COAHUILLA- More than 130 inmates charged with Federal crimes escaped from a prison in Piedras Negras earlier this month after constructing a tunnel and cutting through a chain link fence. The prison that the inmates escaped from is reportedly less than two miles from the border with Texas.
Authorities in Coahuila state discovered a seven-yard long tunnel, ropes and electric cables they believe were used in the break from the prison in Piedras Negras, according to state Attorney General Homero Ramos Gloria.The majority of the escapees were identified as members of the Zetas and reportedly coerced other inmates to aid them in the jailbreak to help replenish their ranks. Three women thought to be escapees were discovered in the visitor's area of the prison after the mass escape, claiming they were threatened by some of the escaping inmates.
The prison's director and two other employees were detained for an investigation into the escape of 132 prisoners, Mr Ramos said. The prison houses roughly 730 inmates.
"The fugitives used the tunnel which had an entry and exit hole with a 4-foot diameter," he said. "They cut the chain-link material outside and one by one they got out to a piece of land."
Federal police units and Mexican army convoys were deployed to search for the inmates and authorities in Coahuila state offered rewards of up to $15,000 for information leading to the arrests of each prisoner. Visitors were kicked out of the prison but stayed outside waiting for news of relatives.
Mr Ramos said in a press conference that 86 of the inmates were serving sentences or pending trials for federal crimes, such as drug trafficking, and the rest faced state charges. He said police are investigating a deadly shoot-out 160 miles south of Piedras Negras after the prison break to determine if any of the four people killed were one of the fugitives.
Mass jailbreaks and collusion between incarcerated cartel members and their jailers has been problematic since President Calderon began a crackdown against Mexico's drug cartels in 2006. Some states that are supposed to incarcerate inmates convicted on Federal charges have complained there's a shortage of space in their prison systems as well as qualified corrections officers.
In July 2010, guards at a Durango prison were placed under arrest by Federal police officers after it was learned certian inmates were released from their cells and carried out contract killings using prison vehicles and rifles from the armoury.
In February of this year, the Zetas killed at least 40 members of the rival Gulf Cartel during a prison riot that was cover for the escape of some 30 high ranking members of Los Zetas. In December 2010, at least 141 inmates escaped from a Nuevo Leon prison. In 2009, a number of men dressed as police officers showed up at a prison in the state of Zacatecas and simply escorted 53 inmates- many of them high ranking cartel members- out the front door. Mass prison breaks have also taken place in the states of Tamaulipas and Veracruz in recent years.
UPDATE- 10/1: Mexico's Ministry of National Defense is reporting that seven more escapees were arrested in Nuevo Laredo on Sunday evening.
WASHINGTON DC- Not quite 10 days after the Department of Justice Inspector General's released its report on Operation Fast And Furious- which was basically the White House and Eric Holder stonewalling his own Justice Department- Spanish language TV network Univision has launched an investigative report on the ATF's gunwalking program. The Univison piece also has reportedly uncovered a number of murder victims and seized weapons overlooked by the House Oversight Committee investigation earlier this year.
In the report, Univision identifies a total of 57 more previously unreported firearms that were bought by straw purchasers monitored by ATF during Operation "Fast and Furious," and then recovered in Mexico in sites related to murders, kidnappings and other actions by Mexican hit men and drug cartels.A number of websites have made a 9 and a half minute portion of the Univision report available online with English subtitles [see above]. In addition to Fast and Furious guns turning up at scores of crime scenes in Mexico, two weapons traced back to Operation Fast And Furious were found at the scene of the December 2010 murder of US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in southern Arizona.
The report also reveals that the Obama administration may have indirectly played a role in the 2009 massacre, where 18 young men were killed at a rehabilitation center in the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez. The massacre was reportedly ordered and carried out by Mexican hit men.
According to a Mexican army document obtained by Univision, three of the high caliber weapons used in the attack were linked to a gun tracing operation run by the ATF. The partial transcript obtained by Fox News did not specify whether this was Operation "Fast and Furious," or another similar ATF operation.
