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House of Death ICE informant "Lalo" freed from prison

It started seven long years ago with Lalo selling his cartel knowledge to the U.S. government. The Mexican national would give America important details regarding the inner workings of drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

It was good information.

Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro or ‘Lalo’s’ results-orientated methods earned him recognition with his Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) handlers. His work ethic garnered him 60 plus convictions and millions in money and drugs for the prized El Paso ICE office. Lalo’s information was so ironclad, criminals plead guilty and saved the taxpayers the expense of courtroom trials.

Looking back to the days leading up to the January 2004 showdown with ICE and DEA, Lalo began his exit from the dark underworld of drug cartel bosses and the murder that often accompanied the Mexican mafia.

To be honest, Lalo says he was glad to escape with his life. Once the House of Death and 12 murders unraveled; the U.S. knew the jig was up, Lalo began his exit strategy and hoped he’d return to his life in central Mexico.

It didn’t happen.

The U.S. government wanted one more favor from Lalo; they wanted him to lure Santillan, a high-ranking member of the Juarez cartel, into America. Lalo was reluctant because he knew the cartel leaders would figure out that he was a snitch and luring a high-profile drug boss would prevent him from ever returning to his home country.

Lalo reluctantly agreed to lure Santillan and a trap was set in place. Not only did Lalo get the ruthless cartel member to cross the U.S. border, but also he drove him around El Paso as he spilled the beans about the day-to-day operations of the cartel.

After years of undercover work for ICE Lalo’s dangerous cartel job was about to come to an end.

However, the nightmare wasn’t over. He thought he would return to his duties as a father and even began work as a contractor, but Lalo’s world came crashing down when the U.S. government took him into “protective custody.”

“They stole my life,” Lalo explains. “When they (U.S. government) took me into custody they told me it was for my protection, they lied.”

Lalo would spend the next six years in solitary confinement for his supposed protection. “When I went to jail my kids, were kids. Now they are teenagers,” Lalo tearfully describes after being reunited with his children for the first time in six long years.

“The government kidnapped me from my life,” he says.

There is no doubt that the House of Death in Juarez, Mexico remains a black eye in American federal law enforcement history. It was under the watchful eye of the U.S. that a dozen murders were committed and bodies buried in the backyard of the infamous house on 3633 Calle Parsioneros, Juarez, Mexico. The non-descript house is located in a middle-class neighborhood in the most violent city in Mexico.

There were many times when Lalo and his immediate ICE handlers wanted out. Each time they were denied by supervisors who thought the case would make careers – it didn’t.

“It seems like a distant memory now. Had I knew what was in store for me I would have taken my chances in Mexico,” Lalo confesses.

Now that the nightmare is coming to an end Lalo will begin a new life in America. He admits to fears most parents have when it comes to their children. “I just want to take care of them, Maria (the mother of his children) has worked 12 hour days to just get by. I need to begin to make amends to her and the kids,” Lalo says. “I am just happy to finally see my kids.”

Freedom does come with strings in Lalo’s case. He must wear an ankle bracelet and report to immigration officials. His heart is still heavy with stress, as the world has evolved in the past six years.

Lalo’s attorney Jodi Goodwin said she is glad the six-year legal battle has come to a bittersweet ending.

“I guess I’m lucky to have my life and kids who have stayed out of trouble,” he explains.

Like most teenagers Lalo’s kids have acclimated to life in America and have all the latest electronic gadgets that drive most parents crazy. “When I talk to my family now, I can see them on the computer,” Lalo describes his new freedom with computers. “In prison I didn’t have access to television or computers.”

Looking to the future Lalo sees a brighter outlook, one he must prove himself as a father and as a person. “I’ll get back little by little,” he says. “I have to adjust to many things like my son being bigger and taller than myself. He is a young man now.”

“I realize that my kids have their own life now, with school, friends and sports, but I’m hopeful they will have time for their dad.”

The little things most take for granted will now replace Lalo’s mindset. Americans think about eating out as a treat, Lalo looks forward to home-cooked meals, friendly banter with his kids and thinking about what lies ahead. Adjusting to life in America will have its challenges, but Lalo is confident his newfound freedom will lead to a life filled with happiness.

“I will always miss Mexico, it’s my country,” he explains. “Outside the city violence it really is a magical relaxing country. I know I can never return, but I’ll always have my memories.”

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner~y2010m2d2-A-walk-down-the-dark-side-reveals-recklessness-at-the-House-of-Death

House of Death ICE informant escapes deportation charges to Mexico

After more than five years of battles in the immigration courtroom, ICE informant “Lalo” escapes deportation orders to Mexico. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) office ruled Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could no longer partake in fact finding investigations seeking to deport the informant they paid more than $250,000 to nab dangerous cartels in Juarez, Mexico.

The Appeal’s board ruled in Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro or ‘Lalo’s’ favor finding there was sufficient evidence that the ICE informant would be tortured and murdered if he was ordered back to Mexico.

“The decision does not leave open any further fact finding and finally is a determination by the BIA of the Department of Justice that Lalo should be granted Convention Against Torture protection,” said Jodi Goodwin the attorney handling the BIA case.

“This is a super-huge victory that has been five-long years in the making. At this point, Lalo is protected from being removed to Mexico where he would be tortured and killed,” she explained.

The next step in Lalo’s legal plight will be to force the government to finally release him from solitary confinement. He has endured prison for nearly six years with no television, no computer and no contact with the outside world.

“Lalo was happy to hear of the decision today when I spoke with him, however he does not understand the ultra-huge legal victory as it pales in comparison to the suffering he has endured at the hands of the government in solitary confinement over these years,” Goodwin said.

In a telephone interview with Lalo he explained his position on the favorable ruling. “I’m glad there is no more excuses with the deportation charges. There is overwhelming evidence that I would be killed if I returned to my country.”

“I was responsible for more than 60 drug cartel arrests and convictions, including high level cartel members and the Juarez drug bosses have a very long memory,” he said.

The House of Death located at 3633 Calle Parsioneros gained notoriety in Juarez, Mexico in 2004. The house is located in a middle-class neighborhood of Juarez and it is the location of a murder spree, one that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would closely monitor.

This case began the way most do. Lalo would be known as informant 913. His new job was spying on his cartel boss and delivering tape-recorded conversations to his ICE handler, Raul Bencomo.

“The government’s reckless attitude for Lalo’s life was astonishing. Each time he crossed into Juarez his life was in danger. But each time Lalo came in for debriefing he had a lot of credible information for us,” Bencomo explained.

It’s no secret that Juarez is presently the most violent city in Mexico and murders take place on a daily basis. But does it mean the U.S. government should be complicit when said murders are known to take place? This is exactly what happened after the first murder at the House of Death in Juarez.

A full five months would pass before the truth comes out. During those five months, eleven more murders will be committed.

A meeting took place right after the first murder between FBI, DEA and ICE to discuss the Mexican Police corruption matter as well as the murder. However, ICE blew the meeting off, according to Sandalio Gonzalez the DEA agent who blew the whistle on the out of control case and is now retired. “This should have ended at the August 11, 2003 meeting.”

“Once it was known that at least 12 murders had taken place at the house, ICE would not let Lalo give a statement to the Mexican authorities for several weeks,” Gonzalez said. “He finally gave his statement regarding the violence and brutality that took place in Juarez from August 2003 to January 2004.”

Lalo was remanded into custody shortly thereafter. He was told it was for his own protection, little did Lalo know this incarceration would leave him in solitary confinement for six years and counting. “I’m treated worse than the really bad offenders and I did nothing wrong.” Lalo has never been charged with any crimes, yet he remains behind bars for his so-called protection.

In other words he trusted the U.S. government to honor their promises. The management at ICE promised more money (it’s estimated they owe Lalo more than $500,000, according to ICE employees) and they promised is common-law wife and children safety.

“Instead they have taken seven years of my life that I can never get back, I’ve got no job, I can’t see my kids and the suffering inside of me is very difficult to cope with,” Lalo explains.

“I’ve been kidnapped from my life!”

The ruling this week in Lalo’s favor is the first win he has obtained that moves the productive ICE informant closer to freedom.

“The recent decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals in the case of Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro or ‘Lalo’, which follows decisions by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and a U.S. Immigration Judge, is a breath of fresh air that goes a long way towards restoring my faith in our system of justice. We need to monitor the next step in the process which must be Mr. Peyro’s release from custody followed by a Congressional investigation of the cover up surrounding the “House of Death” debacle,” said Gonzalez.

While Lalo feels the victory is a step in the right direction he can’t help but question the validity of the U.S. government. “I always believed this was the most fair country in the world. After all these years I’m no longer sure about America.”

The case will now head towards demanding Lalo’s release. The process contains no guarantees and Lalo says he will turn to a new attorney to get him out of prison. “I guess with my new attorney I’m hopeful of the outcome, but I can say ICE continues to act like cowards.”

Lalo’s case has garnered attention from those in Washington D.C. and journalists alike. “There are many people working behind the scenes for me, I want to thank them for their help. One day the government will realize they are wrong and I will be free to return to my life.”

Understanding the magnitude of the situation Lalo says he is sad he hasn’t been able to be a proper father, to be a part of the daily activities others take for granted. “Just knowing that I have a chance keeps me going. I now know this little victory can lead to me winning the war and walking out a free man.”

A new chance, a new attorney

“I am very pleased to see there is still some flicker of justice in the sense that the government can no longer deport Lalo. Of course, I hope that people realize that the BIA’s decision won’t result in him being released, or preventing them from planting something on him so he can continue to be held. I have seen how our government handles cases when they want to discredit someone or make something go away. However, this is where his new counsel, Steve Cohen, my longtime friend and one of our organization’s Associate Counsels, can step up and bring him even further relief,” said Andy Ramirez.

Ramirez has personally seen Cohen’s work in difficult cases such as U.S. vs. Customs Officer Robert Rhodes a few years back. Officer Rhodes was prosecuted at the request of the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China who personally called then Secretary of State Colin Powell, and DHS Secretary Tom Ridge after an incident that resulted in the apprehension of one drug trafficker who was meeting up with three Chinese Nationals with expired Visas at the Niagara Falls, NY Port of Entry.

Within hours of the minister’s calls to his counterpart Powell and to Sec. Ridge, Rhodes was ordered back to the Port, arrested, and prosecuted. With Cohen’s skill and expertise, Officer Rhodes took on the full weight of the U.S. and Beijing Governments and won the sole 12-0 acquittal in what Ramirez has called the (U.S.) War on Law Enforcement.

