DEA Congressional Testimony
February 24, 1999

Statement of
Thomas A. Constantine
Drug Enforcement Administration
United States Department of Justice

Before the
Senate Drug Caucus


The Damage to the United States

Violence Associated with Traffickers from Mexico in the United States

The American Experience with Organized Crime

Organized Criminal Drug Trafficking Syndicates Based in Mexico

The Arellano Felix Organization

The Carrillo Fuentes Organization (CFO)

Caro-Quintero Organization

The Amezcua-Contreras Organization

What is Required to Deal with Mexico-Based Organized Crime Syndicates that Commit Massive Criminal Activity in the United States


Mr. Chairman, Members of the Senate: I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the Committee today to discuss the issue of drug trafficking in Mexico and the existence of the powerful organized criminal syndicates headquartered in Mexico. As I have done in past years, I will provide the Committee with information on how these major drug trafficking organizations impact on the United States, and present you with an insight into why these trafficking groups have become so powerful in a relatively short period of time. The information that I will provide is based on a comprehensive and detailed analysis of every major narcotics investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration that involved organized crime drug trafficking activity in Mexico. In addition, we have consulted with Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies prior to preparing this report for you today.

The organized crime syndicate leaders, who are currently based in Mexico, pose the greatest challenge to law enforcement agencies in the United States that are enforcing narcotics laws today. Since the mid-1990's we have watched with concern as powerful organized crime syndicates based in Mexico began to dominate the distribution of drugs within virtually every community in the United States. Through the dedicated efforts of Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, we now have a clear picture of how these drug lords direct the sale of drugs within the U.S., how they collect their billions of dollars in drug profits, and how they arrange for the assassination of witnesses in both Mexico and the United States. These Mexico-based criminal organizations have rapidly become the primary entities responsible for distributing drugs to the citizens of the United States.

We have not only identified the drug lords themselves, but in most cases, the key members of their command and control structure. The combined investigations of DEA, FBI, the U.S. Customs Service and members of state and local police departments have resulted in the seizure of hundreds of tons of drugs, hundreds of millions of dollars in drug proceeds and most importantly, the indictment of virtually every one of the leading drug lords. In fact, some of the leaders of these organizations---Ramon and Benjamin Arellano-Felix, Jesus Amezcua, Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes----have become almost household names in every major law enforcement department in the United States. Despite this evidence of the crimes they have committed within the U.S., and the notoriety these traffickers have gained, they have been able to continually evade arrest and prosecution. The primary reason they have been able to avoid arrest and continue to ship drugs into the United States is attributable to their ability to intimidate witnesses, assassinate public officials and, as is well-documented, their ability to corrupt many of the civilian law enforcement agencies in Mexico on a systemic basis and often at the command level.

Unfortunately in the past, my testimony on the subject of organized crime in Mexico has been misinterpreted by some as a criticism of the people of Mexico, and of the Government of Mexico. That is not true. I have great respect for the citizens of Mexico and the public officials I have met. However, I have taken an oath to protect the citizens of the United States and over my thirty nine year career in law enforcement, I have dedicated my life, and sometimes risked it, for these principles. As a result, my primary concern has always been what these vicious, amoral criminals have done to the citizens of the United States. When they order members of their criminal organizations to distribute tons of drugs into our nation, they are directly involved in the addiction, injury and death of our citizens. My intention today, as it has been in past appearances before the U.S. Congress, is to shed some light on the power of these organized criminal groups in Mexico, and to provide testimony on how these organizations have transformed many Americans communities into places of despair.

The Damage to the United States

Most Americans are unaware of the vast damage that has been caused to their communities by international drug trafficking syndicates, most recently by organized crime groups headquartered in Mexico. In order to understand the extent and nature of this damage, it is instructive to look at how these organizations work, and how they infiltrate and establish themselves in U.S. communities in order to further their goals.

On any given day in the United States, business transactions are being arranged between the major drug lords headquartered in Mexico and their surrogates who have established roots within the United States, for the shipment, storage and distribution of tons of cocaine and hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine and heroin to trafficking groups in the United States. In the past, Mexico-based criminal organizations limited their activities to the cultivation of marijuana and opium poppies for subsequent production of marijuana and heroin. The organizations were also relied upon by Colombian drug lords to transport loads of cocaine into the United States, and to pass on this cocaine to other organizations who distributed the product throughout the U.S. However, over the past five years, Mexico-based organized crime syndicates have gained increasing control over many of the aspects of the cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana trade, resulting in increased threats to the well-being of American citizens as well as government institutions and the citizens of their own country.

In the recent past, traffickers from Mexico had maintained dominance in the western part of the United States, and in some midwest cities. Today, after several years of amassing critical investigative information, the Drug Enforcement Administration, along with other law enforcement agencies, has developed convincing evidence that surrogates of organized crime groups in Mexico have now established themselves on the East Coast of the United States, and for the first time, virtually dominate the nationwide drug trade.

Statistics tell part of the story. From 1994 to 1998, Mexican citizens detained by U.S. authorities at the Southwest Border in connection with drug seizures increased dramatically from 594 in 1994 to 4,036 in the first ten months of 1998. DEA arrests of Mexican nationals within the United States increased 65% between 1993 and 1997. Most of these arrests took place in cities that average Americans would not expect to be targeted by international drug syndicates in Mexico---cities such as Des Moines, Iowa, Greensboro, North Carolina, Yakima, Washington, and New Rochelle, New York.

The damage that these traffickers have caused to the United States is enormous. Cities and rural areas from the east coast to the west are living with the havoc and erosion of stability that these individuals and organizations have caused. By understanding how organized crime groups in Mexico have infiltrated communities here, it is helpful to examine their role in the distribution of cocaine, and in the production, trafficking and distribution of heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine.

