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May 13, 2005

FBI Nabs Soldiers, Police in Drug Sting


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 7:57 a.m. ET

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- FBI agents posing as cocaine traffickers nabbed 16 current and former law enforcement officers and U.S. soldiers who had accepted more than $222,000 in bribes to help move drugs past checkpoints, the government said.

The outcome of the nearly 3 1/2-year-long sting operation was announced Thursday by the Justice Department.

Those charged include a former Immigration and Naturalization Service inspector, a former Army sergeant, a former federal prison guard, seven members of the Arizona Army National Guard, five members of the Arizona Department of Corrections and a police officer, officials said.

All agreed to plead guilty to being part of a bribery and corruption conspiracy, said Noel Hillman, a Justice Department official.

Eleven defendants entered guilty pleas Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court, acknowledging they used their positions as uniformed public figures to assist in transporting cocaine for people they believed to be drug traffickers.

Two other defendants were scheduled to enter their pleas Friday with the remaining three on Monday, authorities said.

Those who pleaded guilty were freed on their own recognizance. Justice Department prosecutor John W. Scott said all probably would start out facing sentences of 34 to 36 months for a single conspiracy count, but that the sentences could be less depending on the defendants' cooperation. He said he would ask for an indefinite delay in sentencing.

The defendants were not arrested and agreed to cooperate with an investigation expected to bring more arrests and involve people from additional agencies, said Hillman and FBI Agent Jana D. Monroe, who is in charge of the bureau's operations in Arizona.

Hillman said the defendants drove cocaine shipments past checkpoints manned by the government while they wore official uniforms, carried identification and used official vehicles.

''Many individuals charged were sworn personnel having the task of protecting society and securing America's borders,'' Monroe said. ''The importance of these tasks cannot be overstated and we cannot tolerate, nor can the American people afford, this type of corruption.''

Hillman and Monroe said the FBI was tipped about an individual and set up the fake trafficking organization in December 2001. Military and police personnel then were lured with money to help distribute the cocaine or allow it to pass through checkpoints they were guarding, Hillman said.

The FBI used real cocaine seized in other operations, the officials said. The suspects transported more than 1,230 pounds of cocaine, the officials said.

The cocaine, with a street value of nearly $18.5 million, never ultimately left FBI possession, officials said.

Also Thursday, a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas and his brother pleaded guilty to accepting about $1.5 million to allow drugs through a checkpoint.

Agent Juan Alvarez, 35, and his brother Jose Guadalupe Alvarez, 38, both of Laredo, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a public official and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and cocaine.

The brothers admitted they accepted money to allow drug dealers to move one or more loads of marijuana per month through the checkpoint between June 2003 and April 2005. Each load included 1 ton to 2 tons of marijuana. They also admitted to conspiring to move more than five kilograms of cocaine.

Conspiracy, the more serious count, carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison. The men also were jointly ordered to pay the government $1.5 million.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-FBI-Cocaine-Sting.html

Original Post
quote:
Originally posted by jazzdog:
This is nothing new, this type of behavior and crime has gone on for years. When you have that kind of money being offered to look the other way its just a matter of time before someone takes the bait.

Reporting it makes it seem like some new development when this has always been going on.


No, I would never make the claim that it is something new.

http://www.mega.nu:8080/ampp/webb.html
...and most of the suspects are Hispanic. Perhaps the Feds should have assigned these individuals to patrol the Canadian Border, rather than the Arizona to Mexico Border. These individuals would not have had much in common with Canadian nationals, and the odds that this activity would have occurred would have been substantially less.

These Hispanic police officers and soldiers more than likely had a field day in "drug trafficking", turning their heads the opposite direction when the smuggling of illegal Hispanic immigrants illicit activity took place, etc., etc.

Legally or illegally, the Hispanic community is doing whatever it takes to acquire economic resources, gain political influence, and/or otherwise, to move the Hispanic community forward!

Sincerely,

Michael Lofton

*****************************

U.S. Soldiers, Law Officers Snared in Border Drug Sting
By Ralph Vartabedian
Times Staff Writer

May 13, 2005

A brazen conspiracy among U.S. law enforcement officers and soldiers to smuggle cocaine from Mexico was disclosed Thursday by the Justice Department, adding to concerns that public corruption north of the border was growing.

Wearing uniforms and even driving U.S. military vehicles, 16 suspects were caught in a sting run by an FBI-led task force. Eleven entered guilty pleas Thursday in Tucson; the other five have agreed to do so soon.

One federal inspector waved trucks he believed were carrying drugs across the border from Mexico to the U.S., according to the FBI. In another case, a group of the defendants used Army National Guard Humvees to transport 132 pounds of cocaine from a desert landing strip to a resort hotel in Phoenix, where they received cash from an undercover FBI agent.

Justice Department officials describe the case as a "widespread bribery and extortion conspiracy." It is one of the largest public corruption cases along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

The defendants "used their color of authority to prevent police stops, searches and seizures of narcotics as they drove the cocaine shipments on highways that passed through checkpoints," the Justice Department said in a statement. The defendants pleaded guilty to transporting 1,232 pounds of cocaine and accepting $222,000 in cash for their activities.

The 16 defendants are or have been employed by a variety of agencies, including the U.S. Army, the Arizona Army National Guard, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Arizona Department of Corrections, the local police department in Nogales, Ariz., and the immigration and naturalization service.

The three-year investigation, known as Operation Lively Green, was run by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Tucson police department.

U.S. Atty. for Arizona Paul Charlton has been sounding alarms about the problem of public corruption for several years, and the latest arrests seem to confirm what he and others have been saying.

"It is a problem along the whole border," Charlton said in an interview more than a year ago. "Along the port of entries, custom officials have been paid to assist with smuggling. Some of these people don't have the ability to say no."

In the last several years, almost every segment of the U.S. border with Mexico has had cases of law enforcement, customs and immigration officials, local police and U.S. military personnel prosecuted for bribery, drug trafficking and other federal crimes.

In the last three years, a border patrol agent and his wife were convicted of smuggling illegal immigrants in San Diego, an immigration officer pleaded guilty to charges of helping drug dealers smuggle narcotics in Texas and two Forest Service rangers were convicted of marijuana trafficking along the Arizona border.

As the convictions have mounted, concerns that well-financed drug and smuggling organizations in Mexico could corrupt the U.S. civil service and military along the border has been growing. The FBI set up a public corruption squad in its Phoenix office in 2003. Last year, federal authorities organized a joint meeting to step up efforts to combat corruption.

"Now more than ever, it is critically important that those on the front lines of our nation's borders remain uncorrupted, said acting Assistant Atty. Gen. John C. Richter in a statement. "A corrupted border creates a grave threat to the national security of this country."

One of the biggest emerging concerns is that a corrupted southern border could leave the nation more vulnerable to terrorists who could more easily pass through undetected and possibly join forces with drug interests.

"It is not just the threat of drugs, but the possibility that terrorists will slip through," said Douglas C. McNabb, a criminal defense lawyer who has represented government officials charged with corruption. "We have a huge problem along the border."

Rumors about Operation Lively Green have been circulating among law enforcement officials in Arizona for years, said one federal agent who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The big question in the field was why these guys weren't being prosecuted," he said. "Now, it looks like they were flipped."

Justice Department spokesmen confirmed that the defendants had cooperated with the investigation, which is continuing. The defendants were appearing before Magistrate Judge Charles R. Pyle in Tucson. Each conspiracy charge carries a maximum five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Among those pleading guilty were John M. Castillo, 30, an INS inspector, who waved through a truck that he thought was carrying 88 pounds of cocaine on April 12, 2002. A few months later, he sold undercover FBI agents fraudulent immigration documents.

The FBI said all the defendants escorted at least two shipments of cocaine from locations in Arizona to Phoenix and Las Vegas, among other destinations.

Seven of the 17 defendants were in the Arizona Army National Guard, the FBI said. A spokeswoman for the Guard said the organization learned about the guilty pleas on Wednesday night and was trying to determine how they became involved in the conspiracy.

The state's Guard assists federal law enforcement organizations through its Arizona National Guard Joint Counter Narco Terrorism Task Force, but none of the defendants were part of the task force, said Maj. Eileen Bienz, a Guard spokeswoman.

"None of them are assigned to border functions," she added. Four of the defendants are still in the Guard.

An FBI spokeswoman said the Justice Department filed criminal informations on the defendants, which led to the guilty pleas. They also include: Robert L. Bakerx, 43; David M. Bustamante, 35; Joel P. Bustamante, 33; Jorge A. Calzadillas, 22; Demian F. Castillo, 33; Mark A. Fillman, 55; Jimmy L. Ford Jr., 29; Guillermo German, 36; Angel S. Hernandez, 31; Moises Hernandez, 21; Leslie B. Hidalgo, 24; John F. Manje, 36; Gladys C. Sanchez, 24; Angel M. Soto, 41; and Phillip Varona, 22.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

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....and the violence, including drug dealing, and other crimes committed by these individuals is spreading to areas where Black people reside. Deportation, penal incarceration, and/or if necessary a death sentence should be used to keep these individuals from destroying neighborhoods, be the neighborhood Black, Caucasian, Hispanic, or otherwise.

