Category Archives: Drug Trafficking

Former TSA supervisor charged with trafficking cocaine


USA TODAY | Nov 25, 2013

by Bart Jansen

A Transportation Security Administration supervisor has been indicted for allegedly helping smuggle at least 11 pounds of cocaine through the Virgin Islands, according to federal officials and court documents.

A former Transportation Security Administration supervisor has been indicted for allegedly helping smuggle at least 11 pounds of cocaine through the Virgin Islands, according to federal officials and court documents.

Former TSA Supervisor Dwight Iva Durant, 44, and Shawn Dowe, 29, both of the Virgin Islands, were charged with participating in a trafficking conspiracy, according to Wilfredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney for southern Florida.

The TSA Has Over $500,000 of Travelers’ Loose Change

Each defendant faces a mandatory sentence of 10 years to life in prison, if convicted.

The TSA said Durant no longer works for the agency and that agency officials and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General cooperated in his investigation and apprehension.

“The Transportation Security Administration has zero tolerance for unethical behavior in the workplace,” the agency said in a statement.

The indictment was unsealed Nov. 19, after being filed Nov. 14 – the same day a trial began in St. Thomas for several baggage handlers at Cyril King Airport, according to court records.

The baggage handlers were charged with smuggling drugs in luggage marked with colorful scarves for delivery to recipients in Miami and New York throughout most of 2012, according to their indictment.

The indictment against Durant and Dowe alleges that they helped traffic at least 11 pounds of cocaine during the first eight months of 2012.

Durant was arrested in St. Thomas on Nov. 19 and made his initial court appearance there Nov. 20, according to prosecutor Ferrer. Dowe was arrested in California and ordered held Nov. 20, according to court records.

Both defendants are scheduled to stand trial in U.S. District Court in Miami, where they were indicted.

Knights Templar Cartel Sends Outgoing Mexican President Calderon a Polite Goodbye Note

“We apologize for everything, and as we are not going to see you governing in December, we wish for you, your family and your cabinet, in the words of Vicente Fernandez [an iconic Mexican singer], ‘that everything goes well’ Sincerely, the Knights Templar.”

– Knights Templar Message to Outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderón

Fox News Latino | Nov 15, 2012

In two weeks, Mexican President Felipe Calderón will leave office after six years in power – a time the country saw an enormous rise in violence related to Mexico’s drug cartels.

In honor of his departure from office, one of Mexico’s most secretive cartels left a series of banners in three Mexican states, saying goodbye and wishing the outgoing president and his family well.

The Knights Templar, a quasi-religious break-off faction of the Familia Michoacána, who bill themselves as protectors of the poor and follow an alleged strict ethical code, left banners in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Michoacán and Guanajuato.

“Message to Mr President Felipe Calderón … we have never agreed with the way in which you treated us. Your intentions may have been good, but not your actions,” according to a translation by the website Insight Crime. “We apologize for everything, and as we are not going to see you governing in December, we wish for you, your family and your cabinet, in the words of Vicente Fernandez [an iconic Mexican singer], ‘that everything goes well’ Sincerely, the Knights Templar.”

Since the group’s inception, the Knights Templar have been known for their unique public relations efforts and for their almost apologetic attitude toward their crimes, that include drug trafficking and murder.

The message to Calderón reveals a mixed tone as it both criticizes the outgoing president for the “human pain” he has caused, while surprisingly saying that the group had learned much from him and that they wish he had done more to help the poor.

“Though it condemns his inability to provide the people with justice, it somewhat surprisingly offers an apology, though it is unclear exactly what for,” wrote Edward Fox of Insight Crime. “In light of this, it is likely that the gang believes that with these tactics it can eschew the spotlight of the state’s offensive against organized crime and garner favor with the people it claims to help.”

Like other major drug trafficking organizations in the past – most famously Colombia’s Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel – the group has funded public works and community projects in Michoacán, adding to their Robin Hood “rob from the rich, give to the poor” image they hope to project.

According to a recent report by the Associated Press, the Knights Templar’s strategy seems to be paying off as they’ve replaced law enforcement in many sections of the state and have overtaken the Familia as the region’s main group.

“Despite their efforts to try and gain the government’s favor, however, Michoacán has been the site of numerous security surges against the gang this year,” wrote Edward Fox of Insight. “Given the group’s focus on public relations, it seems likely they will take a similar approach when the new administration of Enrique Peña Nieto arrives next month.”

Peña Nieto takes office on December 1 and has promised to refocus the drug war strategy from taking down high profile targets to reducing the murder rate in Mexico. Since 2006, it is estimated that 60,000 people have died in the ensuring violence related to the drug war.