Approximately two-thirds of the cocaine available in the United States comes over the U.S.-Mexico border. Typically, large cocaine shipments are transported from Colombia via commercial shipping and "go fast" boats and off-loaded in Mexican port cities. The cocaine is transported through Mexico, usually by trucks, where it is warehoused in cities like Guadalajara or Juarez, for example, which are operating bases for the major organizations. Cocaine loads are then driven across the U.S.-Mexican border and taken to major distribution centers within the U.S., such as Los Angeles, Chicago or Phoenix. Surrogates of the major drug lords wait for instructions, often provided over encrypted communications devices-- --phones, faxes, pagers or computers---telling them where to warehouse smaller loads, who to contact for transportation services, and who to return the eventual profits to. Individuals sent to the United States from Mexico, often here illegally, contract with U.S. trucking establishments to move loads across the country. Once the loads arrive in an area which is close to the eventual terminal point, safehouses are established for workers who watch over the cocaine supplies and arrange for it to be distributed by wholesale dealers within the vicinity. These distributors have traditionally been Colombian nationals or individuals from the Dominican Republic, but recently, DEA has evidence that Mexican nationals are directly involved in cocaine distribution in New York City.

A recent DEA case illustrated just how broad-based and well-organized and efficient traffickers from Mexico have become in the cocaine trade. The operation targeted a Mexicali-based transportation and distribution organization associated with the Arellano-Felix organization. They arranged for the shipment of ton quantities of cocaine from Mexico, operating from safe locations in Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico. They delivered multi-ton amounts of cocaine to Mexican and Colombian traffickers in Los Angeles, Tucson, Chicago,

Detroit, New York and Greensboro, North Carolina. The investigation ended this past summer with the seizure of 3,500 kilograms of cocaine, $15 million and the arrest of 55 defendants. Additional documentary evidence that was discovered as part of this investigation revealed that one facet of this trafficking organization had distributed approximately 7 tons of cocaine and returned $90 million dollars to Mexico within a 90-day time frame.

Methamphetamine trafficking works in a similar fashion, with major organized crime groups in Mexico obtaining the precursor chemicals necessary for methamphetamine production from sources in other countries, such as China and India, as well as from "rogue" chemical suppliers in the United States. "Super" methamphetamine labs, capable of producing hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine on a weekly basis, are established in Mexico or in California, where the methamphetamine is provided to traffickers to distribute across the United States. It is common now to find hundreds of traffickers from Mexico, again, most of them illegal aliens, established in communities like Boise, Des Moines, Omaha, Charlotte and Kansas City, distributing multi-pound quantities of methamphetamine.

The impact of methamphetamine on numerous communities has been devastating. In Iowa, health experts have expressed grave concerns over the 4000 infants affected by drugs, ninety-percent of which were exposed to methamphetamine. An expert associated with Marshall County Iowa's Juvenile Court Services estimated in 1998 that one-third of the 1,600 students at Marshalltown High School have tried methamphetamine.

The public safety is also affected by methamphetamine production. There have been numerous incidents where children have been injured or killed by explosions and fires resulting from their parents' methamphetamine cooking. In a major DEA case, a working methamphetamine lab established by traffickers from Mexico was discovered in an equestrian center where children were taking riding lessons. In another case investigated by the DEA, an operational methamphetamine lab, capable of producing 180 pounds of methamphetamine, was discovered within a thousand feet of a junior high school.

Just two weeks ago, the DEA office in Fresno, working with the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, discovered working methamphetamine laboratories in Squaw Valley and Fresno. Six Mexican nationals were arrested, only one of whom was in the United States legally. Over 46 pounds of methamphetamine were seized, and we learned that the ultimate destinations for the methamphetamine were Oregon, Washington and states in the midwest.

Heroin from Mexico now represents 14% of the heroin seized in the United States, and it is estimated that organized crime figures in Mexico produced 6 metric tons of heroin last year. A current study being conducted by DEA indicates that as much as 29% of the heroin being used in the U.S. is being smuggled in by the Mexico-based organized crime syndicates. Mexican "black tar" heroin is produced in Mexico, and transported over the border in cars and trucks. Like cocaine and methamphetamine, it is trafficked by associates of the organized criminal groups in Mexico, and provided to dealers and users in the southwest, northwest, midwest areas of the United States. At one time it was commonplace for couriers to carry two pounds or so of heroin into the United States; recently, quantities of heroin seized from individuals has increased as is evidenced by larger seizures in a number of towns in Texas. This heroin is extremely potent, and its use has resulted in a significant number of deaths, including the deaths of 25 individuals in Plano, Texas in the last 18 months.

Mexican black tar heroin is also common in the Pacific Northwest. Last January, officers from the California Highway Patrol working near Sacramento, stopped a speeding car driven by a sixteen year old Mexican national. He and a passenger were from Michoacan, Mexico. A search of the car yielded six kilogram packages of Mexican black tar heroin intended for distribution in Yakima, Washington.

Seattle, Washington has suffered from a dramatic increase in heroin overdose deaths. According to health experts, heroin deaths increased in 1998 to a total of 138. This figure represents triple the number of heroin deaths in Seattle during the 1980's. Experts also estimate that there are 20,000 heroin addicts in Seattle and the surrounding area. Traffickers from Mexico use the I-5 highway to bring their product to cities and suburbs in Washington State.

Marijuana from Mexico dominates the U.S. import market. Seizures of Mexican marijuana have increased from 102 metric tons in 1991 to 742 metric tons in 1998. Marijuana organizations from Mexico are very powerful and violent. In some places, traffickers from Mexico have established growing operations within the United States. In a recent case in Idaho, the DEA Boise office, working with other Federal, state and local law enforcement, arrested a group of illegal aliens from Zacatecas, Mexico. 114,000 marijuana plants, weighing almost 20 tons, were seized. This operation represented the largest marijuana seizure ever in Idaho.

It is important to note that although many of the transactions relating to the drug trade take place on U.S. soil, the major international organized crime bosses headquartered in Mexico direct the details of their multi-billion dollar business step by step. They are responsible not only for the business decisions being made, but ultimately for the devastation that too many American communities have suffered as a result of the influx of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.

Violence Associated with Traffickers from Mexico in the United States

Organized crime groups from Mexico rely on violence as an essential tool of the trade. Much of the drug-related violence which has become commonplace in Mexico has spilled over to communities within the United States. Listed below are a few examples of recent violence committed by traffickers associated with major organized criminal groups in Mexico. Many of these acts of violence have been aimed at U.S. law enforcement personnel working along the Southwest Border. Since September 1996, DEA has recorded 141 threats or violent incidents against U.S. law enforcement personnel, their Mexican counterparts, public officials, or informants in Mexico or on the Southwest Border. Of this number, 93 were received between March 1997 and January 14, 1999.

