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DEA, U.S. Attorney talk efforts to combat Sinaloa cartel in AL
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Thread: DEA, U.S. Attorney talk efforts to combat Sinaloa cartel in AL

  1. #1
    Senior Member CnCP Legend CharlesMartel's Avatar
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    Apr 2014

    DEA, U.S. Attorney talk efforts to combat Sinaloa cartel in AL

    By Lindsey Connell

    BIRMINGHAM, AL - What do you know about the Sinaloa cartel?

    It’s believed to be connected to the beheading of a Huntsville special needs teen and murder of her grandmother- a case making headlines around the world.

    Federal officials are helping to shed some light on the Mexican cartel and how they operate, as well as what’s being done to combat their crimes.

    Bret Hamilton, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge for DEA in Alabama, says the vast majority of the drugs trafficked into the U.S. come from the Sinaloa cartel.

    “It’s probably the most extensive, most pervasive cartel working in Mexico and throughout the United States. It’s probably the largest and most organized cartel,” Hamilton explained.

    “The Sinaloa Cartel is a violent drug cartel. They engage primarily in the trafficking of methamphetamine. They assimilate in the open. They go to areas where there’s heavy or large immigrant populations and they embed in there and then they traffic their narcotics. It’s a problem throughout the United States, not just here,” said Jay Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

    The Sinaloa cartel is a poly-drug organization and they also do human trafficking. They divide their operation into cells.

    “They’ll have individuals who are responsible for collecting drugs south of the border, cells that are responsible for transporting drugs from Mexico to transshipment hubs through the US- Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas. And then from those areas, they’ll have distributers who move drugs further out into places like Huntsville and Birmingham,” Hamilton said.

    Based in Mexico, the cartel was long run by Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, who is now in custody in the US pending trial.

    Within the United States, members try to maintain a low profile, Hamilton says.

    “They try to embed themselves into the local Mexican national community. They’re a very diverse organization. They’re very well organized. They have CEOs and directors of certain aspects of the operation- a director of drugs, trafficking, transportation,” he stated.

    DEA agents have had informants tell them that the cartel even has power point presentations about changes and information on their operations.

    Cartel members don’t target individual Americans for no reason. They go after people who do business with them and who steal from them, or betray them, Hamilton revealed.

    The DEA has long term investigations into the cartel and agents are working all over the world to gain intelligence in an effort to dismantle their operations.

    “I can’t get specific, but we have open, active cases on people who we believe are members of the Sinaloa cartel,” Agent Hamilton said.

    The murders of 13-year-old Mariah Lopez and her grandmother Oralia Mendoza in Madison County are believed to be linked to the Sinaloa cartel. Some of the players in the investigation are believed to be drug runners for the organization.

    In a preliminary hearing last week for one of the suspects in the case, many new details were released.

    Mariah Lopez, a 13-year-old, was decapitated and her grandmother, Oralia Mendoza, was also killed last month in Owens Cross Roads. Their bodies were found a week apart in different locations off the same road.

    Yoni Martinez Aguilar, 26, and 34-year-old Israel Gonzalez Palomino face capital murder charges in connection with the killings.

    In court, Madison County investigators testified that in days before the murder, Aguilar, Palomino, Mendoza and her friend Laticia went to Norcross, Georgia to pick up a large amount of drugs. Something on that trip made Palomino and Mendoza get into a deadly argument.

    Investigators said Palomino was once romantically involved with Mendoza, but it was Aguilar who was currently dating Mendoza at the time of the murder.

    On June 7, deputies were called to a wooded area on Lemley Drive where Mariah's body was found. From there authorities learned the 13-year-old's grandmother was her primary guardian and was also missing. Family members told investigators about the grandmother's friends and who may have seen her last.

    Palomino and Aguilar both went willingly to be interviewed by investigators.

    The Madison County Sheriff's Office interviewed both Aguilar and Palomino, but the investigator said it wasn't until the second interview that Aguilar spilled more information and demonstrated how the murders happened. He told investigators where Mariah's body could be found once authorities told him that their cellphone pings put them at the location.

    According to courtroom testimony, Aguilar helped authorities locate Mendoza's body near Moon Cemetery on Cave Springs Road more than a week after Mariah's body was found.

    Aguilar told investigators that Palomino held his hand with the knife and moved it back and forth to behead the 13-year old.

    Authorities believe the murders happened on June 4.

    Aguilar claims Palomino killed Mendoza. She died from “sharp force injury wounds,” according to the sheriff’s office. Investigators say he told them that he was sitting in the passenger seat while Palomino and Mendoza were outside talking. That’s when he said he saw Mendoza's arms slide down the car and Palomino jump in the car and leave with Mariah in the backseat.

    In court, the investigator on the case added that Aguilar told them that they had to kill Mariah because she witnessed her grandmother’s murder. Mendoza was Mariah's main guardian. Mariah was also on the autism spectrum.

