Alleged Mexican Drug Trafficker Extradited to U.S.

December 13, 2010

A suspected Mexican drug gang leader linked to a 2006 border incursion by armed traffickers into Texas has been extradited by Mexico to the United States., the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas have said.

The U.S. authorities said Saturday that Jose Rodolfo Escajeda, also known as “Rikin,” was extradited to the U.S. to stand trial on marijuana and cocaine trafficking charges.

Escajeda, who allegedly worked for the Juarez cartel, was indicted by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in 2006.

U.S. authorities said that from a base in Guadalupe in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Escajeda is alleged to have controlled a drug trafficking corridor for marijuana and cocaine in the area of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, located across from El Paso, Texas.

The U.S. has sought his extradition since his arrest by Mexican authorities in September 2009.

In January 2006, at least 10 men in Mexican military-style uniforms crossed the Rio Grande into the United States while on a marijuana-smuggling foray. That led to an armed confrontation with Texas law officers near Neely’s Crossing, Texas, about 50 miles east of El Paso. Both the U.S. officials and the smugglers had their weapons drawn, but no shots were fired. The smugglers escaped back into Mexico, but did leave behind about a half-ton of marijuana.

When he was arrested last year, the Mexican army said in a statement that Escajeda was also presumably responsible for the killing of anti-crime activist Benjamin LeBaron and a neighbor in Mexico.

The battle between the Mexican drug cartels and U.S. authorities is no secret. The cartels in Juarez have forced a spotlight upon themselves due to their proximity to El Paso and the increase of violent crimes within the Mexican city.

U.S. officials have been working closely with the Mexican government to extradite and prosecute alleged drug dealers and traffickers in the U.S. The U.S. judicial and prison system is thought to be more efficient than the comparable processes in Mexico. Moreover, the Mexican prison system is thought to be dangerous, and many offenders are killed in prison before trial ever begins.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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UPDATE: Mexican Government Grants Extradition Request for “La Barbie”

November 22, 2010

Mexican officials said Saturday they have begun the process to extradite alleged drug kingpin Edgar Valdez, known as “La Barbie” for his fair looks, to the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Valdez, a U.S. national born in Laredo, Texas, is charged in a 2002 indictment in Louisiana for alleged cocaine trafficking, and a 1998 indictment for drug trafficking in Texas.

The bilingual Valdez, 37, was arrested on August 30 in a police raid in central Mexico. Known as a ruthless killer, Mexican officials blame him for scores of murders across the country, especially in the southern tourist resort of Acapulco.

As previously reported, Valdez specifically requested extradition to the United States to face the charges. Several motives might exist for this request, such as the fear of being killed in Mexico’s dangerous prisons or perhaps the possibility of providing U.S. authorities with information regarding Mexican drug cartels in exchange for a plea agreement.

A judge ordered Valdez detained pending extradition, the office of Mexico’s attorney general said in a statement.

Valdez was moved to the maximum security prison of El Altiplano, in the central state of Mexico, until the months-long extradition process has been completed.

Valez was a key lieutenant of Arturo Beltran Leyva, who headed the cartel that bears his name and was Mexico’s third most-wanted man until he was killed in a military raid in December 2009.

As a head of Beltran Leyva’s hit squad, “La Barbie” allegedly engaged in a bloody gang war with Arturo’s brother Hector for control of the Beltran Leyva organization.

Since his arrest the Mexican government had not pressed charges, and President Felipe Calderon was forced to deny talk that Valdez negotiated his surrender.

The U.S. State Department had offered up to two million dollars for information leading to his arrest and capture, and Mexican authorities offered 2.2 million dollars.

“La Barbie” is one of six drug lords the government says it has captured or killed this year in Mexico.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Alleged Mexican Drug Kingpin ‘La Barbie’ Seeks Extradition to U.S.

September 13, 2010

Edgar Valdez Villareal, a U.S.-born alleged drug lord who was captured in Mexico last week, wants to return to his roots in Texas to face trial rather than stay in a Mexican jail, his lawyer said.

Valdez, called “La Barbie” in Mexico for his green eyes and sandy colored hair, has a reputation for beheading opponents in Mexico’s violent drug wars. He fears that he will get killed in a Mexican prison, according to Kent Schaffer, his Houston-based lawyer.

Schaffer asked U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual to appeal to the Mexican government to deport Valdez to the U.S., where he faces charges of drug trafficking.

Valdez denies all charges against him, and denies that he was responsible for any beheadings.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said it deferred to the Mexican government on the deportation issue. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department wouldn’t comment specifically on the request.