The purpose of this case, like those that took place along the U.S. – Mexico border was to give a scalp to a foreign government while sending a powerful message to the agents and officers protecting America.
“However, the Rhodes case, without question, was the most egregious and I would know having investigated as many as I have,” Ramirez said.

“The Bush and Obama Administrations know that this is a torture/murder case and the rule of law clearly went out the window under the knowledge of the highest ranking officials in Washington, DC and Mexico City. That is the very reason why our government continued to fight to deport “Lalo” the ICE Informant as he is a material witness, so they could silence him and as a result, they felt it would all go away,” he said.
The fact remains, those involved and responsible for the case and subsequent cover-up, like former U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, must be brought to justice, and Lalo needs to be released from the unlawful violation of both the U.S. Constitution and basic human rights by the government, says Ramirez.

“While his previous counsel is proclaiming a major victory, I am not convinced Ms. Goodwin did all she could to secure his release. To me it is a partial victory as he remains incarcerated. However, I know Mr. Cohen will go all out to right this wrong. Perhaps Congress will at last do the right thing and not only put a stop into the continued attempts by ICE to deport their informants, but take a long, hard look at both the Justice Department and Homeland Security and clean house once and for all. It is imperative that they restore their oversight role, and equally important – the rule of law itself.”

The only certainty with the House of Death case and Lalo’s unlawful imprisonment is justice has not been served and until those involved are fully investigated, including U.S. officials (retired and active duty alike), will Lalo be able to look back at these dark years and know he did the right thing.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner

DEA’s Kiki Camarena remembered for his ultimate sacrifice

The House of Representatives will consider a resolution honoring the life and memory of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena on the 25th anniversary of his death.

The resolution is put forth by Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-CA) in an effort to recognize “Kiki’s” accomplishment with the war on drugs.

Agent Camarena was first assigned to the Calexico, California, then later to the Guadalajara resident office. While there, agent Camarena was kidnapped by a group of armed men, tortured and eventually killed.

“Kiki Camarena is a national hero of the war on drugs,” said Congressman Hunter. “Throughout his career, agent Camarena demonstrated an unrelenting commitment to protect our communities from the threat of drug crime and addiction. Twenty-five years after his death, agent Camarena’s memory lives on through a nationally recognized drug prevention program while his sacrifice reminds us all about the dangers associated with the illegal drug trade.”

Hunter said, “As drug cartels and criminal organizations south of the border strengthen their efforts, we must do the same. Agent Camarena dedicated his life to keeping drugs off our streets, a mission that is as dangerous today as it was 25 years ago when agent Camarena was killed in the line of duty.”

Camarena’s legacy symbolizes the commitment to fighting illegal drugs and serves to influence millions of others by encouraging healthy and drug-free lifestyles.

“All of us in law enforcement, whether active or retired, owe a debt of gratitude to Congressman Duncan Hunter for keeping the memory of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena Salazar alive 25 years after his death,” said retired DEA SAC Sandalio Gonzalez.

Kiki Camarena was a proud Marine and an outstanding DEA agent. He was brutally tortured and murdered by Mexican drug traffickers in Guadalajara in 1985, and the nation has not been the same since, according to Gonzalez.

“His death was a watershed event in our struggle against illegal drugs for it suddenly brought the grim reality of drug trafficking into our living rooms. The subsequent search for his killers united U.S. federal law enforcement in a way never before seen. I was privileged to have taken part in that effort,” Gonzalez said. “A Congressional Resolution to honor Kiki’s life and memory is a fitting tribute to his dedicated service to the nation.”

In order to learn from the past the Enrique S. Camarena Educational Foundation works to help youth realize their highest potential for success in life by living drug free.

The mission of the Enrique “Kiki” S. Camarena Educational Foundation is to eradicate drug abuse in our nation’s youth and to honor fallen and injured hero’s in the fight against illegal drugs. The Foundation accomplishes its mission through three drug abuse awareness programs: placement of memorial Camarena busts, scholarships for deserving high school seniors and participation in the Red Ribbon Campaign. They believe youth achieve their highest potential for success in life when drug free.

For more information; http://www.camarenafoundation.org/

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ICE burns informants across the country – House of Death lingers

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are quickly gaining attention within the war on drugs. This war is a deadly one fought day in and day out along the U.S. borders and well as cities that serve as distribution centers for the warring Mexican cartels.

Having confidential informants on the company payroll is a necessity to infiltrate the violent drug cartels and other organized crime syndicates. Some are double agents looking to elude authorities, others looking to work off a court conviction and others who may have got in over their heads and are looking for redemption.

Since ICE’s inception there have been eight agents investigated for improper informant handlings and more than 35 agents have been reported as being involved with questionable actions.

Documents and interviews have shown ICE handlers involvement with underreported debriefings, failure to document informant actions, drug use and improper sexual relations.

The El Paso ICE office sits in the heartland for drug cartels that carry the products across the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico where more than 14,000 murders have been committed since the renewed drug war in 2004.

No matter the reason, most ICE informants place their lives on the line for the U.S. government; some even succumb to violent attacks and die while providing inside information. Many say the alphabet soup government agencies need a new rule book when it comes to handling informants and promising them U.S. citizenship when their service is finished.

The most infamous House of Death informant

Describing the mishandling of the House of Death case and ICE’s treatment of confidential informants goes something like this – what happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico. Not only has the House of Death incident never been fully investigated, but also none of the DEA, ICE and DHS management officials responsible for supervising the case have been reprimanded.

No rule books were written to ensure U.S. law enforcement agencies could ever take part in covering-up a dozen murders that crossed international borders with Mexico. And there has been no closure for the once-prized ICE informant, Lalo.

A common fact that many news stories and ICE representatives in Washington D.C. conveniently leave out about this gruesome murder tale is the fact each time informant 913 – Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro or ‘Lalo’ was debriefed about his visits south of the border, several ICE agents and supervisors were present in the interrogation room.

Interestingly the names of supervisors present at the debriefings is not secret; Patty Kramer, Curtis Compton, Todd Johnson as well as many others. All these players knew the high stakes murder game being played south of the border, yet none made any effort to shut the little shop of horrors down.

Nope, ICE would have carried on with their reckless law enforcement ways if a lone DEA Special Agent in Charge, Sandalio Gonzalez hadn’t blown the whistle on the House of Death case.

He contends, “Members of Congress have been, and are being bamboozled by the Executive Branch on this issue. By failing to ask the tough questions relevant to this case makes Congress complicit with the federal law enforcement agencies involved in the House of Death cover up.”

Informant 913, Lalo says ICE was “short-minded.”

“I’ve been told by El Paso Police that there is a price on my head right now. I can’t believe ICE headquarters in Washington D.C. has no respect for my family,” Lalo explains.

The big prize in this case was the number three guy in the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) drug organization Heriberto Santillan-Tabares. ICE’s tunnel vision would place Lalo in numerous life-threatening situations. Finally the House of Death case came crashing down on January 14, 2004; when several DEA agents in Juarez, Mexico were placed in danger by irate cartel leaders looking for missing product.

“At this point, I could have disengaged from ICE and found an excuse with my health to cut loose from the cartel and went home to resume my normal life. But ICE got greedy and wanted me to lure Santillan to El Paso, get him to talk one last time and then arrest him,” Lalo explains.

The pressure from ICE was too much and after many promises were made to Lalo and his family, informant 913 embarked on one last ICE mission. “Getting Santillan to El Paso was nerve-racking, but I thought it would be worth it in the end. I was wrong, I was very, very wrong.”

When Lalo originally brought his intelligence information to ICE he says he wasn’t aiming to move to America. “I had a good life in Mexico. I was only foolish when I thought my intelligence would be used in a noble way.”

Many ICE employees will vouch for Lalo’s good work ethic. “I was a good performer, my cases were solid there were no holes and all of my cases ICE brought to court plead out because I didn’t arouse any suspicion.”

However, that would not be enough for ICE, they wanted informant 913 to waste away in prison or suffer death in Mexico as a means to ensure that ICE’s misdoings would never make it to a courtroom or even the court of public opinion. “They are trying to make me crazy by keeping me in solitary confinement or to kill me by sending me to a country where the cartels are the government.”

Despite two Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decisions in his favor, Lalo remains holed up in a Buffalo Detention Facility awaiting another day in court. “They profited by my work and they never gave me the opportunity to disappear in Mexico, they always wanted more. I did everything they wanted me to do. Now I can’t even have my father (who has been a legal resident in the U.S. for 25 years) petition for me to stay in the country, I’m doomed,” Lalo says with sadness in his voice.

The position that Lalo has been placed in by ICE management doesn’t help his ICE handler Raul Bencomo sleep at night. “I was in the room when all the supervisors promised Lalo protection for himself and his family, my bosses just wanted more and more from Lalo.”

The greed and cover-up lasted for an additional four-and-a-half years for Bencomo. After years of trying to get Lalo and other informants to turn on Bencomo and place the blame for the House of Death at his feet, ICE in Washington D.C, decided to fire him for a bogus non-reporting of another informant charge. “The fix was in, I would be the sole agent to lose my job,” he said.

Not only would Bencomo lose the job he loved, his integrity and reputation would be lost with the flick of a pen. He would later find out that FBI and ICE tried to get other informants to sign declaration statements and fudge polygraph tests to further their humiliation against a once-well respected agent.

“I gave them 20 years of my life, received award certificates from DEA in Juarez and claimed money and vacation prizes from ICE, but in the end they used me.”

Bencomo says the fight is not over for him; he will appeal ICE’s decision and work on clearing his integrity and law enforcement reputation. “My coworkers at the El Paso office will testify on my behalf, I just want to clear my name and set the record straight.”

Bencomo also states the disorder in this case stems from the embarrassment ICE headquarters in D.C. would surely face if this all went public.

Lalo’s attorney Jodi Goodwin concurs. “Washington D.C. doesn’t want Lalo to ever see a courtroom in which he can name names and place the blame for the House of Death case squarely where it belongs- on ICE management.”

She explains the biggest blunder ICE made was to let D.C. headquarters call the shots. “This case falls 100 percent on Lalo’s side. He will be murdered if they force him to return to a country where the drug cartels want him dead. If they would have held up their part of the deal and let him disappear, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Instead Goodwin admits that ICE will continue to push Lalo to his psychological limits and keep him in solitary confinement as a way to break him down. Lalo agrees, “They (ICE) are trying to kill me slowly in prison. It’s just not right, I did nothing wrong.”

