Tom Diaz

Posts Tagged ‘ICE’

INSPECTOR GENERAL: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE GANG INTELLIGENCE ISN’T

In Crime, Gangs, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, politics, Transnational crime, Turf Wars, Washington Bureaucracy on November 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Department of Justice Inspector General Report: DOJ's Two Major Anti-Gang Intelligence Units "Are Not Contributing Significantly to the Department's Anti-Gang Initiatives."

If a tree falls in the courtyard of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC, would anybody notice in Yakima, Washington?

Not if it involves the two units in the department charged with developing national anti-gang intelligence and coordination systems — at least,  according to the department’s inspector general.  In dispassionate, almost clinical language, a just-issued report by the IG’s staff pretty much trashed both the FBI-based National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) and the DOJ-based Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center (GangTECC).

The IG staff reports that “after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.”

A key recommendation — that the department consider merging the two rival siblings — is the kind of good government idea that could set off a classic turf war.

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

The following excerpts from the 63-page report — “A Review of the Department’s Anti-Gang Intelligence and Coordination Centers,” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Evaluation and Inspections Division (November 2009) — cover the major points:

A Review of the Department’s Anti-Gang Intelligence and Coordination Centers

In January 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that the Department had taken several steps to address gang violence. Among those efforts were the establishment of three new entities: (1) the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), which was established by statute in January 2006, integrates the gang intelligence assets of all DOJ agencies and other partner agencies; (2) the National Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center (GangTECC), established in June 2006 by the Attorney General, serves as a central coordinating center for multi-jurisdictional gang investigations; and (3) the Gang Unit, another Attorney General initiative created in September 2006, develops and implements strategies to attack the most significant gangs and serves as the prosecutorial arm of the Department’s efforts against violent gangs.

….

Our review found that, after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.

National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC)

NGIC was established by statute in January 2006 to “collect, analyze, and disseminate gang activity information” from various federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutorial, and corrections agencies.5 The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used existing resources from its Criminal Intelligence Section to establish NGIC. The public law that established NGIC also charged the FBI with administering NGIC as a multi-agency center where intelligence analysts from federal, state, and local law enforcement work together to develop and share gang-related information. NGIC was to provide a centralized intelligence resource for gang information and analytical support to law enforcement agencies. For fiscal year (FY) 2008, NGIC’s budget was $6.6 million and, as of June 2009 there were a total of 27 staff at the NGIC.

Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordinating Center (GangTECC)

On February 15, 2006, Attorney General Gonzales announced plans to create a new national anti-gang task force as part of an initiative to combat gangs and gang violence. On June 26, 2006, GangTECC began operations under the leadership of the Department’s Criminal Division. Its mission is to bring together the Department’s operational law enforcement components and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify, prioritize, and target violent street gangs whose activities pose a significant multi-jurisdictional threat. According to its Concept of Operations, GangTECC is intended to coordinate overlapping investigations, ensure that tactical and strategic intelligence is shared between law enforcement agencies, and serve as a central coordinating and deconfliction center. Unlike NGIC, GangTECC is not authorized a separate budget by statute. Instead, costs are borne by the contributing agencies. As of early 2009, there were a total of 17 GangTECC staff members.

Our review found that, after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.

Most importantly, NGIC has not established a gang information database for collecting and disseminating gang intelligence as directed by statute. NGIC is perceived as predominately an FBI organization, and it has not developed the capability to effectively share gang intelligence and information with other law enforcement organizations.

In contrast, we found that GangTECC has no budget and lacks the resources to carry out its mission. We also found that the Criminal Division has not filled an attorney position at GangTECC that is intended to enable it to provide guidance to law enforcement officials conducting gang investigations and prosecutions. In addition, because GangTECC’s member agencies and the United States Attorneys’ Offices (USAO) are not required to inform GangTECC of their investigations and prosecutions, GangTECC cannot effectively deconflict the Department’s gang-related activities as directed by the Deputy Attorney General. Further, GangTECC’s efforts to publicize its priority gang targets have lagged.

As a result of the above, NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively providing investigators and prosecutors with “one-stop shopping” for gang information and assistance, and they are not contributing significantly to the Department’s anti-gang initiatives.

NGIC has not developed a gang information database as directed by Congress.

NGIC planned to create and maintain a library of gang identification information and make that library available to investigators, prosecutors, and other law enforcement staff. In addition, NGIC planned to establish electronic bridges to federal, state, and local information technology systems to connect disparate federal and state databases containing gang information or intelligence.

However, technological limitations and operational problems have inhibited NGIC from deploying a gang information database. For example, NGIC has not developed the electronic bridges necessary to allow it to access information from states that have technologically disparate databases on gangs. In addition, performance issues with a contractor contributed to the delay in the development of the gang library. As of July 2009, the information management system and electronic bridges have not progressed beyond the development phase. Unless NGIC can obtain a technical solution for bridging these databases, NGIC’s ability to use existing gang information will be very limited.

NGIC is not effectively sharing gang intelligence and information.

To effectively share gang intelligence and information, NGIC must know the needs of the law enforcement personnel who are its customers and ensure they are aware of the NGIC’s capability to support their gang-related investigations and prosecutions.

We found that NGIC has few regular users outside of the FBI, GangTECC, and itself. These three organizations accounted for 64 percent of all requests received by NGIC. The remaining 36 percent of the requests were distributed among 15 other customer groups. With respect to the “state, local, and tribal law enforcement” customer group, our analysis showed that few requests came from these potential customers. This customer group encompasses the majority of law enforcement agencies and personnel in the United States – over 30,000 agencies and 700,000 sworn officers – and has the greatest interactions with criminally active gangs in the United States. Yet, despite its large size, this customer group made an average of only 3 requests per year and submitted only 13 of the 213 total requests for information received by NGIC from its inception in 2006 to February 2009.

In discussions with the NGIC and GangTECC personnel and other law enforcement officials about why NGIC was not used more frequently by law enforcement agencies, we found that NGIC was not perceived as an independent, multi-agency center by many of the law enforcement personnel we interviewed. It was repeatedly referred to as being “FBI-centric” in the products it generates and the intelligence analysis that it provides.

We also found that, in the 38-month period we examined, NGIC responded to only about six requests a month. While this increased to about 17 requests a month in the first 5 months of FY 2009, that number is still small given NGIC’s staffing of 20 intelligence analysts. NGIC management attributed the small number of requests to the law enforcement community’s unfamiliarity with NGIC – despite the Center’s attempts to advertise its presence – and to NGIC personnel not recording all the requests they received.

Although GangTECC’s operational guidance states that it is intended to be a major user of NGIC’s gang intelligence services, its use remains limited.

GangTECC has insufficient resources to carry out its mission of coordinating gang investigations and prosecutions.

GangTECC has a broad, multi-purpose mission, but only 12 members and no operating budget. Participating components are required to contribute staff to GangTECC and pay their salaries out of their own budgets. The lack of an operating budget has prevented GangTECC managers from taking actions essential to its operations, including hosting case coordination meetings and conducting effective outreach to the law enforcement community. Almost all GangTECC members we interviewed, as well as the GangTECC Director and Criminal Division officials, stressed that the lack of an operating budget is the biggest hindrance for GangTECC, particularly when it prevents the GangTECC personnel from fully participating in case coordination meetings.

Coordination efforts. Organizing and participating in case coordination meetings is central to GangTECC’s mission to identify common targets between law enforcement agencies. GangTECC identifies opportunities to coordinate gang investigations with multiple law enforcement agencies and attempts to organize case coordination meetings to bring together federal, state, and local investigators, analysts, and prosecutors to share information. Successfully coordinated cases may enable charges to be brought against large, geographically dispersed gang-related criminal enterprises.

