MARCH 07, 2017
The Obama administration had numerous opportunities to arrest Mexican drug and weapons traffickers before murdering a federal U.S. agent and seriously wounding his partner but opted for the hands-off approach, a new federal audit reveals. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which operates under the Department of Justice (DOJ), should have stopped the traffickers—members of the Los Zetas organization—long before the Immigration and Customs (ICE) agents were ambushed in Mexico with firearms smuggled south of the border thanks to a once-secret Obama administration gun-running operation.
Instead, on February 15, 2011, ICE agents Victor Avila and Jaime Zapata were assaulted while returning to Mexico City from Matehuala, Mexico in their government-issued armored sports utility vehicle. Both agents were on assignment in Mexico and their SUV displayed diplomatic license plates. After passing through a toll booth on Mexican Route 57 in the early afternoon the agents noticed that two vehicles were following them, one of which passed and blocked the agents’ SUV from the front, forcing it to stop. Approximately eight assailants approached the SUV armed with various firearms, including assault weapons (AK-47s and AR-1Ss) and handguns. Two of the assailants gained access to the interior of the SUV through a partially open window and shot Zapata and Avila. Zapata died and Avila was seriously wounded.
Authorities determined that members of the renowned drug trafficking organization Los Zetas carried out the attack with weapons that had been purchased in Texas as part of a scandalous Obama administration operation that that allowed guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. The whole thing blew up when federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which have been used in an unknown number of crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona. In this case the buyers, Otilio Osorio and his brother, Ranferi Osorio, had long been on the ATF radar for trafficking guns to Mexico. In fact, more than a year before the ICE agents were attacked the ATF witnessed the Osorio brothers “complete a transfer of 40 firearms” to Mexico, according to a report issued this month by the DOJ Inspector General. “There clearly was probable cause to arrest both Osorio brothers,” the report states after ATF witnessed the Osorios complete a transfer of more than three dozen firearms on November 9, 2010.
Even when ATF agents found guns that they were legally entitled to seize at the Osorio brothers’ house in Lancaster, Texas they didn’t. Two of those weapons were later found at crime scenes in Mexico, the DOJ watchdog writes in its report. “Overall we found numerous problems with ATF’s assimilation of information concerning the Osorio brothers…and the timeliness of ATF’s response to mounting evidence that they were committing firearms offenses,” the report states. “We determined the ATF’s Dallas Field Division had collected sufficient facts to investigate further before Otilio Osorio purchased the gun used in the Mexico ambush.” The report identifies firearms that are most popular among Mexican drug cartels; “These include powerful long arms with high capacity ammunition clips. Examples are the Barrett .SO caliber rifle, AK-47 type rifles, and AR-1S type rifles. The firearms purchased by Otilio Osorio and Riendfliesh both were variants of the AK-47 (a Draco 7.62 caliber pistol and a WASR-10 7.62 caliber semi-automatic rifle).”
Judicial Watch was a leader in investigating the Obama administration’s illegal Mexican gun-running operation and filed several lawsuits in federal court to uncover details. Known as Fast and Furious, the scandalous secret program was masterminded by the DOJ and implemented by the ATF under the leadership of Obama Attorney General Eric Holder. The weapons have been implicated in hundreds of crimes in both Mexico and the U.S., the records show. They also document how high-level officials of the Obama administration covered up the scandal and that the former president abused his office by asserting executive privilege to keep Fast and Furious records from going public. Obama even exerted executive privilege for Holder’s wife and mother to conceal emails with the then Attorney General involving the operation.
FEBRUARY 07, 2017
Illustrating that the Mexican drug crisis is having a far-reaching impact on the U.S., a heroin ring operated by a Mexican cartel was recently busted in an American suburb more than 1,500 miles from the southern border. In the last few years Judicial Watch has reported extensively on the massive amounts of drugs—especially heroin—that get smuggled into the U.S. by Mexican traffickers who later use street, prison and outlaw motorcycle gangs to distribute them throughout the country. Undoubtedly, these enterprises benefitted tremendously from the Obama administration’s open border policies.
Now we have confirmation that these illicit drug operations have penetrated areas far from the border. This case comes out of Rowan County, North Carolina where a local news report reveals that authorities began targeting large-scale heroin distribution in 2013. Last week three people with ties to a Mexican drug cartel were arrested in the county. Large quantities of heroin, handguns, a rifle, ammunition, numerous telephones, cash and drug paraphernalia was confiscated by police. Authorities say the Mexican heroin trafficking ring was based in the Charlotte-Matthews area and has been supplying heroin to Rowan County for more than a decade. “Over the past two months, investigators purchased large amounts of heroin from two people working for this Mexican National Drug Trafficking Organization,” the news report states.
This is hardly earth-shattering news. A number of federal audits have documented the enormous amounts of drugs that annually enter the U.S. through the porous southern border, even as Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary famously proclaimed the region to be as secure as it’s ever been. One report, published just a few months ago, referred to western states as a “heroin transit zone” because Mexican cartels move such large amounts of drugs through the Southwest border. That government assessment disclosed that there at least eight major Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating in the United States with the Sinaloa Cartel being the most active. Heroin is the most popular drug and it’s entering the country through Mexico in record numbers. From 2010 to 2015 heroin seizures in the Mexican border region more than doubled from 1,016 kg to 2,524 kg, according to government figures.
The trend mirrors the increase in overall seizures throughout the U.S. as well. For instance, federal arrests and prosecutions of heroin traffickers have skyrocketed with 6,353 heroin-related arrests in 2015. Additionally, the number of individuals sentenced for heroin trafficking offenses in federal courts has increased by almost 50%, the government confirms. In 2015 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a report disclosing that the majority of illegal drugs in the United States come from Mexico and Mexican traffickers remain the greatest criminal threat to the United States. They’re classified as Transitional Criminal Organizations (TCOs) by the government and they’ve long smuggled in huge quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
A big part of the problem is that the drug trafficking is being leveraged by corrupt public officials in the U.S., a years-long Judicial Watch investigation has found. Undoubtedly, cartel violence is real but truckloads of drugs are getting across the country because U.S. officials at the municipal, state and federal level are turning a blind eye or actively participating and cooperating with cartels. As part of an ongoing probe, Judicial Watch has provided the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley with evidence, including the sworn testimony of law enforcement officers, of this corruption and criminality in all levels of government. Learn more about Judicial Watch’s probe here.