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http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-gang15may15,0,7635454.story?coll=la-home-headlines

L.A. Violence Crosses the Line

A brutal band born near MacArthur Park has spread to 33 other states and five countries. For the first time, the FBI forms a nationwide task force to go after a single gang.

By Chris Kraul, Robert J. Lopez and Rich Connell, Times Staff Writers, May 15, 2005,
In the U.S. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

The gruesome murders were each more than 1,000 miles apart, an arc of bloodshed that spanned much of the North American continent.

On a rutty street near a crowded slum in Honduras, gunmen sprayed automatic weapons fire at a bus filled with Christmastime shoppers. Twenty-eight people, including six children, were killed.

In the woods near Dallas, an innocent 21-year-old man was shot in the head, his remains eaten by animals. His pants were pulled down, and police suspect that he may have been sodomized.

And near the banks of a quiet river in Virginia, a 17-year-old informant was hacked to death. She was four months pregnant and stabbed 16 times in the chest and neck.

The killings were similar not only in their brutality but also in their lineage: Authorities say all three incidents are tied to a single Los Angeles branch of Mara Salvatrucha, a street gang formed 20 years ago in the immigrant neighborhoods west of the downtown skyline.

Today, the gang's extreme violence, vast reach and increasing sophistication have made it a top priority at the highest levels of law enforcement and political leadership from Washington to San Salvador.

In recent months, the departments of Justice and Homeland Security have launched a series of initiatives to confront the threat posed by the gang, also known as MS-13, which has between 30,000 and 50,000 members in half a dozen countries, including up to 10,000 members in the U.S., according to federal law enforcement estimates.

The FBI's creation of an MS-13 task force, the first nationwide effort targeting a single street gang, was ordered by Director Robert Mueller after several high-profile murders blamed on MS-13 in the suburbs of Washington. On Tuesday, Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for the first time placed an MS-13 member on its most-wanted fugitive list. The Los Angeles gang member is suspected in a string of violent crimes.

In Honduras, four Central American presidents gathered last month to address the gang crisis. Citing the destabilizing influence of groups like MS-13, they appealed for economic aid to curb the poverty and joblessness fueling the growth of gangs.

Authorities are scrambling to contain forces unleashed in part by past U.S. policies. Refugees formed the gang in the 1980s near MacArthur Park, just west of downtown Los Angeles, after fleeing a U.S.-backed civil war against insurgents in El Salvador. As the gang grew, immigration officials began a decade-long campaign to deport members, including ex-convicts and hardened leaders who helped spread MS-13 across Central America and solidify its structure.

In the United States, the gang has spread from California into 33 other states and the District of Columbia. Investigators say members are involved in murder, extortion, drug dealing and witness intimidation. The expansion has come from migration as well as from calculated efforts by its Los Angeles leaders to tap new markets of criminal activity. In Seattle, for instance, gang members arrived from Los Angeles in 1997 to distribute marijuana, heroin and crack cocaine, according to investigators.

"Everywhere you turn these days, you're hearing about MS-13," said Assistant FBI Director Chris Swecker, who is overseeing the nationwide task force targeting the group.

Traditionally, the gang's loosely structured leadership has been dispersed among a vast federation of cells that often act independently.

Although it remains unclear how well organized the gang's leadership is, Swecker recently told Congress that there were signs of greater cohesiveness within MS-13.

Times interviews with law enforcement officials in four countries and reviews of intelligence reports, letters between MS-13 members, transcripts of phone conversations and surveillance videos show that gang members communicate and coordinate criminal activity across state and international borders.

Gang leaders in the U.S. and El Salvador have shared information on informants, discussed punishing rivals and plotted an ambush to free an accused murderer, these records show. In one instance, dozens of MS-13 members from several East Coast states were videotaped meeting in a Virginia park.

In Central America, the gang allegedly targeted top government officials and law enforcement leaders.

"If these criminals are capable of killing 28 innocent people," Honduran President Ricardo Maduro said in an interview, "they are capable of anything."

Now, law enforcement crackdowns in Honduras and El Salvador are helping reverse the flow. MS-13 gang members recruited in those countries are making their way to the U.S. and bolstering the gang's ranks from California to Maryland.

This north-south recycling of gang members has put intense pressure on Mexico, where MS-13 is involved in robbing immigrants and human trafficking, according to officials. "It has to be treated as a regional phenomenon because in Central America the borders are fading," said Magdalena Carral Cuevas, Mexico's top immigration official.

Mexico recently launched its own campaign against MS-13, particularly in the southern state of Chiapas, a roiling crossroads where the gang preys on stowaways trying to jump freight trains headed north.

One result of the stepped-up enforcement is that jails in Chiapas are filling up. At a federal lockup, a new wing has been devoted solely to MS-13 to prevent attacks on rival gang members.

About 30 members of the gang recently gathered in a dirt courtyard at the prison. One, who is doing five years on a drug charge and gave his name as Oscar, said he left his native El Salvador because there was no work. He wore a Dallas Cowboy jersey with the blue and white colors favored by MS-13. Gang tattoos covered his thick neck and muscular arms.

Oscar complained that authorities unfairly single out his group.

"Despite our reputation, we aren't what they think," he said in Spanish. "They have satanized us."

He cut off the conversation when an apparent MS-13 leader demanded money from a reporter for the interview to continue.

Refugees Pour into L.A.

Central American refugees were pouring into the brick hotels and old Victorian homes in the Pico-Union and Westlake areas of Los Angeles, among the nation's most crowded neighborhoods.

It was the mid-1980s, and they were transforming entire blocks, opening Salvadoran restaurants, or pupusarias, and markets stocked with plantains and black beans from back home.

Many of the new arrivals, including children, were veterans of the civil war in El Salvador, which displaced nearly a million people. About half came to the United States. Some had fought with leftist guerrillas. Many others had been hardened by the bloodletting they witnessed.

Partly out of self-defense against established Mexican American gangs, Salvadoran youths formed the first cells of Mara Salvatrucha. "Mara" is a Salvadoran word for gang, and "Salvatrucha" means Salvadoran guy. They also adopted the number 13, just as local Mexican American street gangs had for years.

MS-13 opened its arms to other Central Americans, who also faced hostility from entrenched gangs, as crack cocaine flooded the streets and violence exploded.

In one of the first federal assaults on the gang, 20 members were deported from Los Angeles in 1989. A federal immigration official announced that his agency had decimated MS-13's leadership. But three years later, as the gang continued to grow, new waves of deportations began.

The Los Angeles city attorney's office, which says about 1,400 MS-13 members operate in the county, last year obtained a civil injunction restricting the gang's activities in the Rampart and East Hollywood areas.

In Los Angeles and other cities, more than 200 members of the gang have been arrested by Homeland Security agents in recent months, said Michael J. Garcia, assistant Homeland Security secretary for immigration and customs enforcement. Most are suspected illegal immigrants with criminal records.

Slaughter in Honduras

The yellow transit bus rumbled between two slums on a muddy road lined by rusting warehouses and sugar cane fields in San Pedro Sula, an industrial city about 100 miles from the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.

It was late evening last December, and among the Christmas shoppers on board were warehouse worker Emilio Lopez and his 10-year-old son.

Half a dozen men in a van raked the bus with automatic weapons fire. As passengers screamed and ducked, a gunman climbed aboard and methodically fired away, authorities said.

When the shooting stopped, 28 people were fatally wounded. One was Lopez. He died apparently shielding his son, Emilio, who was found wounded and hiding under a seat, the boy's mother, Maria Lopez, recalled.

"These people have no souls," she said of MS-13.

Maduro, the Honduran president, has blamed the group for the slaughter, saying it was a response to his administration's "zero tolerance" campaign, which has resulted in the arrest of more than 1,800 gang members since 2002.

An accused mastermind of the bus attack is Lester Rivera-Paz, who is tied to an original MS-13 cell in Los Angeles, the Normandie Locos. He had been deported from the U.S. four times.

Known as El Culiche, or the Tapeworm, Rivera-Paz had a lengthy criminal record in California, including an armed robbery in the LAPD's Rampart Division in 2000. The case was dropped when prosecutors could not find the victim, court records and interviews show.

San Pedro Sula, where Rivera-Paz emerged as a leader, has one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America. A weak national economy, family violence and social disintegration caused by massive out-migration are fueling the violence, a recent study by the Inter-American Development Bank found.

Maduro has framed the struggle against MS-13 and other gangs as a fight for the life of his nation. Authorities say the gang plotted last year to assassinate Maduro and kill the president of Honduras' Congress with a grenade.

Human rights groups have accused the Honduran government of unjustified arrests and of tolerating death squads that have killed hundreds of gang members. Honduran Public Security Minister Oscar Alvarez said gang members may have been targeted. But he added that people are fed up with the violence.

