Small-town mayor stoned to death in western Mexico: Drug Cartel’s Blamed for Murder of 5th City Leader

By GUSTAVO RUIZ
Associated Press Writer

MORELIA, Mexico (AP) – A small-town mayor and an aide were found stoned to death Monday in a drug-plagued western state, the fifth city leader to be slain in Mexico since mid-August.

Michoacan state Attorney General Jesus Montejano said the bodies of Tancitaro Mayor Gustavo Sanchez and city adviser Rafael Equihua were discovered in a pickup truck abandoned on a dirt road near the city of Uruapan.

Montejano’s spokesman, Jonathan Arredondo, said initially that the victims were hacked to death with a machete, but the attorney general said they were killed with stones.

Arredondo said police were trying to determine a possible motive.

Tancitaro, a town of 26,000 people, is in a region where soldiers have destroyed more than 20 meth labs in the last year and several police officers have been killed by suspected drug gang members.

Last year the city council chief, Gonzalo Paz, was kidnapped, tortured and killed. Then in December, the mayor and seven other town officials resigned saying they had been threatened by drug traffickers and local police were not showing up to work.

Soon after, the department’s entire 60-officer force was fired for failing to stop a series of killings and other crimes, and Michoacan state police and soldiers took over security in the town. Sanchez was named mayor in January.

Also Monday in Michoacan, five gunmen and a marine were killed in a shootout in Coahuayana on the Pacific coast, the navy said in a statement. A second marine was wounded, and authorities were searching for more gunmen.

Coahuayana authorities canceled school and warned people to stay indoors.

The navy said another gunbattle across the country in the Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas left eight gunmen and one marine dead in the border city of Reynosa.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department said soldiers arrested a man suspected in the kidnapping and killing of the mayor of Santiago in the border state of Nuevo Leon. It said in a statement that Miguel Cervantes was arrested Monday.

In the border state of Chihuahua, gunmen broke into a police complex, subdued the guards and stole at least 40 automatic rifles and 23 handguns, police spokesman Fidel Banuelos said.

Banuelos said 10 officers who were in the building at the time were being questioned. He said it was not clear whether the assailants were members of a drug cartel.

In Ciudad Juarez, a border city in Chihuahua, the Public Safety Department announced the capture of a drug gang member who allegedly helped set up a car bomb that killed three people.

Suspect Jose Contreras allegedly killed a man and dressed him in a police uniform to lure federal agents to the area where the car bomb exploded, killing a federal police officer and a doctor who was helping the shooting victim.

Contreras is a member of La Linea gang, which works for the Juarez drug cartel, the department said in a statement.

Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, has become one of the world’s most dangerous cities amid a turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels.

http://www.abc-7.com/Global/story.asp?S=13224935

Criminal Illegal Alien Deportees Blamed For Caribbean Crime Wave

By MIKE MELIA

Associated Press Writer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crime was horrifying enough – a nightclub owner, hacked to death with a machete, was found buried in pieces. But what really outraged people was that the accused killer had been deported from the U.S. to his native Grenada as a convicted felon.

As a foreign-bred criminal, the suspect never should have returned to the close-knit tropical nation, relatives of the victim and others said. Islanders called for more vigilance over deportees by the government, which says it needs help from Washington to handle the return of hardened convicts.

“I hope that my brother did not die in vain and something can be done to monitor these criminal deportees,” said Gemma Raeburn-Baynes, a sister of the nightclub owner, Michael Raeburn-Delfish.

The United States has deported thousands of convicted criminals to the Caribbean annually since 1996, when Congress mandated that every non-citizen sentenced to a year or more in prison be kicked out of the country upon release. In all, the U.S. is responsible for about three-quarters of the region’s returning criminal deportees, with the United Kingdom and Canada accounting for most of the other ex-cons arriving in the islands.

It’s a phenomenon that also afflicts many parts of Central America, where street gangs that grew out of Los Angeles spread to the region through massive deportations. Brutal and powerful, the “Maras” are blamed for rampant violent crime, extortion and more recently acting as enforcers for drug cartels.

In the Caribbean, governments say deportees are exacerbating crime in nations with high levels of violence such as Jamaica. On the smaller islands such as Grenada, once considered idyllic havens from gang violence, officials say the returning deportees are partly to blame for increasingly bold and sophisticated crimes and homicide rates soaring to record levels.

