Breaking Bad- Not just for Albuquerque high school chemistry teachers anymore!
NEW MEXICO: In a development that seemed like all it was missing was Agent Hank Schrader, the Albuquerque, NM office of the DEA announced a series of arrests in New Mexico stemming from an alleged marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine distribution network that included an Albuquerque fireman and two pecan farmers in Southern New Mexico.
[A]uthorities arrested nine people, including the owners of a southern New Mexico pecan farm, in connection with a trafficking and money laundering ring that involved cocaine and heroin.Meanwhile, a 7 year veteran of the Albuquerque Fire Department was ordered to remain jailed until trial after being arrested by Federal Agents.
Prosecutors said the owners and operators of Pettit Farms and Nursery in Anthony, N.M., and their two sons were among those arrested Thursday. They were identified as Oscar Portillo Sr., his wife Sandra Portillo and sons Matthew Portillo and Oscar Portillo Jr.
According to a 24-count indictment, the farm was used as a place to store and sell drugs.
A team of federal, state and local law enforcement officers arrested the defendants Thursday and executed four search warrants, including one at the farm and three others at residences in El Paso, Texas.
Federal prosecutors said the Portillos allegedly sold drugs to an undercover agent on five separate occasions.
The indictment claims the couple asked the undercover agent to pay for the drugs with money orders which they subsequently cashed and deposited into bank accounts in the name of the farm. The agent was provided with invoices asserting that the agent had purchased pecan trees.
Officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration said the investigation targeted a ring that agents believed was responsible for the transportation of cocaine and marijuana shipments from Chihuahua, Mexico, to the U.S.
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An Albuquerque firefighter charged as part of a ring dealing drugs and laundering money with connections to a Mexican drug cartel will stay behind bars until he goes to trialChavez's alleged double-life brings to mind the fictitious Walter White from the AMC TV show Breaking Bad. In that series, Bryan Cranston portrays a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque who begins cooking methamphetamine with one of his former students as a quick means of leaving money behind for his family after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested Steve Chavez last week along with 10 others in a major drug trafficking and money laundering operation.
The indictment alleges Chavez's role included shuffling nearly $350,000 in drug money in and out of bank accounts over several weeks last summer.
The feds searched his home where they said they found several loaded guns in the attic. They also reported finding an Uzi-style gun in Chavez's car along with an ounce of cocaine.
The feds added Chavez was dealing because he tested negative for drugs.
The judge said he was concerned about the drugs and types of guns found.
He was also worried that Chavez and other defendants had been spying on DEA at their offices.
A DEA agent testified Tuesday that Chavez talked about that after he was taken in for questioning
DURANGO: A top aide to fugitive Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman was shot and killed when a Special Operations unit of the Mexican Army raided a ranch in the state of Durango last week.
Mexican officials say members of an army special forces unit fatally shot a high-ranking aide to the country's most-wanted drug dealer in a gunfight in the northern state of Durango.Guzman, who remains at large, also landed near the top the Forbes magazine 'Wealthiest People in the World' list.
Army spokesman Gen. Ricardo Trevilla said Monday Luis Alberto Cabrera Sarabia was responsible for the operations of Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel in Durango and part of the neighboring state of Chihuahua.
The army says Sarabia is know as "The Architect," and was named to the role after the December arrest of his brother Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, or "The Engineer."
Sinaloa gunmen traded fire with troops during the operation to arrest Luis Cabrera Sarabia on Friday. One of the gunmen was slain and 11 others were captured. Four soldiers were hurt in the gunfight.
Mass grave in Tamaulipas being unearthed last year.TAMAULIPAS: Police in northern Mexico have arrested a member of Los Zetas who had reportedly confessed to murdering nearly 75 people in the northeastern state. Officials said the arrest was made on January 20, but authorities waited more than a week to make the announcement while details of Enrique Elizondo Flores' confession were being corroborated.
Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Jorge Domene said that Elizondo also admitted to killing at least 36 passengers who were pulled off of buses at gunpoint by masked gunmen last year.
Domene said the 35-year-old suspect told investigators he had been working in the area at least three years and that he was in charge of killing members of the rival Gulf drug cartel heading to the towns of Cerralvo and General Trevino. He and other gunmen last January began pulling passengers off of buses as they arrived at Cerralvo's bus station, Domene said.Last year, Mexican investigators unearthed mass graves near the town of San Fernando, Tamaulipas containing more than 190 bodies- many of them identified as passengers pulled off of buses travelling through Tamaulipas between January and April 2011. Prosecutors say a motive for the mass abductions and killings remains unclear, although they believe that some of the abductions were an attempt to forcibly recruit new members by the Zetas.
They are among at least 92 bus passengers that the Zetas are accused of killing in three attacks in January and March 2011. Many the victims were originally from the central state of Guanajuato and had arrived in Cerralvo from the border city of Reynosa, Domene said.
Elizondo distinguished himself ``for torturing, maiming and then killing his victims,'' Domene said.
A number of police officers from the town of San Fernando were also arrested on suspicion that they were working for the Zetas and complicit in the mass abductions and killings.
ELSEWHERE IN TAMAULIPAS: Federal prosecutors in Mexico said they have launched an investigation of high-ranking officials in the volatile border state.
The probe came to light after it was learned prosecutors asked transportation officials to keep track of when the officials entered or left the country and advise the Federal prosecutors office of their activities. One airport official in Tamaulipas reportedly overstepped his authority and drafted a memo instructing that the targets of the investigation not be allowed to leave the country.
