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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Mexico

Iraqi-Mexican drug ring busted in Calif.

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy talks about the indictments evolving from arrest made in the undercover operation involving Iraqi Immigrants and Mexican drug cartels at a news conference Thursday in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

By JULIE WATSON,Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Federal officials said Thursday they've busted a drug trafficking ring involving Mexico's most powerful cartel and members of an Iraqi immigrant community in the U.S. who were caught selling illegal drugs, assault rifles, grenades and homemade explosives.

About 60 people from the Iraqi community were arrested after a six-month investigation carried out by the Drug Enforcement Administration and police in the city of El Cajon, a working-class city east of San Diego.

Many of the suspects are Iraqi Chaldeans — Christians who fled their homeland amid threats from al-Qaida and other extremists. Police say at least some of those arrested are suspected of being affiliated with the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate, an Iraqi gang based in Detroit.

Authorities say the suspects were working out of an Iraqi social club in El Cajon and shipping drugs supplied by Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel to Detroit, home to the largest Chaldean population in the United States, according to the federal indictment unsealed Thursday. El Cajon has the second largest Chaldean population.

 Officials were tipped off after neighbors and even some of the club members' spouses complained for years about the establishment's criminal activity, which has included attempted murder, sales of meth and marijuana, gambling and illegal firearms sales.

Authorities seized 18 pounds of methamphetamine, narcotics, cocaine and other drugs; more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana; $630,000 in cash; four IEDs; and more than 30 guns, including assault rifles.

In April, a DEA undercover operative was shown a hand grenade by one of the Iraqis and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military source.

Man executed despite White House pleas

By MICHAEL GRACZYK,Associated Press
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas executed a Mexican citizen Thursday for the rape-slaying of a teenager after he and the White House pleaded in vain for a Supreme Court stay, saying he was denied help from his home country that could have helped him avoid the death penalty.

 In his last minutes, Humberto Leal (pictured) repeatedly said he was sorry and accepted responsibility.

“I have hurt a lot of people. … I take full blame for everything. I am sorry for what I did,” he said in the death chamber.

“One more thing,” he said as the drugs began taking effect. Then he shouted twice, “Viva Mexico!”

“Ready warden,” he said. “Let's get this show on the road.”

He grunted, snored several times and appeared to go to sleep, then stopped all breathing movement. The 38-year-old mechanic was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms.

After his execution, relatives of Leal who had gathered in Guadalupe, Mexico, burned a T-shirt with an image of the American flag in protest. Leal's uncle Alberto Leal criticized the U.S. justice system and the Mexican government and said, “There is a God who makes us all pay.”

Leal was sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda, whose brutalized nude body was found hours after he left a San Antonio street party with her. She was bludgeoned with a 30- to 40-pound chunk of asphalt.

Leal was just a toddler when he and his family moved to the U.S. from Monterrey, Mexico, but his citizenship became a key element of his attorneys' efforts to win a stay. They said police never told him following his arrest that he could seek legal assistance from the Mexican government under an international treaty.

Read the rest of the AP story by clicking the link below.

Man claims abuse in teen boot camps

By LYNN DeBRUIN,Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Spokane man has become the latest to sue a Utah-based organization for troubled children, claiming he was physically and emotionally tormented during its teen boot camp programs in Mexico.

Attorneys for Carl Brown Austin, 24, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City against World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools.

Austin spent nearly two years, starting at age 13, at the organization's Casa by the Sea and High Impact programs. He alleged he was a “virtual prisoner” in programs that meted out primitive punishment for hours on end.

The lawsuit said Casa by the Sea in Ensenada, Mexico, was never licensed by any state regulatory authority as a “treatment center” and that High Impact in Baja, Mexico, was shut down by government edict in 2002 after complaints from parents.

Austin claimed he was hogtied, given limited access to bathrooms and food and endured “The Big Green” — which meant having his head rubbed into an artificial turf until his face and mouth were bloody. It also claimed the organization and its officials conspired to conceal the abuse at its boarding schools.

“I'm just now trying to change my life around,” Austin said. “I've been through so much. It's a traumatic thing to have to go through when I was just 13.”

An attorney for the organization, which was based in St. George, Utah, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.

