Drug Cartel Kills American While He Jet Skied with Wife on Falcon Lake, Texas

Tiffany Hartley and her husband David Michael Hartley

BROWNSVILLE — Gunmen presumed to be Mexican drug operatives opened fire today on a couple riding water skis on the binational Falcon Lake reservoir, possibly killing the husband and sending the woman fleeing frantically to the U.S. side.

Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said the couple — believed to be from McAllen — had crossed to the Mexican side when they came under a spray of bullets by two boatloads of men. The man, 30, was shot in the head and his wife said she fears he is dead.

“They saw them approaching and started revving it up back to the U.S. side,” Gonzalez told the Associated Press. “The guys just started shooting at them from behind.”

According to unconfirmed reports, the woman circled back to get her husband but the gunmen continued shooting, even after she crossed back to the U.S. side.

Gonzalez said he had contacted the Mexican consulate for help finding the husband. As of late Thursday afternoon, he was tracing down leads with the FBI, said Mary Pulido, a dispatcher fielding a barrage of press calls.

“I do know that it happened on the Mexican side, that’s what’s making the investigation very difficult,” she said.

The shooting follows reports in May that boaters in the famed bass fishing oasis were at risk of being shaken down by “pirates” lurking on the Mexican side.

The 60-mile long Rio Grande reservoir is shared by the United States and Mexico, and due to its location along sparsely populated Starr and Zapata counties is believed to be a favorite location for trafficking drugs.

Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, who along with state Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, recently traveled to the area for a briefing by the Texas Department of Public Safety on Falcon Lake dangers said that any gunfire that took place on the U.S. side of the lake — in some places demarcated by floating markers — would represent a serious step over the line for a drug war that’s “getting out of hand.”

“These guys are getting very aggressive,” he said. “It’s a significant incident, but it has international ramifications if the shots continued into our side. This was just a couple of people having a good time.”

Peña, as chair of the emergency preparedness committee, said the incident strengthened his resolve to fight budget cuts for DPS, who along with Border Patrol agents patrol the lake.

“They’re essentially the Texas marine force,” he said. “We need them to protect our citizens and keep our lakes safe.”

Thursday’s reported shooting comes during what may be the most deadly and prolonged streak of Mexican drug cartel violence in memory.

In May, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported several incidents of pirates shaking down U.S. boaters. The robbers in at least one case posed as Mexican federal law enforcement, searching fishing boats for guns and drugs and then demanding cash at gunpoint.

The DPS issued a statement warning people not to cross to the Mexican side of the lake. Boaters were encouraged to file a float plan with family members.

“The robbers are believed to be members of a drug trafficking organization or members of an enforcer group linked to a drug trafficking organization who are…using AK-47s or AR-15 rifles to threaten their victims,” it said. “They appear to be using local Mexican fishermen to operate the boats to get close to American fishermen.”

The warning came as the county of Zapata geared up for a summer of fishing tournaments, prompting the chamber of commerce to say that the warning was drastic and that people were safe if they stayed in U.S. waters.

Falcon Lake was formed by a dam in 1953 to conserve water for agriculture and control downstream flooding.

http://oneoldvet.com/?p=23289

David Michael Hartley riding his Jet Ski at home in Colorado

Mexican Pirates Attack US Couple on Falcon Lake; Husband Missing, Feared Dead

Mexican pirates operating on Falcon Lake, which is shared by the United States and Mexico, on Thursday shot an American tourist who had crossed the border on a Jet Ski.

Tiffany Hartley, 29, said her husband, David Michael Hartley, 30, was shot in the back of the head as they tried to escape an ambush on the lake, The Associated Press reports.

Hartley tried to turn around to save her husband but said she had to continue to retreat when she heard bullets whizzing by. Today, search teams continue to comb the Texas side of the lake for David, who is presumed dead. Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said he had asked the Mexican consulate to conduct a search on his country’s side of the lake as well.

Falcon Lake pirate gangs in May after a spat of robberies prompted the Texas Department of Public Safety to issue a bulletin warning Americans to stay in U.S. waters. Authorities believe the pirates are offshoots of Mexican drug gangs operating in the area.

On April 30, five American fishermen crossed the border to explore Guerrero Viejo, a town that was abandoned and flooded when the Rio Grande was dammed to create Falcon Lake in 1953. The Americans’ boat was boarded by four men who said they were federal police but were not wearing uniforms.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said the men demanded to know if the fishermen had drugs before making off with $200. They also had several tattoos of the letter “Z,” raising suspicions that they were members of the Zetas drug cartel, which controls territory in northern Mexico.

Like the fishermen, the Hartleys had crossed the border Thursday to see Guerrero Viejo. Gonzalez said today that the gunmen chased the couple into American waters, according to the AP. He also said he suspects they returned for Hartley’s body or let it sink to the bottom of the lake in the hopes of destroying evidence of his murder.

Falcon Lake, which is approximately 50 miles south of Laredo, Texas, is a water sports and fishing destination, making it a prime target for an unusual brand of piracy. There have been at least five reported attacks on the lake this year, although none of them was deadly.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Mike Cox told the AP that the last reported sighting of the pirates was on Aug. 31, when boaters reported seeing gunmen in a small craft with “Game Wardin” spelled out in duct tape on the side of the boat.

http://www.aolnews.com/surge-desk/article/falcon-lake-pirates-ambush-american-couple-shoot-husband-in-head/19657660

Search resumes for US man shot in Mexican waters

SAN ANTONIO — Texas officials planned Friday to renew warnings about pirates marauding on a U.S.-Mexico border lake after a Colorado tourist was gunned down in Mexican waters while his wife dodged bullets and raced her Jet Ski back to American soil.