Although the Attorney General's office declined to name the specific individuals under investigation, three former governors of the state of Tamaulipas came forward and told the media they believed they were the ones under scrutiny.
Eugenio Hernandez, who left office in 2010, told local media he did not know why he was under investigation, and denied any links to organized crime.In 2009, Federal officials arrested 12 mayors and 23 other public officials in the western state of Michoacan and charged them with protecting the La Familia cartel. All 35 were later acquited and released.
Tomas Yarrington, whose term ended in 2004, wrote in a Twitter account linked to his website that he had learned he had been named in the case, and said he hoped authorities would explain why.
Manuel Cavazos, who left office in 1999, called the investigation "suspicious ... coming in an election campaign," and suggested it might have political overtones. He denied any wrongdoing.
All the former governors are members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which held Mexico's presidency for 71 years until President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party won the 2000 presidential elections.
The PRI's de-facto presidential candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, currently leads in polls ahead of the July 1 elections.
Cavazos said "it would not be the first time that law enforcement has been used for political purposes, that has been done since 2000."
Cavazos is running for a seat in the Senate, and Pena Nieto was scheduled to visit Tamaulipas on Feb. 2, according to the PRI
TEXAS: A Baytown, TX man received an 8-year Federal Prison sentence after being found guilty of selling weapons to the Zetas cartel, including an AK-47 variant that was recovered from the scene of the Feb 15th 2011 killing of US Customs and Immigration Enforcement Officer Jaime Zapata in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
Manuel Gomez Barba, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty. Barba admitting that he had an intermediary buy the gun from a Beaumont pawn shop, and he had the serial number obliterated before it was sneaked south of the border.It was not disclosed if the rifles that Barba illegally sent to Mexico were part of the BATF's ill-advised Operation Fast & Furious, which involved field-level agents being ordered to let the weapons 'walk' to Mexico while under surveillance.
According to the plea agreement in Houston, Barba recruited "straw purchasers" to buy Century Arms WASR-10 semi-automatic rifles.
Buyers would hand the guns to Barba, who told them they would not be traced back to them because serial numbers were being removed. Barba was not able to legally purchase the guns because he was under deferred adjudication for felony drug charges in Harris County.
NEW YORK: A Texas perfume retailer has been convicted of laundering drug money for the Sinaloa cartel in Manhattan Federal Court earlier this month.
Vikram Datta, 51, an immigrant from India who started his perfume business in Manhattan, showed no emotion as the sentence was meted out by Judge Lewis Kaplan.Datta laundered Sinaloa drug money through what is known as the Black Market Peso Exchange, which became a favorite of Colombian cartels and traffickers beginning in the 1980s.
“The defendant has shown little or no contrition,” said Kaplan, who also ordered Datta to forfeit property and $40 million.
A jury found Datta guilty of using his La Versailles Fragance company to launder narcotics proceeds for the Sinaola Cartel.
“This was a successful businessman taking in a ludicrous amount of cash, tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, a day,” said prosecutor Peter Skinner.
Even before the ascendancy of Pablo Escobar and the Colombian cartels, the Black Market Peso Exchange had been around for decades as a way to circumvent Colombian taxes and controls on foreign currency. Buying and selling dollars at the state-run banks in Colombia meant inviting several unwelcome questions on how those dollars were obtained or how they would be spent. The majority of the Colombian cartels' drugs were purchased in dollars, while the higher-ranking members of the cartels preferred to remain in Colombia- thus needing to conduct most business with Colombian pesos- the cartels and drug traffickers needed to find a way around these controls.
The cartels would eventually start selling the US Dollar-denominated drug money to various black market peso brokers at a discount. The broker would then take the dollars to a wholesaler in the USA and purchase quantities of electronics, appliances, cigarettes, liquor or luxury goods and import them to Colombia for the cartels. After the peso broker gets a cut for arranging the purchase and shipment of goods, the cartels then sell off the items at a slight markup in pesos, effectively laundering their drug proceeds and giving them the pesos they need to continue doing business in Colombia.
While Mexico doesn't have the strict control on foreign currencies that Colombia does, the cartels have adapted the methods of the Black Market Peso Exchange to launder their drug money.
Besides locations in Arizona, California and New York City, Vikram Datta sold perfume in the Texas border town of Laredo beginning in 2000. By 2009, Federal prosecutors allege that he was an experienced money launderer for the Sinaloa cartel. In 2010, Datta was introduced to a man who was identified as a perfume retailer in Baja California Sur but was actually an undercover Federal Agent.
Datta’s illegal transactions started slowly but quickly increased, court documents indicate. Transcripts from wiretaps over the next six months, which were admitted at trial, indicate that Datta accepted a $40,000 infusion to one of his stores in California and later agreed to wire $100,000 to customers in New York. According to court documents, over the course of a two-year government sting, he and other co-conspirators deposited more than $25 million of American currency in dozens of bank accounts.Datta was arrested in New York City in January 2011 while on his way to meet with the undercover agent. So far, 29 people have been charged in the Black Market Peso Exchange investigation- 20 have been convicted.
At one point, prosecutors said, Datta told an undercover agent, posing as a perfume vendor, that his business was “just washing the whole money.” In a conversation that he had with the agent in New York in December 2010, captured on wiretap, Datta said that “a lot of cash is coming to me” and that he was “90 percent sure” that it was “all Sinaloa money.”