Tough anti-gang measures have not always worked as planned. A month after his arrest, Rivera-Paz, the suspected bus massacre mastermind, broke out of a Honduran prison. Earlier this year, he was found hiding in the trunk of a Dodge Intrepid loaded with illegal immigrants as it raced north through Texas before dawn.

He has pleaded guilty to illegally reentering the country and is likely to serve two years in a U.S. prison. Honduran officials have agreed to let him serve out his prison term in the U.S. and say he will face charges in their country after he is deported a fifth time.

Preying on Migrants

On an open Mexican plain dotted with mango and banana trees outside the city of Tapachula, 20 miles from the Guatemalan border, the knot of men waited for the northbound train, which they knew would sway and slow to a crawl on the uneven track later that night.

The men scattered as police swooped in. Officers went to the spot because MS-13 gang members often hop aboard the boxcars to terrorize migrants clinging to the train's roofs and sides.

"The gang's technique is to blend in, get to know the undocumented ones," said Cmdr. Jorge Enrique Murillo of the Chiapas state police. "Then they attack them."

The migrants are easy targets because nearly all have money and most are defenseless.

Murillo's men arrested two suspects, both tattooed and carrying 18-inch machetes. One, Omar Suarez Osorio, a 22-year-old Honduran, had a large MS inked into his chest and three triangular dots on the web of his thumb, a sign the gang member had killed someone, police said.

For years, Mexico's southernmost state has been plagued by MS-13 and other gangs. At any given time, officials say, up to 3,000 MS-13 members are operating in Chiapas.

Gang members have also leapfrogged north along the rail lines through central Mexico. The gang has established strongholds in Mexican border cities near Laredo and Brownsville, Texas, according to interviews and law enforcement intelligence reports.

Mexican officials have found evidence that MS-13 members are working as low-level gunmen for warring drug cartels. In northern Mexico, MS-13 members roam the banks of the milky brown Rio Grande in the city of Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas. They force migrants to pay them tribute before crossing, according to officials and community workers on both sides of the border.

Last month, the Chiapas attorney general, Mariano Herran Salvatti, and the FBI announced a plan to share intelligence on the gang, particularly regarding its purported use of the rail lines to smuggle people north to the border. MS-13 members act as guides for some migrants, authorities say, charging as much as $1,500 to move them to the U.S. border.

At the police station in Chiapas, the two MS-13 members arrested with the machetes said the weapons were for self-defense. They were among more than 300 MS-13 members arrested since the Chiapas state government launched an anti-gang campaign in November. Appearing in public with tattoos and gang clothing means months in jail. Being found with weapons or drugs adds up to five years of prison time.

Horacio Schroeder Bejarano, Chiapas secretary for public security, said enforcement efforts in Central America and now Mexico are pushing MS-13 members toward the U.S.

'Horror Movie'

Sgt. Alan Patton had never heard of Mara Salvatrucha when he was called to a gory scene in Grand Prairie, Texas.

In a dense woods, off an interstate stretching west from Dallas, fishermen had found the partly clothed remains of 21-year-old Javier Calzada.

His T-shirt was pulled around his neck, his pants down around his ankles. Exposed sections of his torso were gnawed away by animals. And there were suspicions he had been sodomized, records and interviews show.

"It was like something out of a horror movie," Patton recalled.

Calzada had been shot in the head. His car was missing, and he was robbed of jewelry, cash and tennis shoes, records show.

He lived with his parents, worked at an auto detail shop and drove a shiny 2000 Chevrolet Malibu with large chrome wheels. Police said Calzada was an innocent victim befriended at a shopping mall by girls associated with MS-13. According to court testimony, he was later lured into a deadly trap. In mid-December 2001, the girls called Calzada and asked for a lift to a friend's house.

"He was just a nice guy who a couple of girls asked for a ride," Patton said.

One of the girls, Brenda "Smiley" Paz, then 15, was a member of the Los Angeles-based Normandie Locos clique. She had moved to Texas to live with an uncle after her parents separated, relatives said.

Paz was running with a crew of MS-13 members, including Livis "Junior" Flores, 29, a leader of the Normandie Locos, records show.

As Calzada picked up Paz and another girl, Flores got in the rear seat, told Calzada to drive to a wooded area and put a gun to his head, according to court records and interviews. Other MS-13 members helped march Calzada into the woods where he was shot by Flores, court records show.

Back in the car, Flores made a sign of the cross, according to an affidavit Paz gave to police.

"God forgive me for my sins," she recalled Flores saying. He then turned on the radio, flashed gang signs and laughed, Paz told police. She said she suspected the young man was raped because MS-13 members had done the same thing to other victims.

Flores, who has MS tattooed across his forehead, was arrested and convicted in a separate armed robbery after the killing. After his conviction in that case, Flores admitted murdering Calzada and is serving two concurrent life sentences.

Paz told investigators that she and Flores traveled to meet MS-13 leaders in Seattle; San Diego; Tijuana; Eagle County, Colo.; and Meridian, Idaho, often collecting and transferring money from drug dealing and auto thefts, said attorney Greg Hunter, appointed as Paz's legal guardian because she was an unsupervised minor.

In Virginia, Flores and three other men were suspected of attacking students near a high school with baseball bats and metal tubing, records show.

Texas authorities say MS-13 now operates in Houston and Dallas, where it has been linked to murders, robberies, drive-by shootings, commercial break-ins and auto thefts.

Federal, state and local authorities in Houston have formed a new task force to probe the gang's stepped-up activity. Twenty members of the group have been arrested in recent months. One is charged with killing an 18-month-old boy during an attack on a family.

In suburban Grand Prairie, Patton said, two decades of police work hadn't exposed him to anything like MS-13. "I've never encountered a more dangerous or vicious street gang.... These guys do not hesitate to kill."

Violence in Virginia

Dozens of MS-13 members, many with blue bandanas on their heads, gathered under a picnic shelter in the tree-lined Virginia park by the banks of the Potomac River.

They came from Maryland, Washington and Virginia and greeted each other by touching thumbs and pinkie fingers, the gang's handshake.

Meting out discipline was apparently on the agenda, according to a law enforcement surveillance video of the meeting reviewed by The Times. Gang members jumped two attendees, knocking them to the ground and kicking them repeatedly in the head and ribs. One target of the beating had failed to back up a fellow MS-13 member in a fight and the other refused to attack a jail inmate who challenged him, investigators believe.

Such sessions, known as "misas," or masses, occur regularly in Virginia, where MS-13 has more than 1,500 members and is the largest, most violent gang in the state.

One of the first indications of MS-13 organizing efforts in the state came in early 1994. Arlington County police caught a Los Angeles member handing out business cards on a street corner. The black card bore the man's gang moniker, "Crazy Snoopy," and linked him to one of the oldest MS-13 branches operating along Western Boulevard. The card gave his Virginia pager number, according to a copy obtained by The Times.

MS-13's involvement in a recent series of high-profile murders in Virginia has thrust it into the headlines in the nation's capital and onto the agenda of top policymakers.

The most sensational crime involved Brenda Paz, the Normandie Locos member. She arrived after the murder near Dallas, was arrested by Virginia police and became an informant. "She knew if she stayed with the gang, she was going to end up locked up or dead," said Hunter, the attorney appointed as Paz's legal guardian.

She was placed in a federal witness protection program, records show, but the pull of the gang proved too strong. In June 2003, she rejoined MS-13 after voluntarily leaving the program. A month later, her tattoo-covered body, slashed with knife wounds, was found on the banks of the Shenandoah River. She was 16 weeks pregnant.

The slaying was ordered because Paz was working with authorities, prosecutors allege. Four MS-13 members are on trial in federal court in Alexandria, Va., charged with her murder. All have pleaded not guilty.

The trial, and hundreds of pages of federal court records in a related murder case, offer a rare inside look at the gang. In one instance, Flores, the Normandie Locos leader imprisoned in Texas, wrote to an MS-13 member jailed in Virginia. He told Denis Rivera, a local gang leader charged in Paz's death, that she was "singing" to authorities, according to a copy of the letter.

In another letter to Rivera, an MS-13 member in El Salvador mentioned a possible "green light," or a murder plan, of a rival and passed on a phone number for a Virginia gang member.

Other communications underscored the defiance of some MS-13 leaders in the face of law enforcement crackdowns. In a letter to yet another gang leader, Rivera boasted about the gang's legacy of fear and violence.

"Wherever the Mara Salvatrucha is, [we are] going to kill, control and rape again," he wrote. "We are super crazy."