Recent ICE case spotlighted in Seattle area

Ernesto Gamboa travelled illegally to America seeking a better life and a minor brush with the law would set his sights with local area law enforcement. Gamboa embarked on a 14-year career as a confidential informant as a way to repay his debt to society and earn his eventual legal papers.

Gamboa was a good informant.

According to paperwork he provided, FBI, Sheriff’s Department, DEA and even Seattle police wrote letters of recommendations for Gamboa. Tom Zweiger, who headed some of the drug task forces and is now a retired detective sergeant with the Seattle State Patrol where Gamboa worked, said, “He has taken more drugs off the streets than a lot of drug officers will in their entire careers.”

However, once Gamboa accepted his last case with ICE, his problems began to unravel. “This particular case caused me to work for a new handler, Julie Stephens. Things didn’t go well from the beginning. I work alone the best and it was clear she wanted another informant on this big case,” Gamboa explains.

Sources close to the case say Gamboa’s last job as an informant may be in trouble due to mishandling.

Each day Gamboa went to work his life was on the line. “Working in the intelligence and drug business presents safety issues. ICE knew the risks I was taking, I used my own phone, my own car and really put myself out there. They were supposed to protect me, but in the end they didn’t – they set me up,” Gamboa states.

As with most jobs there are pluses and minuses. Gamboa describes the little victories when drugs and bad guys were taken from the streets and the aspect of working as a team as moments that kept him going.
He also discussed the downside of being frustrated when in the end the country he worked so hard for had issued his arrest warrant while he was still working on his final case. He also describes the sadness that he felt when his marriage ended because the work required chaotic long hours.

A reluctant Gamboa also has advice for anyone seeking to earn legal papers the way he tried. “You really need to open your eyes, make sure you keep accurate records and always be reminded that they (ICE) could burn you just like they did me. It’s a very dangerous business and they lied to me.”

Hopes of becoming an American citizen and continuing his work in law enforcement are all but gone for Gamboa. He did get arrested, ICE lured him to a meeting where he thought he was picking up a paycheck, and he never got paid. After law enforcement agents stepped-up their effort to support Gamboa, Senator Cantwell (D-WA) and his attorney Jorge Baron did their job and were successful in pressuring ICE to release him from prison.

The victory remains bittersweet for Gamboa, as now he is in “legal limbo” and cannot work legally in the country he worked so hard for. “Without the legal papers I’m as good as deported. I can no longer work and the money has run out,” Gamboa explains in a phone call. “It’s just not right, if I go back to El Salvador I could lose my life for what I did, but if I remain here and work illegally I could go back to jail. It’s just not right.”

A phone conversation with Senator Cantwell’s office shed little light on Gamboa’s legal problems. “At least he is not in prison. We pressed the U.S. government to drop the deportation charges. But the underlying problems with the ‘S Visa’ need to be sorted out,” says John Diamond a spokesman for Senator Cantwell.
“The remedy is a private bill and we are considering this, the Senator met with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano a week or so ago,” he explained.

The fact remains Gamboa is in a difficult situation and he has recently gone public which exposed his informant status, this according to Diamond puts Gamboa in grave danger.

A case of Congressional power

In New York an Argentinean brother and sister Emilio and Analia Maya were approached by a police officer and given ICE phone numbers to become informants. Since they over stayed their visas, the Argentineans agreed working for the government agency could provide a path to citizenship. Sadly it did not and after the work dried up so did their legal status.

In extraordinary fashion Emilio Maya’s request for a stay of deportation was granted after Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), submitted a rare private bill in the House requesting that Maya, 34, and his 30-year-old sister, Analia, be granted legal status. “After being treated unfairly for so long and being threatened with immediate deportation, the Maya family today received some long-awaited positive news,” Hinchey said in an Associated Press story.

Once the Mayas became part of the ICE informant team they were expected to keep long hours and work in dangerous situations. The brother-sister team did this for more than four years. The duo would wear wires, infiltrate a prostitution ring, and work in a factory that hired illegal immigrants and turned in information regarding human smuggling operations.

Like most informants seeking legal residence in the U.S., they were promised the coveted “S Visa.” Instead of the reward of legal status ICE informed the Mayas they would face deportation because they were no longer useful to ICE.

Pointing out that it is company policy to not discuss ongoing cases ICE spokesman Brian Hale refused to discuss any case involving informants. He did explain that in general, “there has to be a significant benefit to the government,” in order for informants to receive legal papers, something that comes as news to the many foreign nationals who work for ICE.

One way Senators and Congressmen seek a reprieve from ICE’s callous treatment of informants is to create “private bills” to provide relief from immigration laws for compelling informant cases. However the complex rules governing the introduction of such bills makes them extremely difficult to pass.

El Paso ICE office mishandles many informants

ICE informant Gonzalez Galeana was killed on May 15 of 2009; he was shot as he walked up to his home in an upscale neighborhood of El Paso.

Not only was he murdered outside his home, police reported that Galeana was not only a lieutenant with the Juarez cartel, but also an informant for ICE. Investigators say he was targeted because he was leaking cartel information to the U.S. government.

There have been five individuals arrested for the murder and they detailed the motive that led to his demise was his background in the Juarez cartel. Gonzalez was shot multiple times outside his home and among the suspects was an 18-year-old U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas who was hired by one of the leaders of the Juarez cartel.

Another suspect arrested was Ruben Rodriguez Dorado who is also a lieutenant in the Juarez cartel. The details surrounding Dorado further demonstrate ICE lacks the complex wherewithal to juggle multiple confidential informants. Apparently Dorado received orders from his cartel leadership to kill Gonzalez.

The kicker is Rodriguez was able to freely enter America and track down Gonzalez. He even paid Gonzalez’s cell phone bill and was able to look up his home address. It has been reported that Dorado undertook surveillance measures of Gonzalez’ home, planned the killing and hired the underage assassin to murder his target.

Once Dorado’s cover was blown and his life in danger, it certainly would have helped those involved that another ICE informant, Rodriguez, could be involved in the possible murder plot. It’s worth pointing out that Rodriguez was a legal permanent resident of the United States, and his relationship with ICE would allow him to cross the border without much notice.

There have been many reports that examine the reach, scope and complexity of the Mexican drug cartels’ intelligence efforts. The cartels have done a good job recruiting ex-Mexican military personnel to join their ranks. A leading component with recruitment is money, Mexican government jobs are notoriously low-paying positions. The billion-dollar drug industry gives them the ability to garner highly trained soldiers.

It is clear that several of the cartels have demonstrated the ability to operate more like a foreign intelligence service than a traditional criminal organization. This means that it is highly possible that Rodriguez was what is referred to in intelligence terms as a double agent — someone who pretends to spy on an organization but is, in fact, loyal to that organization.

When it comes to informants, the government’s ability to learn about the inner workings of criminal enterprises often relies on people who have first-hand knowledge – or criminals themselves. The first and most obvious issue is that most people, who have access to the inner workings of a criminal organization, and therefore the most valuable intelligence, are themselves criminals. Honorable citizens usually do not have access to the plans of organized crime or understand their hierarchy. Therefore most authorities need to recruit or flip criminals in order to infiltrate the cartels or mafia-type organizations.

In Juarez, cartels like the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) or Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) drug organization in Mexico have recruited scores of intelligence assets and agents at all levels of the Mexican government. It has been reported that BLO even recruited Mexico’s former drug czar to assist the cartels with needed knowledge to move their drugs into the United States.

With the massive amounts of drug money coming into Mexico, cartels can buy foreign expertise and equipment that provide the ability to set counterintelligence and bribe pertinent government officials on both sides of the border.

If there is a lesson to be learned by the U.S., it’s that the drug cartels can reach across the border to take care of business with a lot of stealth. This should prompt ICE and other U.S. law enforcement agencies to work together to slow down the drug trade.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner

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False allegations, ICE betrayal and cover-up surround the House of Death

Describing the mishandling of the House of Death case and ICE’s treatment of confidential informants goes something like this – what happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico or government agencies gone wild; or law enforcement agencies gone wild.

Not only has the House of Death incident never been fully investigated, but also none of the DEA, ICE and DHS management officials responsible for supervising the case reprimanded. No rule books were written to ensure U.S. law enforcement agencies could ever take part in covering-up a dozen murders that crossed international borders with Mexico.

Once the case was shut down and the ‘stuff’ hit the fan ICE agents found themselves in the middle of a game of ‘Clue.’ Except this was very real – it was Mr. ICE agency, with the rope in the House of Death.
A common fact that many news stories and ICE representatives in Washington D.C. conveniently leave out about this gruesome murder tale is the fact each time informant 913 – Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro or ‘Lalo’ was debriefed about his visits south of the border, several ICE agents and supervisors were present in the interrogation room.

In a recent series of articles by NPR a Kumar Kibble, acting director of criminal investigation for ICE said, “we have been successfully recruiting informants year after year, and I think they have a comfort level working with ICE,” he says. “I mean, otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to continue to bring the highly successful investigations that we have been bringing.”

But according to the NPR story Kibble wouldn’t talk about Lalo. He had no comment about why the agency wants to send its star informant back to Mexico, where Lalo faces torture and death at the hands of the cartels he sold down the river.

Several attempts were made to contact ICE and Mr. Kibble, but the agency could not find an employee with that name. Nevertheless Lalo’s attorney Jodi Goodwin made it clear that this problem is not isolated and she represents many informants in similar cases. “The fact they tried to blame this on Lalo and his ICE handler Bencomo and not any of the supervisors who made the decision to move forward after each murder is ridiculous.”

In an effort to cover-up their tracks ICE fired Lalo’s handler, Raul Bencomo. Not only was Bencomo a low-level agent, he was never in a position to tell Lalo to participate in murder and stay inside the Juarez drug cartel and collect damning information to bring down a major kingpin and give ICE some much-wanted notoriety. “In the end ICE did me in. They wanted a fall guy and I shouldn’t have been the fall guy. Why weren’t any of my supervisors who directed me through this case I didn’t want to be a part of lose their jobs?” Bencomo said.

The House of Death case did garner ICE notoriety, but it was the kind Washington decided to sweep under the mat and cross their fingers mainstream media would fail to pick up on the cover-up that went all the way to the Bush White House. ICE got lucky and indeed the mainstream media decided to focus on the war in Iraq.

Sandalio Gonzalez, the retired DEA Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of El Paso who blew the whistle on the House of Death says that members of Congress have been, and are being bamboozled by the Executive Branch on this issue. By failing to ask the tough questions relavent to this case makes Congress complicit with the federal law enforcement agencies involved in the House of Death cover up.