Search teams combed the U.S. side of Falcon Lake for David Michael Hartley, 30, whose wife told police he was shot in the back of the head Thursday after being ambushed by gunmen on boats.

The gunmen are suspected pirates who have turned Falcon Lake, a waterskiing and bass fishing hotspot down the border from Laredo, into uneasy waters for fishermen and boaters. There have been at least five reported run-ins with pirates on the lake this year, though prior holdups had never been deadly.

Hartley’s fate was unclear. Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said 29-year-old Tiffany Hartley fears her husband is dead. She circled back on her Jet Ski to rescue him but had to retreat when she heard bullets whizzing by.

Gonzalez said he had contacted the Mexican consulate to ask them to search for Hartley on its side of the lake.

“I’m not trying to place the blame on her or him,” Gonzalez said. “But we’ve told people not to go over there, and now this happens.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department spokesman Mike Cox said Friday that the state planned to issue a fresh warning to boaters about staying on the U.S. side of the lake. The last warning came in May, and some campers on the lake have taken to arming themselves.

Falcon Lake is a dammed section of the Rio Grande that straddles the border. The border is marked by 14 partially submerged concrete towers that mark the Rio Grande’s path before the lake was created in 1954.

According to Gonzalez, Tiffany Hartley told police that the couple rode their Jet Skis for sightseeing and to take pictures of a famous church in Old Guerrero. They were riding back when they saw the armed gunmen on the boats, and immediately began racing back to U.S. waters.

David Hartley didn’t make it. His wife told authorities he was shot in the back in the head; Cox said one of the boats may have crossed into U.S. waters briefly while trying to run down Tiffany Hartley.

Cox said Tiffany Hartley estimated that the shooting took place about five to six miles from the Texas shoreline where she parked and called for help.

In April, pirates robbed another group of boaters who also went to Old Guerrero to see the church. Cox said the most recent reported pirate sighting had been Aug. 31, when boaters saw gunmen riding a small skiff with “Game Wardin” misspelled in duct tape on the side of the vessel.

Cox said it appeared the pirates were trying to imitate state game warden boats they have seen patrolling the lake.

Gonzalez has previously chalked up the dangerous waters as the product of fighting between rival Mexican drug gangs.

Violence on the Mexican side of the lake has been climbing for several months, as a fractured partnership between the region’s dominant Gulf Cartel and its former enforcers, the Zetas, plunged many of the area’s Mexican border cities into violence.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5haMJhn6enRPZBA8z3GreQPLl8SMQD9IJ0RLG0?docId=D9IJ0RLG0

Agents feared Mexican drug cartel attack on border dam

Falcon Lake Dam

An alleged plot by a Mexican drug cartel to blow up a dam along the Texas border — and unleash billions of gallons of water into a region with millions of civilians — sent American police, federal agents and disaster officials secretly scrambling last month to thwart such an attack, authorities confirmed Wednesday.

Whether or not the cartel, which is known to have stolen bulk quantities of gunpowder and dynamite, could have taken down the 5-mile-long Falcon Dam may never be known since the attack never came to pass.

It may have been derailed by a stepped-up presence by the Mexican military, which was acting in part on intelligence from the U.S. government, sources said.

The warning, which swung officials into action, was based on what the federal government contends were “serious and reliable sources” and prompted the Department of Homeland Security to sound the alarm to first responders along the South Texas-Mexico border.

Mexico’s Zeta cartel was planning to destroy the dam not to terrorize civilians, but to get back at its rival and former ally, the Gulf cartel, which controls smuggling routes from the reservoir to the Gulf of Mexico, said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, head of the Southwest Border Sheriff’s Coalition, as did others familiar with the alleged plot.

But in the process, massive amounts of agricultural land would stand to be flooded as well as significant parts of a region where about 4 million people live along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The dam along the lower Rio Grande was finished in 1954 as part of a joint U.S.-Mexico project to collect water for flood control, hydroelectric power and water for drinking and agriculture.

Gonzalez’s agency was among many that responded, as did the U.S. Border Patrol, the Texas Department of Public Safety and even game wardens, who put more boats on the water.

Citing security concerns, neither Homeland Security nor DPS commented.

“We trust that DPS and their federal and local law enforcement partners are constantly collecting intelligence and monitoring all threats to Texas and taking the appropriate action to protect our citizens from those who would do us harm,” said Gov. Rick Perry’s deputy press secretary Katherine Cesinger.

Varying credibility

Law enforcement officials huddled at the dam, near Rio Grande City, to discuss the threat and how to stifle it, said an officer who attended the meeting.

Officers interviewed by the Chronicle gave the warning varying degrees of credibility. They noted that among the Zetas ranks are Mexican military defectors who were trained in special forces tactics, including demolition.

Special cameras were set up along the dam, which has six 50-foot-tall steel gates, and lawmen hid in brush.

A Mexican military spokesman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he had not heard of any threat to the Falcon Dam and expressed doubt that the Zetas would try such an attack.

“This isn’t the way these groups operate, they have never attacked installations like that,” he said.

Rick Pauza, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, in Laredo, said the port of entry at the dam had been at a heightened alert due to violence in Mexico.

Residents warned?

The attack may have been thwarted in Mexico. It raises the fear of what the powerful cartels could do.

“It would have been a hell of a disaster,” said Gene Falcon, director of emergency preparedness for Starr County, site of the dam. “There was plenty of concern.”

