the city safer.

“This in no way, not even a half of one percent, is representational of the Chaldean community at large,” Arabo said. “Chaldeans are hardworking, great family people, Christians and give back to the community. There are so many great things Chaldeans do for the community, so this just comes as a shock.”

US Drug Agency Says It Knows Exactly Where ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Is

The U.S. antinarcotics agency believe the drug lord is in Sinaloa, where a source told teleSUR he was after his escape.

Almost four weeks after the escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the U.S. government released a statement saying it believes the world’s most powerful and most wanted drug lord is still in Mexico.

Guzman is more than likely in Sinaloa state, they say, a suspicion shared by a source with teleSUR immediately after his alleged jailbreak.

Chuck Rosenberg, acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, told reporters U.S. federal agents are working with Mexican authorities on the recapture of Guzman, who supposedly fled the maximum security Almoloya de Juarez jail through a mile-long tunnel leading directly from his cell to an empty house.

“Where is he (Guzman) probably the safest and best protected?” Rosenberg asked during a press conference and replied.

“Probably in Sinaloa.” Guzman and his closest associate, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, run the Sinaloa cartel. They control large swaths of land, from just outside the Sinaloan capital Culiacan all the way up to Badiraguato, the municipality where El Chapo was born. He also said he was “not terribly surprised” to find out that Guzman had broken out of prison for a second time.

In 2001, he escaped the El Puente Grande maximum security jail in the northern state of Jalisco and was recaptured early 2014. The DEA official criticized the Mexican government, saying it had “institutional problems” that make sharing intelligence gathering very difficult.

“We have sources in Mexico we can work closely with. It doesn’t extend throughout the entire government,” he said at the briefing with reporters. Rosenberg said the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and the State Department are involved in the recapture of Guzman.

His statement comes the same day the DEA launched a new poster offering a US$5-million reward for information that will lead to Guzman’s recapture. Mexico has offered close to US$4 million.

DEA chief confident escaped ‘El Chapo’ will be found again

Ridley Scott targets Mexican drug-war thriller The Cartel

Ridley Scott is to direct an adaptation of Don Winslow’s Mexican drug-war thiller The Cartel, after the rights to the novel were acquired by 20th Century Fox after a fierce bidding contest, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The Cartel, which was published shortly before the infamous jailbreak of real-life cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, became the subject of considerable Hollywood interest after Guzmán’s escape made global news.

It is set during the narco-terror of the period 2004-10, and follows a DEA agent and a cartel operative as they try to take each other down.

According to a report in Deadline, Fox stumped up around $6m for rights to The Cartel as well as an earlier Winslow novel, The Power of the Dog, which features the same characters, and writers’ fees.

Scott’s commitment to directing the film was apparently instrumental in securing the deal, in the face of rival bids from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way production company.

However, DiCaprio’s interest in the project means that he is being actively courted to play the DEA agent.

Scott is currently completing the space-survival thriller The Martian, starring Matt Damon, and could take this on once that is completed. DiCaprio, likewise, has finished shooting the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed western The Revenant.

DEA agents allegedly had ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes hired by drug cartels

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Drug Enforcement Agency agents allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels, according to an inspector general report released Thursday by the Justice Department.

“The foreign officer allegedly arranged ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes funded by the local drug cartels for these DEA agents at their government-leased quarters, over a period of several years,” the report said.

According to Politico, the alleged “sex parties” took place in Colombia from 2005 to 2008. The report didn’t appear to name the agents involved but seven admitted to attending them and were subsequently punished with short suspensions.

The report further accused the agents of creating “security risks” by allowing the prostitute parties to occur around sensitive government equipment. (According to complaints, the parties were “loud.”)

“In particular, the Inspector said that she explained to [Office of Professional Responsibility] management that the fact that most of the ‘sex parties’ occurred in government-leased quarters where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices, and other government-issued equipment were present created potential security risks for the DEA and for the agents who participated in the parties, potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion,” the report said.

The agents involved “should have known” the parties were funded by the drug cartels, the report also declared.

“Although some of the DEA agents participating in these parties denied it, the information in the case file suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds. A foreign officer also alleged providing protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” it said. “The foreign officers further alleged that in addition to soliciting prostitutes, three DEA SSAs [special agents] in particular were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members.”

Other troubling allegations were also detailed in the inspector general report. In another case involving prostitutes, DEA agents frequently attended a brother, and a prostitute was allegedly assaulted after a payment disagreement.

“We found that a Regional Director, an Acting Assistant Regional Director (AARD), and a Group Supervisor failed to report … repeated allegations of DEA Special Agents (SA) patronizing prostitutes and frequenting a brothel while in an overseas posting, treating these allegations as local management issues,” the report said. “It was also alleged that one of the subjects in the supervisors’ group assaulted a prostitute following a payment dispute.”

The allegations were part of a broader investigation into how the Justice Department’s law-enforcement agencies handle sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. The report found issues with other agencies besides the DEA, including the FBI and US Marshals Service.

