Ex-Mex­i­can of­fi­cer-turned-car­tel mole sen­tenced in Chicago

Imperial Valley Press - - HOME&GARDEN - BY MICHAEL TARM AP Le­gal Af­fairs Writer

CHICAGO — A fed­eral judge in Chicago handed a more than three-year prison sen­tence Thurs­day to a for­mer Mex­i­can in­tel­li­gence-unit com­man­der on charges he di­vulged Amer­i­can in­ves­tiga­tive se­crets to car­tel bosses in Mex­ico — a be­trayal one DEA agent told the court col­lapsed drug-traf­fick­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions and cost lives.

Ivan Reyes Arzate, 46, was a main point of con­tact for in­tel­li­gence shar­ing be­tween U.S. agen­cies and Mex­i­can Fed­eral Po­lice. He drew on ac­cess to U.S. in­tel­li­gence to help un­mask a car­tel in­for­mant, who was later tor­tured and killed, ac­cord­ing to fil­ings by pros­e­cu­tors.

Arzate turned him­self over to Amer­i­can of­fi­cials in 2017 and changed his plea in May from not guilty to no con­test to ob­struc­tion and con­spir­acy to ob­struct jus­tice.

Ser­gio “El Grande” Vil­lar­real Bar­ra­gan, a long­time con­fi­dant to the head of the Beltran Leyva car­tel, tes­ti­fied at Thurs­day’s hear­ing. He de­scribed to U.S. District Judge Harry Leinen­we­ber how Mex­i­can syn­di­cates rely heav­ily on cor­rupt po­lice, like Arzate, to ex­pand their il­le­gal op­er­a­tions and van­quish ri­vals.

Gov­ern­ment at­tor­neys called Bar­ra­gan and the U.S. agent to tes­tify dur­ing a five-hour sen­tenc­ing hear­ing in a bid to but­tress their ar­gu­ment that Arzate de­served a tougher 10-year prison term. Pros­e­cu­tor Kather­ine Sawyer told the court the sen­tence the de­fense wanted, 17 months , would amount to a “slap on the wrist.”

In a state­ment to the judge, Arzate gave a forth­right de­fense of his po­lice work. Leinen­we­ber in­ter­rupted Arzate at one point, ask­ing: “Is it your po­si­tion you did ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong?” While Arzate said that wasn’t his po­si­tion, he then went on to con­cede no wrong­do­ing. He also of­fered no apolo­gies dur­ing his 10-minute state­ment.

Arzate’s Chicago lawyer, Joseph Lopez, has por­trayed po­lice meet­ings with car­tel fig­ures in cash-for-in­tel deals as stan­dard in Mex­ico. He echoed that be­fore the judge Thurs­day.

“What­ever your sen­tence is is not go­ing to stop cor­rup­tion in Mex­ico,” Lopez said. “It’s how they do law en­force­ment in Mex­ico... It’s not go­ing to change.”

The judge said he found parts of Arzate’s state­ment “trou­bling.” But he also said the gov­ern­ment’s rec­om­mended sen­tence of 10 years be­hind bars was “too high.” With time served since his ar­rest, Arzate could be el­i­gi­ble for re­lease in just over a year.

DEA agent Matthew Sand­berg, who had worked with Arzate in Mex­ico, tes­ti­fied in a dry, mat­terof-fact tone for most of his time one the stand. But his voice broke when he be­gan to de­scribe how leaks by Arzate — who he had once con­sid­ered a friend — put the lives of agents like him and even their fam­i­lies in jeop­ardy.

“That stuff can’t hap­pen un­less there are cor­rupt of­fi­cials,” Sand­berg said.

Leaks to car­tel king­pins by Arzate forced Amer­i­cans to freeze their co­op­er­a­tion with Mex­i­cans in some cases and to cut off re­la­tion­ships with some Mex­i­can po­lice of­fi­cials as a pre­cau­tion, as they scram­bled to find the mole who turned out to be Arzate. Sand­berg said about the rip­ple ef­fects, in­clud­ing the dis­trust the in­ci­dent fos­tered: “It was a real tragedy.”

Bar­ra­gan, who is also known as “King Kong,” told the court he had per­son­ally wit­nessed sev­eral mur­ders, in­clud­ing that of an al­leged turn­coat ex­e­cuted in front of him by a car­tel hit­man.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.