  • The international border separating Cochise County, Arizona and the State of Sonora, Mexico, has developed into a most hazardous area for law enforcement officers operating on the Arizona border. The traffickers in this area are bold and confident and less hesitant to confront law enforcement officers. Since 1992, there have been 23 documented assaults and threats against law enforcement officers in the border area of Cochise County.

  • The El Paso Intelligence Center reports that from January 1998 through November 1998, there have been a total of 54 incidences of violence or threats against both USG and GOM law enforcement officials and their sources of information along the Southwest border. During 1998, a relatively new trend involving armed attacks by Mexican traffickers on U.S. law enforcement officers continued with fatal consequences. Over the last two years, there have been many reports by U.S. law enforcement officials of gun battles between Mexican drug traffickers and U.S. law enforcement officials stationed along the border. These armed encounters always developed during the drug traffickers' attempts to avoid arrest while fleeing back to Mexico. Increasingly, these attacks have become more brazen and have resulted in fatalities.

  • On June 3, 1998, along the Mexican border near Nogales, Arizona two miles north of the border, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Alexander Kirpnick and a fellow agent were attempting to arrest five Mexican males who were transporting marijuana north across the border when he was shot and killed. The suspect responsible for the murder of USBP Agent Kirpnick was later apprehended and confessed to the murder. The suspect is a member of a marijuana smuggling organization based in Mexico. He has been extradited to the United States and this action is much appreciated by law enforcement.

  • On June 6, 1998, U.S. Customs Service agents were assaulted by drug traffickers when attempting to stop a vehicle they observed entering the U.S. illegally at the Naco, Arizona Port of Entry. Several shots were exchanged between the vehicle fleeing back to Mexico and the pursuing agents. No law enforcement officers were injured and approximately 1,000 pounds of marijuana was recovered from the abandoned vehicle.
  • U.S. Border Patrol Agents were threatened in August, 1998 as they attempted to stop a pick-up truck approximately one mile northwest of San Luis, Arizona. As the vehicle was stopped, four suspects fled from the vehicle towards the Colorado River/Mexican border. As Border Patrol agents gave chase on foot, one suspect reportedly pointed an Uzi-type automatic weapon towards the agents. All suspects were able to escape into Mexico. No USBP agents were injured. During a search of the suspect truck, Border Patrol agents discovered marijuana concealed in the bed of the vehicle.

  • On December 27, 1998, Mexican law enforcement officials, Eleazar Hernandez-Pena and Joel Raul Rodriguez-Hernandez were abducted from the streets of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, reportedly by a group of at least ten armed men. On January 8, 1999, the bodies of Hernandez and Rodriguez were found in a sand pit on U.S. soil, in an area of Brownsville, Texas which is a notorious corridor for alien and drug smuggling. Both men appeared to have been tortured before being executed. Hernandez is a former Matamoras commander for the INCD, the former federal agency that was disbanded due to systemic corruption. He was reportedly a close associate of a Mexican trafficker from the Matamoros area. Rodriguez, a nephew of Hernandez, was an active official of the Federal Judicial Police (PJF), although he is not documented as being associated with drug trafficking.

The American Experience with Organized Crime

The United States' experience with organized criminal activity provides some useful parallels to the situation we are currently facing as we deal with international organized criminal drug trafficking syndicates based in Mexican cities. Since the 1950's, American law enforcement, and the American public began to understand how organized crime groups operating in the United States used violence, intimidation and corruption to achieve their ends. During the 1963 Senate hearings conducted by Senator McClellan, and later in the 1986 report of the President's Commission on Organized Crime, it was obvious that organized crime could not flourish in America without the collaboration of corrupted law enforcement officials who protected the criminals and condoned their criminal activities. The 1986 report states that: "Corruption is the central tool of the criminal protectors. The criminal group relies on a network of corrupt officials to protect the group from the criminal justice system. The success of organized crime is dependent upon this buffer, which helps to protect the criminal group from both civil and criminal government action."

Through our long history with organized crime, it was also apparent that violence and the threat of violence were essential tools of these criminal organizations. The 1986 Presidential report also noted that: "Both are used as means of control and protection against members of the group who violate their commitment and those outside the group to protect it and maximize its power. Members were expected to commit, condone or authorize violent acts."

Under the leadership of Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the 1960's, the U.S. Government launched a major attack on organized crime through a series of important measures, including toughening laws, providing law enforcement with essential tools such as wiretap investigations, and establishing multi-jurisdictional law enforcement approaches to ensure that organized criminal groups could not find safehavens anywhere in the United States. Through diligent and consistent law enforcement actions, American organized crime has for all intents and purposes, been reduced to a shadow of its former self. It is important to note that it took U.S. law enforcement several decades to eliminate the once-powerful American organized criminal groups, whose existence was denied until 1957.

While there are major parallels between American organized crime and today's international organized criminal groups based in Colombia and Mexico, there are some important differences. Even at the zenith of their power, American organized crime leaders did not wield the power and influence that the international drug trafficking organizations do at the current time. Unlike the American organized crime leaders, organized crime figures in Mexico have at their disposal an army of personnel, an arsenal of weapons and the finest technology that money can buy. They literally run transportation and financial empires, and an insight into how they conduct their day-to-day business leads even the casual observer to the conclusion that the United States is facing a threat of unprecedented proportions and gravity.

Organized Criminal Drug Trafficking Syndicates Based in Mexico

In my view, the Mexico-based drug trafficking organizations operating today are a perfect model for the description of organized crime that was offered in the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Justice in 1967: "a society that seeks to operate outside the control of the American people and their Government. It involves thousands of criminals working within structures as large as those of any corporation."

