- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal agent says a government unit that compiles phone and wiretap records obtained by federal law enforcement, intelligence agencies and some foreign governments was used in the investigation of a Mexican drug cartel’s activities in Arkansas.

But FBI Special Agent James Woodie testified Friday that the involvement of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division was minimal in the investigation of Nishme Martinez, a U.S. citizen.

Martinez was arrested last year and indicted along with 16 other defendants on a charge of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1nsrWuJ) Saturday. Federal agents have accused Martinez, who is also known as La Gorda, of transporting drug money for a cocaine-trafficking ring headed by her mother, Idalia Ramos Rangel, a Mexican citizen and federal fugitive.

The hearing was held after Martinez’s attorney filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright to order prosecutors to turn over any information about his client that the FBI had obtained from the DEA unit.

The attorney, David Cannon, accused prosecutors of withholding information about phone records the FBI received from the DEA unit regarding Martinez.

Cannon had also questioned whether the records were obtained without a warrant or subpoena and whether the unit’s involvement was intentionally left out of investigative filings turned over to him during discovery.

Federal prosecutors responded by saying that the records were obtained using an administrative subpoena - legal instruments issued not by a court but by agencies such as the FBI - and that none of the records obtained from the Special Operations Division were any different than what was already turned over to the defense.

Still, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Givens told Wright that the government would voluntarily turn over records for two phone numbers for which agents requested information from the Special Operations Division.

Givens’ offer led Wright to rule Cannon’s motion moot.

According to court testimony, a large part of the federal investigation into the drug ring was based on phone calls, recorded by the federal Bureau of Prisons, that were made by Rangel’s son, who is a federal prisoner.

Woodie, the FBI special agent, testified that agents obtained some of Martinez’s phone information from the prison calls as well as other information provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

Agents obtained a subpoena for her phone records from her telecommunications provider, and Woodie testified that he requested information on the phone records from the Special Operations Division.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com



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