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Archive for March 15th, 2013

Weekend Series on Crime: Prison Gangs

The Story of 2 Dead Costa Rica Cops, the Drug Cartels and America’s Insatiable Appetite for Drugs

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

As he left for work on a January day this year, Police Officer Carlos Perez said goodbye to his wife and young children at their home in Limon, Costa Rica.

As law enforcement officers and their families across the globe, they faced the unspoken reality that it could be the last time they would have together. This day this reality came true.

Officer Perez and his partner, Jesus Garro, were motorcycle cops in Limon, and their assignment on that day was to apprehend four burglars who had ransacked a house, tied up its owner, and stole his truck filled with much of his personal property. The officers did find the criminals, shots were fired, and the stolen truck veered into them while they were standing next to their cycles, killing them both instantly. One of the officers managed to shoot and kill one of the culprits before the truck crushed him and his partner.

Two of Officer Perez’s relatives, who live in the US, were in Limon visiting at the time of the murders. After they read my column last week about drug trafficking in Honduras, we talked several times about their search to understand his death and what effect drug trafficking was having on their idyllic little country. I am grateful for their sharing with me this discourse at a time of family grief.

Ross Parker

Their unspoken question was whether American consumer demand for cocaine had been a direct or an indirect cause of this tragedy.

The answer, as with so many imponderables in the war against drugs, is that we may never know if there was a direct relationship between the increased Mexican drug cartel activity in Costa Rica and the men who killed the officers. There does, however, appear to be a reasonable likelihood of an indirect connection.

For several years the cartels have increasingly used Costa Rica as a transit point and storage and trading center for cocaine coming from South America and destined for the US. They commonly hire local criminals to assist the operation. These recruits frequently come to use the drug and need sources of illegal cash to support their habits. Burglary is a worldwide method to raise money for drugs.

Life in Costa Rica is much different than that for most Hondurans. As reported earlier, Honduras suffers from all of the ancillary effects of the combination of poverty and drug trafficking, overflowing prisons, unchecked criminal violence, official corruption, unstable governments, and rampant street crime by criminal gangs.

In contrast Costa Rica has managed to avoid the chaos of bloody coups and government instability. In 1949 Costa Rica abolished its army and used the money to promote social improvement. For half a century it has increasingly become a peaceful liberal democracy with a high standard of living and a thriving tourist industry. In 2009 the New Economic Foundation ranked Costa Rica as first in the world on its Happy Planet Index.

This health and happiness assessment is apparent among the people of Costa Rica. They enjoy a long life expectancy, a better health care system in many respects than that of the US, and a high literacy rate. A common response among friends to the question “how are you?” is “Pure Vida” or good life.

The question is whether the drug cartels’ efforts to satisfy their American customers is going to mess up the Good Life in this easy going paradise.

The one area that the Central American neighbors of Honduras and Costa Rica have in common is the unfortunate geography, in this respect, of occupying territory from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Anything traveling by land from South America to Mexico must cross the territorial bridge of each country. Today 80% of the cocaine coming from South America passes through these countries.

The increasing use of the cocaine highway from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, ultimately to the US, has meant that Mexican syndicates like the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel utilize both countries as trading centers. The effects on Honduras have been obvious and deadly.

The effect on Costa Rica has been more subtle but is equally troublesome to its citizens because of the peaceful equanimity they have enjoyed. But evidence of trafficking has become more and more apparent in the last two or three years. The lengthy coastlines and unguarded border crossings make drug enforcement a difficult challenge for the limited number of police in the country, only 11.000 officers with no military support. Even with recent increases the law enforcement budget for the country is less than most major US cities.

On the positive side the US, through DEA and the military, have established an effective partnership along with providing tens of millions of US dollars that have enabled Costa Rica to transform its law enforcement and criminal justice system with the help of  a$2 million satellite and radio communication station on the Pacific coast.

The Costa Rican government has responded to the challenge by taking an aggressive stand against drug activity and related crimes. Further proposals include new wiretap, extradition and forfeiture laws, as well as increased sentences and imprisonment statistics.

