Mex­i­cans plead guilty in scheme of drugs for arms

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY JERRY SEPER

Two Mex­i­can na­tion­als have pleaded guilty in a con­spir­acy to trade drugs and cash for mil­i­tary-grade weapons — in­clud­ing anti-air­craft mis­siles, anti-tank weapons, grenade launch­ers and M-60 ma­chine guns — for use by the Si­naloa drug car­tel, the largest drug-smuggling gang in Mex­ico.

A third de­fen­dant in the case was con­victed two weeks ago in fed­eral court in Phoenix fol­low­ing his ar­rest by U.S. drug agents while at­tempt­ing to de­liver nearly 12 pounds of metham­phetamines as a par­tial down pay­ment for mil­i­tar y-grade weapons.

“It is a chill­ing thought that war­ring Mex­i­can drug car­tels are ac­tively seek­ing mil­i­tary­grade anti-air­craft mis­siles and ex­plo­sives in Ari­zona, so I am ex­tremely proud of the work this of­fice and our law en­force­ment part­ners have done to un­cover and stop this par­tic­u­lar scheme,” said U.S. At­tor­ney Den­nis K. Burke in Ari­zona.

“This was a com­plex in­ves­ti­ga­tion — a tremen­dous team ef­fort — that put a stop to a well­fi­nanced crim­i­nal con­spir­acy to ac­quire mas­sive de­struc­tive fire­power,” he said May 3.

Plead­ing guilty in the case were David Diaz-Sosa, 26, of Si­naloa, Mex­ico, and Emilia Palomino-Robles, 42, of Sonora, Mex­ico.

Diaz-Sosa ad­mit­ted to con­spir­ing to ac­quire and ex­port an anti-air­craft mis­sile, con­spir­ing to pos­sess un­reg­is­tered ma­chine guns, trans­fer­ring firearms for use in a drug-traf­fick­ing crime, and con­spir­ing to pos­sess and pos­ses­sion of metham­phetamine in a scheme to ac­quire, trans­fer and ex­port mil­i­tar y-grade weaponry to a Mex­i­can drug­traf­fick­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion. He will be sen­tenced Aug. 1 by U.S. District Court Judge James Teil­borg.

Palomino-Robles pled guilty in her role as a courier, de­liv­er­ing 2,029 grams of pure metham­phetamine and $139,900 to be used as a par­tial pay­ment for ex­port and trans­fer to Mex­ico of mil­i­tary-grade weaponry for use by a Mex­i­can drug-traf­fick­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion. Her sen­tenc­ing is set be­fore Judge Teil­borg on July 25.

A fed­eral jury in Phoenix last week found Jorge DeJe­sus-Cas­teneda, 22, of Si­naloa, Mex­ico, guilty of pos­ses­sion with in­tent to dis­trib­ute 12 pounds of metham­phetamine as trade for mil­i­tary-grade weapons. He also is sched­uled for sen­tenc­ing on July 25.

“Drug car­tels use vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion to per­pet­u­ate their crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties and prey upon the weak­ness of oth­ers,” said U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion (DEA) Spe­cial Agent in Charge Doug Cole­man, who heads the agency’s Phoenix of­fice. He called the pleas and con­vic­tions “yet an­other ex­am­ple of how DEA and its law en­force­ment part­ners will never re­lent in us­ing ev­ery tool at our dis­posal to bring these crim­i­nals to jus­tice.”

The Si­naloa car­tel is thought to be re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing mul­ti­ton quan­ti­ties of co­caine and mar­i­juana from Mex­ico into the United States through dis­tri­bu­tion cells in this coun­try and Canada, op­er­at­ing pri­mar­ily out of Mex­ico’s west coast.

Ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Diaz-Sosa, a weapons and nar­cotics bro­ker, be­gan ne­go­ti­at­ing the weapons pur­chase for the car­tel and ar­ranged for the de­liver y of 4.5 pounds metham­phetamine to serve as a down pay­ment. Palomino-Robles made the ini­tial de­liv­ery on be­half of Diaz-Sosa.

For the next three months, the doc­u­ments show, Diaz-Sosa and his part­ners ne­go­ti­ated with undercover fed­eral agents for the pur­chase of a Dragon Fire anti-tank weapon; two AT4 84mm un­guided, por­ta­ble, sin­gleshot re­coil­less smooth-bore an­ti­tank weapons; a Law Rocket light anti-tank weapon; a por­ta­ble in­frared hom­ing an­ti­air­craft sur­face-to-air Stinger mis­sile; two Def Tech grenade launch­ers; and a dozen 40-mm grenades, one M-60 ma­chine gun, one .30 cal­iber ma­chine gun and three cases of hand grenades.

As these ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tin­ued, the doc­u­ments show, Di­azSosa and his as­so­ciates agreed to ex­change both cash and metham­phetamine as a fi­nal pay­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the records, Diaz-Sosa went to an undercover ware­house main­tained by the Bu­reau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives (ATF) on Feb. 17, 2010, to fi­nal­ize the weapons ex­change, at which time Diaz-Sosa and DeJe­susCas­teneda were ar­rested by fed­eral agents. Later that same day, Palomino-Robles was ar­rested in pos­ses­sion of $139,900, which was de­ter­mined to be an ad­di­tional por­tion of the weapons pay­ment.

“To­day, through the well-co­or­di­nated ef­fort of all in­volved agen­cies, dan­ger­ous weapons have been kept out of the hands of those who could turn those weapons against the United States,” said ATF Spe­cial Agent in Charge Thomas Bran­don, who heads the agency’s Phoenix of­fice.

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