Kraul reported from Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador. Connell reported from Mexico as well as Houston, Dallas and Laredo and Grand Prairie, Texas. Lopez reported from Mexico; Washington, D.C.; Hyattsville, Md.; and Arlington and Alexandria, Va. Times researchers Vicki Gallay and Scott Wilson contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

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It is amazing how shit in neighborhoods of color is allowed to fester to tragic proportions.....and then the racist and the self-hater articulates the occurrence as if it is based on the nature of the people....yet know how to look the other way or minimize their criticism when it pertains to others....and fairly judges it as an individual act which is not reflective of the people as a whole........people need to examine themselves.....both criminal and non-criminal and look at the piece of schit they grew up to be.........
quote:
Originally posted by Kevin41:
It is amazing how shit in neighborhoods of color is allowed to fester to tragic proportions.....and then the racist and the self-hater articulates the occurrence as if it is based on the nature of the people....yet know how to look the other way or minimize their criticism when it pertains to others....and fairly judges it as an individual act which is not reflective of the people as a whole........people need to examine themselves.....both criminal and non-criminal and look at the piece of schit they grew up to be.........by Kevin41


It is the Black community that is not moving forward, namely due to a failing leadership, being disorganized, and a total lack of commitment to promote the survival of Black people.

The Hispanics are moving forward. Make no mistake, the Hispanics are more serious, committed, and organized to move their community forward than Black people! More so than Black people, they are making the most out of their station in life, be it from a criminal standpoint, a leadership reference, or legal means.

Heck while Black drug dealers, who for the most part buy luxury vehicles, and other luxury commodities to flaunt their illicit activities, the Hispanic gangs, launder their illicit earned assets, and make sacrifices to some day turn legitimate, and/or make a legitimate opportunity for others in their immediate community to reduce the need to turn to criminal activity for a livelihood!

Sincerely,

Michael Lofton

**************
Gangs Thrive In Maximum Security
May 13, 2005

"These men will go out into the federal system and continue to branch out, to create new gangs and continue their gang activity." Lt. Steve Perez

California had a growing problem with prison gangs, and decided the best way to deal with it was by locking up the leaders in a place so impenetrable and isolated, they'd be out of contact and out of business.

But things did not go according to plan. Correspondent Lesley Stahl has the story of how a bunch of gangsters went to one of the most maximum-security prisons in the country, and turned it into their criminal headquarters.

Pelican Bay State Prison is a super-maximum penitentiary in Northern California. And yet with all the surveillance and isolation, gangs still run thriving criminal enterprises out on the streets – from within the fortress.

Lt. Steve Perez, a senior official at Pelican Bay, took 60 Minutes on a tour of the penitentiary. "These are the most creative, the most ingenious men, deeply committed to achieving their criminal goals," says Lt. Perez, who led the way to SHU, the security- housing unit, a special prison within the prison.

It's where gang leaders are housed in nearly solitary confinement. They're locked up in their cells 22-and-a-half hours a day. They are searched regularly for weapons, and their personal effects are X-rayed for contraband.

They get to exercise for about an hour a day in a small, dreary yard. Their only companion is a surveillance camera. And yet, Lt. Perez says, they manage to outwit the tight security to plot and scheme with one another.

"They'll use a drain right here, and they talk down through this drain," says Perez. "In fact, you can talk quite a ways down, because basically, when we designed the draining system, we connected a number of these individual exercise yards together, never thinking that this is how they would begin to communicate."

And there's little the prison can do about it, since with all the rain in Northern California, they can't plug the drainage system. "Now what we do is we pay attention to what they're saying," says Lt. Perez. "We listen as much as we can."

Perez showed other ways the inmates foil the security. He stopped at a cellblock for Brian Moore of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. He's been in the SHU since 1999.

Moore, who is serving 18 years to life for second-degree murder, can't see his next-door neighbor, or anyone else on the block. And yet they communicate by what they call "fishing."

"You just take your little string line right here with a little weight on it, like that," says Moore, who makes a 40-feet-long line by tearing up his underwear or his bed sheet and braiding the threads together. He then fashions a weight out of soap. "And you just throw it out the door, and somebody else throws their other line out."

Just then, a written message came flying down from the upper tier. Moore demonstrated how he fishes, by flinging a line out, hooking it around the other line, and reeling it in. Once Moore ties the two lines together, the inmates easily send messages back and forth.

"If you know that they're fishing, and that they're sending messages like this, why do you let it go on?" Stahl asks Lt. Perez.

"We don't. The officers are required to search so many cells every day," says Perez. "The officer will come in. If he finds a fish line, he will take it at that time. The problem is that no sooner than I take it, he will go back to his bed sheet and he'll unravel the string again, the threads, and start the process all over."

With inmates who have nothing to lose, the authorities are left with nothing but frustration.

"Do I leave them without sheets? Do I take his T-shirts away? Do I leave him naked in his cell? How's that going to sound?" asks Lt. Perez.

Once they communicate with each other, the most effective way they get their messages to their foot soldiers on the outside is through the mail, which is one of their rights guaranteed by law.

Trained prison investigators like Devan Hawkes scrutinize every letter that goes in and out of the SHU, an average of 2,000 a day. One case involved a member of the Mexican Mafia.

"We reviewed over 1,000 letters that he sent out. And in those letters we found evidence of over 500 crimes that he committed," says Hawkes. "It involved drug trafficking, assaults on people, murder -- that he was either directing, or that was being reported back to him through the mail."

They use codes that have been so hard to decipher, they have been sent to FBI cryptologists in Washington. With nothing but time alone in his cell, Moore spent years learning an ancient Norse language that hasn't been used since 600 A.D.

Like other inmates, Moore sends out encoded messages embedded in intricate artwork. "I would mail it to a girlfriend, and then a girlfriend would mail it to a homeboy, or somebody else, somebody that I wanted to pass the message to," he says.

"And so what happens is that when this goes out, if you're not paying attention to what's happening, if you're not looking for the indicators of how they communicate, a beautiful piece of artwork becomes a message to have someone killed," says Lt. Perez.

Pelican Bay authorities have had some success getting inmates to flip by offering them a deal: In exchange for telling how crimes are being hatched and orchestrated from within the prison, they're given privileges and moved into a segregated wing off the SHU.

But four men who took the deal say that it's really easy to get messages in and out. Epi Cortina brutally beat and murdered a fellow gang member. He lived on the SHU for nine years before he renounced his membership in the Mexican American gang, Nuestra Familia.

"What kinds of crimes were perpetrated, ordered from within the SHU from Nuestra Familia?" asks Stahl.

"Anywhere from murder to money laundering, bank robberies, armored-car robberies, home invasions, drug deals, prostitution," says Cortina.

Miguel Perez gunned down a witness in a murder trial. He has told prison officials how his old gang, the Mexican Mafia, dispatches orders in the visiting rooms.

"One of the things we learned was sign language. So this way if we seen someone, you sign to him," says Miguel Perez. "If I used regular sign language, it's easy for you to go and understand it or pick it up. ... But we throw our own stuff in."

These men all say they want kids on the street to know that gang life is a sham.

"Loyalty, honor, it's not there," says Miguel Perez. "There ain't no such thing. I mean, it's something that's fed to you, but it's not true."

"Can you leave a gang?" asks Stahl.

"No, you can't walk away from it, just like that," says Miguel Perez. "To answer your question simply, yes, they want us dead. Each and every one of us. ... Especially more so now that they get to see this interview. We're the ones speaking out. You're automatically marked for dead."

The gangs at Pelican Bay are organized like the military, with strict discipline that includes going to school, but not in the traditional sense. They go to gang school, learning, for instance, how to make weapons from materials the state is required to give them.

In a prison video, an inmate demonstrates how he constructed a crossbow out of elastic from his underwear, writing paper rolled tightly, and a plastic spoon sharpened into a lethal point. It's made specifically to be fired through the mesh door.

Pelican Bay's Jim Dajenais showed 60 Minutes a display of prison-made weapons.

"Since August of 2002, we've confiscated about 1,258 weapons," says Dajenais. "Inside of a SHU cell, they have the metal frame door, the embedded metal. This here was cut right out of the door, and this is a real recent discovery. The particular inmate that did this, he makes one of these about once a month."

"I hear that some of these guys can actually make handcuff keys," says Stahl.

"In the security housing unit, all of the gang members know how to make handcuff keys," says Dajenais. "This particular handcuff key here, this was manufactured from an inhaler. Just the metal part of an inhaler, and they shaped it into a handcuff key."

The gangs place a huge emphasis on formal education.

"We discipline ourselves to study at least three or four hours a day," says Bob Overton, who left the Aryan Brotherhood.

He says they make themselves smarter in the service of crime. What kind of books do they read? "Tactical books," says Overton. "'The Art Of War.' 'The Book Of Five Rings.' 'Marcus Aurelius.'"

"Psychology books," says Miguel Perez.

"Business, Wall Street," adds Cortina.

Steven Gruel, a former federal prosecutor who investigated Cortina's gang, says Nuestra Familia ran its operations like a Fortune 500 company. An FBI surveillance tape shows a group of gang members meeting in a California hotel room to discuss their latest orders from Pelican Bay. According to Gruel, the gang members are having what he calls a business meeting.