    Investigators added that Mendoza and Laticia had connections to drug operations with the Sinaloa cartel.

    Aguilar’s case will now go before a grand jury. Palomino denies he made Aguilar kill Mariah. His preliminary hearing was pushed back, and a new date has not yet been set.

    The victims and suspects all lived in Huntsville.

    U.S. Attorney Jay Town says a lot of the meth the Sinaloa cartel bringing into the U.S. is laced with fentanyl, making it even more dangerous with the deadly opiate mixed in.

    He is not familiar with the specifics of the Lopez/Mendoza investigation because it is a Madison County Sheriff’s Office case but acknowledged that it’s evidence of what the cartel is capable of.

    “Unfortunately, drug cartels are alive and well in the United States, in Alabama and in the northern district and this is just another example, a horrific example, of that,” Town said. “They’re murderous, they’re violent and these are individuals who are ripe for the dealing with by the DEA, ATF and FBI and certainly our justice system.”

    He has a message to the public about the work being done to track down cartel members and prosecute them.

    “We are aggressively pursuing all members of the Sinaloa Cartel inside the Northern District of Alabama. I want to assure residents that we are taking it as seriously as possible. Folks everywhere in the US need to know that the DEA is doing its level best to gain intel in their investigation into this cartel so that we can get rid of them for good,” Town stated.

    Dp for me. Thanks. God bless America.

  2. #2
    Senior Member CnCP Legend CharlesMartel's Avatar
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    Apr 2014
    Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel leaving deadly mark on Alabama

    The Sinaloa drug cartel is a Mexican drug gang with one of the largest U.S. footprints, and in just one week in Alabama, it's name was associated with two high-profile crimes in Birmingham and Huntsville. (Drug Enforcement Administration)

    By Carol Robinson

    A 13-year-old Huntsville girl is beheaded - after her cartel-connected grandmother was stabbed and left to die before her eyes.

    In Birmingham the same week news of that horrific death was detailed by authorities, two cartel-connected meth dealers are sentenced to long federal prison terms.

    Earlier in the year, a cartel-connected man claimed he had killed three dozen people, and planned a hit on an Alabama cop.

    The connection? The Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexican drug gang with one of the largest U.S. footprints - including just about everything east of the Mississippi -- of all the cartels. Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera - better known as El Chapo - led the Sinaloa cartel until his 2014 capture.

    But there is nothing, police insist, to panic about. The cartel has been in America for decades, smuggling meth and cocaine and other drugs. "The Sinaloa cartel has been around forever. It is probably the most pervasive and extensive-reaching cartel in the U.S.,'' said Bret Hamilton, assistant special agent in charge for Alabama's Drug Enforcement Administration. "They control about one-fourth of the Mexican region, but when it comes to the U.S., their reach is huge."

    "Typically, their MO (method of operation) is to embed themselves in Mexican national communities, typically the immigrant community working on peach farms, chick plants, and other farm areas,'' Hamilton said. "They're basically hiding in plain sight."

    "They try to maintain a low profile,'' he said. "They're not going to conduct any type of violence unless they've been double-crossed. If they've been double-crossed by one of their distributors or someone who has purchased dope from them, they're going to take care of business. And, they're going to make a statement when they do it."

    Recent Alabama cases

    Mariah Lopez, a 13-year-old special needs middle school student was killed in north Alabama in June after she witnessed her grandmother assaulted with a knife and left to die on the ground in a cemetery. The grandmother, Oralia Mendoza, was associated with the Sinaloa Cartel, a drug-trafficking organization, according to Madison County sheriff's investigators.

    Just days before Mendoza and Mariah were killed, Mendoza and three others went to pick up a batch of methamphetamine, Investigator testified that one of her drug cohorts became suspicious, the situation turned deadly. Their bodies weren't found until later in the month.

    Israel Palomino, 34, and Yoni Aguilar, 26, are charged with two counts each of capital murder in the slayings of Mendoza and Lopez.

    The same week that the grisly details of those killings were made public, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District also announced that two Birmingham brothers - Diontez Jamel Moore, 31, and Daeshuan Nathaniel Moore, 28, were sentenced to prison on meth distribution charges.

    The investigation began when U.S. Postal inspectors and Alabama State Bureau of Investigation agents began investigating mailings of dozens of packages from Phoenix, Arizona to the Birmingham area in December 2016, according to court documents. The investigation began after postal inspectors in Arizona contacted inspectors in Alabama about a package they had intercepted and found to contain more than three pounds of methamphetamine. The package was addressed to a Birmingham-area home.