One FBI manager was faulted for failing to report one of his employee’s repeated unprofessional behavior, including cornering his subordinates in their cubicles and displaying the size of his genitals by tightening his pants, making graphic and inappropriate sexual comments and gestures, and otherwise creating a hostile work environment.”

The inspector general called out the DEA and the FBI in particular for being uncooperative with parts of the investigation.

This post will be updated with additional information shortly. Last updated at 11:09 a.m.

How Mexican drug cartels are reacting to marijuana legalization in the U.S.

Mexican cartels are often compared to corporations. And in some ways they are. Like any international business, they are constantly innovating and adapting to compete in one of the fiercest capitalist markets of all: the transnational drug trade.

Legalization advocates argue that Mexican cartels are taking a hit from the gradual legalization of marijuana in the United States, which has allowed U.S. consumers in a handful of states to purchase domestically grown weed.

While some analysts remain skeptical about the impact legalization is having on the overall cartel business, there are indications that these criminal organizations are adjusting to shifts in the marketplace by targeting domestic consumption, diversifying their product offering, and tapping unexploited areas of criminal opportunity.

“Approximately 30 percent of cartels’ drug export revenues come from marijuana,” Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope told Fusion. “In the long term, Mexican marijuana could be displaced by legal production in the United States.”

Hope says there’s still a market niche for Mexico’s lower-end drug trade weed, since legal marijuana in states like Washington and Colorado is more expensive.

“Complete substitution has not gone into effect,” he said, “The market is definitely changing, but cartel adaptation will happen in years not months.”

There are other signs of market disruption. In some instances, the entire flow of the drug trade has changed course. DEA spokesman Lawrence Payne told NPR last year that “Sinaloa operatives in the United States are reportedly buying high-potency American marijuana in Colorado and smuggling it back into Mexico for sale to high-paying customers.”

Mexico is still a limited market. Overall, Mexicans are nowhere near American consumption levels. But according to a 2014 study published by Mexican research university CIDE, the latest government reports “suggest that the number of consumers in Mexico is considerable.” The study says that a 2010-2011 national poll reported 1.2 million drug users.

Mexican cartels are also diversifying the types of drugs they smuggle. The 2014 UN World Drug Report found a “large increase” in the number of methamphetamine laboratories seized in Mexico and the United States.

In 2012 “Mexico dismantled 259 methamphetamine laboratories, up from a few dozen a few years earlier, and it reported the world’s largest aggregate amount of seizures of methamphetamine for the period 2010-2012,” the report found.

The increased availability of methamphetamine drugs in the U.S. is “directly related to high levels of methamphetamine production in Mexico,” according to the DEA and U.S. Department of Justice 2014 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary. The report notes that meth and heroin seizures have increased dramatically along the border while marijuana busts remained stable from 2010 to 2013.

“Between 2013 and 2014, U.S. Customs and Border Protection saw an increase in seizures of heroin, up 5.2 percent, and methamphetamine, up 9.8 percent,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection media spokesman Carlos Lazo told Fusion. “During the same time, CBP saw a decrease in seizures of 20.9 percent in marijuana, a decrease of 3 percent in cocaine, and a decrease of 87.7 percent in ecstasy.”

If those trends are accurate, it would mark the beginning of an important market shift, according to Javier Osorio, a professor and criminal violence researcher at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

“Assuming that marijuana is legalized entirely in the United States, the quality of American pot could displace Mexican pot … between 16 and 20 percent of Mexican drug trafficking income could be affected,” Osorio told Fusion.

The problem, he warned, is that cartels don’t play by normal business rules.

“Cartels have a competitive advantage. They specialize in violence, and they will not hesitate to use it in order to enforce their product above better quality and other factors.”
– Javier Osorio

Legalization advocates remain hopeful that legalizing marijuana will weaken the cartels.

“The competitive advantage of criminal organizations stems from their proficiency in violence, intimidation and smuggling, none of which are essential to compete in legal markets,” Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told Fusion. “One would expect the more sophisticated drug-trafficking organizations to try to adapt to marijuana legalization in the US, but in the long run they will not be able to compete with a legal industry, just as Al Capone and his ilk ultimately lost out to a legally regulated alcohol industry.”

Indeed, the cartels, which have the manpower and resources, are already involved in other illicit business ventures, including extortion, kidnapping, oil trafficking, and trafficking of persons, to name a few. And some analysts think that’s a natural progression that’s not necessarily related to the legalization of marijuana in states like Colorado and Washington.

“These groups diversified before legalization took place,” said Georgetown University professor and security expert John Bailey.

Ultimately, he said, the fate of Mexican black-market weed could be determined by price points established in legal U.S. markets.

“In the early marijuana legalization phase local governments need to decide what price to set on marijuana,” Bailey told Fusion.

If the price is not too high, cartels could be snubbed out of the biggest marijuana market in the world.

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