Cor­rupt Mex­i­can cop sen­tenced to 40 months for leak­ing DEA info

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY JON SEI­DEL, FED­ERAL COURTS RE­PORTER jsei­del@sun­times.com | @Sei­delCon­tent

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Chicago spent hours Thurs­day try­ing to paint a once high-rank­ing Mex­i­can cop as a traitor who main­tained se­cret ties to one of the world’s most wanted drug traf­fick­ers and leaked key U.S. in­tel­li­gence to an­other car­tel.

They hoped to put Ivan Reyes Arzate, 46, be­hind bars for a decade. Hav­ing once trained at the DEA’s acad­emy in Quan­tico, Va., Reyes would go on to jeop­ar­dize the lives of DEA agents and do se­ri­ous dam­age to an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Mex­ico.

But at the end of the lengthy sen­tenc­ing hear­ing that fea­tured tes­ti­mony from a key lieu­tenant to late drug king­pin Ar­turo Bel­tran Leyva, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Harry Leinen­we­ber in­stead gave Reyes 40 months in prison. Be­cause he has al­ready been be­hind bars since spring 2017, Reyes will likely go free in a lit­tle over a year.

A for­mer Chicago cop, Ron­ald Cole­man, re­ceived a heftier five-year sen­tence just last De­cem­ber for tip­ping off a street gang to a pend­ing raid.

Leinen­we­ber handed down Reyes’ sen­tence af­ter hear­ing emo­tional tes­ti­mony from one of the agents Reyes be­trayed, and af­ter lis­ten­ing to Reyes ac­cuse pros­e­cu­tors of mak­ing claims “full of con­tra­dic­tions, based on as­sump­tions and false state­ments.”

Mul­ti­ple ref­er­ences were made to the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guz­man, Bel­tran Leyva’s ri­val, now get­ting un­der­way in Brook­lyn. Bel­tran Leyva was killed in a stand­off with Mex­i­can au­thor­i­ties in Cuer­navaca late in 2009.

Reyes once served as the high­es­trank­ing mem­ber of the Mex­i­can Fed­eral Po­lice’s sen­si­tive in­ves­tiga­tive unit. That meant highly sen­si­tive U.S. in­tel­li­gence shared with Mex­ico would of­ten flow through him.

Au­thor­i­ties be­came sus­pi­cious when in­for­ma­tion col­lected by wire­tap be­gan to match the in­for­ma­tion shared with Reyes. The leader of a key drug car­tel, An­gel Dominguez Ramirez Jr., also ex­plic­itly re­ferred to “Ivan” in a con­ver­sa­tion with an as­so­ciate.

“Who is Ivan?” Dominguez asked. “The boss,” he was told.

To drive home their point, pros­e­cu­tors hauled into Leinen­we­ber’s court­room Ser­gio Vil­lar­real Bar­ra­gan, a tow­er­ing for­mer Mex­i­can cop and Bel­tran Leyva as­so­ciate known as “El Grande.” He wore a prison jump­suit with black-and-white stripes as he ad­mit­ted watch­ing his close friend, Bel­tran Leyva, mur­der and tor­ture.

Vil­lar­real is serv­ing his own 10year prison sen­tence.

Vil­lar­real de­scribed a meet­ing near Cuer­navaca called by Bel­tran Leyva af­ter au­thor­i­ties be­gan seiz­ing speed boats he used to move drugs. Bel­tran Leyva sus­pected he had a leak. Vil­lar­real said mul­ti­ple Mex­i­can cops at­tended, in­clud­ing one he knew as “La Reina” — a nick­name the feds say Reyes later ac­knowl­edged.

Vil­lar­real said “La Reina” handed a card­board binder filled with in­for­ma­tion about the leak to one of the higher-rank­ing of­fi­cers. He said that of­fi­cer gave it to Bel­tran Leyva, who rec­og­nized the per­son in a pho­to­graph it con­tained.

“(Bel­tran Leyva) be­came very an­gry,” Vil­lar­real said through an in­ter­preter, “and or­dered that he be kid­napped.”

That per­son, a DEA in­for­mant, was also tor­tured and killed.

DEA Spe­cial Agent Matthew Sand­berg fol­lowed Vil­lar­real to the stand and told the judge Reyes did im­mense dam­age to the United States’ re­la­tion­ship with Mex­i­can law en­force­ment and “set us back in­cred­i­bly.”

Then, Sand­berg be­gan to choke up as he told the judge about the of­fi­cers from the United States and Mex­ico whose lives have al­ready been lost to the drug war.

“It only takes one or two to put ev­ery­one in jeop­ardy,” he said.

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