With handbills and bullhorns, members of the Zeta cartel are said to have warned the civilian population on the Mexican side of the river near the dam to get out of the area, according to residents and intelligence information from law enforcement officials.

A border law enforcement official told the Chronicle the warnings originated in part by the seizure of small amounts of dynamite near the dam, and the discovery of a copy of the alert on the Mexican side of the border.

Capt. Francisco Garcia, of the Roma (Texas) Police Department, said there was no way to know what the traffickers were capable of doing, but bringing down the dam would require nearly a tractor-trailer full of dynamite.

“As far as blowing it up — making it fall apart completely — it would have to be something like 9/11,” he said. “By the time they’d start to do something, there will be so much law enforcement there it’d be ridiculous.”

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7033818.html

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

Mexican Newspaper Surrenders To Drug Cartels: Tell Us What We Can Print – Give Us A Truce

Mourning the Death of Diario de Juarez newspaper photographer Carlos Santiago

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — The largest newspaper in Ciudad Juarez asked the border city’s warring drug cartels Sunday for a truce after the killing last week of its second journalist in less than two years.

In a front-page editorial, El Diario de Juarez asked the cartels what they want from the newspaper so it can continue its work without further death, injury or intimidation of its staff.

“Leaders of the different organizations that are fighting for control of Ciudad Juarez: The loss of two reporters from this publishing house in less than two years represents an irreparable breakdown for all of us who work here, and, in particular, for their families,” the editorial said.

“We ask you to explain what you want from us, what we should try to publish or not publish, so we know what to expect.”

Crime scene investigators remove the body of photojournalist Luis Carlos Santiago

It was the newspaper’s second front-page editorial since gunmen attacked two El Diario photographers Thursday — one a new employee and the other an intern. One died and the other was seriously wounded as they left for lunch in Mexico’s most dangerous city.

In 2008, a crime reporter for El Diario was slain outside his home as he was about to take his daughters to school.

The editorial Sunday said drug gangs in the city across from El Paso, Texas, are the de facto authorities, and criticized both the Chihuahua state government and President Felipe Calderon for their lack of protection for journalists.

“We don’t want to continue to be used as cannon fodder in this war because we’re tired,” Diario’s editor, Pedro Torres, told The Associated Press.

He said the staff felt great rage, helplessness and despair after burying new employee Luis Carlos Santiago, 21, on Saturday.

“Burying the body does not bury the impunity or pain,” Torres said. “There is a feeling of great anxiety and impotence surrounding this situation.”

Reporter Armando Rodriguez - Protesting Violence Against Reporters Prior To His Murder

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based watchdog group, said in a recent report that at least 22 Mexican journalists have been killed since December 2006, when Calderon intensified a crackdown on drug cartels by deploying tens of thousands of troops and federal police across the country.

At least eight of the journalists were killed because of their reports on crime and corruption, the group said.

Mexican journalists are increasingly under siege from drug cartels seeking to control the flow of information, and many media outlets, especially in border areas, have stopped covering the drug war.

Until Sunday, El Diario was not one of them.

“Even in one of the places where violence is worst … El Diario was still doing a lot of good reporting on crime,” said Carlos Lauria, a CPJ senior coordinator. “The fact that they’re giving up is really bad. It’s an indication that the situation is out of control.”

In a front-page editorial Friday, El Diario said journalists have nowhere to turn for protection because of the inability of Mexican security forces to solve most attacks on the media.

Drug violence the past two years has killed nearly 5,000 people in Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million people.

http://www.cleveland.com/world/index.ssf/2010/09/what_should_we_not_publish_mex.html

Drug Cartel Violence. Young Woman Murdered - Mutilated By Cartel

Grissly Slayings Announce Mexican Cartel Violence In U.S.

Shipment of Cartel Drugs

Five men dead in an apartment.

In a county that might see five homicides in an entire year, the call over the sheriff’s radio revealed little about what awaited law enforcement at a sprawling apartment complex.

A type of crime, and criminal, once foreign to this landscape of blooming dogwoods had arrived in Shelby County. Sheriff Chris Curry felt it even before he laid eyes on the grisly scene. He called the state. The FBI. The DEA. Anyone he could think of.

“I don’t know what I’ve got,” he warned them. “But I’m gonna need help.”

The five dead men lay scattered about the living room of one apartment in a complex of hundreds.

Some of the men showed signs of torture: Burns seared into their earlobes revealed where modified jumper cables had been clamped as an improvised electrocution device. Adhesive from duct tape used to bind the victims still clung to wrists and faces, from mouths to noses.

As a final touch, throats were slashed open, post-mortem.

SEE: Mexican Drug Cartel Violence: Mexican Marines arrest presumed leader of Beltran Leyva Cartel – Sergio Villarreal Barragan taken into custody

It didn’t take long for Curry and federal agents to piece together clues: A murder scene, clean save for the crimson-turned-brown stains

Cartel Victims Executed At Drug Rehab Facility

 now spotting the carpet. Just a couple of mattresses tossed on the floor. It was a typical stash house.

But the cut throats? Some sort of ghastly warning.

Curry would soon find this was a retaliation hit over drug money with ties to Mexico’s notorious Gulf Cartel.

Curry also found out firsthand what federal drug enforcement agents have long understood. The drug war, with the savagery it brings, knows no bounds. It had landed in his back yard, in the foothills of the Appalachians, in Alabama’s wealthiest county, around the corner from The Home Depot.

One thousand, twenty-four miles from the Mexico border.