The JAT Report remains elusive

Emails posted on FBI Watch in March of 2006/07, quote the cover memorandum to the DEA/ICE Joint Assessment Team (JAT) Report prepared in connection with the House of Death debacle. The memo is directed to John Clark, ICE Director of Investigations, and Michael Ferguson, DEA Chief of Operations, from; (name redacted) Special Agent in Charge Buffalo and Rodney Benson ASAC, DEA Boston Field Division.

The memorandum reads, “This review commenced on February 10, 2004, and ended on February 19, 2004. In connection with this review, the JAT conducted forty-four interviews of DEA, ICE, United States Attorney’s Office and Department of State personnel in El Paso, Texas, and Mexico. In addition, the JAT conducted investigative and confidential source file reviews and reviewed several hundred recorded conversations in connection with the ICE and DEA [redacted] investigations.

This assessment report consists of the JAT timeline of pertinent events, JAT interview summaries and noteworthy reports; all the facts detailed within the JAT timeline were agreed upon by ICE and DEA JAT personnel,” the email read. (Link- FBI Watch 4th post down http://forums.signonsandiego.com/showthread.php?t=59139&page=28)

All parties involved know the JAT report exists yet very few eyes have been privy to the entire report including former DEA SAC Gonzalez. There have been claims that the report may be classified as National Security to shut the door for questions, however, Gonzalez sees it differently. “It’s not National Security issue, it’s a national embarrassment issue.”

A summary of the interview with the then DEA SAC Gonzalez, says the House of Death debacle reads something like this;

“On February 11, 2004, JAT members conducted an interview of Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Sandalio Gonzalez, explained that the interview was in connection with a joint review being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The purpose of the joint review was to ascertain the facts related to the events surrounding the evacuation of the DEA Resident Office in [Ciudad Juarez] Mexico and events and activities related to ICE and DEA investigations targeting [the VCF Juarez cartel and Heriberto Santillan-Tabares]. It was stressed by JAT personnel that this was solely a fact-finding inquiry to which the final report would be provided to the DEA Chief of Operations and ICE Director of Investigations,” the interviewers stated.

At many intra-agency meetings, during his four-year stint in El Paso, “SAC Gonzalez advised they discussed significant cases, operational and administrative matters, pertaining to Operation Sky-high: SAC Gonzalez was aware that it was an ongoing multi-agency operation including DEA, FBI, ICE, USAO (U.S. Attorneys Office) and Mexican Authorities targeting elements of the [Vicente Carrillo Fuentes] VCF [drug] organization in Mexico. According to Gonzalez, this multi-agency operation was initiated by DEA [El Paso].”

“Over the years, there has been some concern from U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies regarding the sharing of information with Mexican Authorities. SAC Gonzalez stated that he stressed that DEA would not share another agency’s information with Mexican Agencies without permission from the agency providing the information. Gonzalez stated that the FBI and ICE did not want certain information passed to the Mexican Authorities. SAC Gonzalez stated that the [Heriberto Santillan-Tabares] investigation was a joint investigation between DEA and ICE and that the FBI had very little involvement with this investigation,” the JAT Report team found.

Gonzalez recalled a March 2003 controlled delivery of “twenty-nine kilograms of cocaine that was received by the ICE [El Paso] CS [confidential informant, Guillermo Ramirez Peyro ‘Lalo’] from [Santillan]. In addition, SAC Gonzalez commented that DEA [El Paso] provided an undercover agent for the controlled delivery and DEA [El Paso] intelligence analysts participated in the debriefing of the CS shortly after the controlled delivery. According to SAC Gonzalez, Group Supervisor [redacted’s] group had primary oversight of the DEA [case] targeting VCF,” the report concluded.

Once the JAT report was finished and many questions remained unanswered about the misdoings by ICE, DHS and DOJ regarding the House of Death, many news agencies and attorneys began requesting the report through the Freedom Of Information Act or (FOIA). To this day the JAT report remains in a cabinet drawer in Washington D.C. or South America as some have reported.

Bill Weaver, a law professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who has written extensively about the murder case, stated that a letter from DEA in December 2006 stated, “that his FOIA request for the JAT is being jammed up because some documents are in South America and due to national security concerns.”

Weaver replied to the letter from DEA and said, “There is nothing in the Joint Assessment Team report or supporting materials that remotely involved ‘South America’ or the ‘Southern United States.’ All of the events investigated by the team occurred in the El Paso/Juarez region. Some interviews were made in Mexico City.”

A letter from DEA headquarters in Washington and the Department of Justice, to U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton’s office is proof that the JAT report does in fact exist. It also shows that Washington was concerned enough about a possible public relations disaster and then they buried the JAT report and settled their case against Santillan in a plea deal which didn’t include any murder charges.

The memorandum read, “This is a partial response to your letter of April 6, 2004, to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) El Paso Division Special Agent in Charge Sandalio Gonzalez concerning the captioned [Santillan] case. In that letter you requested any and all impeaching or otherwise exculpatory information relating to two essential witnesses for the Government (namely), Eduardo Ramirez, aka Lalo [the ICE informant] (and) Jose Jaime Marquez [Ramirez’ assistant in the House of Death murders].

More specifically, this memorandum is in response to paragraph 10 of your letter in which you requested ‘(a) copy of the final report, any internal memorandum or other documents prepared by the joint management inquiry team [the DEA/ICE Joint Assessment Team].’ Please note that the enclosed final report also includes a ‘Joint Assessment Team Timeline,’ which is referenced in paragraph “9” of your letter. This report is being provided to you in its entirety because we fully appreciate your office’s need to review all potentially relevant information with regard to the Santillan-Tabares case, and we understand that disclosure of this information outside of the United States Attorney’s office will not be made without further notification to, and consultation with, DEA,” the memo states.

The theory behind JAT Reports is two-fold. First they can hold a governmental agency accountable for mishandling operations, straying from agency policy and getting to the bottom of what happened and when. The second is to designate a new game plan when another similar event unravels and providing the rulebook to play by.

Neither has occurred in this case.

“The reason the Joint Assessment Team (JAT) Report remains so elusive is because the government has something to hide. It’s kind of like the child who breaks a toy and then hides it. The old adage out of sight, out of mind, can’t get in trouble. DHS has been hiding the facts for so long, they don’t know any other way. Unfortunately, DOJ also did this constantly during the Bush Administration. Had there not been anything to hide, they would have gone public long ago, instead of continuing to keep it quiet, hoping that it would all just go away. Remember that Acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart testified under oath during Sandy Gonzalez civil suit that ICE was responsible for the House of Death murder spree,” stated Andy Ramirez of the non-profit Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council.

This case screams for Inspector General oversight

Currently there are approximately 69 federal Offices of Inspectors Generals (OIG), who are supposed to look out for the taxpayers and for the most part they try to sell the public on their anonymity. The IGs employ criminal investigators and auditors.

One of the goals many Inspector Generals are responsible for is uncovering misconduct activities by federal agencies including the detection and prevention of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement of the government programs and operations within their parent organizations. IG investigations may be internal and can target government employees; or external when it comes to targeting grant recipients, contractors, or recipients of the various loans and subsidies offered through the thousands of federal domestic and foreign assistance programs.

The mission statement of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) states “was statutorily established as an independent entity within the executive branch by the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 to address integrity, economy, and effectiveness issues that transcend individual Government agencies; and increase the professionalism and effectiveness of personnel by developing policies, standards, and approaches to aid in the establishment of a well-trained and highly skilled workforce in the offices of the Inspectors General.”

Once the House of Death was discovered, Clark Ervin, the DHS Inspector General, began to write a series of reports on security programs used by DHS that were failures and run by “inept” government officials. “There isn’t a concern about the importance of spending every single dollar to the maximum effect of the core mission of the department,” Ervin told ABC News in 2004.

The White House only appointed Ervin for one term. He was appointed to oversee issues within the Department of Homeland Security. ABC reported he wanted to stay on, but was informed that he would be replaced. “I think this was a voice that was a little too critical and made the administration a little too uncomfortable,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government watchdog group.

Former DEA SAC Gonzalez reported the House of Death murders to the two most appropriate government watchdog agencies. As a Department of Justice employee he wrote to the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General to request appropriate action, and as a government whistleblower he wrote to the Office of Special Counsel seeking protection from retaliation. In addition, after he retired Mr. Gonzalez personally briefed senior staff members of Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D- VT) about the House of Death murders and the subsequent cover up. All parties he tried to inform ignored him.

In a letter from Office of Special Counsel to DEA agent Gonzalez dated July 2, 2004 the OSC office appears to take a blasé tone regarding the SAC of El Paso’s concern regarding mismanagement -resulting in 12 murders. The letter reads in part; “This will acknowledge receipt of the above-referenced disclosure matter… Please bear in mind that each year OSC receives a large number of matters concerning disclosures of information of a violation of law, rule or regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

We attempt to handle all the cases as expeditiously as is possible. Cases are generally processed in the order in which they are received,” The OSC office said in the letter. Wow, murder doesn’t appear to garner much attention from the Washington D.C. It’s worth pointing out that there has yet been a report taken by DHS, DOJ or ICE that has been made public detailing the atrocities that occurred at the House of Death.

For now Lalo’s family in the U.S. remains hopeful the government will pull through and honor their promises to give Lalo his U.S. paperwork so he can get on with his life. “I just came from a visit with my son in New York,” says Lalo’s father. “They only allowed me one hour a day and I had to talk into a phone through thick glass. This isn’t right my son isn’t a wanted criminal in any country. Why are they treating him like this – solitary confinement and no TV or computers, it’s just no way to live.”

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner

DOJ’s Double Standard, Terrorists get royal treatment, Informants get stiffed

Last week U.S. national security stood front and center with a stunning acknowledgment Americans can expect another terrorist attempt on the homeland in the next three to six months. That prediction sparked countrywide debate ending with a five-page letter from Attorney General Eric Holder lashing out at Republicans and letting the country know he will run the Department of Justice his way.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took the brunt of Holder’s anger as the five-page letter was addressed to the Kentucky Senate Minority leader. The lesson in terrorist treatment of the most recent American terrorist attempt on Christmas Day began this way;

“The decision to charge Mr. Abdulmutallab in federal court, and the methods used to interrogate him, are fully consistent with the long-established and publicly known policies and practices of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the United States Government as a whole, as implemented for many years by Administrations of both parties. Those policies and practices, which were not criticized when employed by previous Administrations, have been and remain extremely effective in protecting national security. They are among the many powerful weapons this country can and should use to win the war against al-Qaeda,” said Holder. (click link to read letter; http://www.scribd.com/doc/26325635/Eric-Holder-letter-to-Mitch-McConnell-2-3-2010)

This statement suggests the U.S. government must use all tools in the toolbox to combat the fight against terror. However, just as there are many tools in the toolbox, it can be said there are many forms of terrorism the country faces.