Aside from some investigative journalism from CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson [the first reporter to get an ATF whistleblower to come forward on the record- NANESB!] and local coverage in Arizona, the only time Fast and Furious received any mention in the American press was to either question the credibility of ATF whistleblowers and deflect culpability away from high-ranking Justice Department officials or call for stricter gun control in the United States while citing the ongoing violence in Mexico.
SONORA- Mexican Federal Police announced that they had arrested a suspect in the December 2010 slaying of US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. On September 7th, Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza was taken into custody in the state of Sonora.
Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza is one of the five men charged with killing Terry in December 2010 during a shootout in Arizona near the Mexico border. One is on trial in Arizona and the other three remain fugitives. Sanchez was arrested Thursday in Sonora state.Under the current extradition treaty with Mexico, despite being accused of a capital offense, Meza and the remaining fugitives cannot be extradited to the United States if any of them face the death penalty.
In July, U.S. authorities made a rare disclosure linked to the botched gun-smuggling probe, revealing identities and requesting the public's help in capturing the four fugitives accused in the shooting death of Terry.
The release of the suspects' identities in an unsealed indictment came with the offer of a $1 million reward for information leading to their capture.
The FBI said it was seeking information related to Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, 31, Ivan Soto-Barraza, 34, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, 34, and a man identified as Lionel Portillo-Meza, which Mexican police said was an alias of the man arrested Thursday in Puerto Penasco, Sonora.
Portillo-Meza's age and birthplace were unavailable. The other three fugitives were born in Mexico, but their hometowns were not available.
All five men have been charged with murder. They also face charges of assaulting four federal agents.
FBI agents declined to discuss which fugitive is suspected of firing the shot that killed Terry. They also would not comment on whether the weapon was linked to an Operation Fast and Furious purchase.
The five men, plus another who faces lesser charges in the case, went to the U.S. from Mexico in order to rob marijuana smugglers, the indictment said.
TEXAS- A Texas State University professor is accused of owning at least two houses that were purchased with laundered drug money, according to a lawsuit filed by the IRS in San Antionio this month.
Sindy Chapa, an assistant journalism professor at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX is also an ex-girlfriend of embattled former Tamaulipas governor Conrad Yarrington, who is accused by law enforcement on both sides of the border of laundering payoff money from the Gulf Cartel through real estate holdings in Texas.
Chapa reportedly owns a home in Kyle, TX worth an estimated $273,000 and another porterty in McAllen, TX worth $357,400. According to a public database, Chapa reportedly makes $58,000 a year as a professor. Although the IRS is seeking forefeiture of her two properties, she hasn't been formally accused of any crime.
The professor and former Yarrington beau did not show up for her Thurday night classes at the beginning of the semester, leaving a substitute to fill in.
SAN LUIS POTOSI- Mexico's Navy has taken advantage of some infighting among the Zetas and captured a former high-ranking member nicknamed 'El Taliban' who had broken with the cartel in recent months.
Ivan Velázquez Caballero, 42, was dragged Wednesday evening from a safe house in a middle class neighborhood in the city of San Luis Potosi. Though accompanied by two bodyguards, Velázquez apparently was seized without a shot being fired. He and his two alleged accomplices were presented to the media early Thursday.Caballero had reportedly sought to work with the Knights Templar and Gulf Cartels- the latter being former benefactors for the Zetas until a very high profile and bloody split where the Zetas went into business for themselves around 2009. The Knights Templar is based primarily out of Michoacan and quickly stepped in to fill the void after the leaders of the cult-like La Familia Michoacana cartels were either killed or arrested by Federal Police last year.
Mexico's government put a $2.5 million price on Velázquez's head last spring. He also faces a U.S. criminal indictment on drug-trafficking charges in the Houston-based Southern District of Texas.
Velázquez's arrest came hours after marines captured 18 alleged Zetas gunmen close to the border upriver from McAllen, an area that lately has been considered Gulf Cartel territory. But running battles also erupted later Wednesday between marines and gunmen in the center of Piedras Negras, which shares the Rio Grande with Eagle Pass and is considered to be under Treviño's sway.
Earlier this month, Mexican Marines arrested a top member of the Gulf Cartel in the Tamaulipas city of Altamira.