The United States is attempting to defuse tensions with island governments by exploring programs to help them reintegrate deportees. During a visit to Barbados in June, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. is no longer ignoring complaints that have topped the Caribbean’s diplomatic agenda for more than a decade.

U.S. officials say privately that the deportations cannot be blamed for the increase in violent crime, but declined to discuss the issue on the record, saying the U.S. does not want to hurt relations with Caribbean governments with which it cooperates on other issues.

The man accused in the machete attack in Grenada, Ronald Michael Phillip, 55, was deported from the United States on July 6, 2000, the day after leaving a state prison in Uncasville, Connecticut, where he had spent more than six years.

Island police know only the rough outline of his life abroad: Phillip moved overseas in 1986 and lived in Canada and Brooklyn, New York, before moving to New London, Connecticut. He was arrested in December 1993 on assault and drug charges.

But the officer who found Raeburn-Delfish’s severed head and limbs in three shallow pits on Sept. 5 said the nature of the murder led him to believe the suspect was a practiced killer.

“He had a level of experience with dealing with dead people or animals,” forensics expert Trevor Modeste said. “We don’t usually have crime like that. We don’t usually have planned and executed murders.”

Modeste said his suspicions were confirmed when Phillip, known locally as Ronald de Ally, boasted to police that he killed and buried two people in the United States who were never found.

Grenada police spokesman Troy Garvey said that claim has not been verified. Garvey said investigators’ focus is on solving Raeburn-Delfish’s slaying, but they will pass anything they learn about crimes in the U.S. to the appropriate jurisdiction.

Raeburn-Delfish was Phillip’s landlord, but no motive has been established in the slaying. Phillip, who is charged with murder, did not have an attorney at his first court appearance.

At the heart of the problem is the disparity of wealth between the United States, where migrants often learn their criminal ways, and their poor homelands, where jobs are scarce and police resources are limited. Moreover, islanders who often left their native lands as children return to countries they barely recognize, with no remaining family.

Jean Nemorin, 47, who returned to Haiti in 2008, more than three decades after he arrived in the United States with his family at age 11, said there is a stigma attached to people like him when locals learn of their criminal past, making it tough to find work or a place to live.

“I struggled to feed myself for the first six months,” Nemorin said. He declined to describe his conviction in the United States but said he is crime-free today, operating a moto-taxi in Port-au-Prince that he bought with money from relatives overseas.

The biggest impact has been in heavily populated countries like Jamaica, where deportees are suspected in several violent crimes each week, according to Leslie Green, an assistant police commissioner.

But smaller islands are increasingly leading the calls for help from Washington. A Grenada government spokesman, Richard Simon, said they lack the counseling, monitoring and housing services needed to absorb deportees with serious criminal records.

In Dominica, at least one criminal deportee is suspected in a recent pair of brazen, daylight robberies by masked men, Security Minister Charles Savarin said.

In St. Lucia, an island of 170,000 people that received 18 criminal deportees from the U.S. last year, Security Minister Guy Mayers said some of the convicts were apparently recruited into local drug rings that exploit their contacts from overseas prisons.

“We are not responsible for them becoming monsters,” Mayers said. “We need support to be able to rehabilitate these people.”

In 2007, the U.S. launched a pilot program managed by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration to help reintegrate deportees. The $3 million project provided services including career counseling and housing assistance in Haiti, Guyana and the Bahamas.

U.S. officials say they hope that effort will be the starting point for a regional discussion, but no money has been assigned so far to keep the program going.

Island governments say the deportee issue will remain a sticking point with Washington until they see more action.

“I raise this with U.S. authorities every chance I get,” Mayers said.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/09/25/1841717_p2/caribbean-crime-wave-linked-to.html#ixzz10XkKpA1l

McAuley’s World Comment:

Under what theory are American taxpayers obligated to pay for the incarceration of a foreign national who commits a crime in his nation of origin … First, the individual enters the U.S. illegally, then they commit are caught and convicted of criminal activity in the United States. Then they serve the sentence prescribed by American Courts at the expense of American taxpayers before being returned to their Country of origin when they return to criminal activities …. Isn’t this a basic prerequisite of a civilized nation or government? To protect it’s citizens from the criminal element, foreign or domestic, within it’s borders?

A 4th Mexican Mayor Slain By Drug Cartels this Fall as the Cartel violence escalates …

State Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza

MONTERREY, Mexico – Gunmen killed a town mayor near the drug-plagued industrial city of Monterrey, authorities said Friday, the fourth mayor in northern Mexico to be murdered in little more than a month.