A brief review of how these organized crime groups rose to power testifies to their adaptability and ruthlessness, two traits essential to their success. Traffickers from Mexico have traditionally been poly-drug smugglers, operating heroin and marijuana distribution organizations in the midwest and southwest regions of the United States. After a sustained period of intense law enforcement pressure during the 1980's, cocaine traffickers from Colombia entered a partnership with drug traffickers in Mexico who agreed to transport loads of cocaine into the United States, thus insulating Colombian traffickers from law enforcement attention. Eventually, traffickers from Mexico demanded payment in cocaine, rather than cash, from their sources in Colombia, and then assumed a direct trafficking role which they retain today. After the incarceration of the leaders of the Cali criminal group in 1995 and 1996, traffickers based in Mexico assumed positions of major suppliers of cocaine in numerous U.S. cities. Additionally, Mexico-based traffickers also began producing methamphetamine on a very large scale, establishing production facilities in Mexico and California.

The organizations based in Mexico work much the same way that their predecessors and mentors from Cali worked over the years. By maintaining their headquarters in foreign countries, and by conducting all the details of their business in a protected environment, the heads of organized criminal drug trafficking organizations in Mexico have been able to avoid arrest in the United States. Like their Cali counterparts, Mexico-based traffickers have developed an intricate system of cells within the United States through which the day-to-day operations in the U.S. are carried out.

Thousands of employees within the U.S., many of them here illegally, are responsible for transporting and storing drugs, distributing and, in some cases, manufacturing the product, and returning the organizations' profits to Mexico and Colombia.

The Arellano Felix Organization

The Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO) remains one of the most powerful, aggressive and arguably the most violent of the drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. From strongholds in Tijuana and Mexicali, the AFO orchestrates the transportation, importation, and distribution of multi-ton quantities of cocaine, marijuana and large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine into the U.S. Violence, intimidation and corruption are the AFO trademarks. Utilizing these "tools of the trade," the AFO has developed an internal security apparatus to ensure not only the loyalty of fellow AFO members, but also to ensure compliance by non-AFO traffickers operating in Baja California corridor. Reportedly, in addition to being responsible for the murder and intimidation of numerous informants, Mexican law enforcement officials, rival drug traffickers and innocent citizens, the AFO's aggression has also crossed over the border into the U.S.

The Arellano-Felix family, headed by Benjamin, has evolved into one of Mexico's most powerful criminal drug enterprises responsible for smuggling multi-ton quantities of drugs yearly. While Benjamin manages this multi-million dollar business, his brother Ramon heads security-related operations. His functions include the recruitment of enforcers and killers from the streets of San Diego, such as the "Logan Calle 30" street gang, as well as Tijuana's affluent youth, known as the "Narco Juniors" and "Los Culiches", a group of prominent AFO assassins with roots in Culiacan, Sinaloa. For his notoriety, Ramon has been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list since September 1997.

The AFO's cocaine and marijuana distribution network has expanded to U.S. cities in the mid-west and the East coast during recent years. A recent DEA investigation revealed that a single AFO cell group based in Los Angeles, California was responsible for the distribution of cocaine in over 14 cities throughout the U.S. During raids executed in June 1998, the manager of this cell, Jorge Castro, and five of his associates were arrested by DEA in Los Angeles. These arrests followed the nationwide seizures of 3,500 kilograms of cocaine, $15 million USD, and the arrest of 55 organizational members. Beyond Mexico, the AFO has extended its ever growing sphere of influence into source countries in South America such as Colombia and Peru, as well as transhipment countries such as Panama.

In spite of existing U.S. warrants, Government of Mexico indictments and actionable investigative leads being provided to the GOM by US law enforcement, limited enforcement action has taken place within the last year against the AFO. The problem as it relates to the AFO is a consistent lack of success in gaining evidence, locating those already indicted, and arresting any major figures. The few arrests to date have not included the leaders and command structure of the AFO syndicate. The truly significant principals have not been arrested, and appear to be immune to any law enforcement efforts. Additionally, the DEA requested the Mexican Government's assistance in apprehending another GOM and U.S. target, however, law enforcement officials told U.S. investigators that it would be difficult to apprehend this individual because he was too dangerous to pursue due to the number of bodyguards and corrupt law enforcement officials he employs.

In addition to this lack of effort or willingness on the part of law enforcement in Mexico to target the leaders of the AFO is the lack of prosecution or extradition for those that have been arrested. Despite numerous promises, the extradition case of Arturo Paez-Martinez, an AFO lieutenant, languishes on appeal in Mexico. Additionally, in an effort to assist law enforcement in Mexico, on May 8, 1998, AFO Associate Oscar Compillo-Valles was extradited from the U.S. to Mexico, for his involvement in the conspiracy to off-load 17 tons of cocaine in La Paz, Baja California Sur, in November 1995. Compillo was sent from San Diego, California to Almoloya high security prison in Mexico City for only a few days, before being released by a Mexican judge in Toluca, Mexico for "lack of evidence" linking him to the indictment in Mexico.

News Accounts, as well as sources of information for U.S. law enforcement, indicate that an estimated one million dollars per week is paid to Mexican federal, state and local officials to ensure the continuous flow of drugs to gateway cities along the Southwestern border of the U.S.

The Carrillo Fuentes Organization (CFO)

The remnants of the Carrillo-Fuentes Organization (CFO) continue to be one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations operating in the Republic of Mexico, despite the untimely death of its leader, Amado Carrillo-Fuentes, in July 1997. The CFO has maintained its influence in drug smuggling operations throughout Mexico and the United States. Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes, brother of Amado, is now considered the leader of the CFO, or Juarez cartel. Intelligence sources indicate that Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes now oversees cartel operations, in association with regional managers who were loyal to the cartel before Amado's death. Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes is wanted in Mexico and is under indictment in the Western District of Texas in the United States for operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise. Unfortunately, he has not been located or arrested.