GangTECC has coordinated 12 cases that involved multiple law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions, and these efforts resulted in better, stronger cases for prosecution. GangTECC has also facilitated cooperation and coordination in over 100 other cases in which investigators or agencies would not initially share information on common targets with one another. Law enforcement personnel we interviewed who used the GangTECC’s services reported high levels of satisfaction and told us that case coordination was the most helpful service that GangTECC could provide to the field.

Notwithstanding the demonstrated value, the GangTECC Director told us there have been at least five occasions when GangTECC has been unable to host or even attend out-of-state case coordination meetings because it was unable to fund travel costs. For example, GangTECC could not host case coordination meetings for two cases involving the Latin Kings gang. As a result of the limitations on GangTECC’s ability to execute its mission, opportunities to better coordinate the Department’s efforts to combat gang crime have been lost.

Deconfliction by GangTECC is not occurring as directed by the Deputy Attorney General.

Over its 3-year existence, GangTECC has not established itself as the central coordination and deconfliction center envisioned by its Concept of Operations.9 Although it was intended that GangTECC would “provide a strong, national deconfliction center for gang operations,” neither GangTECC’s own participating components nor USAOs are required to notify GangTECC of newly opened gang cases. Consequently, GangTECC cannot effectively deconflict the Department’s anti-gang activities on a national level.

GangTECC’s efforts to publicize priority gang targets have lagged.

GangTECC is required to use information from NGIC and other sources to identify priority targets and propose strategies to neutralize the most violent and significant gang threats. According to the GangTECC Director, GangTECC and NGIC first identified 13 priority gang targets in 2006. However, we found little evidence during our review that the list was used outside the two Centers.

NGIC and GangTECC are not effective as independent entities.

NGIC and GangTECC’s operational plans required them to co-locate so that they would establish a relationship in which the resources of each Center would be integrated with and fully utilized by the other. An effective NGIC and GangTECC partnership would include deconfliction, identification of priority gang targets, and sharing of gang information. While the Centers are located in the same office suite in the same building, this co-location of NGIC and GangTECC did not lead to the anticipated partnership. Our discussions with NGIC and GangTECC personnel regarding their interactions found that communication between the two Centers remains limited and ad hoc.

In addition, while both NGIC and GangTECC advertise at conferences and in their pamphlets that they provide investigators and prosecutors with a “one-stop shopping” capability for gang information and assistance, this capability has not been achieved due to various impediments. NGIC is administered by the FBI while GangTECC is administered by the Criminal Division. We found that differing leadership and management philosophies, funding sources (dedicated funding versus funding through contributions by member agencies), and investigative priorities have limited the Centers’ ability to work together effectively.

We believe that the Department should consider merging NGIC and GangTECC into a single unit under common leadership.

LESSON FROM MAJOR NIDAL MALIK HASAN, CHO SEUNG-HUI, AND JOHN ALLEN MUHAMMAD TO MS-13 HIT MEN AND BOSTON TERROR CELL: IT’S A POOR WORKMAN THAT BLAMES HIS TOOLS

In Afghanistan, bad manners, Crime, Gangs, Latino gangs, politics, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism, Transnational crime on November 10, 2009 at 12:14 am
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Virginia Tech Shooter Cho Seung-Hui, Like Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Ft. Hood, Used a Killing Tool Widely and Easily Available on the U.S. Civilian Market to Decimate Virginia Tech Campus -- The High-Capacity Semi-Automatic Pistol

Fairly Civil‘s last post on the alleged plot by Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) leaders in El Salvador to assassinate an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent (“John Doe”) in Queens, New York, brought a skeptical response from some law enforcement quarters.  Here is the core of the post, which includes excerpts from an affidivait accompanying a request for an arrest warrant:

According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant, an MS-13 member specifically tasked to kill the ICE agent described the plot to federal agents. The gangsters were looking for an AK-47 or M-16 assault rifle to do the job.

The post also referred to a similar alleged MS-13 plot to kill LAPD gang detective Frank Flores, described in “The Plot to Whack a Cop,” which can be found here.

But retired Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department gang Sergeant Richard Valdemar questions in a private communication to the author whether these two incidents show a pattern, much less a shift, in MS-13′s abilities and intent regarding attacks on law enforcement officers:

Funny how in the many years (1993-2004) working with the FBI Task Force with numerous agents and agencies on the MS they would now fix on one LAPD Officer Flores in Los Angeles and one “John Doe” the ICE man in New York, and they can’t seem to find a AR-15 or AK-47 to do the dastardly deed. I think there have been a lot more effective cases and cops doing serious damage to the gang over the years than these two.

More likely …an informant, or couple of informants, got twisted in Los Angeles and New York, and gave up their own clique homeboys with information that they knew the cops would value (“they plan to kill a cop”). This kind of talk goes on a lot in the gang world, but the gang members don’t always go beyond the talking stage. And you, who has studied the trafficking in weapons associated with gangs (transnational gangs especially), can’t seriously buy the …”we can’t find an assault rifle to use” excuse.

At least one mid-level ICE official active in anti-gang operations in the Southwest agrees that one case does not make a pattern shift for MS-13 (the depredations and history of which are detailed in my book No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement.)

Be that as it may, the cases raise an interesting question.  What kind of gangster or would-be terrorist can’t find the tools to do the job in the United States?

The gangsters in the ICE case allegedly were having problems finding their weapons of choice, i.e. a “fully automatic” M-16 or AK clone.  This echoed the case of would-be terrorists in Boston, posted here, who gave up a plot to shoot up shopping centers because they also could not obtain machine guns:

Fortunately, however, these jihadists thought they need machine guns, i.e., fully automatic weapons — hold the trigger down and the gun will fire until ammo is exhausted – to do the job. They gave up when they found out they could not obtain machine guns. However, knowledgeable experts understand that controlled fire from semiautomatic weapons — pull the trigger for each round — is at least as lethal and often more lethal than machine gun fire.

Thank g-d these extremist would-be terrorists were “weaponry pea brains.”

One might conclude that both of these cases simply reflect fortuitous ignorance on the part of would-be plotters.  Knowledge of firearms is not — as too many voices active in public fora apparently assume — easily received wisdom.  There is a stunning array of gun and ammunition types, with diverse capabilities, pros and cons, easily and widely available on the U.S. civilian gun market — not to mention the widespread criminal traffic in guns.  Any terrorist or gangster who complains about not being able to find the right tool for the job at hand is either a pea-brain or a poseur.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  But how long can we count on stupidity?

On the other hand, three successful mass shooters demonstrated that with firearms easily obtainable on the U.S. civilian market, a little bit of knowledge, premeditation, criminal intent, mental imbalance, and/or jihadist inspiration can be easily transformed into mass blood and carnage on … one wants to say “soft targets,” but how does one classify a U.S. Army fort?

Cho Seung-Hui committed suicide after killing 32 and wounding 25 in his infamous “Virginia Tech Massacre.” Washington Beltway sniper John Muhammad is scheduled to meet his maker after execution by lethal injection Tuesday, November 10. 1009, the U.S. Supreme Court having rejected his last-ditch appeal. Major Nidal Malik Hasan is alive at this writing, while government agencies try to figure out whether he was “merely” a jihadist gone nuts or a globally linked-in jihadist.