Case in point when it comes to the country’s southwest borders the Mexican drug cartels pose just as much of a threat to American sovereignty. In fact the cartels have no allegiance to America and will use terrorists as a means to their ends – get drugs to the hungry U.S. customer.

There are some curious points contained in Holder’s letter to Senate Republicans.

“In contrast to the government’s recent self-serving letter by AG Holder to a number of U.S. Senators concerned with the handling of the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 last December 25th, the mishandling of House of Death informant Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro or ‘Lalo’ along with the related cover up of alleged U.S. involvement in over a dozen murders, is a national disgrace for which both the Bush and Obama administrations should be held accountable by the U.S. Congress,” explains Sandalio Gonzalez retired DEA agent who blew the whistle on the infamous House of Death case.

“The complete lack of integrity, rampant hypocrisy, and reckless disregard for the rule of law exhibited by the U.S. government in every aspect of this case (House of Death) is nothing short of reprehensible,” Gonzalez says. “To this day it continues to be an ongoing insult to the nation and all its law enforcement officers and law abiding citizens. Every government official with knowledge of this tragic affair, from all branches of government, who have stood silent and allowed the cover up to continue, are themselves part of the conspiracy and should hang their heads in shame,” he finishes.

For those unfamiliar with the House of Death, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) participated in an undercover operation to infiltrate one of the Juarez drug cartels. The informant they chose, Lalo, had a prior relationship with a ranking Juarez cartel lieutenant, Heriberto Santillan Tabares and Lalo would rely on his relationship with his boss to collect intelligence for the U.S. government.

Mexican drug cartels have evolved over the years and the ruthless, gruesome killing methods associated with the drug trade placed Lalo in the middle of a high-stakes, take no prisoners game. One wrong move and Lalo would be on the receiving end of death.

“My job was very dangerous,” says Lalo. “I explained this to my ICE handler, Raul Bencomo. They (ICE) knew I was giving good information and they wanted me to keep going even after the first murder.” Yes, the U.S. government wanted a civilian-informant to continue recording information about the cartel business even if it happened to be murder. “They wanted me to try and not record anymore murders, but I told them I couldn’t promise that because the ‘death house’ was very dangerous,” Lalo said.

With the promise of a new life in America and plenty of start-up money, Lalo continued to place his life on the line for ICE agents. “He was the best informant we had,” Bencomo said about his reliable informant Lalo. However, it would take a dozen murders and the breach of safety of DEA agents living in Juarez, Mexico to end Lalo’s run as informant.

Despite the emergency evacuation of DEA personnel from the world’s most violent city, Lalo would undertake one last job for ICE – lure cartel leader, Santillan to the United States so ICE could arrest him.

“Not only did I get Santillan to come to El Paso I drove him around and got him to talk about the past murders. Santillan started talking about the last days’ actions,” Lalo explains. It would be here the wanted cartel leader would talk about another murder at the “little house.”

Once the dark story was complete, Lalo would be pulled over in his own vehicle by a controlled traffic stop. The “House of Death” saga would end quietly with the arrest of Santillan. Law enforcement would tell the Juarez cartel leader he was under arrest and the last thing Lalo overheard from his boss was fact he had a warrant for his arrest, “I don’t have two hours in this country, how do I get a warrant?”

With Lalo’s mission complete, he is released from fake custody and Bencomo thanked him for a job well done.

In a strange twist, Santillan would admit to drug charges and get 25 years in U.S. prison and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton would drop the murder charges in order to avoid a messy trial.

However in an unexpected turn of events Lalo would find himself in custody. Lalo explained that DHS was scrambling to pin a murder on him and when that didn’t work they wanted him to say his ICE handler, Bencomo was corrupt and when that didn’t work they threatened to deport his common-law wife and children back to Mexico.

“That was blackmail because if they sent my family back to Mexico the cartels would kill them immediately. Juanita Fielden, Assistant U.S. Attorney in El Paso, promised me many things, and once I signed the paper to remain in custody, I never heard from her again,” Lalo said.

He continues to fight deportation to this day even after favorable rulings by immigration judges. Yet he and has spent more than six years in jail, most of it in solitary confinement. While enemy combatants have access to other prisoners, TV, computers and attorneys Lalo does not. “I think they (America) want to keep me by myself and break me, hoping I will just accept deportation.”

The fact remains, Lalo, who was paid approximately $250,000 to be an ICE informant, was stabbed in the back by a corrupt U.S. government who continues to cover its tracks and push for Lalo to be deported where he will surely face death at the hands of the very people he successfully collected evidence against.

What effect will this have on future informants the U.S. depends on to fight the drug cartels or other criminal enterprises remains to be seen, but the fallout is surely devastating for future undercover operations.

“The implications are significant for such behavior on the part of the government quickly becomes known in the “underworld” so to speak, as in Lalo’s case. As a result, potential “walk in” sources of information that the government has no hammer on, as opposed to defendant/informants (the ones that “flip” to get their sentences reduced), simply will not come forward to cooperate,” explains retired DEA Agent Gonzalez “There’s also a strong possibility that agents with a conscience will simply not recruit such sources because they know that people above them in the pecking order will leave them hanging. Every time an informant is burned the word gets out, and it becomes increasingly difficult to convince other individuals to cooperate.”

Former NYPD officer Charles Houser had this to say about the treatment of informants.

“Burning informants is a very bad and seriously unintelligent maneuver. It’s very difficult to cultivate a productive informant from a law enforcement perspective. Informants are sometimes the only vehicle available to bringing bad guys to justice. Burning an informant only serves as a warning to other potential informants who may consider cooperating with law enforcement authorities, of the hazards of such a relationship.”

Houser explains that NYPD back in the day, “we had enough of a problem just getting witnesses to a felony, even homicides, to make a statement. I can’t imagine any scenario short of an emergency where the public safety was a priority and necessary to sacrificing informant. The betrayal of trust would be enough to send potential informants running.

It is truly the height of hypocrisy that the government provides rights to terrorists, while government informants are held without charges pressed against them in violation of due process, according to Andy Ramirez of Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council.

“It is important to define such labels as Congress has not declared war on Afghanistan or any other nation. Operations are being conducted against terrorist outfits that could consist of a number of cells with any number of persons, or made up of a sole individual, of which there is no way to know specifics. As such, one must question Constitutional protections provided beyond human rights.”

“Of course the irony is that these basic rights, given to terrorists, have not been provided to ‘Lalo’ the ICE informant in the House of Death case. He continues to be held illegally by ICE (and DHS), while justice continues to be obstructed by the government. Of course the reason is very simple as Lalo is ‘the material witness’ in the House of Death case and can implicate wrongdoing by many officials. Documentation shows that the cover-up of this case involved many of the highest- ranking Bush Administration officials. By continuing to try to deport Lalo to Mexico knowing he will be murdered by the cartels, and violating his rights, this is no longer just a Bush case as it continues to be obstructed by the Obama Administration.”

Given the tenor and tone of this letter from AG Holder to Senate Minority Leader McConnell, it’s what I would have expected of former AG Gonzales. Yet, it is what it is given the refusal by the Congress to hold the Justice Department and Homeland Security accountable for outright lying repeatedly in testimony as well as to the American people. “Both are known for rampant abuse, retaliations against whistleblowers, and bad terminations and prosecutions in what I’ve coined the ‘War on Law Enforcement,’” Ramirez states.

“The only way this nonsense will ever cease is for Congress to realize that the Executive Branch is out of control, as well as their partner in collusion, that being the courts, and rein the other two branches back in for that is their role, to maintain accountability under checks and balances. The other two branches have crossed the so-called separation of powers line repeatedly and that must stop by auditing funding, filing contempt of Congress citations and articles of impeachment, issuing subpoenas, conducting real hearings under oath, and appointing independent special prosecutors to get to the bottom of things,” Ramirez finishes.
When comparing Lalo’s House of Death case to the terrorists in U.S. custody Gonzalez calls it like he sees it.

“It’s simple, while the government is willing to prosecute alleged terrorists, it is not yet, nor will it be anytime soon, willing to prosecute former and present high-level government officials on murder-related charges. That would be quite the embarrassing situation to say the least. Lalo would be key for such a prosecution, which is why he’s being held as some sort of nuclear inter-galactic combatant because if he were a mere enemy combatant he would have some rights. Apparently the laws of this planet don’t apply to him,” he says.

“By the way, let’s not forget that the government was fully willing to take action against only one low level official; Agent Bencomo, a Hispanic, was fired by ICE. Coincidence?” This is Gonzalez’ explanation of the House of Death fiasco where an ICE informant who is not wanted for any crime anywhere in the world remains in jail, fighting for his life because the government he worked for wants him deported to Mexico – a death sentence.

In frustration Lalo sums up his experience as an informant for America, “it’s been my American nightmare and I can no longer trust anything the government says. I don’t even want to be in the witness protection program because I don’t believe they will protect me. It’s ridiculous how they are treating someone who did nothing but help DHS put dangerous cartel members in jail.”

Why does a “standard operating procedure” apply to suspected terrorists eliciting a detailed response by Holder, but yet the government continues to hold Lalo in prison, in violation of his rights – both human and constitutional? It certainly appears that the U.S. government is only interested in protecting terrorists who wish to harm American citizens, while the Departments of Homeland Security and “Justice” are interested in protecting their employees from the legal consequences of reprehensible actions they participated in.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner

A walk down the dark side reveals recklessness at the House of Death

Take a walk down a little-known street, 3633 Calle Parsioneros. The house is located in a middle-class neighborhood of Juarez and it is the location of a murder spree, one that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would closely monitor.

It began on a hot summer afternoon and ended in winter with several DEA agents’ lives in peril. The secret would not be revealed until one DEA agent put pen to paper, Sandalio Gonzalez. This case began the way most do. Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro or ‘Lalo’ would be known as informant 913. His new job was spying on his boss and delivering tape-recorded conversations to his ICE handler, Raul Bencomo.