In January 1998, the Government of Mexico secured arrest warrants against 65 members of the CFO under the 1996 Mexican new Organized Crime Law. Further, in March 1998, the Mexican Government announced a reward offer for the capture of six of the Juarez cartel main leaders. However, since the issuance of these arrest warrants, no significant cartel manager has been apprehended. Arrests have been limited to lower-to mid-level organizational members. U.S. law enforcement and Mexican investigations indicate that the Yucatan peninsula has become the gateway for drugs transiting Mexico en route to the United States by the Juarez cartel. Intelligence gained in these investigations shows that Alcides Ramon-Magana, "El Metro," and other former CFO associates have become increasingly powerful within the cartel and now controls the resort area of Cancun, Mexico. Due to increased cocaine trafficking in Cancun, the Government of Mexico has focused recent investigative efforts there. In June 1998, Mexican authorities conducted a series of raids in Cancun, which led to the seizure of documents that corroborated the fact that this organization was transporting multi-ton quantities of cocaine via Mexico to various U.S. cities. One of the documents seized was a faxed copy of a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court and made by a New York City detective assigned to the DEA New York Task Force. The complaint outlines three seizures of cocaine totaling 1,892 kilograms, and the arrest of four Mexican nationals which occurred in the New York area in February and March of 1997. These documents illustrate the magnitude of the Juarez cartel operations and their impact on the United States.

Despite the Mexican Government's counterdrug efforts in the Yucatan area, the organizational leaders have yet to be apprehended. Additionally, on more than one occasion, officials observed Ramon Magana and other significant cartel members, but failed to take any type of enforcement action against them. Information also indicates that Ramon Magana has gained strength by corrupting numerous police, military and political officials at various levels.

Despite the death of Amado Carrillo-Fuentes in July 1997, his organization has continued to flourish. This organization's drug shipments to the U.S. continue unabated under the leadership of his brother, Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes. The proximity of cities such as Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and Reynosa, Mexico to the United States allows the CFO command structure to maintain a "hands on" approach in conducting cross border operations. Lower-echelon members travel back and forth between Mexico and the U.S., while the leaders rarely venture into the U.S., preferring the sanctuary that Mexico provides. The CFO controls a significant portion of cocaine through Mexico into the U.S. This organization continues to maintain drug transportation and distribution cells in U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and New York, with which it distributes its cocaine, or delivers the drug shipments to Colombian groups operating in the U.S.

Caro-Quintero Organization

Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero became the head of the Caro-Quintero organization after the 1985 imprisonment of his brother, Rafael Caro-Quintero, on drug violations and his involvement in the murder of Special Agent Enrique Camarena. In 1992, MCQ was charged in Mexico with Federal drug trafficking violations. This prosecution was to be conducted under the Article Four provision of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which allows the Government of Mexico to prosecute Mexican nationals in Mexico for violations occurring outside of Mexico. After the U.S. Department of Justice provided the Mexican Government with valuable evidence to prosecute their case, it is alleged that Miguel Caro-Quintero was able to use a combination of threats and bribes to have his charges dismissed by a Mexican Federal Judge in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Since thwarting the prosecution in 1992, he has operated freely throughout northwestern Mexico, and runs his drug smuggling activities from Caborca, Sonora, Mexico. U.S. investigations have corroborated the fact that Miguel Caro-Quintero collaborates with some Mexican law enforcement officials as evidenced by photographs which have shown him meeting with police officials at his residence.

Miguel Caro-Quintero's actions over the past several years indicate that he apparently fears no repercussions from law enforcement in Mexico. In May 1996, during the 14th International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) in Mexico City, Caro-Quintero was identified as one of several major drug traffickers in Mexico. Shortly thereafter, he called a local radio station to complain that his reputation was being tarnished. He then reportedly gave his address and invited law enforcement officials from Mexico and the U.S. to visit him. Furthermore, in February, 1997 he granted an hour long interview with the Washington Post during which he claimed to be an innocent rancher. In the article he said "every day, I pass by road blocks, police, soldiers, and there are no problems. How can they not find me? Because they are not looking for me."

Miguel Caro-Quintero controls the areas of Caborca, Sonora, Mexico, and works in conjunction with his brothers, Jorge and Genaro Caro-Quintero, and his sisters Maria Del Carmen Caro-Quintero and Blanca Lili Caro-Quintero. The organization also has strong ties in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico where two of Miguel's sisters, Melida Caro de Arce and Maria Manuela Caro de Sesteaga, reside with their husbands, who also participate in the activities of the MCQ Organization. The Caro-Quintero organization cultivates cannabis throughout Mexico, and smuggles marijuana, heroin and cocaine from Mexico into the U.S. To date Miguel Caro-Quintero has not been arrested.

The Amezcua-Contreras Organization

Prior to their arrest by the Government of Mexico, the Amezcua-Contreras brothers operated from Guadalajara, Mexico, and managed a methamphetamine production and trafficking organization with global dimensions. The organization was directed by Jesus Amezcua, and supported by his brothers, Adan and Luis. During the height of the organizations existence, the Amezcua drug trafficking organization was considered one of the world's largest smugglers of ephedrine and clandestine producers of methamphetamine. Information developed by U.S. and GOM investigations indicate that the Amezcua organization obtained large quantities of the precursor ephedrine, utilizing contacts in Thailand and India, which they supplied to methamphetamine laboratories in Mexico and the U.S. The organization utilized trusted associates in the U.S. to distribute ephedrine to Mexican methamphetamine traffickers operating in the U.S. The Amezcua brothers were also known to supply methamphetamine to the Tijuana Cartel run by the Arellano- Felix Organization.

Because of their direct impact on the United States, DEA financially supported the Government of Mexico's investigation in Guadalajara for over three years. As a result of this investigation, in January 1998, the Mexican Attorney General's office issued a warrant for the arrests of 17 members of the Amezcua Organization on charges of Organized Criminal Activity, and Operating with Resources from Illicit Gains. Mexican arrest warrants were issued for Luis, Jesus, and Adan Amezcua and several Amezcua family members. Following the arrest warrants, 103 properties belonging to various members of the Amezcua Organization were reportedly seized by Mexican authorities.

On June 1, 1998, Jesus and Luis Amezcua were arrested by Government of Mexico officials for Organized Criminal Activity and Operating with Resources from Illicit Gains. This was an important step on the part of the Mexican Government. However, no drug charges were ever filed against Luis and Jesus by the Government. Following their arrest, by October 1998, all criminal charges were dismissed against Jesus and Luis by a Guadalajara judge. The Government of Mexico re-arrested Jesus and Luis Amezcua on the USG Provisional Arrest Warrants. These warrants are based on the June 1998 indictment originating from the Southern District of California which charges Jesus and Luis Amezcua with operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise to Manufacture and Distribute Methamphetamine and Conspiracy to Possess Ephedrine.