Austin said he wanted his own lawsuit filed rather than join a lawsuit pending in federal court after five years because “I would like to have my story heard.”

The other lawsuit, brought in 2006 initially on behalf of a Texas man, now has 350-plus plaintiffs — mostly victims claiming abuse and parents who sent their children to various alternative programs run by the organization.

Also named as defendants are organization principals Robert B. Litchfield, of Toquerville, Utah, and Brent M. Facer.

Facer, reached in California on Thursday, said he was a board member of World Wide for four or five years but indicated it exists now on paper only. He said World Wide shut down because there wasn't a need for its programs any more.

He maintained that Casa by the Sea was “a well-run program” and that “safety and security were paramount.” He said he had no knowledge of Austin or abuse allegations and knew only of “a few isolated incidents that got some attention.” Asked why former students might bring such accusations, Facer said children brought to such schools have a history of misrepresenting the truth.

“That's why these kids need help,” Facer said. “They lie to their parents, lie to their superiors, teachers, people who maybe they would consider an authoritative type of figure. That's not uncommon.”

Austin's mother, Glenna Pierson, and her husband also are plaintiffs in his lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks to recover more than $50,000 Pierson spent for her son to be in the Casa by the Sea program, as well as actual and punitive damages for the abuse he suffered.

Austin said his relationship with his mother is still “on the fence” as he struggles with trust issues after being sent from home for being a troublemaker.

“It's hard for me to forgive but I'm trying,” he said of his mother.

The 36-page lawsuit said Pierson pulled him from the program in 2002 but claimed he could not adjust to normal life after the abuse. It said he had trouble with the law and drugs.

The programs “wrecked the life of a very young adolescent that needed nurturing, patience, and love, not the foolish 'behavior modification' at which defendants excel,” the lawsuit said.

Austin, who along with his girlfriend runs a babysitting service from his home in Spokane, said even smells can trigger flashbacks.

“They made this juice with syrup and water and I'd be out driving and have the window down and … it'd take me right back again to where I was when I was 13,” Austin said. He said he had been having recurring nightmares but that prescription medicine has helped him sleep better.

“Coming back from that environment, I was so angry,” he said. “My head had been messed with. There was lots of brainwashing.”

He insisted he no longer is in trouble with the law, and is trying to be a role model for the children he babysits. “But part of the reason I got this job is because I don't like to leave the house. I have this wall built around myself. I don't trust anyone,” he said.

“I don't think these kids frankly ever get over it,” said Salt Lake City attorney Thomas Burton, who filed the suit on behalf of Austin. “It's that bad, when they're adolescents and their psyche is just developing.”

He pointed to other cases where children in wilderness or residential programs committed suicide or serious crimes against others “because they can't take it anymore.”

“I know people who say the Army saved my life. But the Army has good food, recourse, oversight. It's rough, but it's fair,” Burton said. “In these (programs), who knows? They're off in the wilderness and nobody's checking on them.”

Catapults used to hurl marijuana into US

HERMOSILLO, Mexico (AP) — Drug smugglers are using an ancient invention as a new way to move marijuana across the border from Mexico to Arizona.

The discovery of two “drug catapults” in the Mexican state of Sonora marks the latest twist in the cat-and-mouse game traffickers play with authorities.

U.S. National Guard troops operating a remote surveillance system at the Naco Border Patrol Station say they observed several people preparing a catapult and launching packages over the fence late last week.

A Mexican army officer says the 3-yard tall catapult was found about 20 yards from the U.S. border on a flatbed towed by a sports utility vehicle.

The officer says the catapult was capable of launching 4.4 pounds of marijuana at a time. He says soldiers seized 35 pounds of pot, the vehicle and the catapult.

The smugglers left before they could be captured. The surveillance video of them using the catapult was released Wednesday.

A second catapult was discovered Thursday in near Agua Prieta, another border town. Another army officer in that area said an anonymous tip led soldiers to the scene and the catapult was similar to the first.

Mexican officials say it is the first time they have seen this smuggling method used by local traffickers.

Mexican traffickers have previously used planes, tunnels, vehicles, boats and couriers to smuggle drugs into the United States. Colombian drug traffickers have even used homemade submarines.

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