Major Hasan’s Choice for Killing Soldiers — The FN FiveseveN High Capacity Semiautomatic Pistol

FNfivesevn

Major Hasan's Pick for Soldier-Killing Machine -- FN's FiveseveN -- is Known in Mexico as the Matapolicia, or "Cop-Killer."

FN Herstal’s FiveseveN (cute name, eh?) semiautomatic pistol fires a small caliber round at very high velocity.  It is plain and simply a “vest-buster.”  The proprietary round-handgun combination is one of the most popular firearms smuggled by firearms traffickers into Mexico, where it is known as the matapolicia, or “cop killer.”

FN originally created the 5.7X28mm cartridge as the ammunition for the P-90 submachine gun.  The P-90 SMG was designed at the invitation of NATO and in response to military needs for a weapon to be used by “troops who needed both hands for other tasks, such as officers, NCOs and technical troops,” and that would be effective against the body armor that has become standard on the battlefield.

In the mid-1990s FNH set out to design a handgun to accompany the P90 SMG. This would not have been an issue if FN had stuck to its original profession that it would restrict the sale of its new armor-piercing ammunition and pistol.

The company clearly recognized the dangerous genie it was releasing. For example, a spokesman for the company told the Sunday Times in 1996 that the pistol was “too potent” for normal police duties and was designed for anti-terrorist and hostage rescue operations. The NRA’s American Rifleman claimed in 1999 that: “Law enforcement and military markets are the target groups of FN’s new FiveseveN pistol,” and told its readers, “Don’t expect to see this cartridge sold over the counter in the United States. In this incarnation, it is strictly a law enforcement or military round.” In 2000, American Handgunner magazine assured the public, “For reasons that will become obvious, neither the gun nor the ammunition will ever be sold to civilians or even to individual officers.”

FNfivesevnwithammo

High Capacity of the Fiveseven Adds to Its Mass Killing Power

In fact, however, the gun is being freely sold to civilians today, along with clearly problematic ammunition, through a variety of channels. What changed was precisely nothing.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan most likely gave some serious thought to his choice of weapons. With its high capacity magazine, extremely high velocity round, and cop-killing notoriety in Mexico, the FN FiveseveN was quite demonstrably an effective choice.

The reasons that American Handgunner referred to in 2000 became “obvious” last Thursday as Hasan efficiently murdered soldiers at Fort Hood in cold blood.

Beltway Snipers Chose Bushmaster AR -15 Clone

John Allen Muhammad was the senior member of the infamous Beltway sniper duo. His minor sidekick, Lee Boyd Malvo, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the shootings, which took place over three weeks in October 2002 in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Ten people were killed and three others critically injured, as well as three other crime-related deaths attributed to the pair in Louisiana and Alabama.

bushmaster_ar15_carbine

2002 Washington Beltway Snipers Used a Bushmaster AR-15 Clone Like This Rifle

Muhammad, a veteran of the Persian Gulf war, picked a type of firearm with which he was undoubtedly familiar — a Bushmaster AR-15 type clone of the military’s M-16 assault rifle.  Bushmaster made its mark and fortune by cranking out AR-15 clones that beat the impossibly porous 1994 Semiautomatic Assault Weapons “Ban.”

AR-15 rifles of this type are as common in America as weed-whackers in spring at a suburban hardware store.  Here’s the point for slow-readers in this context:  Any gangster or would-be terrorist who can’t get his hands on one of these guns — whether you call it a “semiautomatic assault rifle” or a “thunder-stick” — or one of the the AK clones that have been dumped in the country latterly by Eastern European manufacturers and U.S. import-whores is simply in the wrong game.

Cho’s Choice — Ex-Lockmaker Gaston Glock’s High Capacity Model 19

Virginia Tech shooter Cho chose as his lead weapon the Glock Model 19, perhaps the archetype of the modern high-capacity semiautomatic pistol.  Easy to shoot, quick to reload, and demanding neither skill nor experience when shooting down unsuspecting innocents, the Glock Model 19 is also a favorite of gangsters and assorted thugs from Vancouver to the Yucatan.

800px-GLOCK_19

Cho's Choice for Mass Murder -- Glock Model 19

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

NOW ITS PERSONAL–MS-13 GANG LEADERS IN EL SALVADOR ORDERED HIT ON U.S. ICE AGENT IN NEW YORK

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on November 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm
gang_members12_6_07

Leaders of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in El Salvador Ordered Hit on ICE Agent in New York

Now it’s definite.

And it’s personal.

Leaders of the transnational organized criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) have upped the ante and ordered a hit on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in New York.  An earlier plot to kill an LAPD gang detective, Frank Flores, was detailed in a RICO indictment earlier this year.  (See “The Plot to Whack a Cop” here.)

This case takes MS-13′s violent impudence to a federal level.

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

M16assaultrifle

M-16 Assault Rifle Was One Choice of MS-13 Gangsters to Kill Federal Agent

According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant, an MS-13 member specifically tasked to kill the ICE agent described the plot to federal agents.  The gangsters were looking for an AK-47 or M-16 assault rifle to do the job.  (“Affidavit In Support Of Arrest Warrant,”  United States v. Walter Alberto Torres, also known as “Duke,” United States District Court for the Eastern District Of New York, Case 1:09-mj-01055-RLM).

This is perhaps not surprising, given MS-13′s violent history — which is detailed in my book, No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (University of Michigan Press, 2009).

As Fairly Civil has noted before, there is no question that gangsters in the United States have access to the firepower to take on U.S. law enforcement agents in the same way that narcotraficantes go after Mexican law enforcement authorities.  The question has been:  would gang leadership risk bringing the fury of America’s cops and agents down on their heads?

Apparently they would.   (Although one experienced gang cop takes exception to this conclusion here.)

ak47

AK-47 Was Other Choice of MS-13 Gangsters

It is worth noting that some gang experts familiar with the Mexican Mafia and their affiliated Sureno gangs insist that the Mexican Mafia made its decision a few years ago to target troublesome cops.

If there were any gloves left on, they are off now.

Here is an extended excerpt from the affidavit. (Under the circumstances, Fairly Civil does not include the name of the agent filing the affidavit.  The target is called “John Doe” in the affidavit.):

2. Over the past several years, my office has engaged in an extended, in-depth investigation of members of the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha 13, also known as “MS-13,” (hereinafter “MS-13″). The defendant WALTER ALBERTO TORRES DUKE, also known as “Duke,” is a self-admitted member of MS-13. MS-13 engages in acts and threats involving murder, attempted murder, robbery and extortion, in violation of the laws of the various states, including New York, and narcotics trafficking, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 841 and 846.

3. MS-13 is comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador and other Central American countries, with members located throughout the United States and Central America. In the United States, major MS-13 chapters, or “cliques,” have been established in New York, Virginia, Texas, California and elsewhere. Following induction, members of MS-13 frequently demonstrate their membership by wearing clothing containing the colors blue and white and/or the words “MS” or “13.”

4. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 cliques have been established in various towns on Long Island, including Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt, Huntington, Brentwood and Islip, and neighborhoods in New York City including Jamaica, Flushing, Forest Hills and Far Rockaway. The cliques routinely hold meetings to plan criminal activity, and members pay dues into a clique treasury. The treasury funds are used to purchase firearms and ammunition and to promote other illegal activity. Inter-clique meetings, called “Universals,” are used to coordinate criminal activities among different cliques. Participation in criminal activity by a member, especially violence directed at rival gangs, increases the respect accorded to that member and is necessary to obtain a promotion to a senior or leadership position.

5. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 members are frequently involved in violent altercations with members of rival gangs such as the Salvadorans With Pride (“SWP”), the Latin Kings, the Bloods and the Netas. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 members have repeatedly carried out “drive-by” shootings and other violent attacks targeting members of rival gangs and others.

6. According to a cooperating witness (“CW”), members of MS-13 have been plotting to kill ICE Agent John Doe (“Agent Doe”), a leader in the investigation of MS-13, since at least December 2006. Specifically, CW stated that he, along with fellow MS-13 gang members in the Flushing clique of MS-13, plotted to murder Agent Doe with either a rifle or a shotgun, in retaliation for Agent Doe’s ongoing investigation of MS-13 in Queens, New York. CW stated that the gang was exceedingly angry at Agent Doe, whom MS-13 blamed for the incarceration of dozens of gang members in Queens, New York, and elsewhere.

7. A second MS-13 gang member, who subsequently pled guilty to racketeering-related charges in this District, admitted to participating in the same plot to kill Agent Doe in late 2006 and early 2007, during proffer sessions with the government.

8. On or about October 16, 2009, at approximately 9:30 p.m., detectives from the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) observed a group of several admitted MS-13 gang members walking on Northern Boulevard, near 150th Street, in Flushing, Queens, and approaching other pedestrians in an aggressive manner. Two detectives requested the individuals to stop, and requested them to take their hands out of their pockets. The individuals ultimately complied, and the detectives recognized four of the individuals as previously identified MS-13 gang members. A fifth individual, the defendant TORRES, was not known to the detectives at the time, but identified himself as a member of MS-13 and stated that he wished to provide information to the NYPD. None of the individuals, including the defendant, were taken into custody.

9. On or about October 20, 2009, defendant WALTER ALBERTO TORRES, also known as “Duke,” contacted detectives from the NYPD and requested a meeting, which was arranged for later that day. Prior to commencing the interview with the defendant, the defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, both orally and in writing. Defendant TORRES indicated that he understood and wished to waive his rights, and signed a written waiver to that effect.

10. During the interview, the defendant stated, in sum and substance and in part, that he has been a member of MS-13 since joining the gang in approximately 1998 in El Salvador. The defendant stated that he emigrated to the United States in 2001, at which point he joined an MS-13 clique in Springfield, Virginia. He later moved to Alexandria, Virginia.

11. The defendant further stated that he and other MS-13 gang members agreed to murder Agent Doe and engaged in planning the murder. In order to perpetrate the murder, the defendant stated that the gang was attempting to procure an AK-47 assault rifle or an M-16 machine gun, in anticipation that the bullets would penetrate the agent’s body armor. TORRES stated that the order for the murder came from gang leadership in El Salvador, and that he discussed the plan with MS-13 gang members as recently as August 2009.

12. During the October 20, 2009 interview, it was determined that there was an outstanding warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Specifically, the defendant is wanted in Fairfax, Virginia, for violation of probation following his guilty plea to grand larceny, a felony. The defendant was subsequently taken into custody.

13. On or about October 22, 2009, NYPD detectives and ICE agents again interviewed the defendant, this time at Riker’s Island. The defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, both orally and in writing. Defendant TORRES again indicated that he understood and wished to waive his rights, and signed a written waiver to that effect.

14. During the interview, the defendant described, among other things, multiple acts of violence he committed on behalf of MS-13. The defendant also described the plot to kill a federal agent, stating that he traveled to New York in or about August 2009 for the specific purpose of participating in the planning and execution of the murder plot. Information provided by the CW, as well as surveillance by law enforcement agents, corroborates the identity and gang membership of the coconspirators identified by TORRES. According to TORRES, he was in charge of putting the plan together, and he agreed with fellow gang members to participate in the ongoing plot to kill Agent Doe with a high powered rifle or similar weapon.

MS 13

Maybe All They Need is a Hug: MS-13 Gangsters Flash Devil's Horns

THE UNITED NATIONS (GANG) — DRUG-TRAFFICKING ACROSS CANADA-UNITED STATES BORDER

In Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Marijuana Debate, Mexico, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on November 2, 2009 at 11:27 am
SUN0611 Gangstas

Members and Associates of the United Nations (UN) Gang. Clayton Roueche is in First Row Center. (Vancouver Sun Photo)

Around 11:30 p.m. on April 2 [2008] in suburban Vancouver, B.C., Clayton Roueche’s cell phone rang. It was his friend Pam Lee, who was looking for a ride down to Bellingham [Washington] International Airport, where she hoped to catch a flight to a concert in California.

“I know I can’t ask you,” Lee said.

“Yeah,” replied Roueche, as Canadian federal authorities quietly listened in with recording equipment. “I’ll never come back.”

“Do you know anybody that could?” Lee asked.

“Drive you to the States?” asked Roueche.

“Yeah,” Lee replied.

Well, said Roueche, “I wouldn’t even get down [to Bellingham]; they’d throw me in jail.”

Seattle Weekly, “The Last King of Potland,” September 09, 2008

Think of drug lords, drug trafficking organizations, and cross-border drug-trafficking and one naturally thinks of the U.S.-Mexican border, the Mexican Mafia, and Latino street gangs.  But the United Nations Gang in Vancouver, British Columbia has become a major criminal force in the U.S.-Canadian criminal traffic.  In a sentence, the gang has smuggled marijuana and people south across the border, and cocaine and guns north.

This Thursday (November 5, 2009), Clayton (Clay) Roueche, said to be the gang’s founder, will face sentencing in the federal district court in Seattle, Washington.  Federal prosecutors have asked the court to sentence Roueche to 30 years in prison.

bc_rcmp_gang2

One Doubts UN Gang Leader Clay Roueche Will Be Laughing at His Sentencing

In spite of his well-founded suspicion and caution, Rouche was arrested last year.  The collar is described in the government’s sentencing memorandum. (United States v. Roueche, “Government’s Sentencing Memorandum,” U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, Docket No. CR-07-0344 RSL.):

On May 19, 2008, Clay Roueche flew from Canada to Mexico, ostensibly to attend the wedding of a UN Gang member.  Mexican law enforcement learned that Roueche was wanted in connection with drug trafficking crimes and rejected his application for entry into their country.  When Roueche’s return flight to Canada landed in Houston, Texas on a layover, he was arrested on the outstanding warrant [from a sealed indictment] and brought to this district.

Court records demonstrate that, although marijuana enthusiasts may perceive toking a bit of “BC Bud” to be a “harmless” indulgence, akin to drinking a glass of fine champagne, the proceeds of trafficking in the Canadian weed finance cocaine trafficking by the same criminal organizations.  Of course, this marijuana is also pouring into the ersatz “medical marijuana” compassionate use market.

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

Background

The Seattle Weekly described Roueche and the UN Gang in its September 2008 article, “The Last King of Potland,” as follows:

[The] British Columbia’s “United Nations” drug gang, [was] founded by Roueche and some of his high-school buddies in the 1990s. Now comprising as many as 300 white, Asian, and Persian members fond of dragon tattoos and designer hoodies, the gang has its own monogrammed tombstones, jewelry, and kilos of cocaine, as well as its own motto-”Honor, Loyalty, Respect”-and trail of alleged murders.

Canadian court documents describe United Nations members as “involved in marijuana grows and cross-border trafficking, extortion, threatening, and kidnappings and…linked to numerous homicides.” Based in the Fraser River Valley south of Vancouver, the organization is connected to the international Chinese crime syndicate Triad, according to investigators.