The Government of Mexico's efforts against the Amezcua brothers are noteworthy and they should be commended. It is essential that the progress in this case be followed up with extradition to the United States. Despite lengthy and expensive investigations, there are no existing prosecutable cases in Mexico.

The ultimate success of the commitment to the prosecution of the Amezcua brothers will be the extradition of these criminals to the United States to face the pending federal indictments. To date, the Mexican Foreign Ministry has approved the extradition of Jesus Amezcua but has yet to rule on Luis Amezcua. The Amezcua brothers have filed appeals in Mexican courts fighting the extradition order and this matter will most likely be a lengthy process with an uncertain result.

What is Required to Deal with Mexico-Based Organized Crime Syndicates that Commit Massive Criminal Activity in the United States

As our nation learned during the long reign of the American mafia, it is imperative to have strong institutions in place to minimize the damage that organized crime can inflict on a society. Aggressive, honest law enforcement, sophisticated legal tools and the will to mount a sustained attack against organized crime are essential to combat organized crime. History has taught us that organized crime groups depend on an environment of corruption and intimidation to thrive. Until the environment is changed---as it was in the United States, Italy and Colombia when the Colombian National Police emerged victorious in their long-term campaign against the Cali mafia---leaders of organized criminal drug trafficking syndicates are able to insinuate themselves into national institutions, and damage the foundations of any society they target.

There are numerous conditions in Mexico today that, unfortunately, have allowed the organized criminal drug trafficking syndicates to grow even stronger than I predicted a few years ago. It is almost as if members of the Arellano Felix, Amado Carrillo-Fuentes, Caro-Quintero and Amezcua organizations have little to fear except the slim possibility that they will be extradited to the United States to face justice at the hands of a jury of their victims' peers. Because there is little effective law enforcement activity leading to the arrest of major traffickers in Mexico, investigations have been compromised in some cases, U.S. law enforcement must be and has been more aggressive in identifying, targeting and arresting the highest level drug traffickers who are working in the U.S. at the behest of Mexican drug lords and their Colombian counterparts.

The U.S. was successful in attacking organized crime over a period which spanned several decades. This was done through a committed effort to professionalize law enforcement organizations and ensure that corrupt officials were weeded out; passing and enforcing laws which allowed us to mount effective investigations; and working closely with other governments, where necessary, to ensure that there were no safehavens for the heads of these criminal organizations.

Although I am not an expert on other nations, I am an expert on organized crime and know what is required to improve the dangerous environment we face today. If the Government and people of Mexico are to be successful in their efforts to eliminate organized crime from Mexico, it will take time, and many changes need to be made in law enforcement institutions in order to ensure that the rule of law is paramount in their struggle against these criminals. As I have said on past occasions, law enforcement reforms can take many years, and even under the best of circumstances, such change can be exceedingly slow.

The Drug Enforcement Administration recognizes the contributions that have been made by the Government of Mexico to this difficult struggle. The arrest of the Amezcua brothers is a good indication that action can and will be taken against the heads of the major organizations in Mexico. DEA was also initially optimistic about the prospects for long-term change after the arrest of General Rebollo in 1997, and the subsequent establishment of mechanisms within the law enforcement infrastructure, such as Binational Task Forces and the vetted unit program. We supported these programs financially and with other resources in the hope that our efforts would result in a successful attack against the drug lords who are creating so much damage to the citizens and communities within the United States. However, continuing reports of corruption and the rapidly growing power and influence of the major organized criminal groups in Mexico cause us great concern about the long-term prospects for success.

In February 1997, General Gutierrez Rebollo, the Director General of DEA's chief counterpart agency in Mexico, the INCD, was arrested for collusion with top echelon Mexican traffickers. As a result, the INCD was completely disbanded. At that time, we believed that with the dissolution of the INCD, and the subsequent creation of the elite FEADS and the vetted unit program, a new era of successful investigations between the U.S. and Mexican Governments would emerge. We worked diligently to train and equip these elite vetted units in support of the new Government of Mexico's counter-narcotics initiative. Accordingly, to date, DEA and the FBI have conducted 539 polygraph examinations of FEADS personnel which has resulted in 343 FEADS personnel being vetted under U.S. standards. DEA and the FBI working together have provided training in the U.S. for 176 vetted agents and prosecutors during five separate four-week schools. As of this date, 70 of these vetted and trained personnel have been assigned to the eleven vetted units in Mexico. In our attempt to improve cooperation and successful apprehensions, DEA has invested $4.5 million in these programs.

However, because of recent allegations of corruption involving vetted unit personnel, the ability of U.S. law enforcement agencies to share sensitive information with these officials has again been adversely affected. Future attempts to share important and sensitive investigative information will depend on elimination of corruption in these key law enforcement units.

In 1997, we entered into a joint agreement between the DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs and federal law enforcement in Mexico to establish joint binational task forces. Because we could not provide the U.S.-based agents appropriate physical and legal protections, this concept has been disbanded. In place of that program, the Government of Mexico has set up unilateral programs called BIU's. The Base Intelligence Units (BIUs) operate in nine locations throughout Mexico. The BIUs were originally envisioned and created to identify, investigate and arrest leaders and members of major drug trafficking organizations operating on both sides of the U.S. and Mexican border. In an effort to assist these units, DEA has provided extensive funding from our budget for screening and equipment. In addition, as a further attempt to improve cooperation, we have offered to make space available at our key border offices to improve joint investigations.

The BIU's achievements in attaining investigative goals to date have been minimal. Although the original purposes of these units was to target the major traffickers --- Arellano-Felix and Amado Carillo Fuentes ---there has yet to be a successful investigation or arrest. Several of the BIUs collected useful intelligence information against the Amezcua-Contreras methamphetamine trafficking organization, but unfortunately all of the charges in Mexico were dismissed for insufficiency.