"Here you have the regiment leaders coming from San Francisco, from San Jose, from Salinas, from Visalia, from Oakland -- sitting around for a meeting," says Gruel. "One of the members brought this document, and so what you have is an agenda."

"You have to see some of these words. The main topics were management, infrastructure, goals, and objectives," says Stahl.

"Right," says Gruel. "The fact that that came out of prison and out of the teachings and the work of the Nuestra Familia is, quite frankly, no surprise."

Gruel, however, came to respect their business savvy, which included opening accounts at legitimate banks: "You know, the proceeds in those accounts are probably from drug dealing or murder for hire or robberies."

"Is this a huge enterprise?" asks Stahl.

"The Nuestra Familia probably has in excess of 1,000 or so members and associates," says Gruel. "So, it's, you know, not a small band of individuals. It's large in nature."

They were getting so large, they began to expand their field of operations. Gruel says they started to move into Boise, Idaho, and even had some activities in Arizona: "What they were slowly trying to do, I think, is become a larger criminal organization. They certainly had the manpower to do it."

"And this is still all being run outside of this sort of high intensity prison, this lock-down kind of place," says Stahl.

"Pelican Bay served as the nerve center for all the operations for the Nuestra Familia," says Gruel.

So, a prison built specifically to put vicious gangs out of business ended up with the worst of the worst -- all in one place with nothing but time to forge fraternities that were tighter, better organized and smarter.

"How do you deal with those people?" asks Gruel. "How do you deal with someone who has impunity? They're in prison, in the worst prison. So what do you do with them?"

For the last 8 years, the FBI and Justice Department have been investigating one of the most ruthless gangs in the country – Nuestra Familia, which means "our family" in Spanish.

Founded in 1965 by Mexican-American convicts in the California prison system, it consisted of just a few hundred members, until the past decade when, with its top generals confined to SHU at Pelican Bay, it swelled into a super-gang with more than 1,000 made-members and associates.

It was built on the ethic of loyalty, discipline and fear, and law enforcement was unable to penetrate its solid walls, until one of its top "carnales" cracked.

"The Nuestra Familia is considered one of the most sophisticated prison gangs in the United States," says Robert Gratton, who joined the gang in the '90s while he was in prison. He rose to the rank of captain, but eventually defected, and told the government the gang's secrets. Now in hiding, he agreed to talk to 60 Minutes in disguise.

"To join it, murder is a prerequisite," says Gratton. "You have to make a kill or spill the blood of the enemy to be trusted into the gang's clandestine activities. ... I've stabbed different people."

Gratton spent two years in the SHU going to gang university, taking orders from the Nuestra Familia leaders whom they call generals. Then he was paroled.

"I was given specific orders to organize all of the different little cities in Northern California, which at that time consisted of thousands of young kids who were straying from the goals of the leader," says Gratton.

"So I put together a gangster rap CD to reach the youth and let them know that the Nuestra Familia was still in charge."

Gratton's CD, called "G-U-N," glorified gang life and called for death to their rivals, the Surenos. It also contained a message from Gratton for the youth of Northern California: "The primary purpose and goal of this album is to promote unity amongst each and everyone of us."

He says the CD sold thousands: "It was so popular in Northern California that the police chief in Watsonville, Calif., actually organized a boycott of Sam Goody's [music stores]."

Sam Goody's pulled the CD, but only after it helped generate about $80,000 in sales, 25 percent of which under gang rules Gratton had to kick back to the generals. He says he deposited that money in a Boise, Idaho, bank account that they controlled.

"What keeps someone in your position who's out, taking these orders from the guys in?" asks Stahl. "I mean, why not set up your own organization? Why don't you become the more powerful one?"

"The same way that the Nuestra Familia has no problems killing the enemy, it would also kill any member who turned coward, traitor or deserter," says Gratton. "And if they can't get you, they will go after your family."

Gratton says he was having misgivings about the gang when he was arrested for drug possession and faced another long stint on the SHU: "I had already wanted to walk away from the gang on my own. This just kind of sealed the deal."

"Robert Gratton was probably one of the most significant, if not the most significant cooperator in this case," says Gruel, who was the lead prosecutor in "Operation Black Widow," the largest and most expensive investigation of a prison gang in U.S. history.

"We already knew who they were. We knew who were the leaders. We knew who were the shot-callers," says Gruel, adding that they knew that the leaders were in prison. "We found that out. And that's the irony of this. We had to deal with a situation where the leaders were already behind bars."

He says the big break came when Gratton handed over the latest secret codes used by Nuestra Familia. They were written, in ultra-miniature script, on tiny pieces of paper called "wilas" that were smuggled out of Pelican Bay.

"Here's one he actually provided to us in it's original form," says Gruel. "It says, 'The following will be code words for drugs. We're going to call cocaine soda. And tennis shoes are gonna mean handguns. High tops are gonna mean a rifle. Boots, if you see boots in some sort of letter, it's gonna mean an Uzi.'"

"So this teeny, teeny writing. This is the way they would pass the new code, because they kept changing it," says Stahl.

"Right," says Gruel.

"Wilas" were regularly smuggled in and out of the most secure prison in all of California in things like a Thanksgiving Day card.

"Looks innocuous," says Gruel. "If you were a prison guard, would you think much of it? Nah, it's just another card, you know, no big deal. Now, we found this, and then we slowly started to peel some parts of the back and, what we found were three 'wilas.'"

Gratton says that when he sent messages into the prison, he used a variety of techniques to fool the guards, including writing in urine: "It's undetectable to the naked eye. If I had urine in a cup, I could write a message on a piece of paper which wouldn't be detected until it was heated."

Perhaps the gang's most brazen way of communicating, however, was through fake legal documents.

"It looks like something you would think is, you know, some sort of court document," says Gruel. "It's got the caption, etc. But if you start getting down to the second page, well within the body, 'The building up of this organization on the outside will be done in these three steps.' Bam."

"Who on earth wouldn't think that was a legal document?" asks Stahl. "And then, you're not supposed to scrutinize that in the same way as you do letters that they send in and out."

"This is, you know, a clear example of abuse of a privilege," says Gruel. "So that they can get their orders and functions out on the street."

Once the codes were understood and the messages intercepted, "Operation Black Widow" turned up 10 hit lists. The cops had to call 300 people to tell them there were death threats against them. Gruel says they prevented scores of homicides that were already in operation.

"For example, we uncovered that there was a plot to murder two district attorneys, you know, in California," says Gruel. "And as a consequence, we were able to identify those involved in that plot and arrest them and convict them."

In all, "Operation Black Widow" resulted in 150 arrests. But what to do now? Clearly locking them up together at Pelican Bay didn't work. So now what the government wants to do is disperse the leaders around the country in various maximum-security prisons in the federal system.

"We're going to move them to Indiana, in Florence, Colo., in Marion, Ill. And each prison will have one of these captains or one of these generals," says Gruel. "One of these lifers."

"But couldn't they start a whole new organization in whatever prison they're in?" asks Stahl.

"I don't think that's going to happen," says Gruel. "And the reason why is this. There are two essentially identifying characteristics of being a member of the Nuestra Familia: Mexican-American, the other is that you're from Northern California. So if you take a general, and put him in Marion, you know, Illinois, or in Minnesota, or some other institution in Arkansas, he's going to be a nobody."

"It's too late," says Gratton. "They've already re-established new lines of communication. New contacts."

"You're telling us that even if, from today, these generals have broken up, and one is in Connecticut and one's in Pennsylvania, they're still going to be able to run this criminal organization in Northern California?" asks Stahl.

"Not only are they going to run it, it's going to expand," says Gratton. "They're going to be able to recruit and they're going to prosper."

"I know what Gratton is talking about. And you know, we'll have to see. You know, I don't have a crystal ball to kind of tell you with certainty what's going to happen," says Gruel. "But I thought it was worse to do nothing. You had to do something with the situation. You couldn't let these guys, you know, go on with impunity."

But back at Pelican Bay, Lt. Steve Perez and the prison's senior gang investigator, Devan Hawkes, say leaders of Nuestra Familia - aware they may soon be split up - are already plotting.

"They're not ignorant men," says Lt. Perez. "They have a plan, a definite plan like any business organization that is successful. And they stay with that plan."

That plan was spelled out in a coded letter intercepted from the SHU. Hawkes showed 60 Minutes the letter: "And as you can see, we've highlighted where the code is. Before every comma is the word."

And what was the message? "The message is that the Nuestra Familia is reorganizing," says Hawkes.

New captains and generals have already taken over on the SHU, and as this deciphered message shows that the generals heading off to places like Indiana and Minnesota are going with a stated mission.

"It says, 'These carnales,' that's what they call an NF member, 'are mandated to organize our organization in the feds and place regiments in other states, other than California. They will do so under the authority of this new general,'" says Hawkes.

"This letter that you intercepted is mandating that these people who are being sent away from here around the country are to set up the same kind of internal prison gang system that you're trying to break up here," says Stahl. "And it's a mandate."