Britain’s biggest bank: ‘Sorry about helping all those drug and terror gangs’ | Jul 18, 201

By Louise Armitstead & Richard Blackden

HSBC was forced to apologise publicly yesterday (Tuesday) before the US Senate – and its compliance chief resigned – over facilitating a multi-billion-dollar money-laundering operation for drug gangs, terrorists and rogue nations worldwide.

Britain’s biggest bank was “pervasively polluted for a long time” as it allowed funds to be shifted to and from its branches in the United States as far afield as Mexico, Syria, the Cayman Islands, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the hearing was told.

Issuing an apology, Stuart Gulliver, chief executive of HSBC, said: “We have sometimes failed to meet the standards regulators and customer expect… we take responsibility for fixing what went wrong.”

HSBC, the only British bank with US branches, is now braced for a “substantial” fine which analysts said could be up to $1 billion (£640 million). The latest banking scandal comes in the wake of Barclays’ £290 million fines for its role in rigging Libor.

The hearing by the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security was the culmination of a year-long investigation. Its 335-page report into HSBC saw the committee sift through 1.4 million documents and interview 75 HSBC officials, as well as bank regulators. It highlighted damning examples of lax controls and inadequate compliance by staff at HSBC’s 470 US branches.

The bank allegedly ignored specific US measures designed to prevent transactions being made involving terrorists, drug lords and rogue regimes. Two HSBC subsidiaries, for example, processed 25,000 transactions over seven years, worth a total of $19.4 billion, without disclosing that the cash had links to Iran. The bank is also alleged to have moved billions of dollars in cash from Mexican subsidiary HBMX to its US network – despite being warned by both US and Mexican authorities that such sums could only be linked to drug trafficking.

The report said that HSBC accepted more than $15 billion in cash between 2006 and 2009 from Mexico, Russia and other countries at high risk of money-laundering but failed properly to monitor transactions.

The bank even managed to label Mexico, ravaged by corruption and drug wars, as “low risk”, the committee said. HSBC also provided US dollars and banking services to banks in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh despite apparent links to terrorist financing, according to the report.

David Bagley, HSBC’s global head of compliance who had worked at the bank for 20 years, yesterday resigned in front of the committee. He admitted HSBC had “fallen short of our own and regulators’ expectations”.

Senator Carl Levin, who led the committee’s investigation, said HSBC’s lack of controls in America and abroad between 2006 and 2010 had been “a recipe for trouble”.

The report said many of the abuses occurred as a result of HSBC’s failure to monitor its so-called “bearer share accounts”, facilities that legally keep secret the owners and some transactions. At one stage the Miami branch had 1,670 bearer share accounts, holding $2.6 billion of assets and generating revenues of $26 million.

Levin told the hearing: “In an age of international terrorism, drug violence in our streets and on our borders, and organised crime, stopping illicit money flows that support those atrocities is a national security imperative.”

The chairman accepted HSBC had overhauled its systems since the failures were found and was “committed to cleaning its house”.

The investigation into HSBC is the latest US attempt to crack down on money-laundering. Last month, ING agreed to pay $619 million to settle allegations that it broke American sanctions against Cuba and Iran.

Bribe-taking TSA screeners at LAX arrested for drug trafficking

This Jan. 10, 2007 file photo shows Transportation Security Officer Juan Morales at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles. Two former and current Transportation Security Administration employees have been arrested and indicted on drug conspiracy charges for allegedly allowing large amounts of cocaine and other drugs to pass through security screening at Los Angeles International Airport last year. Seven people face drug-related charges in a 22-count indictment unsealed Wednesday April 25, 2012, in Los Angeles federal court. (AP Photo/Ann Johansson, File)

TSA screeners charged in LA drug trafficking probe

Associated Press | Apr 25, 2012


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two former and two current Transportation Security Administration employees have been arrested on federal drug trafficking and bribery charges for allowing large amounts of cocaine and other drugs to pass through X-ray machines at security checkpoints in exchange for cash, authorities said.

A 22-count indictment unsealed Wednesday outlined five incidents where the employees took payments of up to $2,400 to provide drug couriers unfettered access at Los Angeles International Airport over a six-month period last year.

“The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation’s security needs,” said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr.

Among those arrested and charged are Naral Richardson, 30, of Los Angeles, who was fired by TSA in 2010 and accused of orchestrating the scheme; John Whitfield, 23, of Los Angeles, a current TSA screener; Joy White, 27, of Compton, who was terminated last year; and Capeline McKinney, 25, of Los Angeles, also a current screener.

It wasn’t immediately known if any of the four had retained attorneys.