The Organized Crime Units' Sensitive Investigative Unit (SIU) was created with a similar mission in mind: to identify, investigate and arrest leaders and members of the major drug trafficking organizations operating throughout Mexico. Although the SIU was one of the first counter-narcotics units to conduct court-authorized telephone intercepts under the new Organized Crime Law, there has been little success. The discovery during the last several months that significant drug-related corruption existed among law enforcement officials working in Mexico's OCU and SIU has been a major setback. These allegations of corruption were further corroborated during recent polygraph examinations which reflected deception on the part of the OCU and SIU members. Such corruption has damaged drug investigations in which the DEA provided support to the vetted units. This represents a serious setback to the vision of rebuilding the counter-narcotics units from the defunct units of the past, and causes great concern for the sharing of sensitive law enforcement information.

Anti-Corruption Initiatives: The ability of any government to attack powerful criminal organizations is dependent upon the existence of honest, dedicated law enforcement professionals. To attain this goal, meaningful anti-corruption initiatives which lead to sound criminal investigations and prosecutions of corrupt officials must be aggressively pursued. Only when implementation of these measures results in widespread behavioral changes can success be realized by a honest cadre of law enforcement officials against the major Mexican drug trafficking mafias.

Last year we were hopeful that a number of integrity assurance programs initiated in concert with law enforcement officials in Mexico would improve our ability to share information. In fairness, we also recognized that this was a difficult undertaking and would require a substantial period of time. Regretfully, when it became known that high level officials of the vetted Organized Crime Unit were associated with key lieutenants of one of Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organizations, the Carrillo Fuentes Organization, it was a major setback for our efforts.

Examples of corruption include:

  • In June 1998, four MFJP agents were arrested near Reynosa, Tamaulipas after they were found to be protecting tractor trailer loads of marijuana destined for the U.S. The agents admitted to providing protection to a Mexico-based drug syndicate responsible for the importation of approximately 10 tons of marijuana per week.

  • Drug trafficking suspects arrested and held under the custody of law enforcement officers are frequently able to secure their release by paying a bribe. One illustrative case occurred on October 11, 1998, when two elite FEADS agents allowed major trafficker, Gilberto Garza-Garcia, an associate of Alcides Ramon-Magana, to escape from their custody for an alleged pay off of $38,000 USD. He has subsequently been arrested due to the continuing efforts of the PGR and the Mexican Military.

  • In February, 1998, a FEADS commandante in Juarez, Mexico, was removed from his position as the lead investigator for the murders and kidnapings surrounding the drug war that erupted between rival groups following the death of Amado Carillo Fuentes. The commandante was arrested after GOM officials learned that he was associated with Rafael Munoz Talavera, the leader of one of the drug syndicates he was sent to investigate.

  • During February, 1998 Fernando Gastellum-Lara, Chief of Public Safety for the State of Baja, California Sur, Mexico was arrested by PGR officials. His arrest stemmed from his involvement in the November, 1995 importation of 17 tons of cocaine just north of Cabo San Lucas, belonging to the Arellano-Felix organization. During the offload of the 17 tons of cocaine from an aircraft, Gastellum-Lara and three other police officials provided security to the traffickers. Gastellum-Lara is currently on trial in Mexico for his involvement in this operation.

In 1997, the Government of Mexico, as a result of continuing incidents of corruption in the civilian law enforcement institutions, transferred much of the narcotics enforcement efforts to the Government of Mexico military. We interact only with civilian law enforcement agencies and are not able to evaluate properly the success of this transfer of responsibility, There are numerous reports of drug-related corruption involving military units and at least to date, they have not been successful in locating and arresting the leaders of the criminal organizations.

Elimination of Violence against Law Enforcement Officials and others: As long as an environment of intimidation and corruption exists, traffickers are able to prevent effective law enforcement efforts, silence witnesses and exact revenge on rivals and sources of information. In 1998, several incidents involving violence in Mexico were reported.

  • Attempt on the Life of the Tijuana Police Chief: On May 17, 1998, AFO assassins, under the direction of AFO lieutenant Efrain Perez, attempted to kill Tijuana Police Chief, Jose Manuel Nieves-Retas. Chief Nieves' bodyguards were able to avoid the blockade of the assassins' vehicles and escape the potential assassination before any shots were fired. Nieves had received four telephone threats on May 16, 1998. The threat on Nieves' life stems from a seizure of two tons of marijuana taken from Perez, who was a lieutenant in the AFO, and the arrest of 10 of his associates on April 7, 1998. During the arrest of Perez's associates, several federal, state and local police officers who were providing an armed escort to the marijuana traffickers shot and killed a Tijuana police captain when he tried to arrest the criminals. Subsequent to the arrests, Perez sent emissaries to negotiate the release of the drugs and those arrested. Nieves refused to release either.

  • Murder of Federal Transit Police Vice Commander: On July 7, 1998, Juan Manuel Garcia-Medrano, Vice-Comandante for the Federal Transit Police in the state of Chihuahua, was murdered in front of his house in Ciudad Juarez. He received multiple gun shots to the body. Witnesses stated that three young suspects waited for him in a neighboring unoccupied residence.

  • Tamaulipas State Police Comandante Dies in House Bombing: A bombing/explosion occurred at the Reynosa, Mexico residence of Raul Ruiz-Guerra, a comandante of the Tamaulipas State Police stationed in Camargo, Tamaulipas, on August 25, 1998. Comandante Ruiz died in the bombing along with a female, presumed to be the house maid. Ruiz's pregnant wife and young son were seriously injured. Mexican law enforcement personnel stated that there were unconfirmed rumors that Ruiz was murdered as a result of a 600-kilogram cocaine seizure, which occurred approximately a month before in Mission, Texas.

  • MFJP Agents Murdered in Mexico City: On January 3, 1999, police commander and his associate were murdered in an ambush in front of the MFJP Headquarters in Mexico City. Jose Francisco Sanchez-Naves and one of his MFJP associates Gerardo Valderrama-Aguilar were killed while sitting in a PGR Suburban in front of the PGR parking lot in downtown Mexico City. Sanchez had worked for the MFJP for many years, and as a First Commander in MFJP offices in the States of Chihuahua, Guerrero and Mexico, D.F. since 1995. Valderrama was identified as an Agent assigned to the MFJP Plaza in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and allegedly associated to members of the CFO and supported drug trafficking activities.

