New Details Emerge in the Hunt for Brian Terry’s Killers

Sep 22nd, 2012 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Politics


TUCSON, Ariz. — New documents recently gathered by the Fronteras Desk give some new insight into what’s now become a nearly two year-long hunt for the killers of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

The document -- an FBI search warrant asking for a judge’s permission to track the cellphone of one of the fugitives -- shows that at least one of the killers was hiding, not in Mexico, but in the United States until at least Spring 2012, more than a year after the agent’s murder. The warrant paints a portrait of a group of men who easily managed to simultaneously live their lives both in the Phoenix area and Sinaloa, Mexico without too much hindrance by federal agents. In fact, one of the fugitives, an agent surmises, didn’t even know the U.S. had already identified him. You can read more of this story at The Fronteras Desk.

Sinaloa Cartel Challenges the U.S.

Apr 7th, 2011 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime, Politics


This story aired on KJZZ, public radio Arizona as part of the Fronteras Desk. For more stories, go to FronterasDesk.org. An accused Mexican drug lord being held on charges in the U.S. has filed a unusual motion in federal court. He's challenging the United States, saying he'd been working with its own federal agents in Mexico. Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla is one of the most senior drug trafficking figures in U.S. custody. He's accused of working for the Sinaloa Cartel, a powerful drug trafficking organization in Mexico. In fact, he's the eldest son of one of its leaders. Zambada was arrested in Mexico City in 2009 and extradited to Illinois, accused of trafficking nearly $6 billion in cocaine. He's contracted some of the highest profile criminal defense lawyers in the country. In 2003, the United States indicted him in a massive anti-drug operation that stretched from Colombia to Mexico to Tucson, Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York, Virginia and Rhode Island. Nearly 250 people were arrested and it was among the first indictments filed against Zambada's father, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, now one of the  leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel. Last month his attorneys filed a simple but explosive one page motion in federal court. They say the FBI, the DEA and various Homeland Security agents in Mexico were actually working with Zambada for more than five years. (Click to enlarge.) Peter Henning is a law professor at Wayne State University Law School. He says the public authority assertion made by Zambada's legal team is nearly unheard of in organized crime cases. "Essentially, this is the type of claim by a defendant that puts the government on trial; saying that the government sponsored illegal activity," Henning said. Neither the Justice Department nor Zambada's lawyers would comment on the  record for this story because of the sensitivity of the case. But the motion names several DEA and FBI agents who have actively worked in Mexico, claiming they authorized Zambada's activities. One that was named, Eduardo Martinez, was the DEA's attaché in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico until 2008. His name frequently surfaced in federal court warrants as the investigating agent in cross-border trafficking cases. "Given what's going on with the Mexican drug cartels, the last thing the United States can handle is any kind of finding that it in fact sponsored one of the drug cartels," Henning said. A date has not been set for the Chicago trial. When that trial concludes, Zambada will stand trial in Washington for the Operation Trifecta case.

Los Numeros de Phoenix

Mar 31st, 2011 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Politics
THE BORDER REPORT No, no, not those numeros. I'm talking about the official numeros de secuestros and home invasion rip-offs in Phoenix. The statistics seem to have turned into a hen-pecking party with allegations against the recently demoted former chief, Jack Harris for $2.4 million in federal funding. Here's the latest: an independent panel has been reviewing the police department's statistics and found that of 358 reported kidnappings in 2008, only 222 met the criteria for kidnapping and 136 did not. My Fronteras Desk colleague does a nice job of summarizing the breakdown of the numbers. There are still 376 home invasion reports to tally up from that year. If they're found to include cases of illegal immigrants held against their will by bajadores, the number of kidnappings in the city could actually skyrocket well past the alleged 358. Keep your eye on it, it's going to be a fascinating case-study in the realities of border politicking. (Pictures out of a Phoenix kidnapping report). These are some cellphone self-portraits taken by a Phoenix rip-off crew, February 2009. According to the initial police reports, an anonymous caller had told a dispatcher that he had escaped the house when the bajadores came in but that there were others being held. By the time police arrived, everyone was gone. Maybe it didn't happen ...

Nine Arrested in ICE Agent’s Killing, but Questions of Torture Persist

Feb 25th, 2011 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime, Politics

The Mexican Army arrested nine suspects in the murder of an American federal agent working in that country. Officials are calling the shooting a case of mistaken identity. The Obama Administration has lauded the Mexican government for its fast work.  But some are suspicious of the arrests. Six of the nine suspects were paraded in front of the media early Thursday. In this photo from El Universal, Jesus Iván Quezada Peña, number three in the lineup, has both eyes swollen shut, his mouth bleeding and bruised. Another's face was splotched in purple and black.

Hundreds Gather to Honor Murdered Border Agent

Jan 21st, 2011 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime, Politics
The U.S. Border Patrol held a memorial service in Tucson on Friday morning, paying homage to one of its elite agents, Brian Terry, who was killed during a gunbattle with bandits in a canyon along the Arizona-Mexico border. He was a man who friends called "Super-Cop." (Click inside for slideshow of images.) This is a story I produced for KJZZ's Fronteras Desk, public radio, Arizona. TUCSON – Hundreds of Border Patrol agents filled part of the baseball stadium in a sea of olive green. A line of riflemen stood at attention as the American flag and the agency's own flag fluttered in the cool morning air. They were here to honor an elite Border Patrol agent murdered last month. Brian Terry was a former Marine and cop who became an agent in his late thirties. Agent Jose Verdugo had known Terry since their days in the Border Patrol Academy. They they ran into each other in a hall recently and Verdugo says he wasn't surprised to see Terry in the uniform of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit. "Brian, your work ethic, your integrity and your sense of honor were infectious and inspirational. Rest in peace, super-cop," he said. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin addressed the agents, telling them the murderers will be captured. "The reason why he was in those canyons west of Nogales and the reasons why our Border Patrol agents go out on the line and stand between harm and the American people is because we are determined to restore the rule of law to the United States Mexico border. And this sector in Tucson is the last place where it must happen," Bersin said. Four Mexican men have been arrested as part of the investigation into the murder. Nobody has been charged.
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