“The government’s reckless attitude for Lalo’s life was astonishing. Each time he crossed into Juarez his life was in danger. But each time Lalo came in for debriefing he had a lot of credible information for us,” Bencomo said. “If I had to talk about his honesty, I’d say he was honest 90 percent of the time.”
Lalo’s attorney, Jodi Goodwin, concurred, “Lalo was responsible for more than 60 arrests and convictions as well as millions of dollars in product and cash that were confiscated.”

When it came to informants, Lalo was reliable. He showed up on time, provided good information and only expected a fair price for the work he performed for the U.S. government. According to his attorney, Goodwin and a reliable source close to the case, Lalo is owed more than $500,000 from the government.

Lalo explains ICE placed his life in harms way a number of times. “They (ICE) didn’t understand my position with the recorder, I couldn’t just turn it on or off in front of Santillan without drawing suspicion. After the first murder I was told to keep going but try to not record any more murders. This was very dangerous,” Lalo explains from his new home at an ICE detention facility.

Don’t record any more murders was the ICE supervisors concern. They didn’t seem too concerned with human life, according to Lalo. The first murder to be taped should have been the last, but ICE got greedy, in fact Lalo was working concurrent case involving cigarettes and ICE Associate Special Agent in Charge Patty Kramer and Special Agent in Charge John Gaudioso shockingly thought this case “would make their careers,” according to ICE Agent Bencomo.

It was here that Bencomo wanted out. When Lalo came in for the not-so-routine debriefing, Bencomo and his supervisors had to listen to the recording of a murder. “It was so graphic that I got physically ill and had to throw up,” Bencomo explained. “I wanted out. After the first murder I didn’t want to be a part of this, however I was ordered to stick with it.”

Once the House of Death case came to its conclusion, Lalo and his common-law wife and two children were brought into the United States to start their new lives.

It didn’t work out that way. A few months after Lalo disengaged with his informant duties, there was an attempt on his life. And once the details of the grizzly murders began to surface, questions were asked and Lalo was found out. The cartel he once worked for was now after him – a death warrant was issued.
At this point, Lalo had no other choice and he was taken into protective custody. He thought the country he worked for would keep up their end of the deal. The information ICE was able to procure resulted in multiple arrests and a lot of money and drugs. Lalo had no idea that the country he risked his life for would soon turn on him.

Did ICE and Department of Homeland Security not use the information? Was Lalo charged in America or Mexico with any crime? No. Lalo had something much more valuable – his testimony could put a lot of U.S. government employees in jail for allowing murders to take place, for being accessories to murders, for conspiring to obstruct justice, and for corruption that led straight to Washington D.C.

For the last five years Lalo has been in prison, solitary confinement, without TV or Internet access, his crime – fighting a deportation charge. “If the U.S. deports me it is a death sentence because I’m a very big prize for the cartels. They will make me an example for others who consider working for the Americans,” Lalo explains on the phone from the detention facility.

The never-ending legal quagmire

The legal time line for Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro’s (Lalo) removal from the U.S. began in April of 2005. There have been many court dates in different regions of the country for what amounts to judge shopping by a corrupted Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within the Justice Department.
“They (U.S. government) want to find a judge that will send me to my death in Mexico, I don’t understand why they want to burn me. I did everything they asked me to do,” Lalo said.

On May 1, 2005, Lalo received a positive credible fear determination by an Asylum Officer and approval by a Supervisory Asylum Officer in late May of 2005. This would lead to Lalo’s initial trial before an immigration Judge who granted his first ‘Convention Against Torture Protection’ in August of the same year.
Goodwin, Lalo’s attorney found out exactly how much the government wanted Lalo returned to Mexico in January 2006. “This was the first BIA decision reversing immigration judge’s decision and it sent us to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to fight for Lalo’s life.”

During the first 8th Circuit Court hearing, overwhelming amounts of evidence was put forward and in the end the Court ruled in Lalo’s favor. “It looked like I would be out and the case would finally be over, but it wasn’t,” Lalo said. “The decision by the 8th Circuit Court remanded the case to BIA and that resulted in another hearing in February of 2007.”

The second hearing before the immigration judge regarding the granting of ‘Convention Against Torture Protection’ was on October 11, 2007.

Lalo would win his second 8th Circuit Court of Appeal case in August of 2009, therefore one would think the nightmare for Lalo would finally come to a close, but sadly it did not.

A motion was filed by DHS with the BIA to remand the case to an immigration judge on December 31, 2009, and a response brief was filed on behalf of Ramirez Peyro “Lalo” in opposition to the DHS motion to remand.
Lalo now awaits the decision from immigration judges and hopes to win his case for a third time. A disheartened Lalo says; “The depressing part of this is each time I go through the court process it takes more than two years. Why are they doing this?”

Not only does this back and forth in the courts cost money, it proves the government is afraid of what Lalo can testify to. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton had cartel leader Santillan on multiple murders, but after the Joint Assessment Team (JAT) report was obtained regarding the entire House of Death incident, the murder charges were dropped. Why?

Lalo makes a good witness.

He can testify to the orders he took from an over-zealous ICE office in El Paso, Texas. “I can testify to every detail of my duties for ICE,” he says.

To this day the JAT report has been buried in Washington D.C. and the back and forth inside the judicial system and obvious judge shopping is further proof the U.S. government doesn’t want Lalo to testify. “They want me dead,” Lalo says.

His attorney, House of Death insiders and family all agree that the government wants Lalo to disappear. Once Lalo is gone the embarrassing House of Death case that has left DHS, DOJ, ICE and DEA with a black eye, will forever be swept under the mat.

Former U.S. Attorney Pete Nunez has this to say about the House of Death. “A new book by George Grayson ‘Mexico, Narco-Violence and a Failed State?’ includes a page or two on the House of Death. From what he says, it would appear that this is not a very well kept secret.”
It looks like the government is hiding in plain sight.

The fallout from House of Death

The only employee left holding the bag was Lalo’s handler, Raul Bencomo. In typical fashion ICE kept Bencomo on paid administrative leave for more than four years before letting him go. Bencomo was never in a position of authority when it came to the House of Death and after the first murder he even wanted out. However, his superiors demanded he stick with it and in the end he alone would be holding the bag, losing not only his job, but also his reputation in law enforcement.

The final ruling by ICE explained it this way; “When the Santillan investigation began, 913 (Lalo) was highly connected in the Santillan organization and provided copious amounts of information to the agency regarding illegal operations. After he was involved in the murder of an individual associated with the Santillan organization, agency management instructed the agents, including Bencomo, that 913 (Lalo) could remain active, but could not be involved in any more serious crimes, such involvement was to be reported up the chain of command.”

“On November 25, 2003, 913 (Lalo) called Bencomo and told him that there had been two additional murders on November 23, 2003. Because the group supervisor in charge of the investigation was on leave Bencomo advised another group supervisor, Curtis Compton, that 913 (Lalo) had information about two murders. Compton instructed Bencomo to bring 913 (Lalo) into the office for a debriefing. That same day, Bencomo and Special Agent Luis Rico debriefed 913 (Lalo) regarding the two murders. After several incidents involving drug smuggling activities and murders, 913 was deactivated as a source in March 2004.”

Soon after ICE would remove Bencomo and place him on paid administrative leave eventually firing him some four years later for alleged misconduct.

Part three tomorrow

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner

House of Death, DEA Agent Leonhart and an Obama nomination

It’s been more than a year since Obama took office and his administration has been slow to fill top cabinet posts throughout the government. Many of Obama’s nominees failed the routine vetting process for a variety of reasons including; non-payment of taxes, communist leanings, illegally eavesdropping and now covering-up a 12-murder spree along the U.S./Mexico border.

Michele M. Leonhart is the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration within the Department of Justice and the president is looking to make her post permanent.

“The skill and dedication of these individuals will make them valued additions to my administration, and I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years,” said Obama in a press release.

Special Agent Leonhart has served in senior management roles in DEA headquarters as well as many Field Divisions across the U.S. Leonhart was also DEA’s first female Special Agent in Charge (“SAC”) and later became the SAC for the third largest field division, the DEA office in Los Angeles. She first joined the DEA in 1980 as a Special Agent in Minneapolis and St. Louis until moving up the DEA’s supervisory ranks in 1988.
It all looks good on paper, but when the vetting process begins to unravel, Leonhart’s competency comes apart at the seams.

The House of Death in Juarez Mexico

The House of Death is synonymous with torture, murder, cover-up and corruption in the highest order. The single most concerning aspect of this isn’t the murder itself, but rather the fact that the U.S. government not only knew about the dozen murders, but it directed an ICE informant to continue to collect information regarding a big Juarez cartel player, Heriberto Santillan-Tabares.

It is worth pointing out that there was already a pending drug case on Santillan (a top lieutenant of the drug cartel in Juarez) before the murders happened at the House of Death. In the end, he would be sent to prison for more than 25 years on the original drug charges, not for the murders he authorized and was charged with in the superseding indictment of February 18, 2004.

The House of Death case was spiraling out of control in El Paso. In testimony at former DEA El Paso SAC Sandalio Gonzalez’ discrimination trial in federal court, current Acting Administrator Leonhart acknowledged under oath that she notified Attorney General Ashcroft about the House of Death, and then DEA Administrator Karen Tandy did so as well. Tandy also testified to the fact the House of Death case was being handled at the highest levels of the Department of Justice.

In the end it would be the SAC from the DEA office in El Paso who would blow the whistle on this little shop of horrors after fellow DEA agents, residing in Juarez, were put in harm’s way. This led to the complete evacuation of DEA personnel in Juarez.

Sandalio Gonzalez, the DEA special agent in charge of El Paso ended the nonsense and fired off a four-page letter to his counterpart at ICE (John Gaudioso) as well as U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton. The fiery letter blasted those involved with the murder spree in Mexico under the guise of drug trafficking undercover infiltration of the Juarez cartel. The letter also did something nobody in DEA, ICE, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice wanted – provide a paper trail.

The letter laid out the case of travesty that U.S. law enforcement agencies overstepped their bounds and allowed 12 murders to take place. Adding fuel to the fire Gonzalez was reprimanded for writing the letter about the shenanigans at the House of Death. He would be removed from the House of Death case by his superiors in Washington and ordered not to talk about it to the press.

This would not be the end of Gonzalez’ involvement in the House of Death. During sworn testimony at his civil trial for workplace retaliation, Leonhart claimed that Gonzalez should have cleared the letter with her office prior to sending it. This would be her first lie under oath. As a SAC for DEA, Gonzalez was completely within his power to write a letter to his counterpart at ICE and to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, about the obvious mishandling of an investigation involving a dozen murders.