"Exactly," says Lt. Perez. "These men will go out into the federal system, and continue to branch out, to create new gangs and continue their gang activity."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will decide later this year whether to go ahead with the plan to scatter the gang leaders throughout the federal prison system. If he rejects that idea, they will remain at Pelican Bay, serving out their life sentences.

**********************

Sincerely,

Michael Lofton

Attachments

quote:
Originally posted by jazzdog:
This is nothing new, this type of behavior and crime has gone on for years. When you have that kind of money being offered to look the other way its just a matter of time before someone takes the bait.

Reporting it makes it seem like some new development when this has always been going on.



Yeah Jazzdog...it is only a bad thing when black people do it according to some....but you are right...there have been so many corrupt as policemen in this country....from new orleans, to LA to chicago.....many abuse the badge and authority that comes with it....there have been so many so-called criminals let loose because of unscrupulous acts....from planting drugs and guns on innocent people to killing them because they were racist and hateful.....i hope every dog has his day...i really do....from the top down in this country......
"Yeah Jazzdog...it is only a bad thing when black people do it according to some....but you are right...there have been so many corrupt as policemen in this country....from new orleans, to LA to chicago.....many abuse the badge and authority that comes with it....there have been so many so-called criminals let loose because of unscrupulous acts....from planting drugs and guns on innocent people to killing them because they were racist and hateful.....i hope every dog has his day...i really do....from the top down in this country......" by Kevin41

....Every immigrant class has used some form of criminal activity at one point or other to sustain its existance. By and large the Black community is the only ethnic group that has not evolved from depending on criminal activity for its' survival, and/or moved away from using criminal activity that contributes to the demise of the Black community!

Sincerely,

Michael Lofton
New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
Cop's book of sins:
Lying, stealing & worse
BY ROBERT F. MOORE and NANCY DILLON
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Monday, May 16th, 2005

Playing Russian roulette with suspects. Lying on the witness stand. Stealing bags of smack from dealers and using them to bribe junkie snitches.
Aggressive cops working on the city's meanest streets commit these crimes and many more on a regular basis - all in an effort to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, a controversial new book by a retired NYPD cop contends.

"I knew these were crimes I was committing daily. But I'd do it again and again," Robert Cea writes in "No Lights, No Sirens," published last week by William Morrow. "It's the only way to get things done."

He claims while the rule-bending and "testi-lying" - lying on the witness stand - weren't taught in the academy, they were tacitly encouraged by police brass and city prosecutors looking to reduce crime and keep their caseloads moving. "I have a quick learning curve," Cea, 42, told the Daily News.

Cea said he "testi-lied" in more than 100 of 500 felony arrests he made between 1982 and his retirement in 1994.

Police brass scoffed at claims in the book. "The problem with someone who boasts about lying is that he casts doubt on the veracity of everything else he claims," said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne in a statement.

Cea, who doesn't name names in the book - he uses pseudonyms - insisted his account is accurate.

In one harrowing passage, he describes putting one bullet into his gun and spinning the chamber. Then, he writes, he stuck the gun into a suspect's ear and pulled the trigger. It didn't fire. His partner, he said, stopped him.

Other real "rules of the game," according to Cea, include:


Let big drug dealers walk so they can act as informants - even if the junk they sell spurs murders.

Look the other way when any kind of marijuana is found. The paperwork is long and tedious, and the charge is only going to get tossed or dropped down to a misdemeanor.

Lie to suspects, allowing them to think confessing on camera will lead to a light sentence.

Personally cook up heroin for your informants if you need information for a bigger arrest.
Cea became a decorated cop during his 12-year stint on the streets of Brooklyn, mostly in Red Hook and East Flatbush.

He retired in 1994 after he was investigated for the murder of one of his informants. He was ultimately vindicated.

These days he's developing film and TV projects, and even starred in Off-Broadway's "Tony n' Tina's Wedding."

"I'm not boasting with this book," Cea said. "I wrote this book to show how deep into the ninth circle of hell you can fall and still pick yourself up by the bootstraps and go on."
L.A. Violence Crosses the Line
A brutal band born near MacArthur Park has spread to 33 other states and five countries. For the first time, the FBI forms a nationwide task force to go after a single gang.
By Chris Kraul, Robert J. Lopez and Rich Connell
Times Staff Writers

May 15, 2005

The gruesome murders were each more than 1,000 miles apart, an arc of bloodshed that spanned much of the North American continent.

On a rutty street near a crowded slum in Honduras, gunmen sprayed automatic weapons fire at a bus filled with Christmastime shoppers. Twenty-eight people, including six children, were killed.

In the woods near Dallas, an innocent 21-year-old man was shot in the head, his remains eaten by animals. His pants were pulled down, and police suspect that he may have been sodomized.

And near the banks of a quiet river in Virginia, a 17-year-old informant was hacked to death. She was four months pregnant and stabbed 16 times in the chest and neck.

The killings were similar not only in their brutality but also in their lineage: Authorities say all three incidents are tied to a single Los Angeles branch of Mara Salvatrucha, a street gang formed 20 years ago in the immigrant neighborhoods west of the downtown skyline.

Today, the gang's extreme violence, vast reach and increasing sophistication have made it a top priority at the highest levels of law enforcement and political leadership from Washington to San Salvador.

In recent months, the departments of Justice and Homeland Security have launched a series of initiatives to confront the threat posed by the gang, also known as MS-13, which has between 30,000 and 50,000 members in half a dozen countries, including up to 10,000 members in the U.S., according to federal law enforcement estimates.

The FBI's creation of an MS-13 task force, the first nationwide effort targeting a single street gang, was ordered by Director Robert Mueller after several high-profile murders blamed on MS-13 in the suburbs of Washington. On Tuesday, Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for the first time placed an MS-13 member on its most-wanted fugitive list. The Los Angeles gang member is suspected in a string of violent crimes.

In Honduras, four Central American presidents gathered last month to address the gang crisis. Citing the destabilizing influence of groups like MS-13, they appealed for economic aid to curb the poverty and joblessness fueling the growth of gangs.

Authorities are scrambling to contain forces unleashed in part by past U.S. policies. Refugees formed the gang in the 1980s near MacArthur Park, just west of downtown Los Angeles, after fleeing a U.S.-backed civil war against insurgents in El Salvador. As the gang grew, immigration officials began a decade-long campaign to deport members, including ex-convicts and hardened leaders who helped spread MS-13 across Central America and solidify its structure.

In the United States, the gang has spread from California into 33 other states and the District of Columbia. Investigators say members are involved in murder, extortion, drug dealing and witness intimidation. The expansion has come from migration as well as from calculated efforts by its Los Angeles leaders to tap new markets of criminal activity. In Seattle, for instance, gang members arrived from Los Angeles in 1997 to distribute marijuana, heroin and crack cocaine, according to investigators.

"Everywhere you turn these days, you're hearing about MS-13," said Assistant FBI Director Chris Swecker, who is overseeing the nationwide task force targeting the group.

Traditionally, the gang's loosely structured leadership has been dispersed among a vast federation of cells that often act independently.

Although it remains unclear how well organized the gang's leadership is, Swecker recently told Congress that there were signs of greater cohesiveness within MS-13.

Times interviews with law enforcement officials in four countries and reviews of intelligence reports, letters between MS-13 members, transcripts of phone conversations and surveillance videos show that gang members communicate and coordinate criminal activity across state and international borders.

Gang leaders in the U.S. and El Salvador have shared information on informants, discussed punishing rivals and plotted an ambush to free an accused murderer, these records show. In one instance, dozens of MS-13 members from several East Coast states were videotaped meeting in a Virginia park.

In Central America, the gang allegedly targeted top government officials and law enforcement leaders.

"If these criminals are capable of killing 28 innocent people," Honduran President Ricardo Maduro said in an interview, "they are capable of anything."

Now, law enforcement crackdowns in Honduras and El Salvador are helping reverse the flow. MS-13 gang members recruited in those countries are making their way to the U.S. and bolstering the gang's ranks from California to Maryland.

This north-south recycling of gang members has put intense pressure on Mexico, where MS-13 is involved in robbing immigrants and human trafficking, according to officials. "It has to be treated as a regional phenomenon because in Central America the borders are fading," said Magdalena Carral Cuevas, Mexico's top immigration official.

Mexico recently launched its own campaign against MS-13, particularly in the southern state of Chiapas, a roiling crossroads where the gang preys on stowaways trying to jump freight trains headed north.

One result of the stepped-up enforcement is that jails in Chiapas are filling up. At a federal lockup, a new wing has been devoted solely to MS-13 to prevent attacks on rival gang members.

About 30 members of the gang recently gathered in a dirt courtyard at the prison. One, who is doing five years on a drug charge and gave his name as Oscar, said he left his native El Salvador because there was no work. He wore a Dallas Cowboy jersey with the blue and white colors favored by MS-13. Gang tattoos covered his thick neck and muscular arms.

