Tom Diaz

Posts Tagged ‘Southwest HIDTA’

BARRIO AZTECA–BORDER BAD BOYS LINKED TO MEXICAN DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATIONS — PART TWO

In Crime, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Mexico, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on April 16, 2009 at 1:22 pm
Perp Wal in El Paso -- FBI Agents Walked Barrio Azteca Gang Members Jose Martin Garcia (foreground) and John Michelleti (Rear) to U.S. Federal Courthouse from El Paso County Jail.  Michelleti Cut Deal, Flipped, and Testified Against His Carnales

Perp Walk in El Paso -- FBI Agents Walked Barrio Azteca Gang Members Jose Martin Garcia (foreground) and John Michelletti (Rear) to U.S. Federal Courthouse from El Paso County Jail. Michelletti Had Been Working for FBI Since 2005 and Testified Against His Carnales

The Texas prison gang Barrio Azteca (BA) is one of the most violent gangs in the United States.  It is intimately tied into the trans-border drug traffic from its home base in El Paso, and has a counterpart organization across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  (Go here for Part One and here for Part Three of this series on BA.)

A federal RICO indictment resulted in the conviction of six alleged members and associates in December 2008.  Testimony and other evidence in the trial opened a window into the gang’s operations — aided by a “flipped” member, Johnny (“Conejo” or “Rabbit”) Michelletti, who snitched for several years and then testified in open court about BA’s organization and criminal deeds.  These gangsters swear all manner of blood oaths about loyalty and the fabled code of silence.  But when the big federal-prison-time-with-no-parole generator cranks up and starts to hum, somebody usually breaks and starts singing. In addition to Michelletti, who revealed in court that he had been working for the FBI since 2005, another gangster — Gustavo “Tavo” Gallardo — blinked and decided to cooperate and testify at trial against his homies, his barrio, and his gang.  Oh, well.

“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

Here is the rundown on Barrio Azteca from the National Drug Intelligence Center’s May 2008 West Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis:

Barrio Azteca controls cocaine, heroin, and marijuana distribution in El Paso. Because of its connections to Mexican DTOs operating in the El Paso/Juárez plaza, Barrio Azteca has a direct source of supply for heroin and other illicit drugs. However, the gang’s activities have been limited as a result of a “safe zone” injunction initiated in 2003 that prohibits its members from being on the street after dark…Barrio Azteca’s activities may be further limited as a result of the recent arrest and indictment [and since this report was issued, conviction, see] of several of the gang’s key members.

Among details that came out in the trial, according to news reports:

  • Barrio Azteca was heavily into drug dealing and collection of “taxes” or “quotas” from drug dealers.  Such collections are nothing less than old-fashioned extortion, a staple of organized crime in the U.S. for decades.  I write about similar operations run by the Mexican Mafia (with a “clica” of the 18th Street gang) in Los Angeles, and the Chicago “Motherland” Latin Kings in my forthcoming book from the University of Michigan Press, No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement.
  • BA supplied cocaine to working women in El Paso area strip joints, who sold the drug to customers.
  • The gang infiltrated the Federal Public Defender’s office in El Paso.  A paralegal there, Sandy Valles New, acted as a “bridge,” forwarding messages from gangsters inside prison to those on the outside.  More importantly, according to federal prosecutors, New also tried through her job to find out about the FBI’s investigation of the gang and to obtain court filings.  These could be used to track down informants within the gang.  Attempted infiltration by female associates of law enforcement offices, public defenders, and public utilities is a common gang tactic in the U.S. and abroad.
  • The BA gang has a paramilitary style structure, with specific ranks.
  • Like most of these fraternal love-ins, the gangsters went at each other in the trench warfare of internal power struggles.  One erstwhile boss, or “capo,” David “Chico” Meraz, was allegedly murdered in a knife attack in Juarez, Mexico after he was forced from power by his beloved homies.
  • BA gangsters turned some of their own over to Mexican gangsters to face charges of skimming drug money or otherwise disobeying cartel rules.  The offending gang members were typically bound, gagged, wrapped in tape, stuffed in a vehicle,  and dropped off in Juarez to be brutally disposed of with several rounds to the back of the head.
New Problems For Old El Paso

New Problems For Old El Paso

Michelletti told the court how he got into Barrio Azteca.  Originally a member of a local gang called “Los Fatherless,” he was sent to prison for assaulting a police officer.  In prison he was approached by a BA “sponsor” who invited him to join the gang.  “He (the sponsor) becomes your representative.  Your padrino, your godfather.  You have to show you are down for the organization.”  Throughout gangland, “being down” for the gang means being prepared to step up and commit brutally violent acts.

In the next part of this three-part series, Fairly Civil will look at a specific case that illustrates the mechanics of physically getting drugs across the border.  In the meantime, the private intelligence and security service Stratfor has issued a truly excellent report and analysis of this drug movement, which can and should be read here.

MEXIKANEMI — THE MEXICAN MAFIA, TEXAS VERSION, PART THREE

In Crime, Guns, Transnational crime, Gangs, Latino gangs, Mexico on March 27, 2009 at 4:03 pm
Mexikanemi Tattoo

Mexikanemi Tattoo

The Mexikanemi, or Texas Mafia, gang is a major player connected to the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs).  In Part One of this series Fairly Civil gave an overview of this gang.  Part Two dug more into the gang’s ruthless violence, quoted its astonishing constitution — which commits the enterprise to “every thing[sic]…criminally imaginable” — and provided an example of the application of Mexikanemi “constitutional law” in a vile intra-gang prison murder.

This final part will examine a bit more of the gang’s organization, its role in the illicit drug trade, and the willingness of its gangsters, like most gangsters everywhere, to “flip” and become cooperators when it’s a choice between their ass and those of their carnales‘ (“brothers'”).