With help from local associates, the UN’s money and drugs move through Puget Sound or eastern Washington, then along the West Coast, according to U.S. and Canadian court documents. Cocaine flows north from Mexico, marijuana heads south to California, and cash goes both ways as payment and profit. The gang also deals in Ecstasy-but bud is #1.

The Economist recently estimated that historically low-crime Canada now has 950 major gangs, with Vancouver as ground zero. This decade, the B.C. drug trade has spiked to a now-estimated $7 billion annually. All that money creates a glitzy gang culture in which, a Vancouver policeman observes, “handguns are as ubiquitous as cell phones.”

The Federal Case

Pot Farmers

BC Bud Confiscated in Washington State in 2008. Smuggling of Similar High Grade BC Weed Financed the UN Gang's Cocaine Operations.

Last April Roueche pleaded guilty, and according to the government’s sentencing memorandum,  “[admitted] to conspiring with others to export more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.  He also admitted to arranging for the collection and transportation of marijuana proceeds in an attempt to conceal or disguise the sources of those funds.” The sentencing memorandum calls this a merely “legalistic description,” and fills in the details, buttressed by an affidavit and other exhibits from the investigation.

Here is how the federal prosecutors summed up Roueche and the UN Gang’s criminal operations:

In this era, where federal law enforcement agents have focused intensely on stopping the international drug trade, the phrases “drug lord” and “international drug-trafficking organization” can be misused and overstated.  But not in this case.  Defendant Clay Roueche oversaw the movement of tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana, thousands of kilograms of cocaine, and millions of U.S. dollars through several states and at least three North American countries.  He used private airplanes, float planes, helicopters, cars, semi-trucks and coded Blackberry telephones to create a secret and successful organization that he planned to extend into the Far East and South America. He employed pilots, drug couriers and money transporters to carry out the objectives of his organization.  His organization was equal parts corporate and violent.  Clay Roueche worked hard, with laudable organizational skills coupled with an attention to detail, to achieve the moniker “drug lord.”  Similarly, his organization deserves the descriptor of “international drug trafficking organization.”

Three separate drug and money laundering investigations dovetailed in 2005 and 2006, and each led to Roueche’s Canadian-based, multi-national, multi-ethnic drug trafficking organization known as the United Nations Gang (hereinafter “UN Gang”). Defendant Clay Roueche was the public face of this violent, quasi-corporate group, and led its drug trafficking endeavors.  The group used guns, threats and violence to keep its contracted workers and gang members in line and to ensure that no one informed on the group’s activities.  The UN Gang is the type of organized, sophisticated drug trading group that presents a significant danger to the safety, peace and security of the United States.

Gang Guns in Vancouver -- Guns Imported from US Civilian Market Empower Criminals Throughout Western Hemisphere

Vancouver Gang Guns -- Firerams from US Civilian Gun Market Empower DTO Throughout Western Hemisphere

In one of the attached exhibits, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Peter Ostrovsky described one of the “dovetailed” investigations that led to Roueche’s indictment, arrest, and ultimately guilty plea (United States v. Roueche, “Government’s Sentencing Memorandum, Exhibit 3, Affidavit of Peter Ostrovsky,” U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, Docket No. CR-07-0344 RSL.):

3. …most prolific Canadian DTO are involved in the smuggling of Canadian marijuana into the United States in order to generate illicit proceeds which are subsequently used to purchase multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine in the United States for subsequent export and trafficking into Canada. This sort of criminality dramatically increases the United States’ illicit drug supply by causing Mexican and Colombian DTO to smuggle more cocaine, which is subsequently trafficked in the United States and sold to Canadian DTO.

4.  In the fall of 2004, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Border Integrity Program relayed information to ICE that they heard helicopters were being used for the smuggling of drug contraband across the United States–Canada border. The RCMP had no specific information about where the smuggling activity was occurring along the border….”

5.  Based on the information that ICE collected, I conceived Operation Frozen Timber as an ICE-led investigative operation with criminal investigative and homeland security purposes…By conducting such an investigative operation, ICE would also be able to ultimately prevent others from using smuggling via helicopter as a means to conduct National Security-related offenses.

6.  During January 2005, ICE agents began extensive follow-up investigation to positively identify the persons, aircraft and locations that were being used during suspected smuggling via helicopter activities.  Ultimately, ICE investigation determined that the majority of the persons that were involved in smuggling via helicopter activities were working under the direction of Roueche and his subordinates in the UN GANG.

2003095061

Canadian Helicopters Brought Weed Into US

[ICE deployed motion-triggered video monitors in remote locations, and working with informants and other sophisticated investigative techniques, observed and filmed a number of occasions when helicopters from Canada brought in large loads of marijuana, dumping them off in duffle bags to gang members on the ground.  Working through an informant, ICE agents in May 2005 sold “suspected Canadian drug smugglers” Trevor Schoueten and Brian Fews a pickup truck which had been covertly fitted out with a GPS monitor and a “kill switch.”  In June, the kill switch was activated during a run and the investigators gathered further intelligence when “Roueche subsequently contacted the informant and requested that the informant assist Schoueten in recovering the vehicle and marijuana load from the Washington State Patrol.”  Several subjects of the investigation admitted that they had been smuggled across the border in the helicopters.]

16…. Unfortunately on that same date, a RCMP member who was requested to identify the pilot of the helicopter, inadvertently advised the pilot Henry Rosenau that the U.S. Government was aware of his smuggling activities along with the locations from where Rosenau was operating the helicopters in British Columbia, Canada.…

21.  During December, 2005, during telephone conversations with the informant, Roueche solicited the informant to transport the illicit proceeds from narcotics sales in Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California in a vehicle with a hidden compartment.  During the conversations, Roueche stated that the transportation of the proceeds to California would enable him “to get what I need.”  Roueche’s statement was a reference to cocaine for the purpose of exporting it to Canada.

23.  Between January and March 2006, on multiple occasions, Roueche and his subordinate [defendant] Daniel Russell, directed the informant to have undercover ICE agents pick up, transport and deliver a total of $748,460 to persons in the Los Angeles area.

26.  During 2006, follow up investigation by ICE agents and local police investigators and the conduct of multiple search warrants resulted in the seizure of over $2,000,000 in U.S. currency and approximately 200 kilograms of cocaine in the Los Angeles area.

30.  As a result of Operation Frozen Timber, ICE agents identified at least 15 helicopter landing sites on federal and state lands in Washington State that were being used by the UN GANG for drug and human smuggling activities.  ICE agents further determined that the smuggling via helicopters was as follows:  there were multiple Canadian-registered helicopters operating from Canada away from traditional airports in rural locations, the helicopters were being loaded with drug contraband in uninhabited, forested mountainous terrain near the border, the helicopters were evading civil aviation radar detection and authorities by flying through cross border mountainous terrain where there is no radar coverage, the helicopters were flying eight to 40 miles south of the border and exploiting uninhabited federal and state lands where they could offload their drug contraband in 43 seconds to 3 minutes and then return to Canada.  Based upon the aforementioned technical data alone, this sort of smuggling activity poses a significant threat to U.S. border and homeland security.

31.  Also as a result of Operation Frozen Timber and its focus on Roueche and the activities of the UN GANG in multiple judicial districts in the Western United States, ICE agents and their law enforcement partners were able to seize approximately 2,169 pounds of Canadian marijuana, 335 kilograms of cocaine, $2,033,388 in U.S. currency, two pounds of crack cocaine, four pounds of methamphetamine, five firearms and conduct the undercover delivery of $748,460 in U.S. currency at the direction of Roueche and Russell.  ICE agents also documented through motion-activated video surveillance systems, that approximately 3,500 pounds of Canadian marijuana was smuggled into the United States by Roueche and the UN GANG which was not seized by the U.S. Government.  Based on the aforementioned seizures, information and proffers by convicted UN GANG members and criminal associates…it is estimated that Roueche and the UN GANG were responsible for importing at least 2,000 pounds of Canadian marijuana into Washington State from British Columbia, Canada and exporting at least 200 pounds of cocaine from California into British Columbia, Canada, per month.