  • Officer Killed, Another Afraid for his Life, after Revealing Corruption in PFC: On January 14, 1999, the Mexican press reported the assassination of Mexican Highway Police (PFC) official Luis Antonio Ibanez in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico. Ibanez' death came approximately one month and a half after he had given an official statement to PGR officials, in which Ibanez implicated his superiors and peers within the PFC of assisting drug traffickers. Based on this statement, it was reported that PGR officials in Mexico City had initiated an investigation of the alleged corrupt practices of the implicated PFC officials. Ibanez was threatened with criminal prosecution and on November 17, 1998, and he decided to cooperate with the investigation. He provided Internal Affairs with a six-page statement detailing the manner in which Ibanez and his PFC associates received bribe payments for allowing drug loads to be transported through the State of Chihuahua, as well as providing escort services for these loads.

  • Jaime Olvera-Olvera: Former MFJP officer and bodyguard for ACF's children, Jaime Jose Olvera-Olvera, cooperated with the GOM, the DEA and the FBI and was placed into the Mexican witness protection program by the GOM. Olvera gave several lengthy and detailed statements demonstrating his knowledge of the ACFO, exposing his involvement, as well as implicating both civilian and military high-level officials, which included a multi-million USD bribe payment by the ACFO for protection from the GOM. Olvera was later kidnaped by three unidentified assailants on September 10, 1998, in a commercial section of a Mexico City suburb. Olvera's body was discovered in the area of Colonia de San Angel, south of Mexico City on the following day. He was found strangled with a cord around his neck and appeared to have sustained a single gunshot wound to the back of his head. The location of Olvera's body was approximately 45 yards from the site where a previous GOM protected witness associated with the ACFO, identified as Tomas Colsa-MacGregor, was found murdered in July 1997 subsequent to the death of ACF.

  • The Murder of Rafael Munoz-Talavera: On September 10, 1998, Rafael Munoz-Talavera, one of the key figures in the struggle for control of the Juarez Cartel, was found dead. His body, with four gunshot wounds, was found in an armored vehicle parked in central Ciudad Juarez after police received an anonymous call. Shortly after the assassination of Talavera, an associate stated that Talavera had been responsible for the deaths of a number of ACFO members and that RMT had been killed outside Ciudad Juarez and his body brought back to the city as an indication of the power and control of the Juarez drug trafficking corridor wielded by Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes, Juan Jose Esparragoza-Moreno aka El Azul, and others.

  • Ciudad Juarez Deaths Escalate: Violence between drug trafficking organizations continued to escalate in 1998. From January 1, 1998 through September 15, 1998, approximately 29 murders were carried out in the Ciudad Juarez area. During the months of January and February of 1998, seven persons were reported kidnaped or disappeared. All of these incidents are believed to be drug-related, with the majority thought to be related to a power struggle between entities wishing to control the lucrative Juarez corridor, currently controlled by elements of the CFO.

  • Attempted Assault on the Son of GOM official: On July 10, 1998, a GOM official reported a threat and attempted assault on his thirteen-year-old son. The official stated that the vehicle his son and two armed bodyguards were riding in was blocked from moving by an unidentified vehicle occupied by two unidentified armed men. The men exited the vehicle and fired one shot into the vehicle occupied by his son and bodyguards. The bodyguards returned fire and struck one of the assailants in the upper left shoulder. Both assailants returned to their vehicles and fled the scene. It is unknown if this was a random act of violence, or an assassination or a botched kidnaping attempt. The act may also be a warning as a result of recent enforcement actions directed against drug traffickers Alcides Ramon-Magana and Jose Albino Quintero-Meraz.

  • Ensenada Massacre: On September 17, 1998, eleven individuals dressed in black went to Rancho Rodeo, Sauzal, Baja California Norte, Mexico and removed 22 people from their residences at this ranch. All 22 people, including women and children were placed in a line and executed by various caliber weapons. Of the 22 people, 20 died and two survived, but were in serious condition. One of the two survivors, Fermin Castro-Flores later died while hospitalized. Castro's primary responsibility, according to a DEA investigative information, was to steal drug loads from independent traffickers moving marijuana and cocaine through the AFO's territory without paying for the privilege. Investigative information also revealed that Castro guarded and harvested small marijuana plantations in the state of Baja California Norte.

Conclusion: Organized crime groups from Mexico continue to pose a grave threat to the citizens of the United States. In my lifetime, I have never witnessed any group of criminals that has had such a terrible impact on so many individuals and communities in our nation. They have infiltrated cities and towns around the United States, visiting upon these places addiction, misery, increased criminal activities and increased homicides. There is no doubt that those individuals running these organized criminal drug trafficking syndicates today---the Arellano Felix brothers, Vicente Carillo Fuentes, the Amezcua brothers and the Caro Quintero family---are responsible for degrading the quality of life not only in towns along the Southwest border of the United States, but increasingly, cities in middle America.

The threat that these organized crime groups pose demands a decisive response. U.S. law enforcement agencies are working every day to identify and target those individuals associated with Mexico-based trafficking organizations. Because of the unparalleled levels of corruption within Mexican law enforcement agencies with whom we must work to ensure that these individuals are brought to justice, our job is made that much more difficult. Until we can work with our law enforcement counterparts in Mexico, in a relationship that is free from suspicion, the burden to bring the drug lords before a jury of their victims' peers will remain largely ours.

I believe it is important to note that every day we ask thousands of young law enforcement officers throughout the United States to risk their lives to protect us from these vicious international criminals. I cannot begin to list the numbers of my friends, who as Deputy Sheriffs, troopers or agents were killed in the line of duty. When I met with their families and loved ones, invariably they asked if this loss was worth it. They ask if we will continue to go after those who are responsible for this evil criminal activity. I believe it will be difficult to assure these families that we are committed if we allow those who are responsible for the control of this massive drug trafficking to live in their palatial mansions with millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts, apparently virtually immune from sanctions. If our commitment does not follow through on bringing these drug lords to justice, it will be difficult to tell the survivors of these tragedies that we are serious.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the Committee today.

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