TSA screeners let drug-filled luggage through LAX for cash

TSA Screeners at L.A. Airport Charged With Taking Bribes

TSA screeners at LAX arrested on narcotics trafficking charges

Authorities became aware of the smuggling scheme last February when Richardson, who began working at TSA in 2002 and White, who was hired six years ago, arranged for co-defendant Duane Eleby, a suspected drug courier, to pass a large amount of cocaine through security screening at LAX.

But Eleby failed to follow instructions provided by White and was arrested after he went to the wrong terminal and another TSA screener found the cocaine, prosecutors said.

Federal agents then set up a sting where informants were able to pass cocaine and methamphetamine through security checkpoints without further inspection. In one case, after nearly four kilograms of meth went through an X-ray machine, Whitfield and an operative met in an airport bathroom where Whitfield was paid $600 for his efforts, court documents show.

In another instance, McKinney let more than 20 kilograms of cocaine to pass through her security checkpoint, authorities said.

Randy Parsons, TSA’s security director at LAX, said the agency is disappointed about the arrests but that it remained committed to holding its employees to the highest standards.

If convicted, all four employees face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison. Whitfield, who has worked at TSA since 2008, and McKinney, a seven-year veteran, are under suspension, authorities said.

There have been a handful of other arrests of TSA employees since the agency was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Last week, former TSA officer Jonathan Best pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone for his role in a painkiller trafficking ring. Another former TSA officer, a former New York police officer and a former Florida state trooper have already pleaded guilty.

Opiates killed 8 Americans in Afghanistan, Army records show

56 soldiers, including the eight, were investigated for using, possessing or selling the drugs

More soldiers in the Army overall are testing positive for heroin use

CNN | Apr 23, 2012

By Michael Martinez

(CNN) — Eight American soldiers died of overdoses involving heroin, morphine or other opiates during deployments in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, according to U.S. Army investigative reports.

The overdoses were revealed in documents detailing how the Army investigated a total of 56 soldiers, including the eight who fell victim to overdoses, on suspicion of possessing, using or distributing heroin and other opiates.

At the same time, heroin use apparently is on the rise in the Army overall, as military statistics show that the number of soldiers testing positive for heroin has grown from 10 instances in fiscal year 2002 to 116 in fiscal year 2010.

Army officials didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment on Saturday. But records from the service’s Criminal Investigation Command, obtained by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch, provided glimpses into how soldiers bought drugs from Afghan juveniles, an Afghan interpreter and in one case, an employee of a Defense Department contractor, who was eventually fired.

The drug use is occurring in a country that is estimated to supply more than 90% of the world’s opium, and the Taliban insurgency is believed to be stockpiling the drug to finance their activities, according to a 2009 U.N. study. While the records show some soldiers using heroin, much of the opiate abuse by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan involves prescription drugs such Percocet, the Army documents show.

Judicial Watch obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information of Act and provided them to CNN. Spokesman Col. Gary Kolb of the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led command in Afghanistan, verified the documents to CNN on Saturday.

One fatal overdose occurred in June 2010 at Forward Operating Base Blessing, after a soldier asked another soldier to buy black tar opium from a local Afghan outside the base’s entry control point. The first soldier died after consuming the opium like chewing tobacco and smoking pieces of it in a cigarette, the documents show.

The reports even show soldier lingo for the drug — calling it “Afghani dip” in one case where three soldiers were accused of using the opiate, the Army investigative reports show.

The United States has 89,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. death toll since the September 11, 2001, attacks that triggered the war has risen to more than 1,850, including 82 this year, according to the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Central Command.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said his group was interested in soldiers’ drug use partly because the risk was present during the Vietnam War.

“You never want to see news of soldiers dying of drug use in Afghanistan,” Fitton said. “Our concern is, will the military treat this as the problem that it is, and are the families of the soldiers aware of the added risk in this drug-infested country?

“There is a dotted line between the uses. Prescription abuse can easily veer into heroin drug use,” Fitton added. “Afghanistan is the capital of this opiate production and the temptation is great there and the opportunity for drug use all the more.”

The group is concerned that “there hasn’t been enough public discussion, and we would encourage the leadership to discuss or talk about this issue more openly,” Fitton said.

In one case, a soldier bought heroin and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax from five “local national juveniles at multiple locations on Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, and consumed them,” one report states. Soldiers also distributed heroin, Percocet and other drugs among themselves, according to the reports.

Another soldier fatally overdosed in December 2010 after taking several drugs, including morphine and codeine, though the drugs were not prescribed for him, the Army documents show.

One female soldier broke into the Brigade Medical Supply Office at Forward Operating Base Shank and stole expired prescription narcotics including morphine, Percocet, Valium, fentanyl and lorazepam, the documents show.

