- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Treasury Department has targeted under the “Kingpin Act” 18 persons and five companies tied to a Mexican drug trafficker convicted in the brutal 1985 kidnapping and murder of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent — prohibiting U.S. residents from conducting financial or commercial transactions with them and freezing any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.

Rafael Caro Quintero has been identified as the mastermind behind the killing of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was kidnapped off a Guadalajara street in broad daylight by Mexican police, brutally beaten and then buried near a ranch 60 miles southwest of the city — a death that continues to echo even now throughout the agency.

The veteran agent, along with his pilot, Capt. Alfredo Zavala Avelar, had been viciously tortured by bosses of a Mexican drug cartel fearful he had uncovered a multimillion-dollar smuggling operation tied to top officers in the Mexican army, along with Mexican police and government officials.

Over a 30-hour period, Camarena’s skull, jaw, nose, cheekbones and windpipe had been crushed. His ribs were broken; a hole was drilled into his head with a screwdriver. The agent had been injected with drugs to ensure he remained conscious during his torture.

Caro Quintero was convicted in Mexico in Camarena’s killing, along with drug trafficking charges, and is currently serving a 40 year prison sentence there.

Gary Haff, acting chief of DEA’s Financial Operations Section, described the Treasury Department designation as “another critical tool that helps us pursue hardened career criminals and keep them on the run, making it even more difficult to use the drug assets they have amassed.

“No amount of effort can clean their dirty money, paid for with their violence and by their victims, including DEA Special Agent Kiki Camarena,” he said. “DEA is committed to seeing that justice is done, and we will not rest until they and their global criminal networks have been put out of business, their assets have been sized and their freedom has been taken.”

Adam Szubin, director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said Caro Quintero has used a network of family members and others to invest his fortune into legitimate companies and real estate projects in Guadalajara.

“With the assistance of the government of Mexico, OFAC continues to target drug traffickers, the laundering of their ill-gotten gains, and those who assist them in their illicit activities,” he said.

The designation includes six of Caro Quintero’s family members; a longtime personal secretary; three others who manage a variety of companies in Guadalajara, which also were designated. Others include those who help Caro Quintero in money laundering operations and members of their families.

The brutality of the Camarena torture shocked even the most hardcore of DEA agents. Abducted in Guadalajara by five Jalisco State police officers within a block of the U.S. Consulate, Camarena was still bound and gagged, his eyes taped shut, when his body was found.

Due to be reassigned less than a month after his body was discovered, he had infiltrated a number of drug gangs, confiscated thousands of pounds of cocaine and marijuana, and seized millions of dollars in illicit drug profits. He had become the worst nightmare for drug smugglers throughout Mexico, particularly those in Guadalajara, then the center of that country’s drug-trafficking empire.

The kidnapping and slaying led to the most comprehensive homicide investigations ever undertaken by DEA, which ultimately uncovered corruption and complicity by numerous Mexican officials. Operation Leyenda, translated as Operation Lawman, was established in May 1985 to investigate the abduction. DEA was ultimately successful in securing indictments of several people connected to the slaying.

Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from fines of up to $1.075 million per violation. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million.

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