Forget for a moment the phrase itself – “War on Drugs” – much-derided since President Richard Nixon coined it. Wars eventually end, after all. And many Americans wonder today, nearly four decades later, will this one ever be won?

The Mutilated Corpes Cartel Victims

In Mexico, the fight has become a real war. Some 45,000 Mexican army troops now patrol territories long ruled by narcotraffickers. Places like Tijuana, in the border state of Baja California. Reynosa, across the Rio Grande from Texas. Ciudad Juarez, next door to El Paso. But also the central state of Michoacan and resort cities like Acapulco, an hour south of the place where, months ago, the decapitated bodies of 12 soldiers were discovered with a sign that read:

“For every one of mine that you kill, I will kill 10.”

Some 10,560 people have been killed since 2006, the year Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office and launched his campaign against the organized crime gangs that move cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin to a vast U.S. market. Consider that fewer than 4,300 American service members have died in the six-year war in Iraq.

The cartels are fighting each other for power, and the Calderon administration for their very survival. Never before has a Mexican president gone after these narco-networks with such force.

“He has deployed troops. He has deployed national police. He’s trying to vet and create units … that can effectively adjudicate and turn back the years of corruption,” says John Walters, who directed the Office of National Drug Control Policy for seven years under President George W. Bush. “These groups got more powerful, and when there was less visible destruction, it was because they were in control; they were stable. Now, he has destabilized them.”

Walters sees this as an “opportunity to change – for better, or worse – the history of our two countries fundamentally.”

And now the cartels have brought the fight to us: In 230 U.S. cities, the Mexican organizations maintain distribution hubs or supply drugs to local distributors, according to the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center.

Places like Miami and other longtime transportation points along the California, Arizona and Texas borders. But also Twin Falls, Idaho. Billings, Mont. Wichita, Kan. Phoenix. St. Louis. Milwaukee.

Even Shelby County.

The quintuple homicide occurred just outside the Birmingham city limits and a half-hour’s drive north of Columbiana, the county seat.

“We became a hub without knowing it,” Sheriff Curry says. “We’ve got to wake people up because we’re seeing it all over the place. It is now firmly located throughout this country.”

The talk of the day is “spillover” violence – at once the stuff of sensationalism but also a very real concept.

In Phoenix, the nation’s fifth-largest city, police report close to 1,000 kidnappings over the past three years tied to border smuggling, be it human or drugs or both. The rise parallels a shift in illegal immigrant crossings from California and Texas to the Arizona border, where many of the same gangs transporting people transport drugs. The perpetrators are often after ransom money, for a drug load lost or from a family that paid to have a relative brought over.

The problem has earned the city the unfortunate distinction of “America’s kidnapping capital” in some media accounts, even though the incidents are mostly out of sight and out of mind for law-abiding residents and overall crime, including homicides, was down last year.

In Atlanta, which has grown into a major distribution hub for the Gulf Cartel, trafficker-on-trafficker violence has become more common as the cartels, in the face of Calderon’s crackdown, impose tighter payment schedules and grow less tolerant of extending credit, says Rodney Benson, chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration there.

Benson blames that, in part, for the much-publicized kidnapping last summer in the middle-class Atlanta suburb of Lilburn, not far from Stone Mountain Park. Acting on a tip, agents found a Dominican man chained to a wall in the basement of a house, severely dehydrated and badly beaten. He had been lured from Rhode Island because he apparently owed $300,000 in drug debts.

“Money wasn’t paid,” Benson says. “They were going to kill him.”

Greg Borland heads the DEA office in Birmingham. Since the murders last August, he’s seen the fear in his neighbors’ eyes, and faced their questions: How did this happen? Why here? Why now?

“They’re absolutely shocked. To me it’s like: Why? It’s everywhere. Unless you have a 50-foot wall around your town, no one should feel immune from this. The citizen in me says, I can’t believe this is happening in my town.’ But the cop in me says, Well, it’s only a matter of time’ … because there are high-level drug traffickers in the area.

“Maybe,” he says, “it was only by the grace of God that it hadn’t happened already.”

13 Men, executed with hands tied behind their backs, San Ignacio, Sinaloa, Mexico

Those in the know understand that this kind of violence is nothing new. In border communities that have long been trafficking hubs it’s uncommon not to hear of a drug-related crime on the evening news.

What’s new is where that violence is erupting, where distribution cells and hubs and sub-hubs have surfaced. How an apartment in Alabama became the site of a drug hit in many ways tells the story of the narco-trade in America in 2009, and of the challenges we face in combatting a blight that has spread to big cities and small all across the land.

Before Aug. 20, 2008, when the five men were found, the assumption had been that the big drug hauls were passing through Shelby County and on to cities with larger markets.

Alabama had long had its share of street dealers. Homegrown pot passed hands. Then powder cocaine and crack. Soon meth labs cropped up here and there. “Just a local issue,” says Curry.

“There weren’t really any traffickers in our county. But over time it’s escalated into a sophisticated transportation structure that moves marijuana, moves powder cocaine and now moves crystal meth.”

First came the rise of the Mexican cartel, brought about in the late 80s and early 90s after authorities cracked down on Colombian traffickers and choked off routes along the Caribbean and in South Florida. The Colombians aligned with the Mexicans for transportation, then began paying their Mexican subcontractors in cocaine.

As more Colombian traffickers were brought down, the Mexicans took over both transportation and distribution. A decade ago, 60 percent of the cocaine entering the United States came through Mexico. Today that figure is 90 percent.