Prisciliano Rodriguez Salinas was gunned down late Thursday along with one of his personal employees in the town of Doctor Gonzalez, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Monterrey, the Nuevo Leon state Attorney General’s Office said.

Eliseo Lopez Riojas was killed as he was picking up equipment from the mayor’s house, and a white car waiting outside started firing. Investigators found 19 shells from two different weapons at the scene.

Drug gangs warring for territory and smuggling routes in northern Mexico have increasingly targeted political figures in the region, though the attorney general said there were aspects of the crime uncharacteristic of gangs.

“The act, in terms of waiting for the mayor outside his house … is not a very common tactic for organized crime,” state Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza. “So we’re not ruling out any line of investigation.”

Garza Y Garza said he was unaware of any threats against the mayor.

Two police officers had been taken in for questioning about the killings, though Garza y Garza said they were not under arrest.

Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina

In a short press conference Friday, Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina said soldiers stationed in his state had achieved some successes combating organized crime.

“We will not give up this fight,” Medina said.

President Felipe Calderon condemned the attack and sent his condolences to the family as his government reiterated its commitment to the security of all Mexicans. The government has attributed the spike in violence in the border states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas to a breakup between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas.

Monterrey-area mayor Edelmiro Cavazos

Monterrey-area mayor Edelmiro Cavazos was kidnapped in August and his body dumped three days later. Seven police officers who authorities said were paid monthly salaries by the Zetas gang were arrested in connection with that killing.

It was followed two weeks later by a fatal attack on Mayor Marco Antonio Leal Garcia in Hidalgo, a town in violence-plagued Tamaulipas.

Hooded gunmen shot to death Mayor Alexander Lopez Garcia in the town of El Naranjo in San Luis Potosi state on Sept. 8. The methods used in all three slayings were similar to those used by Mexico’s drug cartels.

In June, gunmen killed the leading gubernatorial candidate in Tamaulipas state.Mayor Marco Antonio Leal Garcia in Hidalgo

More than 28,000 people have been killed by drug-related violence since Calderon launched his attack on drug cartels in late 2006.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=11715222

Nuevo Leon, Mexico: 8 Hours, 13 Executed, 6 Kidnapped from Hotels, and 18 Injured

Despite the unanimous demand of citizen leaders urging the Governor of Nuevo Leon to act after Wednesday’s wave of narco violence left a record of 13 dead, six people kidnapped from two downtown hotels and 18 people injured, the State Government of Nuevo Leon recommended: Carry on, Go about with life as Normal. Perhaps he should have added: And try not getting shot while doing it.

http://jacqui.instablogs.com/entry/nuevo-leon-mexico-8-hours-13-executed-6-kidnapped-from-hotels-and-18-injured/#ixzz10SfVePlr

Army soldiers walk by the body of a man lying in the street in Acapulco, Mexico, Thursday Sept. 23, 2010. Authorities say seven people were killed in a shootout between rival drug gangs. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez)

Cartel Shootout Leaves 7 Dead in Acapulco

Mexican authorities say seven people were killed in a shootout between rival drug gangs in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco.

Guerrero state investigative police director Fernando Monreal says gunmen used grenades and automatic rifles to attack a house in a residential area of Acapulco on Thursday.

The state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, has become a drug cartel battleground.

Authorities on Wednesday found the decapitated bodies of two men inside a car abandoned in the community of Kilometro 30, near Acapulco.

Nationwide, more than 28,000 people have died in drug violence since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown against drug traffickers.

Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over, Alarming U.S. Citizens

TUCSON — Sgt. David Azuelo stepped gingerly over the specks of blood on the floor, took note of the bullet hole through the bedroom skylight, raised an eyebrow at the lack of furniture in the ranch-style house and turned to his squad of detectives investigating one of the latest home invasions in this southern Arizona city.

A 21-year-old man had been pistol-whipped throughout the house, the gun discharging at one point, as the attackers demanded money, the victim reported. His wife had been bathing their 3-month-old son when the intruders arrived.

“At least they didn’t put the gun in the baby’s mouth like we’ve seen before,” Sergeant Azuelo said. That same afternoon this month, his squad was called to the scene of another home invasion, one involving the abduction of a 14-year-old boy.

This city, an hour’s drive north of the Mexican border, is coping with a wave of drug crime the police suspect is tied to the bloody battles between Mexico’s drug cartels and the efforts to stamp them out.