Valdez is being held for a 40-day period while Mexican police investigate charges against him. Mexican officials say they will decide later on whether he will face charges in Mexico or whether he will be deported to the U.S., where he faces charges of trafficking tons of cocaine in Georgia, Texas and Louisiana.

A spokeswoman for the office of Mexico’s attorney general said Valdez is being held at federal police headquarters, where he is safe.

The deportation request is an unusual one in the history of Latin American drug trafficking. In the 1980s, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar led a bombing campaign against the government there partly to avoid being sent to the U.S. More recently, scores of Mexican drug traffickers have been forcibly extradited to the U.S.

Valdez, 37 years old, is the first major suspected Mexican drug lord captured alive since his former boss, Arturo Beltran Leyva, known as the “Boss of Bosses,” was killed in a gunbattle with Mexican marines in December. Ignacio Coronel, a leading figure in the Sinaloa Cartel, died in a gunfight with Mexican soldiers in July.

Since Valdez has worked with most of Mexico’s top drug barons, including the country’s most powerful trafficker, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, he could provide officials with valuable intelligence, analysts say.

Born and raised in the border city of Laredo, Texas, Valdez was a high-school football standout who went on to become one of Mexico’s most-wanted criminals.

Valdez’s deportation would raise the possibility that the alleged drug lord could cut a deal for a reduced sentence with U.S. authorities in exchange for information.

Speed is of the essence, as the Mexican prison system is notoriously dangerous and Valdez has a lot of enemies.

Two weeks ago, José Luis Carrizales, who like Valdez was an alleged enforcer for the Sinaloa cartel, was killed just hours after being transferred to the penitentiary in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, which is largely controlled by a rival drug gang known as the Zetas.

Controversy has swirled around Valdez since his arrest last week. He startled many Mexicans by smiling during his presentation to reporters in Mexico’s version of the “perp walk.” Many newspaper and TV commentators speculated that the smile suggested Valdez hadn’t been captured, as the government says, but voluntarily surrendered in exchange for a lighter sentence. Conflicting versions of Valdez’s capture have fed the controversy. Mexican media, basing their accounts on a police report, said Valdez was arrested after federal police pulled over his three-car convoy for speeding. According to this account, the police didn’t know who they had stopped until Valdez got out, identified himself and surrendered.

The official government version, sketchy on details, said Valdez was captured after his rural estate was surrounded by federal police in the culmination of a yearlong search.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Alleged Leader of ID Fraud Extradited from Mexico; Faces Charges in Chicago

July 15, 2010

An alleged leader of a counterfeit identification document business that operated in Chicago’s Little Village Community has been extradited from Mexico to face federal charges here, including racketeering conspiracy and murder-related offenses, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, announced today.

The defendant, Manuel Leija-Sanchez, 43, was arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court on eight counts, including racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States, money laundering, bulk cash smuggling, and alien smuggling. He pleaded not guilty and remains in federal custody without bond. A status hearing was scheduled for Aug. 26 before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer. Leija-Sanchez was arrested in Mexico in October 2007 and remained in custody in Mexico until Mexican authorities surrendered him to U.S. law enforcement agents last Friday.

The charges are part of Operation Paper Tiger, an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that, in April 2007, resulted in charges against 24 defendants and dismantled an alleged fraudulent document ring that operated in and around the Little Village Discount Mall and generated nearly $3 million in annual profits.

Manuel Leija-Sanchez allegedly operated the fraudulent document business since 1993 with his brothers, Julio Leija-Sanchez and Pedro Leija-Sanchez. Supposedly, the Mexico-based Leija-Sanchez organization was supervised by an overall leader living in Chicago, and the leadership position rotated among the three Leija-Sanchez brothers, according to an October 2007 indictment. The leader in Chicago and others allegedly ordered violent acts against competitors, rivals and others.

The indictment alleged that the organization sold as many as 50 to 100 sets of fraudulent identification documents each day, charging customers approximately $200 to $300 cash per “set,” consisting of a Social Security card and either an Immigration “green card” or a state driver’s license.

Manuel Leija-Sanchez and his brothers allegedly conspired to murder Guillermo Jimenez-Flores, a former member of their organization who became a fledgling rival and was allegedly shot to death in Mexico in April 2007 by co-defendant Gerardo Salazar-Rodriguez, who was paid by and conspired with the three Leija-Sanchez brothers. The same four defendants also allegedly conspired about the same time to kill a second victim in Mexico.

Pedro Leija-Sanchez and Salazar-Rodriguez are both in custody in Mexico, while Julio Leija-Sanchez was arrested in Chicago and remains in custody while awaiting trial.

If convicted of the most serious charges against him, Manuel Leija-Sanchez faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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