Unrepentant Gang Boss

Roueche may be brilliant as a gang boss and drug lord.  But he did himself no favors as a convicted felon awaiting sentencing.  According to the sentencing memorandum, he painted himself as unrepentant and down with the hoods he met in several lockups:

None of Roueche’s post-arrest actions or writings evinces any desire to change his lifestyle or move in a different direction.  He simply wishes to continue supporting his organization until he can get out and pick up where he left off.  In a letter addressed to “Mrs. Roueche” but which begins, “To my Bro’s [sic],” Roueche spends two handwritten pages re-dedicating himself to his gang.  He muses about the  “hella cool” cellmates he had in the Federal Detention Center, commenting that he closely listened to their stories because he has, “a big thirst for knowledge.”  The first person he described had, “crazy tatts and bullet wounds everywhere as well as stacks of charges LOL.”

Roueche spoke reverentially of this inmate, as well as two others with criminal pasts, and describes that they all “seemed solid.”  He put himself on equal footing with these criminals, explaining, “it seems real men can usually tell what others are real.” Roueche also appears to hold those who refuse to talk to the authorities as more upstanding than those who do not.  He described that the inmates in state prisons are more “solid” than those in the federal system because those in the state system must “show paperwork.”  He described his stay in a Texas jail as “interesting” and noted that he “met a cool crew there too.”

Roueche simply shows no desire to walk away from the very people with whom he surrounded himself during his crimes.  His behavior and his letters evince a continuing need to lead his “crew” and return to the drug trafficking he has lived for the past several years.  He does not show a need or an inclination to change.  When released, Roueche will undoubtedly go back to trafficking in narcotics, or whatever illegal goods make the most money for him.

This, of course, will do him no good when he stands before the bar of justice and gets what’s coming to him.  Meanwhile, local media in Vancouver reports that the UN Gang has recovered from its loss and is still up to its elbows in criminality.

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Here's a Good Idea: Smoke BC Bud and Finance Another Crack Cocaine Addict's Supply!

AVENUES GANG BUSTED FOR SMUGGLING ALIENS

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Latino gangs, Mexico, Transnational crime on October 17, 2009 at 9:28 pm
Deported?  No problema!  Federal Indictment Charges Avenues Gang's Drew Street Clique Operated Door to Door Immigration Smuggling Service that Included Illegal Reentry Option

Deported? No problema! Federal Indictment Charges Avenues Gang Operated Door to Door Immigration Smuggling Service that Included Illegal Reentry Option

Calexico is one of California’s best kept secrets. A delightful blend of American and Mexican cultures, Calexico’s small-town lifestyle, combined with its convenient proximity to the metropolitan areas of Mexicali and San Diego, make it a great place to live.

Internet Website, City of Calexico, CA

Kinda “homey,” right?

If Calexico is one of California’s “best kept secrets,” then the arcanum acarnorum, the secret of secrets, was the transnational alien smuggling ring allegedly being run through Calexico’s sister city, Mexicali, Mexico, by members of the notorious Avenues Latino street gang in Los Angeles.

An indictment handed up and sealed on October 1 and made public October 14 is the latest in a hammering series of actions against the Avenues by federal and state law enforcement authorities. [You can read an earlier Fairly Civil post about the Avenues gang here, and connect through links to other posts.]

ICE Press Release

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Press Release describes the scope of the ring’s activities and some context:

According to the search warrant affidavit filed in federal court in connection with the case, the ring allegedly smuggled more than 200 illegal aliens per year into the United States. At one point, investigators say, members of the Drew Street clique contacted the smuggling organization about bringing the infamous matriarch of the gang, Maria Leon, into the United States from Mexico. While the ring did not end up smuggling Leon into the United States, she returned to the country illegally and was subsequently arrested. Leon is now serving a 100-month federal prison sentence for racketeering crimes related to the Avenues street gang.

The indictment in the case of United States v. Eduardo Alvarez-Marquez [U.S. District Court for Central District of California, Docket No. CR-09-01013, filed October 1, 2009] illustrates two general points about trans-border criminal organizations:

  • Transnational criminal organizations are increasingly adapting their cellular structures to a variety of opportunistic crimes.  Structures originally set up for drug trafficking can also be used for smuggling aliens, trafficking human beings, extortion, and trafficking in firearms.
  • Retired Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Richard Valdemar is bang on when he says (as he did to me several months ago) that so-called “street gangs” like the Avenues have jumped in the alien smuggling game as a source of revenues.
  • Background on the Mexicali–Calexico Border Crossing

    The border crossing the Avenues exploited is one of the busiest.  According to the City of Calexico’s website:

    More than 18.9 million vehicles and pedestrians cross into U.S. through Calexico’s two Ports-of-Entry. The East Calexico port of entry provides an improved link to major trucking routes, and has increased the ease with which people and goods move between the two countries.

    The Avenues alien smuggling business exploited the crush.  The following excerpts from the indictment describe in some detail how the gang operated.

    Overview

    Defendants … would arrange for unidentified co-conspirators to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States by methods that included jumping over the international boundary fence, walking through the Calexico Port of Entry using fake or falsified documents, riding in cars entering the United States through the Calexico Port of Entry using fake or falsified documents, concealing themselves in hidden compartments in vehicles, and wading through the New River in and around Calexico, California.

    Defendants … would negotiate the price and method that would be used to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States from Mexico… [and] would instruct illegal aliens to wait at particular locations in Mexicali, Mexico, in order to be smuggled into the United States.

    The Safe Houses

    The gang kept a “safe house” in Mexicali as a holding tank for aliens waiting to be smuggled.  Once the aliens were safely across the border, the gang then stashed them in safe houses on the U.S. side, one close to the border, and another in Los Angeles.  The aliens were later moved from these safe houses to other locations, some to as far away as New York City.

    Defendants … would meet illegal aliens once they had been smuggled into the United States and take them to a residence in Holtville, California….until transportation from the area could be arranged.

    Defendants … would [also] harbor and conceal recently smuggled illegal aliens at a residence on West Avenue 34 in Los Angeles…[and] would arrange and coordinate transportation for illegal aliens from the Los Angeles area to other locations in the United States.

    Defendant Alvarez-Estrada told defendant Alvarez that unidentified co-conspirators would charge $700 to transport an illegal alien from Los Angeles to New York.

    The Prices

    The smugglers charged different fees, depending on how the illegal aliens came across the border:

    On August 26, 2008, by telephone using coded language, defendant [Rosario Maria] Rodriguez told a confidential informant (the “CI”) that defendant Alvarez [Eduardo Alvarez-Marquez] has different methods for smuggling illegal aliens into the United States; that the price for smuggling illegal aliens ranges from $2,500 to $4,500 depending whether the alien walked through the Port of Entry with false documents, rode as a passenger in a vehicle, or jumped over the international boundary fence in a remote area near Mexicali, Mexico…Rodriguez told the CI that an alien should not sneak into the United States by jumping across the international boundary fence unless the alien previously had been deported.
    ….
    On August 26, 2008, by telephone using coded language, defendant Alvarez told the CI that Alvarez only smuggles illegal aliens through Mexicali, Mexico; that he charges $2,800 for aliens who jump the international boundary fence and are picked up by a vehicle in the United States; that he charges $3,500 for aliens who use a guide to walk the alien through the Port of Entry with a lost, stolen, or falsified green card or visa; and that he charges $4,300 for aliens who he arranges to have driven through the Port of Entry as a passenger in a vehicle.