Since officials here formed a special squad last year to deal with home invasions, they have counted more than 200 of them, with more than three-quarters linked to the drug trade. In one case, the intruders burst into the wrong house, shooting and injuring a woman watching television on her couch. In another, in a nearby suburb, a man the police described as a drug dealer was taken from his home at gunpoint and is still missing.

Tucson is hardly alone in feeling the impact of Mexico’s drug cartels and their trade. In the past few years, the cartels and other drug trafficking organizations have extended their reach across the United States and into Canada. Law enforcement authorities say they believe traffickers distributing the cartels’ marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs are responsible for a rash of shootings in Vancouver, British Columbia, kidnappings in Phoenix, brutal assaults in Birmingham, Ala., and much more.

United States law enforcement officials have identified 230 cities, including Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston and Billings, Mont., where Mexican cartels and their affiliates “maintain drug distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors,” as a Justice Department report put it in December. The figure rose from 100 cities reported three years earlier, though Justice Department officials said that may be because of better data collection methods as well as the spread of the organizations.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has asked for National Guard troops at the border. The Obama administration is completing plans to add federal agents along the border, a senior White House official said, but does not anticipate deploying soldiers.

The official said enhanced security measures would include increased use of equipment at the ports of entry to detect weapons carried in cars crossing into Mexico from the United States, and more collaboration with Mexican law enforcement officers to trace weapons seized from crime scenes.

Law enforcement officials on both sides of the border agree that the United States is the source for most of the guns used in the violent drug cartel war in Mexico.

“The key thing is to keep improving on our interdiction of the weapons before they even get in there,” said Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security and the former governor of Arizona, who will be testifying before Congress on Wednesday.

Familiar Signs

Sergeant Azuelo quickly began to suspect that the pistol whipping he was investigating was linked to a drug dispute. Within minutes, his detectives had found a blood-spattered scale, marijuana buds and leaves and a bundle of cellophane wrap used in packing marijuana.

Most often, police officials say, the invasions result from an unpaid debt, sometimes involving as little as a few thousand dollars. But simple greed can be at work, too: one set of criminals learns of a drug load, then “rips” it and sells it.

“The amount of violence has drastically increased in the last 6 to 12 months, especially in the area of home invasions, “ said Lt. Michael O’Connor of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department here. “The people we have arrested, a high percentage are from Mexico.”

The violence in the United States does not compare with what is happening in Mexico, where the cartels have been thriving for years. Forbes recently listed one of Mexico’s most notorious kingpins, Joaquin Guzmán, on its list of the world’s billionaires. (No. 701, out of 793, with a fortune worth $1 billion, the magazine said.)

At times, the police have been overwhelmed by the sheer firepower in the hands of drug traffickers, who have armed themselves with assault rifles and even grenades.

Although overall violent crime has dropped in several cities on or near the border — Tucson is an exception, reporting a rise in homicides and other serious crime last year — Arizona appears to be bearing the brunt of smuggling-related violence. Some 60 percent of illicit drugs found in the United States — principally cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine — entered through the border in this state.

The city’s home-invasion squad, a sergeant and five detectives working nearly around the clock, was organized in April. Phoenix assembled a similar unit in September to investigate kidnappings related to drug and human smuggling. In the last two years, the city has recorded some 700 cases, some involving people held against their will in stash houses and others abducted.

The state police also have a new human-smuggling squad that focuses on the proliferation of drop houses, where migrants are kept and often beaten and raped until they pay ever-escalating smuggling fees.

“Five years ago a home invasion was almost unheard of,” said Assistant Chief Roberto Villaseñor of the Tucson Police Department. “It was rare.”

Web of Crime

Tying the street-level violence in the United States to the cartels is difficult, law enforcement experts say, because the cartels typically distribute their illicit goods through a murky network of regional and local cells made up of Mexican immigrants and United States citizens who send cash and guns to Mexico through an elaborate chain.

The cartels “may have 10 cells in Chicago, and they may not even know each other,” said Michael Braun, a former chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Elizabeth W. Kempshall, who is in charge of the drug agency’s office in Phoenix, said the kind of open warfare in some Mexican border towns — where some Mexican soldiers patrol in masks so they will not be recognized later — has not spilled over into the United States in part because the cartels do not want to risk a response from law enforcement here that would disrupt their business.

But Mrs. Kempshall and other experts said the havoc on the Mexican side of the border might be having an impact on the drug trade here, contributing to “trafficker on trafficker” violence.