Texas and other border states become primary distribution hubs. Greg Bowden, who heads the FBI’s violent crime task force in Birmingham, worked four years in the Texas border city of Brownsville. He remembers cases involving Alabama dealers who would fly into Houston, rent a car, pick up loads at a warehouse or mall parking lot and drive back home.

“(Distributors) felt comfortable in Texas. That was their home base, and has been for a long time. Now,” says Bowden, “they’re comfortable here, in Memphis, in Atlanta. They moved their home bases to these little pockets.”

One reason for that shift is the ability these days to “blend in in plain sight,” as the Atlanta DEA chief puts it. The flood of Hispanic immigrants into American communities to work construction and plant jobs helped provide cover for traffickers looking to expand into new markets or build hubs in quiet suburbs with fewer law officers than the big cities.

Shelby has long been Alabama’s fastest-growing county, with its proximity to Birmingham, good schools and a growing corporate corridor along Highway 280. The number of Hispanics grew 126 percent from 2000 to 2007. It was once rare to see a Latino face at the local Wal-Mart or gas station. Now, dozens upon dozens of Hispanic day laborers line Lorna Road in the northern part of the county.

As Bowden says, “You don’t stand out.”

But there is another reason this area, and others, have become what some agents call “sub-hubs.”

With some 4.9 million trucks crossing into the United States from Mexico every year, tractor-trailers have become a transportation mode of choice among traffickers. Drugs head north, but weapons and cash also head back south – like the $400,000 Border Patrol agents found on April 2 near Las Cruces, N.M., stashed in the refrigeration unit of a semi.

Shelby County is a trucking mecca, with highways 65, 20, 59 and 459 running east to Atlanta, north to Nashville, south to New Orleans, west to Dallas. Once reluctant to haul drug shipments too far beyond a border state, drivers are willing to take more chances now, because there are so many trucks on the road, Bowden says.

Since January, 27 people were sentenced in Alabama federal court in just one case for using tractor-trailers to transport cocaine and marijuana from Mexico across the border to Brownsville, then up through Birmingham on I-65 to northern Alabama for distribution. Investigators seized 77 pounds of cocaine during the investigation – more than the DEA seized in the entire state of Alabama in all of 1999. The scheme, according to an indictment, had operated since 2004.

Amid all of this, an operation moved into Shelby County, leading to the call on Aug. 20.

A simple welfare check brought deputies to the Cahaba Lakes Apartments off Highway 280, down the road from upscale Vestavia Hills, whose motto is “A Better Place to Live.”

The victims were Hispanic, all illegal immigrants. Interviews with family members and associates helped investigators piece together a sketchy portrait of what happened.

Agents described it as friendly competition turned deadly among a group of distributors from Atlanta and Birmingham that often sold and shared drug loads when one or the other group was running low. At some point, about a half-million in drug money went missing. One group suspected the other of taking it, and went after the five men at Cahaba Lakes.

The money was never found.

Whether an order came directly from Mexico, or the decision was made down the food chain, investigators don’t know.

The DEA’s Borland notes that making a direct connection between the street level distributors charged in the killing and a specific cartel boss back in Mexico isn’t easy in a business with so many players at various levels.

“We don’t have canceled checks of their dues payments to the cartels. But we know that they were moving large quantities of drugs, which are probably brought in here under the supervision of the Gulf Cartel, because the Gulf Cartel is the dominant one here,” he says.

“That money was supposed to be moving … and it disappeared. So the attempt was to locate where was the money and who took it?” Curry says. “It was a contract hit, ordered to be carried out and paid for.”

Since then, Curry has pushed aside concerns about resources and assigned one deputy to a DEA task force, another to work with the FBI. At the behest of the Department of Homeland Security, he joined in a conference call with police chiefs and sheriffs in border states to discuss what he now calls “a common problem.”

And he answers, as candidly as possible, his citizens’ questions when they ask him about this “new” threat.

“People want to have a comfort zone, and if they have to confront the realities of how rough life really is, that doesn’t sit well,” he says. “It scares them. And they don’t want to be scared. South of our border: gunfights, violence – it is a normal, accepted, expected behavior. That has now moved into our borders.”

Ask just about any DEA agent or expert who keeps a close watch on drug trafficking, and they’ll cringe at the use of the word “war.” They’ll tell you, flat out, that no, it’s not likely ever to be won. Just as there will always be robberies and rapes and homicides, there will always be narcotrafficking.

So they take their victories where they can. And there have been victories.

Heads of cartels have been toppled. Juan Garcia Abrego, former chief of the Gulf Cartel and once on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, is serving 11 life terms in a Colorado federal prison after his 1996 arrest in Mexico and extradition to the United States. His successor, Osiel Cardenas, awaits trial in Houston after his 2007 extradition from Mexico.

These handovers have become almost routine under Calderon, who reversed long-standing practice and allowed more Mexicans to be tried in the United States. Last year, he extradited a record 95 wanted criminals, including several high-ranking members of the Tijuana-based Arrellano-Felix cartel.

Arrests were swift in this murder, six suspects now are held without bond in the Shelby County Jail charged with capital murder. One owned a tire shop, another was a barber – more evidence to authorities of how bad guys can blend in.

Still, it is a victory without call for celebration, because Curry wonders when and where it will happen again.

“This is not an isolated incident. It is a standard business practice with this group of people, and it is simply going to be repeated,” he says. “I can’t predict whether it’s going to be repeated here or not, but it’s going to be repeated in communities throughout the United States whenever these disagreements occur.”

