Mexican drug cartels ‘hide in plain sight’ in U.S.

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Kidnappings and killings

In the world of drug trafficking, there are no arbitrators or high-priced lawyers to settle business disputes. Violence is conflict resolution.

The oft-repeated number of more than 10,000 killed during the past two years in Mexico’s drug war, which includes assassinations and beheadings, has sparked outrage and driven interest. Drug cartels operating in America haven’t engaged in nearly that level of violence, though authorities remain fearful, especially about the safety of law enforcement officers as raid after raid has revealed the cartels to be extremely well-armed.

They’ve carried out kidnappings and killings near the border in places such as Phoenix and even as far from the border as Alabama. In a well-publicized case near Birmingham, four men were tortured and killed and their throats slit in retaliation over an apparent drug debt.

The Atlanta region had its own well-publicized kidnapping.

In July, Oscar Reynoso, a 31-year-old Dominican national, was lured from Rhode Island to the Atlanta area under the guise of bringing a car title to a man identified only as Tio in court documents. The DEA describes him as an upper-management level member of the Gulf Cartel.

Mr. Reynoso also owed a $300,000 drug debt to Tio, who authorities say has links to both Atlanta and Dallas.

Tio met Mr. Reynoso outside a Waffle House restaurant and drove him in a Jeep Wrangler to a stately Colonial in a nearby neighborhood of cul-de-sacs in Lilburn, about seven miles from Mr. Haro-Perez’s working-class neighborhood. They drove onto a street called East Fork Shady Drive, past signs warning of running children and over speed bumps that help enforce the 20 mph speed limit.

When Tio pulled the Jeep into the garage, Mr. Reynoso told authorities, seven men with guns lay in wait.

He was beaten and dragged into the basement beneath handsome hardwood floors. His captors bound him to a metal chair with chains around his ankles and zip ties around his wrists. They covered his mouth with black tape.

He was held hostage for the better part of a week before he was rescued by DEA agents who learned of the kidnapping from a wiretap.

Agents arrested three Mexican nationals who had entered the U.S. illegally after being summoned specifically to take part in the kidnapping. They have since pleaded guilty.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, whose jurisdiction includes Lilburn and Norcross, where Mr. Haro-Perez was arrested, says authorities made arrests in about five similar kidnappings last year.

Still, authorities consider the violence here relatively minimal. They say the Mexican cartels, which have included not only the Gulf Cartel, but also the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and others, seem content to operate as major distributors and stay away from street-level dealing, the source of most drug-related violence in the U.S.

Mr. Porter calls the cartels an example of capitalism in its purest form: They took control of the markets with an abundance of products and the lowest prices.

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About the Author
Ben Conery

Ben Conery

Ben Conery is a member of the investigative team covering the Supreme Court and legal affairs. Prior to coming to The Washington Times in 2008, Mr. Conery covered criminal justice and legal affairs for daily newspapers in Connecticut and Massachusetts. He was a 2006 recipient of the New England Newspaper Association’s Publick Occurrences Award for a series of articles about ...

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