Some in the country fear that these efforts are negatively affecting the Good Life in Costa Rica. However, the power and resources of the cartels seem to have given the country few alternatives but to take this get-tough stance.

The President of Costa Rica has asked two things of the US:  Increase its support and cooperation for international drug enforcement, and step up its efforts to reduce consumption in the US. These appear to be reasonable requests.

The Perez children will grow up with the knowledge that their father was a hero who sacrificed his life to improve the lives of his countrymen. Like the families left behind by fallen American law enforcement officers, they deserve to know that their sacrifice came with the realization that a renewed commitment to drug enforcement both at home and abroad was in order in America.

 

Judge Removed in “Whitey” Bulger Case

Whitey Bulger

 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Boston federal judge in the James “Whitey” Bulger case has been removed.

CNN reports that the First Circuit Court of Appeals made the ruling after the defense raised concerns that U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns might not be able to be impartial.

Stearns was a federal prosecutor at the time that Bulger was a big-time gangster in Boston.

“Despite our respect for Judge Stearns and our belief in his sincerity, we are nonetheless bound to conclude that it is clear that a reasonable person might question the judge’s ability to preserve impartiality through the course of this prosecution,” the appeals court ruled.

 

 

San Francisco Homeland Security Agent Faces Child Porn Charges

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A San Francisco Department of Homeland Security Agent faces child pornography charges after police say he had an elaborate computer set-up with more than 85 images and videos of child porn, according to KGO-TV ABC 7.

The investigation of Agent Gilbert Lam began in 2011 and ended last week.

“It was quite elaborate,” Esposto told KGO of the computer set-up. “His resources and electronic expertise he had. I remember being at the house and he had a whole closet downstairs, like he had his own independent server, several computers, several hard drives, electronic storage devices.”

At the time of his arrest, Lam worked as a Homeland Security agent.

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

The Story of 2 Dead Costa Rica Cops, the Drug Cartels and America’s Insatiable Appetite for Drugs

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

As he left for work on a January day this year, Police Officer Carlos Perez said goodbye to his wife and young children at their home in Limon, Costa Rica.

As law enforcement officers and their families across the globe, they faced the unspoken reality that it could be the last time they would have together. This day this reality came true.

Officer Perez and his partner, Jesus Garro, were motorcycle cops in Limon, and their assignment on that day was to apprehend four burglars who had ransacked a house, tied up its owner, and stole his truck filled with much of his personal property. The officers did find the criminals, shots were fired, and the stolen truck veered into them while they were standing next to their cycles, killing them both instantly. One of the officers managed to shoot and kill one of the culprits before the truck crushed him and his partner.

Two of Officer Perez’s relatives, who live in the US, were in Limon visiting at the time of the murders. After they read my column last week about drug trafficking in Honduras, we talked several times about their search to understand his death and what effect drug trafficking was having on their idyllic little country. I am grateful for their sharing with me this discourse at a time of family grief.

Ross Parker

Their unspoken question was whether American consumer demand for cocaine had been a direct or an indirect cause of this tragedy.

The answer, as with so many imponderables in the war against drugs, is that we may never know if there was a direct relationship between the increased Mexican drug cartel activity in Costa Rica and the men who killed the officers. There does, however, appear to be a reasonable likelihood of an indirect connection.

For several years the cartels have increasingly used Costa Rica as a transit point and storage and trading center for cocaine coming from South America and destined for the US. They commonly hire local criminals to assist the operation. These recruits frequently come to use the drug and need sources of illegal cash to support their habits. Burglary is a worldwide method to raise money for drugs.

Life in Costa Rica is much different than that for most Hondurans. As reported earlier, Honduras suffers from all of the ancillary effects of the combination of poverty and drug trafficking, overflowing prisons, unchecked criminal violence, official corruption, unstable governments, and rampant street crime by criminal gangs.

In contrast Costa Rica has managed to avoid the chaos of bloody coups and government instability. In 1949 Costa Rica abolished its army and used the money to promote social improvement. For half a century it has increasingly become a peaceful liberal democracy with a high standard of living and a thriving tourist industry. In 2009 the New Economic Foundation ranked Costa Rica as first in the world on its Happy Planet Index.

