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    Senior Member HAPPY2BME's Avatar
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    Feb 2005

    ICE arrests 6 at gunpoint at Brownsville restaurant; feds tie bribe scheme to cartel

    ICE arrests 6 at gunpoint at Brownsville restaurant; feds tie bribe scheme to cartel

    The Brownsville Herald

    BROWNSVILLE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials aren’t saying much about armed agents descending on a local restaurant Wednesday evening and apprehending a group of men at gunpoint.
    But the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday the arrest in Brownsville of six men on bribery charges — accused of trying to ensure safe passage to Mexico of Gulf Cartel member Juan Carlos De La Cruz Reyna, who was about to be released from prison in the U.S. De La Cruz was also arrested.

    U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said in a news release that the investigation began last May and involved a bribe of $1 million, most of which had already been paid in cash or collateral.

    De La Cruz, 37, was finishing a 30-month prison sentence for threatening to assault and murder federal agents. He was flown March 9 to detention in Bayview from a federal penitentiary in Atlanta, according to court documents.

    Authorities said Thursday that De La Cruz has been re-arrested, this time on bribery charges.
    Those arrested in Brownsville were identified as Brownsville men Julio Torres, 39, Carlos Melo, 38, and Jose C. Venegas, 36; Mexican nationals Adalberto Nunez Venegas, 39, and Juan Trejo Venegas, 33; and Harlingen man Gaspar Martinez Montes, 41, a legal permanent resident.


    Authorities would not confirm that the arrest of the six men in Brownsville was connected to Wednesday’s show of force at the Wings-Pizza-N-Things at 4365 N. Expressway.

    Several eyewitnesses at the restaurant said ICE agents pulled up and apprehended a group of men sitting in the patio area.

    Some of the agents had rifles and others carried handguns, said a witness who requested anonymity for security reasons. The incident happened shortly after 8:30 p.m.

    ICE confirmed that an “enforcement action” had occurred but declined to give details.

    “Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted an enforcement action in Brownsville on Wednesday,” an ICE spokesman said in a statement, adding that the officers exercised “appropriate caution to prepare for unexpected events.”

    The manager of the restaurant couldn’t be reached Thursday for comment.

    One witness said he was sitting inside, looking out a window, when he saw the agents arrive.
    “They came out of nowhere. They were in and out,” he said.

    The federal agents ran up to a group of men sitting at a table and took them into custody, the witness said.
    A woman in the restaurant started running back and forth and screaming, the witness said. At first he thought one of the men who was apprehended was related to her, but later she said she was concerned about her grandson who was next door at the Dollar Tree.


    Another witness was eating dinner with his wife and child at Tacos Campeon, adjacent to Wings-Pizza-N-Things.
    “I just saw some truck pull up and a bunch of guys run out with guns. … At first we didn’t know who it was, so we kind of huddled in the restaurant,” said the witness, who asked not to be identified for security reasons.
    Fearing that a shootout might occur, he and other patrons in the restaurant headed toward the back of the dining room. Another family hid behind the bar, he said.

    “I thought something was going to happen,” he said. “I thought they were going to start shooting or something. We really didn’t know they were actual police. They were in unmarked vehicles.”

    It was not until a few minutes later he noticed the agents wore jackets with “ICE” on the back.

    “It was nerve-wracking considering I was with my wife and daughter,” he said. “I was kind of afraid something was going to happen.”


    Magidson, the U.S. attorney, said the bribery case began last May when Julio Torres of Brownsville began negotiations with an ICE undercover agent. Torres, he said, was trying to bribe officials in order to facilitate the transfer of De La Cruz from Atlanta to a Texas facility, and also to plan for his release to “elements of the Gulf Cartel instead of Mexican authorities.”

    The U.S. attorney’s office said De La Cruz believed the Mexican government had additional criminal charges against him. He also feared he would be taken to another Mexico location, other than Tamaulipas, and could be abducted by rival drug cartels, authorities said.

    In Thursday’s press statement, authorities describe a long investigation in the bribery case.
    “On June 28, 2011, the (undercover) agent met with Torres who introduced Mexican national Adalberto Nunez Venegas, 39, as the person sent by De La Cruz to oversee all future negotiations and payments,” the statement says.

    “Over the next several months and leading up to the filing of the criminal complaint (on Thursday), Torres and Nunez made an additional eight cash payments totaling $542,090. In addition, six real estate properties had been signed over to the agent to provide collateral for the final payment of $460,000,” it said.

    “De La Cruz had also allegedly told the agent that he wanted to see a copy of his immigration detainer as further proof he would be transferred back to Texas prior to removal to Mexico,” the statement says.


    In January, the same agent met with De La Cruz to go over plans for his transfer to Texas, according to the press release from the U.S. attorney. Another meeting was held just a few days ago with the agent, Nunez, Torres and De La Cruz, who is still detained.

    The release said a final meeting was held Wednesday and involved Torres, Melo, Nunez Venegas, Martinez Montes, Trejo Venegas and Jose Venegas — a meeting to discuss final details, including who would drive and ride in the vehicles that would transfer De La Cruz to Mexico.

    The six men arrested in Brownsville have appearances scheduled before U.S. Magistrate Ronald Morgan, some today and some next week.

    ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI and Brownsville police are investigating the case.

    Last edited by HAPPY2BME; 03-17-2012 at 11:29 AM. Reason: source
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