    Rodriguez told an unidentified co-conspirator that previously-deported illegal aliens were smuggled into the United States undetected through the Port of Entry at a price of $3,500 to $4,500.

    Alvarez told an unidentified co-conspirator that Alvarez charged $4,000 to smuggle an illegal alien into the United States from Mexico through the use of a false green card.

    Defendant Alvarez told an unidentified co-conspirator that Alvarez had a $2,800 option for smuggling illegal aliens into the United States from Mexico, which required the aliens to run for six to ten minutes, as well as a $3,800 option, which required the aliens to run for approximately 30 seconds before being hidden inside a truck, and Alvarez would transport the illegally smuggled aliens as far as the Avenue 34 residence near San Fernando Road and Fletcher Drive in Los Angeles, California.

    Special Rate for Chinese

    The smugglers also had a “special” rate for Chinese aliens who wanted to enter the United States through Mexico:

    Defendant J. Carreon told defendant Alvarez that five illegal aliens from China wanted to be smuggled into the United States over the Mexican border while hidden inside a truck … Alvarez told defendant J. Carreon to charge the illegal aliens from China double the normal smuggling fee.

    Gangster Family Values

    Finally, no comment is really needed on this illumination of gangster family values:

    Defendant Rodriguez told a friend that defendant A. [Aquilina] Alvarez was upset because defendant Alvarez-Estrada [her husband] had taught defendant Alvarez [her son] to sell drugs at age 14 and later taught Alvarez to smuggle illegal aliens, and the friend stated that A. Alvarez was also to blame for Alvarez’ illegal activities.

    Interesting, no?

    Bonus Round

    For our Spanish-speaking readers, here is an excerpt from the October 15 report about this case in La Opinion:

    Caen ocho polleros

    Supuestamente tienen nexos con una pandilla en LA

    La Oficina de Control de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE) informó ayer que sus agentes arrestaron a ocho personas vinculadas con el tráfico de drogas y de personas, que mantenían contactos estrechos con la clica Drew Street, perteneciente a la trístemente célebre pandilla Avenues del Este de Los Ángeles.

    Se trata de un caso especial en el que un grupo dedicado a transportar personas de manera ilegal desde México a Estados Unidos, especialmente a Los Ángeles, desarrollaron una relación con grupos del hampa organizado, dedicados especialmente al narcotráfico, dijo Kevin Kozak, agente especial encargado de las investigaciones de ICE en esta ciudad.

    “SNITCH” MANAGEMENT — LOOKING AT INFORMANTS THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, PART ONE

    In Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Mexico, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on September 18, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    neighborhoodwatchgrafitti

    Confidential informants are like the black hole of the criminal justice system.

    Ellen Yashefsky, Benjamin Cardozo Law School, quoted in Aubrey Fox, “Delving the Murky World of Police Informants,” Gotham Gazette, February 20, 2008.

    It is rarely possible to guess accurately from what corner the informer will emerge.  For this reason, a delicate relationship, little understood by the public, exists between law enforcement officials and individual members of the underworld.  These men we hunt down are always possible allies who may come over to our side for some consideration of sentence, for some promise to protect their wife or family.  My attitude has been to use any means available to cut narcotic violations to a minimum, and where criminals or addicts will cooperate with us to that end I will deal with them…Whether he comes voluntarily or because he is shown that it is his best way out, whether it is a one-time deal or a source of inside information that may continue for months, the informer provides the solution for ninety-five percent not only of narcotic offenses but of all types of crime.

    Harry J. Anslinger and Will Orsler, The Murderers (New York: Avon Books, 1961), pp. 121-122.

    Informants are more than mere witnesses to crime and are less than law enforcement officers.

    John Madinger, Confidential Informant: Law Enforcement’s Most Valuable Tool (Washington, DC: CRC Press, 2000), p. 12.

    “No informant, no case.”

    That aphorism has become almost universally accepted among investigators of racketeering and drug crimes.  But some doubt it.

    Harry J. Anslinger believed in the value of informants, as the quote above demonstrates.

    Harry J. Anslinger

    Harry J. Anslinger

    Anslinger — the other J. Edgar Hoover — was the first Commissioner of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics.  Although the rap is variously pinned on Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan, Anslinger was the original architect of the American war on drugs.  Some of his prose on the evils of marijuana is … entertaining … to say the least.  (“Google” him if you are interested.  This is a more or less family-friendly blog.)

    Every street cop, federal agent, and prosecutor battling the toxic corrosion of the illegal drug trade–and its local retailers, street gangs–also knows the value of the informant.

    ‘’The big secret of detective work is that you’ve got to get somebody else to tell you what happened,’’ NYPD Lt. John Cornicello told The New York Times in 2006.

    However, some federal investigators suggest that the brutal discipline, cellular structure, and tightly held core of Mexican drug trafficking organizations has diminished the value of “flipping” lower level criminals and — through them — working the investigation up to the bosses.  These people suggest that the interception of communications — wiretaps and other techniques — has become more important in the law enforcement tool box of “sophisticated techniques of investigation.”

    Here is the central problem of informants against the Mexican DTOS, according to this view:  Lower level members of the Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the United States (i.e., your quiet Latino neighbor in Cleveland, Atlanta, or Conshohocken, whose well-trimmed lawn and unexceptional home is a stash house, packed with dope for redistribution to local gangs and thence up the nose of America’s addicts) typically clam up tightly when busted.  After all, they have family members who can be easily whacked or tortured back in Mexico.  Moreover, they generally are isolated in specialized cells, and know little to nothing about the rest of the organization.  Flipping them is difficult and usually yields little useful information, some seasoned agents say.

    Be that as it may, court records and news reports teach that the use of informants is still central to the investigation of many criminal enterprises, including transnational gangs.  And although communications intercepts may be the key to making cases against the Mexican DTOS, informants here and in Mexico are still important.

    Fairly Civil will wander through this world of informants over a series of posts, beginning with this one.  These posts will examine the value of informants in actual criminal cases, and some of the issues that critics consistently raise.

    The Long History of Informants

    Modern civil libertarians and the criminal defense bar tend to criticize the use of informants as an insidious and relatively new creature of the war on drugs.

    In fact, informants have been used since at least Biblical times.  The transactional equation (“you give me information, I give you special treatment”) is the same now as it was then:

    The House of Joseph, for their part, advanced against Bethel, and the Lord was with them.  While the House of Joseph were scouting at Bethel … their patrols saw a man leaving the town.  They said to him, “Just show us how to get into the town, and we will treat you kindly.”  He showed them how to get into the town; they put the town to the sword, but they let the man and his relatives go free.

    Judges (Shofetim) 1: 22-26, Tanakh (Philadelphia:  The Jewish Publication Society, 1985).

    Recent court filings — e.g., a corruption case involving a senior ICE official, federal racketeering (RICO) cases against MS-13 in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the pursuit of an injunction by police officers in St. Louis — illustrate the vast range of differences in the uses and abuses of snitch management within the American law enforcement system.