The investigative reports show soldiers using other drugs, including steroids and marijuana, and even hashish that was sold to U.S. servicemen by the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police personnel, the reports state.

Knights Templar Claim To Have Negotiated Drop in Food Prices | Apr 3, 2012

by  Christopher Looft

Mexico’s Knights Templar are allegedly behind a series of “narco-banners” claiming the group has helped lower food prices across the state of Michoacan, the latest in a series of ambitious public relations efforts by the criminal group.

According to news service Agencia Esquema, one banner read, in part, “The Knights Templar are not narcos, much less a criminal cartel, the Knights Templar are are a brotherhood of citizens who respect the constitution… in the past few days our brotherhood has invited the meat and tortilla vendors to lower their prices. An invitation accepted by our friends the merchants and recognized by the neediest people of our state. Keeping clear that for said action to occur there existed no pressure, nor blackmail, much less charging fees.”

“Narcomantas” were reported in the cities of Morelia, capital of Michoacan state, as well as Zitacuaro, Lazaro Cardenas, Uruapan, Apatzingan, Ocampo, and Tuxpan.
InSight Crime Analysis

This series of “narcomantas” follows the truce called by the Knights Templar in advance of the Pope’s visit to Guanajuato, a state neighboring Michoacan. The group, an offshoot of the Familia Michoacana, has, like its predecessor, cultivated a unique image through its use of banners and religious iconography, like the Roman-style helmets seized in late February.

This latest round of banners appears to be another cynical ploy to shore up public support. It seems unlikely that the Knights Templar were able to convince vendors to lower their prices without offering some kind of incentive, whether a threat or a bribe. Additionally, despite their claims otherwise, violence was not completely halted in their stronghold of Michoacan during the Pope’s visit to neighboring Guanajuato, calling into question the sincerity of their public announcements.

Mexican President Calderon calls for assault weapon ban in U.S.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon listens to remarks during a news conference with President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the White House. (Pete Marovich / EPA / April 2, 2012) | Apr 2, 2012

By Kathleen Hennessey

Reporting from Washington—Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Monday pushed for a revival of a ban on assault weapons in the U.S., arguing that the ban’s expiration has led to the spread of guns across the border and a spike in violence in Mexico.

“The expiring of the assault weapons ban in the year 2004 coincided almost exactly with the beginning of the harshest — the harshest — period of violence we’ve ever seen,” Calderon said, through an interpreter, at a White House news conference on Monday. The Mexican leader was in Washington to meet with President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a summit on economic cooperation and trade among the three countries. But the ongoing drug war in Mexico largely overshadowed those conversations.

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In remarks to reporters in the Rose Garden, Calderon urged the U.S. to do more to tamp down on gun trafficking and emphasized that the drug cartels are operating on both sides of the border. He claimed a direct connection between the weakening of gun laws in the U.S. and deaths in his country.

“I know that if we don’t stop the traffic of weapons into Mexico, if we don’t have mechanisms to forbid the sale of weapons such as we had in the ’90s, or for registry of guns, at least for assault weapons, then we are never going to be able to stop the violence in Mexico or stop a future turning of those guns upon the U.S.,” he said.

Obama, whose administration has not pushed to reinstate the ban, did not respond to the Mexican president’s statement directly. Democrats largely have called a truce when it comes to advancing new gun control legislation, a political calculation based on the party’s attempts to appeal to more rural and Western voters.

The president promised to “keep on partnering” with Mexico on security issues.

“We recognize that we have a responsibility to reduce demand for drugs, that we have a responsibility to make sure that not only guns, but also bulk cash isn’t flowing into Mexico,” Obama said. “Obviously, President Calderon takes very seriously his responsibilities to apply effective law enforcement within Mexico. And I think he’s taken courageous steps to do that.”

Obama added that “innocent families and women and children being gunned down in the streets, that should be everybody’s problem, not just their [Mexico’s] problem.”

But the administration’s primary message is aimed at trade. Obama announced a new effort with Canada and Mexico to remove outdated trade regulations. The three countries have committed to “sit down together, go through the books and simplify and eliminate more regulations that will make our joint economies stronger,” said Obama.

Obama said this is an extension of a White House effort to cut red tape in the U.S. that is aimed at saving businesses and customers more than $100 billion.

When medium and small businesses in the U.S. first start exporting, they usually send their products to Canada and Mexico.

“So this is going to help create jobs, and it’s going to keep us on track to meet my goal of doubling U.S. exports,” said Obama.

Obama also said that U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico are growing faster than exports to the rest of the world. In 2011, trade with Canada and Mexico surpassed $1 trillion for the first time.