Oscar complained that authorities unfairly single out his group.

"Despite our reputation, we aren't what they think," he said in Spanish. "They have satanized us."

He cut off the conversation when an apparent MS-13 leader demanded money from a reporter for the interview to continue.

Refugees Pour into L.A.

Central American refugees were pouring into the brick hotels and old Victorian homes in the Pico-Union and Westlake areas of Los Angeles, among the nation's most crowded neighborhoods.

It was the mid-1980s, and they were transforming entire blocks, opening Salvadoran restaurants, or pupusarias, and markets stocked with plantains and black beans from back home.

Many of the new arrivals, including children, were veterans of the civil war in El Salvador, which displaced nearly a million people. About half came to the United States. Some had fought with leftist guerrillas. Many others had been hardened by the bloodletting they witnessed.

Partly out of self-defense against established Mexican American gangs, Salvadoran youths formed the first cells of Mara Salvatrucha. "Mara" is a Salvadoran word for gang, and "Salvatrucha" means Salvadoran guy. They also adopted the number 13, just as local Mexican American street gangs had for years.

MS-13 opened its arms to other Central Americans, who also faced hostility from entrenched gangs, as crack cocaine flooded the streets and violence exploded.

In one of the first federal assaults on the gang, 20 members were deported from Los Angeles in 1989. A federal immigration official announced that his agency had decimated MS-13's leadership. But three years later, as the gang continued to grow, new waves of deportations began.

The Los Angeles city attorney's office, which says about 1,400 MS-13 members operate in the county, last year obtained a civil injunction restricting the gang's activities in the Rampart and East Hollywood areas.

In Los Angeles and other cities, more than 200 members of the gang have been arrested by Homeland Security agents in recent months, said Michael J. Garcia, assistant Homeland Security secretary for immigration and customs enforcement. Most are suspected illegal immigrants with criminal records.

Slaughter in Honduras

The yellow transit bus rumbled between two slums on a muddy road lined by rusting warehouses and sugar cane fields in San Pedro Sula, an industrial city about 100 miles from the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.

It was late evening last December, and among the Christmas shoppers on board were warehouse worker Emilio Lopez and his 10-year-old son.

Half a dozen men in a van raked the bus with automatic weapons fire. As passengers screamed and ducked, a gunman climbed aboard and methodically fired away, authorities said.

When the shooting stopped, 28 people were fatally wounded. One was Lopez. He died apparently shielding his son, Emilio, who was found wounded and hiding under a seat, the boy's mother, Maria Lopez, recalled.

"These people have no souls," she said of MS-13.

Maduro, the Honduran president, has blamed the group for the slaughter, saying it was a response to his administration's "zero tolerance" campaign, which has resulted in the arrest of more than 1,800 gang members since 2002.

An accused mastermind of the bus attack is Lester Rivera-Paz, who is tied to an original MS-13 cell in Los Angeles, the Normandie Locos. He had been deported from the U.S. four times.

Known as El Culiche, or the Tapeworm, Rivera-Paz had a lengthy criminal record in California, including an armed robbery in the LAPD's Rampart Division in 2000. The case was dropped when prosecutors could not find the victim, court records and interviews show.

San Pedro Sula, where Rivera-Paz emerged as a leader, has one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America. A weak national economy, family violence and social disintegration caused by massive out-migration are fueling the violence, a recent study by the Inter-American Development Bank found.

Maduro has framed the struggle against MS-13 and other gangs as a fight for the life of his nation. Authorities say the gang plotted last year to assassinate Maduro and kill the president of Honduras' Congress with a grenade.

Human rights groups have accused the Honduran government of unjustified arrests and of tolerating death squads that have killed hundreds of gang members. Honduran Public Security Minister Oscar Alvarez said gang members may have been targeted. But he added that people are fed up with the violence.

Tough anti-gang measures have not always worked as planned. A month after his arrest, Rivera-Paz, the suspected bus massacre mastermind, broke out of a Honduran prison. Earlier this year, he was found hiding in the trunk of a Dodge Intrepid loaded with illegal immigrants as it raced north through Texas before dawn.

He has pleaded guilty to illegally reentering the country and is likely to serve two years in a U.S. prison. Honduran officials have agreed to let him serve out his prison term in the U.S. and say he will face charges in their country after he is deported a fifth time.

Preying on Migrants

On an open Mexican plain dotted with mango and banana trees outside the city of Tapachula, 20 miles from the Guatemalan border, the knot of men waited for the northbound train, which they knew would sway and slow to a crawl on the uneven track later that night.

The men scattered as police swooped in. Officers went to the spot because MS-13 gang members often hop aboard the boxcars to terrorize migrants clinging to the train's roofs and sides.

"The gang's technique is to blend in, get to know the undocumented ones," said Cmdr. Jorge Enrique Murillo of the Chiapas state police. "Then they attack them."

The migrants are easy targets because nearly all have money and most are defenseless.

Murillo's men arrested two suspects, both tattooed and carrying 18-inch machetes. One, Omar Suarez Osorio, a 22-year-old Honduran, had a large MS inked into his chest and three triangular dots on the web of his thumb, a sign the gang member had killed someone, police said.

For years, Mexico's southernmost state has been plagued by MS-13 and other gangs. At any given time, officials say, up to 3,000 MS-13 members are operating in Chiapas.

Gang members have also leapfrogged north along the rail lines through central Mexico. The gang has established strongholds in Mexican border cities near Laredo and Brownsville, Texas, according to interviews and law enforcement intelligence reports.

Mexican officials have found evidence that MS-13 members are working as low-level gunmen for warring drug cartels. In northern Mexico, MS-13 members roam the banks of the milky brown Rio Grande in the city of Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas. They force migrants to pay them tribute before crossing, according to officials and community workers on both sides of the border.

Last month, the Chiapas attorney general, Mariano Herran Salvatti, and the FBI announced a plan to share intelligence on the gang, particularly regarding its purported use of the rail lines to smuggle people north to the border. MS-13 members act as guides for some migrants, authorities say, charging as much as $1,500 to move them to the U.S. border.

At the police station in Chiapas, the two MS-13 members arrested with the machetes said the weapons were for self-defense. They were among more than 300 MS-13 members arrested since the Chiapas state government launched an anti-gang campaign in November. Appearing in public with tattoos and gang clothing means months in jail. Being found with weapons or drugs adds up to five years of prison time.

Horacio Schroeder Bejarano, Chiapas secretary for public security, said enforcement efforts in Central America and now Mexico are pushing MS-13 members toward the U.S.

'Horror Movie'

Sgt. Alan Patton had never heard of Mara Salvatrucha when he was called to a gory scene in Grand Prairie, Texas.

In a dense woods, off an interstate stretching west from Dallas, fishermen had found the partly clothed remains of 21-year-old Javier Calzada.

His T-shirt was pulled around his neck, his pants down around his ankles. Exposed sections of his torso were gnawed away by animals. And there were suspicions he had been sodomized, records and interviews show.

"It was like something out of a horror movie," Patton recalled.

Calzada had been shot in the head. His car was missing, and he was robbed of jewelry, cash and tennis shoes, records show.

He lived with his parents, worked at an auto detail shop and drove a shiny 2000 Chevrolet Malibu with large chrome wheels. Police said Calzada was an innocent victim befriended at a shopping mall by girls associated with MS-13. According to court testimony, he was later lured into a deadly trap. In mid-December 2001, the girls called Calzada and asked for a lift to a friend's house.

"He was just a nice guy who a couple of girls asked for a ride," Patton said.

One of the girls, Brenda "Smiley" Paz, then 15, was a member of the Los Angeles-based Normandie Locos clique. She had moved to Texas to live with an uncle after her parents separated, relatives said.

Paz was running with a crew of MS-13 members, including Livis "Junior" Flores, 29, a leader of the Normandie Locos, records show.

As Calzada picked up Paz and another girl, Flores got in the rear seat, told Calzada to drive to a wooded area and put a gun to his head, according to court records and interviews. Other MS-13 members helped march Calzada into the woods where he was shot by Flores, court records show.

Back in the car, Flores made a sign of the cross, according to an affidavit Paz gave to police.

"God forgive me for my sins," she recalled Flores saying. He then turned on the radio, flashed gang signs and laughed, Paz told police. She said she suspected the young man was raped because MS-13 members had done the same thing to other victims.

Flores, who has MS tattooed across his forehead, was arrested and convicted in a separate armed robbery after the killing. After his conviction in that case, Flores admitted murdering Calzada and is serving two concurrent life sentences.

Paz told investigators that she and Flores traveled to meet MS-13 leaders in Seattle; San Diego; Tijuana; Eagle County, Colo.; and Meridian, Idaho, often collecting and transferring money from drug dealing and auto thefts, said attorney Greg Hunter, appointed as Paz's legal guardian because she was an unsupervised minor.

In Virginia, Flores and three other men were suspected of attacking students near a high school with baseball bats and metal tubing, records show.