For one thing, they say, the war on the Mexican side and the new border enforcement are disrupting the flow of illicit drugs arriving in the United States. The price of cocaine, for instance, a barometer of sorts for the supply available, has surged.

With drugs in tighter supply, drug bosses here and in Mexico take a much harder line when debts are owed or drugs are stolen or confiscated, D.E.A. officials said.

Although much of the violence is against people involved in the drug trade, law enforcement authorities said such crime should not be viewed as a “self-cleaning oven,” as one investigator put it, because of the danger it poses to the innocent. It has also put a strain on local departments.

Several hours after Sergeant Azuelo investigated the home invasion involving the pistol whipping, his squad was called to one blocks away.

This time, the intruders ransacked the house before taking a 14-year-old boy captive. Gang investigators recognized the house as having a previous association with a street gang suspected of involvement in drug dealing.

The invaders demanded drugs and $10,000, and took the boy to make their point. He was released within the hour, though the family told investigators it had not paid a ransom.

“You don’t know anybody who is going to pay that money?” the boy said his abductors kept asking him.

The boy, showing the nonchalance of his age, shrugged off his ordeal.

“No, I’m not scared,” he said after being questioned by detectives, who asked that his name not be used because the investigation was continuing.

Growing Networks

Not all the problems are along the border.

The Atlanta area, long a transportation hub for legitimate commerce, has emerged as a new staging ground for drug traffickers taking advantage of its web of freeways and blending in with the wave of Mexican immigrants who have flocked to work there in the past decade.

The Atlanta area, long a transportation hub for legitimate commerce, has emerged as a new staging ground for drug traffickers taking advantage of its web of freeways and blending in with the wave of Mexican immigrants who have flocked to work there in the past decade.

Last August, in one of the grislier cases in the South, the police in Shelby County, Ala., just outside Birmingham, found the bodies of five men with their throats cut. It is believed they were killed over a $450,000 debt owed to another drug trafficking faction in Atlanta.

The spread of the Mexican cartels, longtime distributors of marijuana, has coincided with their taking over cocaine distribution from Colombian cartels. Those cartels suffered setbacks when American authorities curtailed their trading routes through the Caribbean and South Florida.

Since then, the Colombians have forged alliances with Mexican cartels to move cocaine, which is still largely produced in South America, through Mexico and into the United States.

The Mexicans have also taken over much of the methamphetamine business, producing the drug in “super labs” in Mexico. The number of labs in the United States has been on the decline.

While the cartel networks have spread across the United States, the border areas remain the most worrisome. At the scene of the pistol-whipping here, Sergeant Azuelo and his team methodically investigated.

Their suspicions grew as they walked through the house and noticed things that seemed familiar to them from stash houses they had encountered: a large back room whose size and proximity to an alley seemed well-suited to bundling marijuana, the wife of the victim reporting that they had no bank accounts and dealt with everything in cash, the victim’s father saying over and over that his son was “no saint” and describing his son’s addiction problems with prescription drugs.

A digital scale with blood on it was found in a truck bed on the driveway, raising suspicion among the detectives that the victim was trying to hide it.

The house, the wife told them, had been invaded about a month ago, but the attackers left empty-handed. She did not call the police then, she said, because nothing was taken.

Finally, they saw the cellophane wrap and drug paraphernalia and obtained a search warrant to go through the house more meticulously.

The attackers “were not very sophisticated,” Sergeant Azuelo said, but they somehow knew what might be in the house. “For me, the question is how much they got away with,” he said. “The family may never tell.”

All in all, Sergeant Azuelo said, it was a run-of-the-mill call in a week that would include at least three other such robberies.

“I think this is the tip of the iceberg,” Detective Kris Bollingmo said as he shined a light through the garage. “The problem is only going to get worse.”

“We are,” Sergeant Azuelo added, “keeping the finger in the dike.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/us/23border.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1

Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano dodges questions from U.S. Senate while delaying implementation of “the Anti-Border Corruption Act”

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) may be getting tired of prodding Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano. He’s been dealing with her bureaucracy since spring on the issue of Mexican border security.
On Thursday, Pryor nudged again. [This issue is deadly serious, however, Pryor's concern is purely political. After two years the Obama Administration continues on a reckless of course of "open borders" and "selective law enforcement". The question is why has the Senate not acted .... the Country needs more than "gentle" political "nudges" that fo nothing more than provide political cover to the man in charge of Homeland Security Oversight]
As chairman of a subcommittee of the Department of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Pryor sent Napolitano a letter requesting she answer a series of questions surrounding corruption of U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) agents.
In July, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed Pryor’s legislation, the Anti-Border Corruption Act, to help prevent rogue border agents from being hired or retained. It requires the Custom and Border Protection agency to give polygraph tests to all applicants for law enforcement positions. The requirement has to be implemented within two years, providing the agency time to hire and train examiners. The bill also requires the agency to initiate background checks on all backlogged employees within six months.