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/04/18/20090418drugwar-fightathome18-ON.html#ixzz0sopGikpQ

It’s Official: U.S. Warns It Can’t Guard Part of U.S. – Mexican Border

Uptick in Violence Forces Closing of Parkland Along Mexico Border to Americans

 Published June 16, 2010

| FOXNews.com

About 3,500 acres of southern Arizona have been closed off to U.S. citizens due to increased violence at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The closed off area includes part of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge that stretches along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu told Fox News that violence against law enforcement officers and U.S. citizens has increased in the past four months, forcing officers on an 80 mile stretch of Arizona land north of the Mexico border off-limits to Americans.

The refuge had been adversely affected by the increase in drug smugglers, illegal activity and surveillance, which made it dangerous for Americans to visit.

“The situation in this zone has reached a point where continued public use of the area is not prudent,” said refuge manager Mitch Ellis.

“It’s literally out of control,” said Babeu. “We stood with Senator McCain and literally demanded support for 3,000 soldiers to be deployed to Arizona to get this under control and finally secure our border with Mexico. “

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials have warned visitors in Arizona to beware of heavily armed drug smugglers and human traffickers.

“We need support from the federal government. It’s their job to secure the border and they haven’t done it,” said Babeu. “In fact, President Obama suspended the construction of the fence and it’s just simply outrageous.”

Signs have been posted warning Americans not to cross into the closed off territory south of Interstate 8. Babeu said the signs are not enough – he said Arizona needs more resources to help scale back the violence caused by the drug cartels.

“We need action. It’s shameful that we, as the most powerful nation on Earth, … can’t even secure our own border and protect our own families.”

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/06/16/closes-park-land-mexico-border-americans/

UPDATE: From the official website of the U.S. Fish & Wild Life Service 06/16/2010

Welcome
Visit a landscape of rippling grassland flanked by mountains, and riparian zones rich in bird life. Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge provides approximately 118,000 acres of habitat for threatened and endangered plants and animals. The semidesert grassland supports the reintroduction of masked bobwhite quail and pronghorns.

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge Remains Open

June 2010
Recently there were reports in the news stating that the Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge was closed. This information is not correct. In early 2006, a small section of land (about 3% of the refuge) along the border was closed to visitation. However, no new restrictions are in place and the majority of the refuge remains open. Today, we are seeing a decline in violent activity in the southern most area thanks to ongoing cooperation between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Customs and Border Protection. The Refuge will reopen the lands along the border at such time that it is determined to be safe for visitors.

http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/buenosaires/index.html

McAuleysWorld: Let me see, “The Refuge will reopen the lands along the border at such time that it is determined to be safe for visitors” means the lands are in fact, still closed. Unless you are using some type of new math, 3% of 118,000 acres equals 3540 acres. Please note that the  “Federal Fish & Wildlife Service” is in agreement with the Secretary of Homeland Security who claims the border has never been safer, well actually the Fish and Wildlife staff just say it is relatively safere, but not safe enough to reopen the “closed” section of the park. On the other hand the County Sheriff, as reported above, has a significantl;y different take.

You can decide.

This says nothing about the ecological damage being done to the Park, a subject that the Federal Fish & Wildlife Service is forbiding park employees to discuss … What ecological damage you ask ….. 

Mexican Drug Cartel “Army” 100,000 Strong. Parity Reached With Mexico’s 130,000 Man Army

The Australian –

Online Newspaper of the Year

 THE US Defence Department has estimated Mexico’s two most deadly drug cartels have a combined strength of more than 100,000 foot soldiers, an army that rivals Mexico’s armed forces and threatens to turn the country into a narco-state.

“It’s moving to crisis proportions,” a senior Defence official told The Washington Times. The official said the cartels’ “foot soldiers” were on a par with Mexico’s army of about 130,000.

The disclosure underlined the size of the challenge Mexico and the US faced as they struggled to contain what was increasingly looking like a civil war along theUS-Mexico border, the newspaper report said.

In the past year, about 7000 people have died — more than 1000 in January alone. The conflict has become increasingly brutal, with victims beheaded and bodies dissolved in vats of acid.

The paper noted that the death toll in Mexico in the first months of this year dwarfed that in Afghanistan, where about 200 fatalities, including 29 US troops, were reported in the first two months of 2009.

About 400 people, including 31 US military personnel, died in Iraq during the same period.

[There have been more fatalities in Mexico’s drug war during the last year than American fatalities in the 6 yr long Iraq War]

The Mexican Government yesterday poured 700 extra federal police into Ciudad Juarez, a city bordering Texas where local police have been overwhelmed by drug violence. The police joined 3200 federal troops, who arrived in the city over the weekend.

The biggest and most violent combatants in the Mexican drug wars are the Sinaloa cartel and its main rival, “Los Zetas” or the Gulf Cartel, whose territory runs along the Texas borderlands.

The Washington Times report said the two cartels appeared to be negotiating a truce or merger to defeat rivals and better withstand government pressure.

US officials told the paper the consequences of such a pact would be grave.

“I think if they merge or decide to co-operate in a greater way, Mexico could potentially have a national security crisis,” the US Defence Department official said. He said the two had amassed so many people and weapons that Mexican President Felipe Calderon was “fighting for his life” and “for the life of Mexico right now”.

Mexico was behind only Pakistan and Iran as a top US national security concern, ranking above Afghanistan and Iraq, the Defence official said.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden, who left the agency in January, put Mexico second to Iran as a top national security threat to the US.

His successor, Leon Panetta, said at his first news conference that the agency was “paying … a lot of attention to” Mexico.