Lie number two would come in the context of this, “I remember occasions when he (Gonzalez) would have issues with the U.S. Attorney’s office and would even show me a draft letter before he went and sent it or would talk to headquarters and get some guidance before he would send it.” This was news to Gonzalez and he made it crystal clear in his rebuttal testimony that was not DEA protocol because he was a Senior DEA Executive in charge of a Field Division. This gave him the authority to sign official correspondence on behalf of DEA in his division.

The criticism didn’t stop with Leonhart. Catherine O’Neil, director of the DOJ’s Organized Crime Task Force, described Gonzalez’ letter as “inflammatory.” O’Neil was compelled to pass on U.S. Attorney Sutton’s fears to the Attorney General, John Ashcroft as well as DEA Administrator Karen Tandy. (Link to letter http://www.advocatescouncil.us/pdf/Letter2BICE-Sutton_HouseOfDeath.pdf )

Tandy explains she was horrified by Gonzalez’ letter. “I apologized to Johnny Sutton last night and he and I agreed on a ‘no comment’ to the press,” she stated in an email.

Leonhart, the current Deputy Administrator of DEA, further explains her frustration in court testimony; “Mr. Gonzalez, by writing the letter [to his counterpart at ICE and U.S. Attorney Sutton], it was at an inappropriate time, it was inflammable. It was nothing new. It was information that we already knew and had relayed to the highest levels of the DOJ, Department of Justice and ICE.” Begging the question if all the players in D.C. knew about the murderous rampage why did they do nothing to shut the operation down?

Even with Leonhart and other present and former DEA top executives testifying against him under oath, in December 2006 the jury in Gonzalez’ civil action ruled in his favor by finding that the DEA had retaliated against him in violation of the federal Civil Rights Act.

House of Death blows up

The event that would shut down the operation in Juarez was a credible threat to DEA agents by corrupt Juarez police and paranoid drug cartel leaders. “Because I’m the deputy administrator, when there are critical incidents or serious matters, I’m briefed very often by the chief of operations. And it was brought to my attention that we had an agent and his family pulled over by a Mexican police officer and some other individuals [on Jan. 14, 2004], and I was also advised that we believed that those people had been to his [the DEA agent’s] home earlier,” Leonhart said on the record.

Once the fallout settled Washington ordered a Joint Assessment Team (JAT) consisting of both ICE and DEA personnel, which interviewed more than 40 participants on both sides of the border.

In essence, it is believed that the JAT report details the government’s complicity in the House of Death murders, which, it could be argued, essentially makes the U.S. government a co-conspirator in the homicides along with Santillan’s narco-trafficking cell in Juarez.

A letter from DEA headquarters in Washington and the Department of Justice, to U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton’s office is proof that the JAT report does in fact exist. It also shows that Washington was concerned enough about a possible public relations disaster and then they buried the JAT report and settled their case against Santillan in a plea deal which didn’t include any murder charges.

The memorandum read, “This is a partial response to your letter of April 6, 2004, to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) El Paso Division Special Agent in Charge Sandalio Gonzalez concerning the captioned [Santillan] case. In that letter you requested any and all impeaching or otherwise exculpatory information relating to two essential witnesses for the Government (namely), Eduardo Ramirez, a.k.a Lalo [the ICE informant] (and) Jose Jaime Marquez [Ramirez’ assistant in the House of Death murders].

More specifically, this memorandum is in response to paragraph 10 of your letter in which you requested ‘(a) copy of the final report, any internal memorandum or other documents prepared by the joint management inquiry team [the DEA/ICE Joint Assessment Team].’ Please note that the enclosed final report also includes a ‘Joint Assessment Team Timeline,’ which is referenced in paragraph “9” of your letter. This report is being provided to you in its entirety because we fully appreciate your office’s need to review all potentially relevant information with regard to the Santillan-Tabares case, and we understand that disclosure of this information outside of the United States Attorney’s office will not be made without further notification to, and consultation with, DEA,” the memo states.

It was expected that Sutton would have shut down the case after the first murder, according to Bill Weaver, a law professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who has written extensively about the murder case. Sutton should have told ICE to “go with what you have, and let’s try to bring Santillan to justice.”

The letter from Washington makes it very clear to Sutton’s office that great efforts are needed to assure the JAT report did not fall into the hands of Santillan’s lawyer or otherwise become public. And, as a matter of fact, Santillan’s case never did go to trial. A pending case on Santillan for drug charges would be used to send him to prison for more than 25 years. He would not face the murder charges that he authorized and was charged with in the superseding indictment of February 18, 2004. In essence, Sutton cut a plea deal with him, dropping all the murder charges and assuring that the JAT report never saw the light of day.

The Washington letter directly links U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, to the House of Death cover-up and proves that his office is in possession of the JAT report that could expose the Bush Administration’s complicity in a dozen murders in Juarez, Mexico. There have been several Freedom of Information Act requests filed to get the JAT report, but none have been successful and the report remains buried in Washington D.C.
Further court testimony explains who was notified once the House of Death came to an end and of the plan in place with the acknowledged approval of the attorney general on how to handle the investigation of what events occurred in Ciudad Juarez.

Leonhart describes what happened next. “We notified the attorney general of the United States and the deputy attorney general of the United States [James Comey] of what we had learned and the events and our concerns. We told him that we had talked to customs and let them know what we had found out. Our administrator [DEA’s Karen Tandy] had also contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office [Sutton in San Antonio], and we thought the best thing we could do is get the agencies together, put an independent review team together to go down and find the facts because the person I was talking to said he had a different set of facts and didn’t see it the way that we saw it.”

When asked if the case was being handled at the highest levels of government Leonhart’s replies, “absolutely.” She then goes on to place the blame for the House of Death murder spree on ICE. “Yes, it was ICE’s fault.”

Another glitch on the resume

This dubious death case is not the only question mark in Leonhart’s DEA resume. She had an association with super-snitch Andrew Chambers. This informant who reported to Leonhart directly cost taxpayers $2.2 million. During his tenure working for Leonhart, he was caught perjuring himself repeatedly.
“The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals called him (Chambers) a liar and the 8th Circuit of Court of Appeals echoed that verdict two years later.”

According to StopTheDrugWar.org Leonhart continued to use Chambers and the DEA protected him. “The DEA protected him, failing to notify prosecutors and defense attorneys about his record. At one point, DEA and the Justice Department for 17 months stalled a public defender seeking to examine the results of DEA’s background check on Chambers. Even after the agency knew its snitch was rotten, it refused to stop using Chambers, and it took the intervention of then Attorney General Janet Reno to force the agency to quit using him.

When Leonhart was repeatedly questioned about Chambers regarding his credibility problems, and if the agency should stop using him, she replied, “That would be a sad day for DEA, and a sad day for anybody in the law enforcement world. He’s one in a million. In my career, I’ll probably never come across another Andrew.”

Another Leonhart shocking statement about Chambers includes this, “The only criticism (of Chambers) I’ve ever heard is what defense attorneys will characterize as perjury or a lie on the stand.” She goes on to say Chambers “is an outstanding testifier.” Really?

The House of Death and non-trustworthy informant, Chambers, provide a pattern for critics and directly questions Leonhart’s ability to reliably make important decisions.

The beginning of the end for the House of Death

As a result of conflicting reports about the situation by both DEA and ICE, the Joint Assessment Team was convened to review the situation. According to Gonzalez, he was blocked from gaining a copy of the report, though during his civil trial then Deputy Administrator Leonhart stated he had been informed he’d get a copy of it. Gonzalez, who retired in 2005, never saw the JAT report even though he was the DEA SAC in El Paso, and the team putting together the report questioned him directly.

Gonzalez believes, “They (ICE and DEA) needed to get their stories straight. It was clear that DEA and ICE had a strained relationship and there was a lot of finger pointing, but in the end DEA was out of the loop. We had the wisdom to deactivate Lalo when he tried to cross the U.S. border with 100 pounds of marijuana, however; ICE kept him around.”

At this point, former U.S. Attorney Pete Nunez said, “Heads should have rolled in this case.” Yet no high-ranking U.S. officials lost their jobs, nor were they prosecuted.

In April of 2004 a plea agreement was reached regarding the murders in the House of Death case. The cartel leader, Santillan pled guilty to drug trafficking while the murder charges were dropped.

Sutton’s involvement with the House of Death would not be the last high profile case he would be in charge of. He was directly involved with the Ramos and Compean case in which two Border Patrol Agents were convicted of shooting a drug dealer illegally and for their mishandling of the case they received 10-11 years of prison time. (President Bush would later commute their sentences on his last day in office).

“This case (Ramos-Compean) was a skunk. It had a terrible odor,” explains Congressman Walter B. Jones-R NC. “I always wondered why there was no investigation in this matter and why the Mexican Government had so much sway in this American case involving Border Patrol Agents.”

For Congressman Jones and a few other Congressional members the story is becoming increasingly clear, referring to the House of Death. “This conspiracy, corruption and cover-up screams for immediate Congressional investigation.”

“Wrong is wrong, and after reading more about this case it was expected that Sutton would have shut down the House of Death case after the first murder. He did not. We need to remember we are a nation of laws,” Jones finished.

The fact remains that Gonzalez’ letter guaranteed an honest agent put something on record confronting the issue of murder itself. That could not be buried as it was his memo, unlike the JAT team report, the official interagency report, which remains buried to this date. The result is a full cover up of murder with conspiracy to cover-up accessories to murder and obstruction of justice all the way up DHS and DOJ.

With the nomination of the top DEA post by President Obama, Leonhart and the circumstances surrounding the House of Death require a full investigation. If this case was indeed mishandled, Leonhart was a big player smack dab in the middle of a cover up of a murder spree in a foreign country.

Why do mainstream media and many Washington players ignore the fact the U.S. government consented to a dozen gruesome murders? In Mexico murder may be the norm, but in America the rule of law rules the day. Yet, Congress and the media continue to waste time with the college football championships and baseball stars that use steroids. America is screaming for change in Washington, perhaps this DEA appointment by Obama will shed some light on a dark period in American history.

Part two will post tomorrow.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner

House of Death – U.S. Government cover-up unveiled

The ‘House of Death’ case lends itself to a sad part of American history for the government, a low point, but now five years and a new president later the case continues to be swept under the mat.