    Given the utility of informants — and the fair assumption that most law enforcement officers and prosecutors want to use informants to fight crime and put criminals in jail — the use of informants raises three classes of interesting issues:

    • Keeping informants alive.
    • Managing informants and their information to ensure that they are reliably transmitting valid information and not wrongfully implicating innocent persons.
    • Law enforcement policy management issues about the impact of informants on the administration of justice, particularly in communities where they are heavily used.

    This post will focus on the problem of keeping informants alive.

    Keeping Informants Alive

    If you decide to embark on a life of crime, there’s one very important thing that you should know, and that thing is everyone is a potential informant against you — your wife, your mother, your brother, your lawyer, anyone you’ve ever worked for or worked with and anyone who has ever worked for you.

    Chris Mather, Crime School: Money Laundering (Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2004), p. 101.

    Gangsters know the value of the informant — an endangered species also known in the underworld as the “rat,” the “stool pigeon,” and the “snitch,” among other epithets.   The thought that one’s homey or carnal may be cooperating with law enforcement is a tiny live wire wound through the brains of the “shot callers” and “big homeys” of every  Latino gang.  That little wire carries a buzzing current of paranoia and suspicion.  “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain,” Prince Hamlet observed upon learning of his own mother’s duplicity.

    Not infrequently, paranoia overcomes reality.  Gangsters innocent of cooperation have nevertheless suffered the misfortune of being whacked without proof, much less probable cause.  Call it intuition gone awry.

    Some who suffer unjust accusation from their fellow gangsters are driven into the  arms of law enforcement.  [I write about several such cases in No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (University of Michigan Press 2009).]

    To give the devil his due, however, it is also true that gang leaders often seek what they call “paperwork” — some kind of official evidence — corroborating that a suspected homey has in fact “flipped” before giving a “green light” to have him (or her, as in the case, e.g., of notorious MS-13 informant Brenda Paz) murdered.

    “They usually try and get paperwork on people that they say that they’re snitching or they said something to incriminate somebody,” a member of the Columbia Lil’ Cycos clique of the 18th Street gang explained in testimony during a federal racketeering trial described in No Boundaries. “And once they get the paperwork, they place a green light on the person.”

    One of the better places to find such evidence is in the files of the “discovery” material that our system of justice requires be given to persons accused of crime.  Gangsters and their lawyers comb through this material in search of the identity of informants.

    “The homeboys know the legal system better than most lawyers,” FBI Special Agent Carl Sandford told we when I was researching No Boundaries. “They use the rules of discovery and evidence in criminal cases to get ‘paperwork’ concerning who the rats are.”

    In fact, the murder conspiracy in which Los Angeles anti-gang activist Alex Sanchez is accused of participating as a secret MS-13 shot-caller revolves about the accusation of one gangster — Walter Lacinos –  that another was a rat.  Lacinos provided “paperwork” to document his accusation.  But, according to transcripts of a government wiretap in the case, MS-13 shot-callers submitted the paperwork [apparently some kind of court document] to the Mexican Mafia for the gangster version of forensic analysis.  The decision came down that Lacinos’s “paperwork”  was fake (it included at least one forged page).  This led to considerable intra-gang ill will and Lacinos was eventually whacked in El Salvador.

    A Working Example:  United States v. Cerna

    A current example of how this cat and mouse game of sussing out informants might work is provided in the ongoing RICO case brought against a number of MS-13 gangsters in San Francisco, United States v. Cerna.

    The trial court recently ruled on a number of pre-trial motions.  The following excerpt describes one of the defendant’s attempts to find out the names of certain informants:

    [One of the defendants] argues that defendants have a need for disclosure because the informants were participants in ‘critical events’ at issue in this case.  He lists several ways in which the informants are referenced in discovery or the indictment. Informants 1211 and 1218 provided law enforcement with information about MS-13’s operations, leaders and members. Informants 1211 and 1218 attended MS-13 meetings with defendants which support the RICO conspiracy counts against them. Informant 1211 told the authorities about meetings with [certain] defendants … where various crimes were discussed. Informant 1218 attended meetings with [certain] defendants … [and] also discussed the buying and selling of narcotics with [another] defendant and provided authorities with information about a violent crime allegedly committed by [other] defendants…[etc., etc.]

    “Omnibus Order Re Stage Two Motions,” United States v. Cerna, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Docket No. CR 08-0730 WHA, filed September 16, 2009.

    The court ruled that the defendant had shown enough to require the government to come into a closed conference in the court’s chamber [in camera] — without the defendants or their lawyers — as described in this part of the ruling:

    An in camera hearing is therefore justified. The hearing will be held ex parte, with only judicial staff, prosecutors and witnesses present, in order to protect the identity of the informants. A defendant for whom the threshold showing has been made as to a particular informant … may submit written questions regarding that informant to the Court and opposing counsel three days before the hearing.

    The Court orders an in camera evidentiary hearing to determine whether to allow disclosure of the confidential informants’ identities. The government is ORDERED to produce at the hearing one or more witnesses with knowledge of the relevant informant’s identity and role in the investigations of this action.

    This all sounds tidy, secure, and appropriately solicitous of the informants’ well-being.

    Gangsters and cartels have their own ways of doing things, however.  For example, corrupting law enforcement officials who can provide them with the names of informants by accessing law enforcement databases.

    The Case of Richard Padilla Cramer

    Allegedly Corrupt Law Enforcement Officer -- Not A Mexican, But a Senior U.S. DEA Agent

    Allegedly Corrupt Law Enforcement Officer -- Not A Mexican, But a Senior U.S. DEA Agent

    The affidavit in support of a criminal complaint in the case of United States v. Cramer alleges that a recently retired senior ICE agent stationed in Guadalajara, Mexico was selling lists of informants to Mexican drug traffickers while he was an ICE agent.  It is charged that Cramer also became a major investor in several large shipments of cocaine.  In fact, he was supposedly urged by his DTO pals to retire so as to become an investor in dope.

    According to court documents, erstwhile-Agent Cramer was exposed when a  DTO operative ["CS--2"] “flipped”:

    After being arrested, CS-2 provided the law enforcement officers with copies of printouts of the results of database run in several law enforcement databases, including four DEA database queries, two criminal history queries, one ICE database query, and two State of California law enforcement database queries … CS-2 also stated that these law enforcement inquiries were from a U.S. Federal Agent stationed in Mexico named “Richard.”  CS-2 also stated that the DTO utilizes Richard to make inquiries into members of the DTO to confirm that they (the members of the DTO) are not working as informants for various law enforcement agencies.  Richard was later identified through this investigation as Richard Padilla CRAMER, a former ICE agent stationed in Mexico until his retirement in or about December 2006 or January 2007 … It was later learned that CRAMER utilized his law enforcement position to persuade DEA agents to run DEA database queries under the guise of an active drug investigation.  Further investigation with DEA agents who were stationed in Mexico revealed that CRAMER was stationed in Guadalajara, Mexico and was known to ask to have database checks run on various subjects … CRAMER was responsible for advising the DTO how U.S. Law Enforcement works with warrants and record checks as well as how DEA conducts investigations to include “flipping subjects” and making records checks.

    Affidavit in support of Criminal Complaint in United States v. Cramer, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Docket No: 09-3178-White, filed August 28, 2009.

    This would be a shocking case if it were not for the fact that it is only the latest in a string of cases in which square-jawed minions of law and order on “our side” of the border have been shown to be just as rotten as all those contemptible “corrupt officials” on the other side.

    It reminds one of the lyrics of the old cowboy music song by Jim Ed Brown: “I was looking back to see if you were looking back to see if I was looking back to see if you were looking back at me.”

    The difference, of course, is that an outed informant is a dead man walking.  And not for long.

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