    Agents identified the person who mailed that package as Deron Lee Green, a former Alabama resident with family in Birmingham who was living in Phoenix. Green pleaded guilty to the trafficking conspiracy in October. Postal Inspector John Bailey testified during Diontez Moore's sentencing hearing that Green was responsible for shipping the methamphetamine to Alabama and for the "day-to-day contact with the cartel in Arizona." Green told investigators that the Mexican-based Sinoloa Cartel supplied the methamphetamine, Bailey testified.

    Late last year, an AL.com story featuring a drug task force operating in Greene, Marengo and Sumter counties - collectively, Alabama's 17th Judicial Circuit - talked about how the group taken millions of dollars worth of cash, drugs and other property off the street in recent years, much of which they say they have seized from Mexican cartels like the Sinaloa and Los Zetas.

    And, earlier this year, a man who confessed to Alabama authorities that he killed about three dozen people in multiple states, confessed to a national news site that he planned to kill a north Alabama investigation. Jose Manuel Martinez in 2014 pleaded guilty to killing Jose Ruiz in rural Lawrence County, Alabama. But before that, he confessed to killing about three dozen people while working for the Mexican drug cartel. His confessions, which came during a 2013 interrogation with Lawrence County Chief Investigator Tim McWhorter, thrust Martinez into national headlines.

    The thought of Mexican drug cartels in Alabama cities and communities draws shock and fear among some, but Hamilton said it's nothing new. "This is one of those times that I'm surprised everybody else is so surprised,'' he said, "but I do this every day."

    Cartels presence grew after 5 Shelby County murders in 2008

    It's not the first time in the central and northern portions of the state the subject has been broached.

    In 2008, five men were shocked, beaten, bound and their throats slashed in a Shelby County apartment. The slayings at the Cahaba Lakes complex were linked to a feud over money between Birmingham and Atlanta factions of Mexican drug cartels. Authorities said they don't want to publicly name the cartel involved in that brutal case, but said it was not the Sinaloa cartel.

    Even 10 years ago - at the time of the Cahaba Lakes killings, the National Drug Intelligence Center listed Alabama cities reporting the presence of Mexican drug organizations as Albertville, Birmingham, Decatur, Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery. The major Mexican drug cartels are the Sinaloa cartel, the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas, Los Cabaileros Templarios, Cartel Jalisco, Nueva Generacion, the Juarez cartel, as well as several others.

    Over time, federal officials say, they've received intelligence about the presence of the Gulf Cartel and Juarez Cartel and Los Zetas, as well as the Sinaloa cartel, in Alabama.

    Hamilton said Sinaloa is one of the oldest, and most historically recognized. It's birthplace is in Sinaloa which is in the pacific Mexican region. "They control a huge portion of Mexico,'' he said. "Their influence in the U.S. is even greater."

    The Sinaloa cartel has been especially prevalent since the 1980s. "They started off mainly trafficking in marijuana in the 70s and early 80s but obviously since then they've moved into everything from methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl,'' Hamilton said. "They are also involved in human trafficking, but meth is their biggest thing."

    Hamilton said drug agents typically gauge the level of cartel activity in Alabama - as well as elsewhere - by the availability of drugs and the price of drugs. "The greater availability, the lower the price. For example, five years ago an ounce of methamphetamine cost $1,000,'' he said. "Today if we're paying more than $450 an ounce, we're getting ripped off. It's less than half of what it was just five years ago."

    Though the Mexican drug cartels are notoriously violent, most of the overt violence takes place south of the border, unless somebody north of the border crosses them. That, Hamilton said, is for obvious reasons. "They know they're not going to be able to pay off law enforcement officials here like they can south of the border,'' he said.

    More drugs crossing the border

    Hamilton said there has been a significant increase in the amount of drugs trafficked across the southern border.

    "In states like Alabama, it is not uncommon to see transshipment sales meaning they'll have a group of individuals responsible for bringing in the drugs, and I mean large quantities - anywhere from 100 pounds of meth to 50 kilos of cocaine,'' he said. "From that transshipment area, they divvy it out to different places like North Carolina or Chicago."

    He said one of the last cases he worked as a street agent was a transshipment case. The cartel was bring multiple kilos of cocaine into Clanton, and then it would be shipped elsewhere. "Alabama is no different than anywhere else,'' he said.

    Hamilton said it's often difficult to definitively pinpoint the cartel's presence in a case, though it's almost always a good bet. "We have active cases now who we think are cartel members and we arrest Mexican nationals all of the time, but not once will the word Sinaloa ever pop up,'' he said.

    Asked if Alabamans should fear the presence of the Sinaloa cartel, or any others, Hamilton said this: "Afraid? No. Concerned or pissed off? Yes. These are foreign nationals committing crimes throughout the U.S. that our affecting our kids with poison,'' he said. "It's not going to change either. Unless we do something drastically different than what we're doing now, it's going to stay the same."

    Dp for me. Thanks. God bless America.

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