- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2012

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies have distributed the bulk of $29.5 million in “asset sharing” funds to a dozen Texas law enforcement agencies to combat drug cartels.

The money was forfeited by a February 2010 court order issued against Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, the former boss of the Gulf drug cartel, who was sentenced in November 2010 to 25 years in prison for threatening to assault two U.S. agents and a Cameron County, Texas, deputy sheriff.

The funds constitute proceeds from Cardenas-Guillen’s illegal enterprises, which included money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping, assault and homicide.

“With equitable asset-sharing like this, federal and local law enforcement can really turn the tables on the bad guys,” said James Dinkins, executive associate director of ICE who heads the agency’s Homeland Security Investigations Division. “We simply take their illegal profits and invest them in local law enforcement efforts.”

The distribution list included $5.9 million to the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office; $2.9 million each to the Brownsville and McAllen Police Departments; and $1.14 million each to the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard’s Counter-Drug Support group.

Receiving $1.18 million each are seven Texas law-enforcement agencies: the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, the Hidalgo County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, the Mission Police Department, the Palmview Police Department, the Pharr Police Department and the San Juan Police Department.

ICE officials said the rest of the forfeited cash, about $7 million, was retained for federal agencies that participated in the investigation for numerous investigative initiatives.

Mr. Dinkins said he was “proud to join our federal partners in recognizing the key role that our local law enforcement partners played in bringing to justice the notorious former head of the Gulf cartel.”

Cardenas-Guillen was sentenced to federal prison with no parole and ordered to forfeit $50 million to the United States. The funds shared with south Texas law enforcement partners constituted a portion of the assets obtained when the money was seized.

Indicted in 2000, Cardenas-Guillen was one of 15 major drug defendants extradited in 2007 to the U.S. from Mexico. While head of the Gulf cartel, he oversaw a vast drug trafficking empire responsible for bringing thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. from Mexico.

U.S. authorities said Cardenas-Guillen used violence and intimidation to further the goals of his criminal enterprise. In May 1999, he threatened to kill a Cameron County deputy sheriff who was working in an undercover capacity with ICE after the officer refused to deliver a load of about 2,100 pounds of marijuana.

Later, in November 1999, while traveling in an official vehicle through Matamoros, Mexico, a DEA agent and an FBI agent were surrounded by Cardenas-Guillen and his gang and threatened at gunpoint. Although eventually allowed to leave, Cardenas-Guillen warned the agents not to return.

• Jerry Seper can be reached at jseper@washingtontimes.com.

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