“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

Today’s text begins with excerpts from the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) indictment in United States v. Jacinto Navajar (United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, docket no. SA08CR047XR, filed January 29, 2008).

The indictment first summarizes what makes the Texas Mafia a criminal enterprise, and thus subject to RICO’s harsh reach.  (The indictment uses the past tense throughout, I suppose because the crimes alleged were in the past. This style is a bit annoying, because everything alleged continues today, but we’ll go with the exact quotes for the record):

The Texas Mexican Mafia was an organization which was self-dedicated to organized criminal conduct in the principal forms of extortion, drug trafficking, robbery, assault, and murder. The Texas Mexican Mafia, including its leadership, membership, and associates, constituted an “enterprise” as that term is defined in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1961 (4), that is, a group of individuals associated in fact.

Not just a bunch of guys hanging out, but an organized criminal group doing bad things as its essence.  Next, the indictment provides a capsule history of Mexikanemi’s formation and growth:

The Texas Mexican Mafia was formed in the early 1980’s by inmates incarcerated in the Texas state prison system. Its original members banded together behind bars to protect one another from violence from incarcerated non-members and to engage more effectively in organized criminal activity. This criminal activity included drug trafficking in the prison system, assaults on fellow inmates, and extortion. The original members were largely from San Antonio, Texas and at some point the Texas Mexican Mafia drafted a “constitution” and declared San Antonio its “capital.” As its membership grew and individual members were released from prison, most of them settled in San Antonio, where they resumed their criminal conduct…The Texas Mexican Mafia maintained chapters in most of the large cities in Texas but San Antonio was by far the largest and most active chapter and its members who held rank were accorded special status.

The illegal traffic in drugs is the most lucrative of criminal enterprises, so it’s no surprise that’s the Mexikanemi’s main business.  Here’s what they do and how they do it:

One of the organization’s principal activities and sources of income was trafficking in illegal drugs. Its members obtained large quantities of narcotics and distributed them among its membership and non-members for sale, that is, conventional street drug distribution. The Texas Mexican Mafia also required non-members who distributed narcotics to pay a “tax” for the privilege of selling narcotics. This extortion payment or tax was known as “the dime” or “the ten percent” or by the informal Spanish term for “the dime”: “el daime.” The organization imposed and collected a ten percent tax on the proceeds of all illegal drug sales by non-members. Failure to pay the tax could result in serious bodily injury, robbery, or death. In exchange for paying the ten percent drug tax, the Texas Mexican Mafia provided the taxpayer protection from robbery, assistance in collecting drug debts, and a degree of protection from competing drug dealers. The illegal drugs distributed by the enterprise, which included heroin and cocaine, were purchased, sold and distributed in interstate and foreign commerce.

“Taxation” connected to asserted geographical control are key aspects of modern organized criminal groups.  They put street gangs and DTOs in competition with legitimate governments  for de facto “territorial sovereignty” — a competition which which has lead to direct confrontation in Mexico and elsewhere.  Another aspect of sovereignty is administration of justice, and “La Emi” (last letter “i,” distinguished from the Californian “La Eme”) has its own rules and merciless punishments for those who are found to have violated them:

The members of the Texas Mexican Mafia were governed by a strict code of conduct that was enforceable by death or serious injury. The code absolutely prohibited cooperation by any member with law enforcement officials.

Robert Perez Was Executed for Two Murders in Intra-Gang Struggle for Control -- Two of His Carnales Ratted Him Out

Robert Perez Was Executed for Two Murders in Intra-Gang Struggle for Control -- Two of His Carnales Ratted Him Out

In fact, according to news reports, about half of the co-conspirators in this case have already flipped and cooperated as part of their plea-bargains.  So much for absolute prohibitions of cooperation.  As the prison murder described in Part Two illustrates, these guys will kill their brothers (carnales) over petty intramural intrigue.  They are also happy to whack a blood brother in a fight for control after a leader dies or is otherwise hors de combat.  Mexikanemi leader Robert Anthony Martinez Perez, 48, was executed by lethal injection in Texas in March 2007 after having been convicted of two gang-succession murders.  He was largely sent over based on the testimony of flipped carnales.   I write at length about similar intra-mural murderous intrigue in the California Mexican Mafia in my forthcoming book No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement.  Greed is thicker than notional blood, homes.

San Antonio is still the capital of the Texas Mexican Mafia.  Both the city and the gang play key roles in the illicit drug trade, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center:

Several Mexican DTOs have recently relocated from the South Texas border area to San Antonio, facilitating the development of San Antonio as a national-level transshipment point for cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin. Drug traffickers are also establishing numerous stash locations in the San Antonio area from which they can distribute wholesale quantities of illicit drugs throughout the country, particularly to central and eastern U.S. markets.

The Mexikanemi prison gang, which is based in San Antonio, controls a significant portion of wholesale and midlevel drug distribution in the city. The gang supplies many local street gangs in San Antonio and operates its own extensive retail distribution network. After selling illicit drugs to local gangs, Mexikanemi then collects a 10 percent “street tax” on the profits generated by the sale of these drugs. Mexikanemi operates throughout Texas and is actively recruiting members from small communities around San Antonio and throughout South Texas. Mexikanemi members have a propensity for violence and have been linked to numerous assaults, murders, and shootings.

Map of South Texas Border Shows Problem of Trafficking Graphically

Map of South Texas Border Shows Problem of Trafficking Graphically

Gangsters Favor Capital Punishment -- So Long As They Are The Executioners

Gangsters Favor Capital Punishment -- So Long As They Are The Executioners

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