Texas authorities say MS-13 now operates in Houston and Dallas, where it has been linked to murders, robberies, drive-by shootings, commercial break-ins and auto thefts.

Federal, state and local authorities in Houston have formed a new task force to probe the gang's stepped-up activity. Twenty members of the group have been arrested in recent months. One is charged with killing an 18-month-old boy during an attack on a family.

In suburban Grand Prairie, Patton said, two decades of police work hadn't exposed him to anything like MS-13. "I've never encountered a more dangerous or vicious street gang.... These guys do not hesitate to kill."

Violence in Virginia

Dozens of MS-13 members, many with blue bandanas on their heads, gathered under a picnic shelter in the tree-lined Virginia park by the banks of the Potomac River.

They came from Maryland, Washington and Virginia and greeted each other by touching thumbs and pinkie fingers, the gang's handshake.

Meting out discipline was apparently on the agenda, according to a law enforcement surveillance video of the meeting reviewed by The Times. Gang members jumped two attendees, knocking them to the ground and kicking them repeatedly in the head and ribs. One target of the beating had failed to back up a fellow MS-13 member in a fight and the other refused to attack a jail inmate who challenged him, investigators believe.

Such sessions, known as "misas," or masses, occur regularly in Virginia, where MS-13 has more than 1,500 members and is the largest, most violent gang in the state.

One of the first indications of MS-13 organizing efforts in the state came in early 1994. Arlington County police caught a Los Angeles member handing out business cards on a street corner. The black card bore the man's gang moniker, "Crazy Snoopy," and linked him to one of the oldest MS-13 branches operating along Western Boulevard. The card gave his Virginia pager number, according to a copy obtained by The Times.

MS-13's involvement in a recent series of high-profile murders in Virginia has thrust it into the headlines in the nation's capital and onto the agenda of top policymakers.

The most sensational crime involved Brenda Paz, the Normandie Locos member. She arrived after the murder near Dallas, was arrested by Virginia police and became an informant. "She knew if she stayed with the gang, she was going to end up locked up or dead," said Hunter, the attorney appointed as Paz's legal guardian.

She was placed in a federal witness protection program, records show, but the pull of the gang proved too strong. In June 2003, she rejoined MS-13 after voluntarily leaving the program. A month later, her tattoo-covered body, slashed with knife wounds, was found on the banks of the Shenandoah River. She was 16 weeks pregnant.

The slaying was ordered because Paz was working with authorities, prosecutors allege. Four MS-13 members are on trial in federal court in Alexandria, Va., charged with her murder. All have pleaded not guilty.

The trial, and hundreds of pages of federal court records in a related murder case, offer a rare inside look at the gang. In one instance, Flores, the Normandie Locos leader imprisoned in Texas, wrote to an MS-13 member jailed in Virginia. He told Denis Rivera, a local gang leader charged in Paz's death, that she was "singing" to authorities, according to a copy of the letter.

In another letter to Rivera, an MS-13 member in El Salvador mentioned a possible "green light," or a murder plan, of a rival and passed on a phone number for a Virginia gang member.

Other communications underscored the defiance of some MS-13 leaders in the face of law enforcement crackdowns. In a letter to yet another gang leader, Rivera boasted about the gang's legacy of fear and violence.

"Wherever the Mara Salvatrucha is, [we are] going to kill, control and rape again," he wrote. "We are super crazy."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kraul reported from Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador. Connell reported from Mexico as well as Houston, Dallas and Laredo and Grand Prairie, Texas. Lopez reported from Mexico; Washington, D.C.; Hyattsville, Md.; and Arlington and Alexandria, Va. Times researchers Vicki Gallay and Scott Wilson contributed to this report.
quote:
Originally posted by Michael:
"Yeah Jazzdog...it is only a bad thing when black people do it according to some....but you are right...there have been so many corrupt as policemen in this country....from new orleans, to LA to chicago.....many abuse the badge and authority that comes with it....there have been so many so-called criminals let loose because of unscrupulous acts....from planting drugs and guns on innocent people to killing them because they were racist and hateful.....i hope every dog has his day...i really do....from the top down in this country......" by Kevin41

....Every immigrant class has used some form of criminal activity at one point or other to sustain its existance. By and large the Black community is the only ethnic group that has not evolved from depending on criminal activity for its' survival, and/or moved away from using criminal activity that contributes to the demise of the Black community!

Sincerely,

Michael Lofton


Yes, but it's hard to use criminal activity to survive as a group, when the mainstream (white) and other non-black minorities think of all blacks as criminals. NO ONE ever explains that, and they have the nerve to say we're deviants, and they have many in their own group? nono bs
"Yes, but it's hard to use criminal activity to survive as a group, when the mainstream (white) and other non-black minorities think of all blacks as criminals. NO ONE ever explains that, and they have the nerve to say we're deviants, and they have many in their own group?" by Huey

**************************

...Although this report clearly indicates the difficulty that a felon would have in finding gainful employment, the same could be applied to any jurisdiction across the U.S.

**************************

Report: More women, black men in prison
Black men are more likely than any other group to be locked up

The Associated Press
Updated: 1:33 p.m. ET Nov. 8, 2004


WASHINGTON - The number of women in state and federal prisons is at an all-time high and growing fast, with the incarceration rate for females increasing at nearly twice that of men, the government reported Sunday.

There were 101,179 women in prisons last year, 3.6 percent more than in 2002, the Justice Department said. That marks the first time the women's prison population has topped 100,000, and continues a trend of rapid growth.

Overall, men are still far more likely than women to be in jail or prison, and black men are more likely than any other group to be locked up.

At the close of 2003, U.S. prisons held 1,368,866 men, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported. The total was 2 percent more than in 2002.

Expressed in terms of the population at large, that means that in 2003, one in every 109 U.S. men was in prison. For women the figure was one in every 1,613.

Number of factors
Longer sentences, especially for drug crimes, and fewer prisoners granted parole or probation are main reasons for the expanding U.S. prison population, said Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, which advocates alternatives to long prison terms for many kinds of crimes.

The increase began three decades ago, and continues. The new report compared 2003 figures with those from 1995.

The number of women in prison has grown 48 percent since 1995, when the figure was 68,468, the report said. The male prison population has grown 29 percent over that time, from 1,057,406.

Five percent growth rate
Year by year, the number of women incarcerated grew an average of 5 percent, compared to an average annual increase of 3.3 percent for men.

"It coincides exactly with the inception of the war on drugs," in the 1980s and continuing into the 1990s, Mauer said. "It represents a sort of vicious cycle of women engaged in drug abuse and often connected with financial or psychological dependence with a boyfriend," or other man involved in drug crime, Mauer said.

The prison figures do not fully reflect the number of people behind bars. About 80,000 women were in local jails last year, along with more than 600,000 men.

The federal prison system held a large share of female prisoners, with a population of 11,635 at the close of 2003. One state "” Texas "” held even more, with a population of 13,487. California, the nation's largest prison system, held 10,656 women. North Dakota had fewer women in prison than any other state "” 113.

Among other findings in the report:

More than 44 percent of all sentenced male inmates were black, and many of them were young.
Among the more than 1.4 million sentenced inmates at the end of 2003, an estimated 403,165 were black men between 20 and 39.
At the end of 2003, 9.3 percent of black men 25 to 29 were in prison, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men in the same age group.
In 11 states, there were increases in the prison population of at least 5 percent, led by North Dakota with an 11.4 percent rise.
Also, 11 states had decreases. Connecticut had the biggest drop, at 4.2 percent.
© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
© 2005 MSNBC.com

URL: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6429697/
********************************

...but the worst of the worst in criminal are not the large number of Black men and women behind bars or those with felony jackets, some earned, many unearned convictions,

....but the rather the criminal acts of the misfit set of Black people in high positions of influence, that negatively impacts the advancement of the Black community on a larger scale than any gangmember, etc., etc., which keeps the Black community in poverty, which in turn makes for gang activity, drug dealing, armed robbery, grand theft, check forgery, etc.

...forced taxation without competent representation leads to civil unrest, criminal activity, etc., etc. It is very difficult to exist in the United States of America, when your own elected representatives do not serve the truly law abiding. Without competent representation, in due time, even the most resourceful individuals will be forced into subculture activities for their survival!

Case in point, many Black men and women have unearned felony jackets, which make it exceedingly difficult and many times impossible for them to be gainfully employed. In a "Free Enterprise System" such as the U.S. of A. a citizen must have access to lawful gainful employment. Without such access, eventually those with that unearned felony jacket will soon end up with an earned felony jacket in the name of providing the necessities of life!


Should you attempt or petition his or her elected representative for redress, to acquire restitution for a serious atrocity of government against the truly law abiding of Black America, the typical Black elected leaders play games, etc., etc.

Since by and large, Caucasians are not the most direct elected representative in the jurisdiction to which the petition for redress in to be addressed, the petitioner is left with the delimna of having no representation.


Sincerely,

Michael Lofton
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