In an April letter to a group of senators that included Pryor, Napolitano wrote: “We are engaged in a thorough review of the issues raised . . . and a long-term solution to ensure that we root out corruption and effectively prosecute those who threaten our country.”

She added, “We are also assessing our integrity policies to ensure they include adequate background and checks on CPB employees.”

The Department of Homeland Security did not return phone calls Thursday about Pryor’s new letter to Napolitano.

Internal corruption cases have escalated in recent years. Since 2003, there have been 129 corruption arrests of CBP officers. Last year, there were 576 allegations of corruption. Many centered on drug smuggling.
In his letter to Napolitano, Pryor cited that President Obama signed a bill into law on Aug. 13 that would provide emergency supplemental appropriations to hire more border security agents.
“In that vein, I remain concerned about the failure to conduct polygraphs on new hires, as well as the growing periodic reinvestigations backlog,” Pryor wrote.
He wants Napolitano to clarify the link between the background check measures and the current investigations by Sept. 21. Pryor’s is the sole signature on the letter.
“As we increase the number of agents patrolling our borders, we need to be confident that these men and women have been thoroughly screened and are fully committed to protecting our country,” Pryor told Politics Daily. “If we don’t seal the cracks in our hiring process now, we risk wasting taxpayer dollars and creating a false sense of security.”

Border Corruption: Drugs Now, Dirty Bombs Next?

While there are many complicated problems along the U.S.-Mexico border, one piece of the puzzling crisis is corruption.

Sadly, Mexican drug cartels are corrupting U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at startling rates.

Internal corruption cases have escalated in recent years. Since 2003, there have been 129 corruption arrests of CBP officers. Last year, there were 576 allegations of corruption.

A recent hearing by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ad Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration highlighted the issue.

One person gained employment as a border inspector specifically to smuggle drugs. The person imported more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana to the United States and received more than $5 million in bribe payments. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.

Another case included two CBP officers in Brownsville, Texas, who assisted an illegal-immigrant and narcotics-smuggling organization. A search of one of the officer’s houses yielded $85,250 in cash.

The main reason for such cases? Failure to properly screen potential employees.

Such dangerous cracks in the agent-screening process concern Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), chairman of the subcommittee. He says it allows drug cartels to infiltrate this country’s law enforcement. Pryor has introduced legislation — the Anti-Border Corruption Act — to curb such crime.

“We need to clamp down on this now,” Pryor said. “By my estimates, it is already out of control, but it’s really about to get out of control if we’re not careful.”

The legislation includes a more rigorous system of polygraph testing. Pryor’s bill would require such tests of all applicants for law enforcement positions.

During the March hearing, which Pryor was the only senator to attend, CBP officials said that fewer than 15 percent of job applicants receive a polygraph test, even though standing policy states everyone should be examined. Sixty percent of those who do receive a polygraph test are deemed not suitable for hiring. “These tests are a critical part of the screening process to weed out bad apples,” Pryor said.

Every five years CBP employees are required to undergo a background check. Currently, there is a backlog of 10,000 cases. That number will nearly double by year’s end. Pryor’s legislation would require the CBP to eliminate the current employee background check backlog within six months.

The problem isn’t just polygraph tests, however. Pryor says there should be drastically improved coordination between the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has received a letter from the Senate stating that the Senate wants better sharing of information and prevention of duplicative investigations. They cited a memo dated Dec. 16, 2009, from the DHS Inspector General’s office that claimed jurisdiction over corruption investigations currently being carried out by the Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs.

“My message to DHS is clear: either fix your problems voluntarily, or I will make sure you do it by law,” Pryor said.

If Napolitano doesn’t address the issue, Pryor said he will move to put the bill into law because border security is a national security issue. Today, drug smuggling, he says; tomorrow, dirty bombs.

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/04/28/border-corruption-drugs-now-dirty-bombs-next/

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