Over the past nine months the White House has hammered away at the Bush Administration on everything from bungling the war on terrorism to the economy. How many times have we heard “We are a nation of laws?” Or “I don’t mind cleaning up the mess; just don’t tell me how to do it?” Or seen the word “transparency” used.

U.S. law enforcement certainly tweaked the laws concerning the Juarez House of Death case that ultimately cost 12 lives; 11 of which could have been prevented. So why are the recent and current White House Administrations failing to stand by the laws of America? Why look the other way? These are questions this story will attempt to answer without any help from government officials.

It’s no secret that Juarez is presently the most violent city in Mexico and murders take place on a daily basis. But does it mean the U.S. government should be complicit when said murders are known to take place? This is exactly what happened after the first murder at the House of Death in Juarez.

In an affidavit, Juanita Fielden, an Assistant U.S. Attorney says; “I learned of the first murder on August 5, 2003… I, in turn, contacted Ass. U.S. Attorney Margaret Leachman who advised Richard Durbin, chief of the criminal division for the Western District of Texas.”

A full five months pass before the truth comes out. During those five months, eleven more murders will be committed.

After the proverbial s**t hit the fan and DEA agents’ lives were put in grave danger and the out-of-control case sped faster off the cliff, one senior agent had enough. “We had five to six DEA staff members in danger as well as their families,” said Sandalio ‘Sandy’ Gonzalez the retired special agent in charge for the El Paso DEA office.

This final incident in January 2004 at the House of Death became the parameter in seeking the truth for one man at the DEA.

Meanwhile the El Paso Ice office began reporting the House of Death matter to Washington D.C. Eventually the case also passed through the office of Johnny Sutton, the US Attorney for Western Texas and a close ally of George W. Bush.

It was expected that Sutton would have shut down the case after the first murder, according to Bill Weaver, a law professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who has written extensively about the murder case. Sutton should have told ICE to “go with what you have, and let’s try to bring Santillan to justice.”

It is worth pointing out that there was already a pending case on Heriberto Santillan-Tabares (a top lieutenant of the drug cartel in Juarez). In the end, he would be sent to prison for more than 25 years on the original drug charges, not for the murders he authorized and was charged with in the superseding indictment of February 18, 2004.

In the months before Washington decided to move on Santillan, the backyard of the Juarez house at 3633 Calle Parsonieros was filling up with tortured murdered corpses.

The term “carne asada” was used frequently to discuss murders that were about to take place. Each time Lalo had to get permission from his ICE handlers to cross the Mexico border to witness the murders and then report back to the U.S. government.

The House of Death case was spiraling out of control. In testimony at Gonzalez’ discrimination trial in federal court, current Acting Administrator Michelle Leonhart acknowledged under oath that she notified Attorney General Ashcroft about the House of Death, and then DEA Administrator Karen Tandy did so as well. Tandy also testified to the fact the House of Death case was being handled at the highest levels of the Department of Justice.

In addition to the highest levels of the Justice Department, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson were also briefed about the case. This was testified to under oath by DEA Chief of Operations Michael Furgason at the same civil trial.

By this time the cover-up is in full swing and DOJ, ICE and DEA are all willing participants.

In early February of 2004 Gonzalez was directed by DEA Headquarters to get to the bottom of the House of Death debacle. As a result, Gonzalez conducted relevant inquiries, which led to a letter he sent to his counterpart at ICE and to the U.S. Attorney’s Office on February 24, 2004. In the letter, Gonzalez said it was unacceptable that DEA agents and their families were placed in grave danger by the recklessness of ICE in the handling of the Santillan case.

“This resulted in the unnecessary loss of human life in the Republic of Mexico,” Gonzalez said in a letter to his counterpart the SAC for ICE as well as U.S. Attorney Sutton’s office.

Regarding the letter, during sworn testimony Leonhart claimed that Gonzalez should have cleared the letter with her office prior to sending it. She also said in the past, “I remember occasions when he would have issues with the U.S. Attorney’s office and would even show me a draft letter before he went and sent it or would talk to headquarters and get some guidance before he would send it.” This came as a surprise to Gonzalez and he made it clear during his rebuttal testimony that was not DEA procedure as he was a Senior DEA Executive in charge of a Field Division and had the authority to sign official correspondence on behalf of DEA in his division.

According to Gonzalez’ letter, “Following the August murder of Fernando LNU in 2003, ICE agents requested several country clearances for the informant to travel to Juarez. They continued sending the informant to Juarez while failing to report his activities to DEA as required by internal agreements.”

The letter also included a meeting that took place right after the first murder between FBI, DEA and ICE to discuss the Mexican Police corruption matter as well as the murder. However, ICE blew the meeting off, according to Gonzalez. “This should have ended at the August 11, 2003 meeting.”

“Once it was known that at least 12 murders had taken place at the house, ICE would not let Lalo give a statement to the Mexican authorities for several weeks,” Gonzalez said. “He finally gave his statement regarding the violence and brutality that took place in Juarez from August 2003 to January 2004.”

According to Gonzalez, “weeks later, when Lalo was finally made available to DEA for debriefing, ICE set up some ground rules notifying all parties that Lalo could not be asked about his activities prior to January 14, 2004.”

Gonzalez maintains this game playing by the U.S. amounts to nothing more than obstructing an investigation. In his letter, he wrote “This situation is so bizarre; I have never come across such callous behavior by fellow law enforcement officers.”

Catherine O’Neil, director of the DOJ’s Organized Crime Task Force, described Gonzalez’ letter as “inflammatory.” She passed on Sutton’s fears to the then Attorney General, John Ashcroft and then to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy.

Tandy explains she was horrified by Gonzalez’ letter. “I apologized to Johnny Sutton last night and he and I agreed on a ‘no comment’ to the press.”

Gonzalez would be removed from the House of Death case and ordered not to talk about it to the press.

As a result of conflicting reports about the situation by both DEA and ICE, a Joint Assessment Team was convened to review the situation. More than 40 people were interviewed on both sides of the border. According to Gonzalez, he was blocked from gaining a copy of the report, though during his civil trial then Deputy Administrator Leonhart stated he had been informed he’d get a copy of it.

“There have been several Freedom of Information Act requests for this document,” said Andy Ramirez of the Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council who has been following this case. “I think the JAT report would answer a lot of questions concerning the mishandling of the House of Death case. If everything is kosher why not release the report?”

Gonzalez concurs, “They (ICE and DEA) needed to get their stories straight. It was clear that DEA and ICE had a strained relationship and there was a lot of finger pointing, but in the end DEA was out of the loop. We had the wisdom to deactivate Lalo when he tried to cross the U.S. border with 100 pounds of marijuana, however; ICE kept him around.”

The letter Gonzalez wrote would be validated by the findings in the JAT report and to this day Gonzalez has never been challenged on the facts he presented in his letter.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Gonzalez said. “The jury didn’t buy anything that the government was saying during my civil trial, and I won.”

Adding to this is the simple fact that on page 516 of the official trial record, then Deputy Administrator Leonhart testified in regards to responsibility over the House of Death, “ICE was responsible, yes…ICE caused the incident.”

Coincidentally, four of the five agency employees who testified against Gonzalez were presidential appointees, and three seemed okay with what took place within the House of Death case. They were not hesitant to throw Gonzalez under the bus for questioning it in writing.

****

This would be the beginning of the end for Lalo. He simply faded into the Texas backdrop until August of 2004 when someone tried to shoot him in El Paso He escaped injury, when he had a fellow snitch go on his behalf instead.

Lalo was then taken into protective custody and in May 2005, ICE, the agency that had cherished him, began legal proceedings to deport him to Mexico. This amounted to a death sentence for an ex-Mexican police officer turned drug dealer turned U.S. snitch.

Why send a former U.S. snitch who earned more than $250,000 from Uncle Sam to certain death. Obama made sure the Uighurs from China were released from Gitmo to Bermuda because they would have been murdered if they returned to China.

In a recent statement from DOJ, “I am told that this is a matter currently in litigation and we would, therefore, not be able to comment,” said Charles Miller of the Department of Justice. Yet, when pressed about the case against Santillan has been closed, DOJ declined to answer.

A similar answer came from the DEA; “The DEA will not comment on this deportation matter because immigration matters in general are outside our jurisdiction, and this case specifically was not a DEA case. In addition, DEA does not speak for DOJ on policy matters.”

Basically, DEA continues its stance on not commenting regarding the deportation of Lalo to Mexico, which amounts to a death sentence. It is also worth pointing out that if Lalo dies, so does the embarrassment of the House of Death incident for the U.S.

And finally ICE had no comment regarding their former informant, Lalo.

All the while the record shows that Acting Administrator Leonhart stated under oath that ICE was responsible for the House of Death case.

Andy Ramirez who has worked and investigated legal cases against law enforcement officers as well as border security compromises sums it up best.

“The undeniable fact is that Attorney General Ashcroft, USA Johnny Sutton, and the Justice Department refused to prosecute Santillan for his role in the murders (in the plea deal for drugs), and any of the other key figures in this and other cases. This cadre clearly protected the bad guys at all costs by keeping them out of the courtroom where possible and sealing their crimes or cutting plea deals for lower crimes,” said Ramirez

“Of course the irony here is one can take the words from Sutton’s press briefings, releases and media tour, between 2006 and 2008, where he talks about agents he prosecuted for significantly lower crimes with distorted circumstantial evidence. For the most part, a pattern of hypocrisy and a clear lack of candor exists,” states Ramirez.

He continues, “In essence the U.S. Government’s Executive Branch (DOJ, DEA, DHS, & ICE) have conspired to cover this case up with their refusals to comment, as well as what are called ‘non-denial denials’ of the FOIA requests for the JAT report, and it all started when Sandy wrote his letter to ICE and Sutton.”

But as Ramirez testified before the House Homeland Security Committee in 2007, “Mexico does not know what corruption is, they come to El Paso to learn.”

“Nothing about this case, outside of their attempt to deport Lalo to certain death has been transparent. To me there is a clear-cut case for obstruction of justice by ordering Lalo not to wear the wire, conspiracy to obstruct when someone orders Sandy to not write any more memos and to not talk to the media, though Sutton clearly initiates that by calling DC and not talking with Sandy about it,” Ramirez explains.
“But what is most amazing is that unlike other patterns in cases I’ve observed, Mexico has not screamed foul. I’d say their silence has been quite deafening,” concluded Ramirez.

For part one of the House of Death; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner~y2009m11d2-House-of-Death-in-Juarez-prelude-to-a-massive-murder-coverup

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner

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