This health and happiness assessment is apparent among the people of Costa Rica. They enjoy a long life expectancy, a better health care system in many respects than that of the US, and a high literacy rate. A common response among friends to the question “how are you?” is “Pure Vida” or good life.

The question is whether the drug cartels’ efforts to satisfy their American customers is going to mess up the Good Life in this easy going paradise.

The one area that the Central American neighbors of Honduras and Costa Rica have in common is the unfortunate geography, in this respect, of occupying territory from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Anything traveling by land from South America to Mexico must cross the territorial bridge of each country. Today 80% of the cocaine coming from South America passes through these countries.

The increasing use of the cocaine highway from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, ultimately to the US, has meant that Mexican syndicates like the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel utilize both countries as trading centers. The effects on Honduras have been obvious and deadly.

The effect on Costa Rica has been more subtle but is equally troublesome to its citizens because of the peaceful equanimity they have enjoyed. But evidence of trafficking has become more and more apparent in the last two or three years. The lengthy coastlines and unguarded border crossings make drug enforcement a difficult challenge for the limited number of police in the country, only 11.000 officers with no military support. Even with recent increases the law enforcement budget for the country is less than most major US cities.

On the positive side the US, through DEA and the military, have established an effective partnership along with providing tens of millions of US dollars that have enabled Costa Rica to transform its law enforcement and criminal justice system with the help of  a$2 million satellite and radio communication station on the Pacific coast.

The Costa Rican government has responded to the challenge by taking an aggressive stand against drug activity and related crimes. Further proposals include new wiretap, extradition and forfeiture laws, as well as increased sentences and imprisonment statistics.

Some in the country fear that these efforts are negatively affecting the Good Life in Costa Rica. However, the power and resources of the cartels seem to have given the country few alternatives but to take this get-tough stance.

The President of Costa Rica has asked two things of the US:  Increase its support and cooperation for international drug enforcement, and step up its efforts to reduce consumption in the US. These appear to be reasonable requests.

The Perez children will grow up with the knowledge that their father was a hero who sacrificed his life to improve the lives of his countrymen. Like the families left behind by fallen American law enforcement officers, they deserve to know that their sacrifice came with the realization that a renewed commitment to drug enforcement both at home and abroad was in order in America.

 

On His Second Mission, an FBI Tactical Dog named Ape Was Killed by Gunman

photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

It was Ape’s second mission.

The Czech German Shepherd was searching inside an abandoned bar in upstate New York for a man accused of killing four people and shooting at police officers when the suspect shot the tactical dog in the chest, the New York Times reports.

Police returned fire and killed Ape, who was 2 years 4 months old and equipped with a camera.

“We were trying to do everything we could to try to save its life,” Dr. Emily M. Green, one of the veterinarians at Herkimer Veterinary Associates who worked on Ape, told the Times.

Ape was the second FBI tactical canine to die in the line of duty since October 2009, the New York Times reported.

Reuters Editor Charged with Helping Anonymous Hack the LA Times Website

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A 26-year-old Reuters editor is charged with helping computer hacker, Anonymous, break into the LA Times’ website, the Huffington Post reports.

It’s not that Matthew Keys was trying to keep his relationship with Anonymous a secret.

According to the Huffington Post, Keys boasted on a blog in March 2011 that he chatted with “top level hackers within Anonymous.”

“I identified myself as a journalist during my interaction with the top-level Anonymous hackers and at no time did I offer said individuals any agreement of confidentiality,” he wrote. “In fact, I asked several of them for their feelings should they be exposed. They seemed, by and large, indifferent.”

Keys faces up to 25 years in prison on charges he conspired with Anonymous to hack the LA Times site by giving the underground group usernames and passwords to alter the site.

FBI Questions Suspect in Attack on U.S. Consulate in Benghazi

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has finally been given access to a man suspected of being involved in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, sources close to the case told the Washington Times.

Sources told the Times that the suspect is being detained and questioned.

Authorities found the man, Farai al-Shibli, after he returned from a trip to Pakistan, the Times reported.

The level of involvement of the suspect remains unclear.

Homeland Security officials said they believe more than a dozen people were involved in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.