The deployment to the border town of Ciudad Juarez has tripled the number of troops and federal police officers operating there as part of Mr Calderon’s offensive against drug traffickers.

The city is without a police chief. Roberto Orduna Cruz quit last week after several officers were slain and someone posted threats saying more would be killed unless he stepped down.

He is expected to be replaced by a figure from the military.

The move would represent a continuation of Mr Calderon’s strategy of relying on the army and federal police to counter drug-trafficking gangs in the country’s main smuggling corridors. He had deployed about 45,000 soldiers and 5000 police officers across the nation as part of the crackdown, launched two years ago.

Ciudad Juarez, which had about 1600 killings last year, has been on edge over the police chief’s resignation and threats that appeared against the mayor.

The boost in police numbers in Ciudad Juarez came as more than 800 federal and local police were assigned yesterday to improve security in and around Mexico City’s international airport after a series of armed robberies against travellers who exchanged money there.

Mexico City attorney-general Miguel Mancera said 460 additional city police officers had been assigned to patrol the areas surrounding the airport.

Federal police commissioner Rodrigo Esparza Federal said police had added 350 new agents to the airport since December.

Also yesterday, in the western state of Michoacan, attackers threw grenades at a city police chief’s house and a police station in the city of Uruapan, injuring four officers.

Uruapan is one of many cities struggling with increasing drug violence. There were two other grenade attacks against police stations there in February.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25134484-2703,00.html

Mexican drug cartels are believed to operate in 230 US cities, according to a recent Justice Department report. http://content.usatoday.net/dist/custom/gci/InsidePage.aspx?cId=freep&sParam=34464178.story

MS-13 gang growing extremely dangerous, FBI says

In early November, the FBI and Houston police learned that six suspected members of Mara Salvatrucha [Mara = Gang, Salvatrucha = Guerrilla Fighter], a violent Central American gang known as MS-13, were raiding a house on Liberty Street where a rival gang had stashed drugs.
MS-13 — the focus of a nationwide crackdown by FBI and federal immigration agents — has become known in recent years for home invasion robberies, drug dealing and machete attacks on its enemies. But what happened in Houston on Nov. 2, FBI and Houston police officials say, has heightened concerns that MS-13 could be far more dangerous than thought. [ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been ordered to step down from these activities by the Obama Administration – The ICE raids under the code name, “Operation Community Shield” have been brought to an end] 
Bob Clifford, who directs the FBI unit created last year to combat MS-13, says the battle symbolized MS-13’s development from a smattering of loosely organized cells across the nation to an increasingly efficient and dangerous organization that has become a significant threat to public safety.

Also See: http://www.samuellogan.com/publications/MS-13-Organization-and-US-Response.pdf

“Our worst suspicions about MS-13 have been confirmed” by the Houston shooting and other recent gang-related incidents, Clifford says.

From low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles, MS-13 has spread throughout the USA, largely following the migration patterns of immigrants from El Salvador and other Central American nations. With a membership that the FBI estimates could be as high as 10,000, MS-13 is most active in Los Angeles, the Mid-Atlantic, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Clifford says the group also has formed commerce routes across the nation for drug-trafficking operations.

Raids of suspected MS-13 safe houses in Central America, Mexico and the USA by federal and international law enforcement officials resulted in more than 600 arrests and the discovery of gang “constitutions,” the FBI said.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-01-05-gang-grows_x.htm

The FBI reports that MS-13 operates in 42 States and has a membership of up to 10,000 individuals. http://www.fbi.gov/page2/jan08/ms13_011408.html , http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/ngic/violent_gangs.htm ,

Contact Washington and demands that ICE enforcement resume: http://www.usa.gov/Contact.shtml

Report: MS-13 gang hired to murder Border Patrol –

Mexican alien smugglers plan to pay violent gang members and smuggle them into the United States to murder Border Patrol agents, according to a confidential Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by the Daily Bulletin. The Officer Safety Alert, dated Dec. 21, warns agents that the smugglers intend to bring members of the international Mara Salvatrucha street gang also known as MS-13 into the country for the deadly mission.“Unidentified Mexican alien smugglers are angry about the increased security along the U.S./Mexico border and have agreed that the best way to deal with U.S. Border Patrol agents is to hire a group of contract killers,” the alert states.

http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/january2006/110106hiredtomurder.htm

 

Mexico Violence Spills Into US – County Attorney Claims 400 Kidnappings In Phoenix, AZ in 2008 – Democrats In Congress Fail To Act

According to the County Attorney for Maricopa County, Arizona (by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas | December 3rd, 2008 ) – Phoenix law enforcement says that Phoenix has now become “”ground zero”” for the violent Mexican drug cartels. There has been a 325% increase in kidnapping for ransom cases in Maricopa County since 2005.

Kidnappings for ransom are increasing in Arizona, as drug cartels and “”coyotes,”” or human smugglers, hold their own customers and other victims for ransom. Special interest groups that favor looking the other way when it comes to illegal immigration insist that illegal immigrants are peaceful, but this naïve outlook doesn’t take into account the violence that inevitably accompanies illegal immigration. This latest wave of violence hitting Arizona puts women and children at risk as they are frequently targeted as hostages and held for ransom. At the same time, combating this new type of Latin American-style violence is increasing the load on our justice system and straining our financial resources.

Powerful illegal drug cartels used to be considered a Latin American phenomenon, limited to countries like Colombia where drug dealers control the government. In recent years, the drug cartels have moved northward illegally into Mexico, turning Mexico into the kidnapping capital of the world. Over 4,400 people have been killed in drug cartel wars in Mexico this year. But the violence hasn’t stopped there. It has continued to move north, as the drug cartels and coyotes found a profitable market crossing the border illegally into the U.S. Phoenix law enforcement says that Phoenix has now become “”ground zero”” for the violent Mexican drug cartels.