Police chief found with cult-like Knights Templar leaflets

AP | Mar 22, 2012

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican Army says it has detained the police chief of a town in western Mexico who had pamphlets and banners about the cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel, as well as cocaine and hand grenades in his patrol car.

The Defense Department says in a statement released Thursday that Raymundo Monroy was detained Monday in the town of Huetamo in Michoacan state, where he is police chief. Soldiers also found cocaine, two automatic rifles, and two hand grenades.

It says troops searched Monroy’s car after he began acting nervously at a military checkpoint in Huetamo.

The Knights Templar cartel appeared in 2010. It claims to protect Michoacan and defend ethical principles, but in fact engages in drug trafficking, killings and extortion.

US-Funded Afghan Air Force Suspected of Drug Running: Report

ABC | Mar 8, 2012

The U.S. government has reportedly launched a pair of probes to determine whether Afghan officials have been using military planes — much of which paid for by the U.S. — to illegally smuggle guns and drugs around the country.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, both the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan are separately investigating suspected illicit activities carried out under the noses of U.S. military advisers and possibly with the knowledge of high Afghan officials.

Suspicions about alleged corruption in the Afghan Air Force (AAF) were disclosed publicly in January in a U.S. Air Force special investigation report on the murder of eight U.S. Air Force personnel and one contractor by an Afghan officer who later turned his gun on himself in the Kabul airport in April 2011. The shooter in that case was identified as Col. Ahmed Gul, a cargo and passenger coordinator for the AAF with reported financial and mental problems.

In the Air Force report, two witnesses stated they believed the AAF to be a hotbed of “nefarious” activity where Afghan officials could make quick money by ferrying people or cargo around the country — often with little or no screening.


U.S. Funded, Trained and Equipped Afghan Air Force Running Guns and Drugs

“There is a distinct lack of transparency in the way the Afghan Ministry of Defense [and the] AAF like to schedule and fly their missions,” one witness, only identified as a Lieutenant Colonel, says in the report. “The Afghans either don’t know or don’t want to tell us who or what they’re flying around the country. All this looks very suspicious to the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan mentors who have been in country for more than a few months.”

Specifically, the witnesses said the Afghan air officers would be paid directly to usher top Afghan officials around at the last minute. In its report today, The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger as saying the current allegations also include the transport of narcotics and weapons “for the use of private groups” within Afghanistan. The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan is home to 90 percent of the world’s opium — the main ingredient in heroin.

Though the Air Force investigation did not find a singular motive for Gul’s sudden attack, when the shooting took place a new system “was being developed to ensure [AAF] flights were officially tasked through a legitimate [AAF] process…” the Air Force report said.

In a statement to ABC News, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force said today it is working with its Afghan partners to “arrest and reverse criminal penetration in the [Afghan National Security Forces] and to ensure security ministries and their forces become sufficiently resistant to and insulated from criminal network interference and subversion.”

“ISAF takes seriously any allegation of impropriety on the part of its forces or those of the Afghan National Security Forces we mentor and partner with,” the statement said. The statement noted that in the last year, 50 “criminal actors” had been discovered in the security forces.

A DEA spokesperson told ABC News that by policy, the administration does not confirm or deny any potential ongoing investigations. A spokesperson for the AAF and Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, told The Wall Street Journal they were unaware of the investigations. The AAF spokesperson denied the allegations.

Mexican army finds cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel’s helmets used during initiation rituals

The Knights take their name from the original Knights Templars, which were founded during the Middle Ages. Although the 13th-century Knights were a charitable organization, they were also the most vicious crusaders. | Feb 29, 2012

The Mexican army says it has found 120 plastic helmets worn by members of the Knights Templar drug cartel during initiation ceremonies for new members, the Associated Press reported.

This style of helmet is worn in rural Mexico by people portraying centurions in plays during Easter week. The helmets were found in a rural area in the Michoacán department in western Mexico.

The Knights Templar emerged in 2010, announcing itself on banners strung across the country. The Knights’ leaders claimed this was the new name of La Familia Michoacana, an organized crime syndicate that is the main producer of methamphetamine to the United States.


Mexico finds cult-like drug cartel’s helmets

The rename was also a rebrand, according to those banners, which stated that the Knights were committed to “Safeguarding of order, preventing robberies, kidnappings and extortions,” The Monitor, a newspaper in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, reported. In about a year, however, the Knights Templar earned a reputation for violence and drug trafficking.

Then again, the name may be fitting.

The Knights take their name from the original Knights Templars, which were founded during the Middle Ages. Although the 13th-century Knights were a charitable organization, they were also the most vicious crusaders.