Investigators with the Drug Enforcement Agency helped a Mexican narcotics kingpin transfer million of dollars in illegal cash profits, the New York Times reports today.
The DEA program recalls a similar, much smaller scale operation first reported in the Voice last month in our article about government informant Angel Perez. The Voice article disclosed that Perez convinced U.S. Immigration and customs agents to move $500,000 in cash from the Dominican Republic to Miami and Puerto Rico. But, somehow, the smuggling operation didn’t result in any arrests or even the identification of the source of the money.
The Times report, meanwhile, says that DEA agents got involved in the illegal scheme back in 2007 to infiltrate and take apart drug organizations in Mexico. The agents also helped the kingpin, Harold Mauricio Poveda-Ortega, move a big shipment of cocaine from Ecuador through Dallas to Madrid. DEA agents posed as pilots offering to ship cocaine for $1,000 a kilo.
Rightly, the Times article asks the question of whether the DEA was “fighting or facilitating crime.” And the conclusion? Well, in Timesian fashion, we don’t get an answer. The article quotas a former federal prosecutor saying that stateside rules don’t apply overseas, so law enforcement agencies “make up the rules as they go along.”
“It’s a slippery slop,” Morris Panner tells the Times. “The United States could end up helping the bad guys more than hurting them.”
As for the DEA, the Times got a statement defending the practice, and saying that the operation allowed “Mexican authorities to kill or capture dozens of high-ranking and mid level drug dealers.”
The kingpin, Poveda-Ortega, evaded arrest for two years, before he was finally caught in November of 2010.