Police estimate that over 300 kidnappings are investigated each year in Phoenix. So far this year we’ve had more than 200 referred to our office by law enforcement. There are more that go unreported, because many victims fear retribution from the drug cartels.

Looking the other way at illegal immigration and making excuses to avoid dealing with its associated crime by saying it is the federal government’s responsibility will not stop the coyotes and drug cartels from bringing their Latin American-style violence into the U.S. The federal government is still doing little in this area to protect us. As long as I am County Attorney, I will work to protect the residents of Maricopa County from this new wave of violence.

http://www.firecoalition.com/forum/yaf_postst3711_Kidnappings-Latin-America-Style-Violence-Sweeping-Arizona.aspx

http://www.intellectualconservative.com/2008/12/03/kidnappings-latin-america-style-violence-sweeping-arizona/

Las Vegas, Nevada has also seen an increase in the number of drug gang related kidnappings: “Clemens Fred Tinnemeyer, disappeared in May after stealing millions of dollars related to “major drug trafficking,” authorities have said, and investigators think Cole’s kidnapping was intended to send him a message. Tinnemeyer was already at the center of a federal investigation when Cole was kidnapped, Nichols testified. “There was on ongoing investigation involving a ton of money, a ton of drugs and a Mexican cartel that was serious about getting that money back,” he said. http://www.lvrj.com/news/33564389.html

Maricopa County Attorney Asks why National Guard on Border

Retreated from Armed Gunmen

Maricopa County County Attorney Andrew Thomas called for an inquiry by Congress and the Arizona legislature into the circumstances surrounding last week’s reported retreat by National Guard troops along the Mexican border after they were confronted by four armed gunmen from Mexico. This development was troubling given that Valley streets increasingly are being flooded with crime, drugs and violence flowing from the open border with Mexico. The Border Patrol acknowledged last week that National Guard troops abandoned a post along the Arizona border after being threatened by armed men entering from Mexico. This confrontation occurred along a porous border where drug lords and their gangs operate freely. http://www.intellectualconservative.com/2007/01/10/maricopa-county-attorney-asks-why-national-guard-on-border-retreated-from-armed-gunmen-2/

Of the 46,000 arrests made in Maricopa County last year, 6,000 involved illegal aliens. 120 arrests were made for the illegal summgling of human beings. http://www.mayorgordon.com/news/view.cfm?id=483420746

Latin America-style kidnappings move into Ariz. – http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-01-11-smuggler-kidnappings_N.htm 

PHOENIX — A woman leaving an eyeglass store is grabbed in the parking lot by four men who force her, kicking and screaming, into a pickup. The kidnappers demand a $900,000 ransom.

PHOENIX (Reuters) – The criminal underworld in the sun-baked Arizona capital of Phoenix has long enjoyed the hot money profits from illicit smuggling of drugs and people over the border from Mexico. But now its members are living in fear as they are stalked by kidnappers after their proceeds, authorities say. Police in the desert city say specialized kidnap rings are snatching suspected criminals and their families from their homes, running them off the roads and even grabbing them at shopping malls in a spiraling spate of abductions.”Phoenix is ground zero for illegal narcotics smuggling and illegal human smuggling in the United States,” said Phil Roberts, a Phoenix Police Department detective. http://www.tigardtimes.com/us_world_news/story.php?story_id=TRE4979VW

PHOENIX – Phoenix police have arrested a suspect wanted in the kidnapping of a teenage girl. 

Thomas was in a southwest Phoenix neighborhood Monday evening with other children and adults when an SUV with a strobe light on its front grill pulled up and two men armed with assault-style rifles and another two with handguns exited the vehicle. Two of the gunmen had utility belts that witnesses described as resembling the gun belts worn by police officers. Despite the strobe light and belts, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said the kidnappers never claimed to be police officers. http://ktar.com/index.php?hlpage=8&nid=6&sid=770438

Each year, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are smuggled through Arizona from Mexico, most heading on to join relatives living and working in the shadows in towns and cities across the United States. The desert state also straddles a furiously trafficked corridor for drugs, especially marijuana, more than 400 tons of which were seized last year by the U.S. Border Patrol alone. Profits from the two crimes amount to billions of dollars.

In one recent kidnapping, a 14-year-old girl from south Phoenix was mistakenly picked up on the street by a gun-toting snatch squad looking for the daughter of a known drug dealer. The girl was subsequently released by her captors. “She happened to be standing outside in front of the home … they grabbed her in broad daylight … threw her in the vehicle and took off,” said Roberts. “Here is the perfect example of a young girl who has nothing to do with this, her family has nothing to do with this, she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”                                                                                                       http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE4979VW20081008?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&rpc=22&sp=true

Man kidnapped from Phoenix store, police ask for your help. http://www.abc15.com/content/news/phoenixmetro/story/Man-kidnapped-from-Phoenix-store-police-ask for/ktkfLTjEk0ygMqGoNh_L0A.cspx

Phoenix police uncover organized crime ring

Police raided a Phoenix tire business Wednesday after receiving reports that the owner and employees were involved in organized crime, including armed robberies, home invasions and kidnappings across the Phoenix metro area. The owner, Manuel Torres, 39, was arrested in court Wednesday while facing other criminal charges, police said.  http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/hourlyupdate/275015.php
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