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Thread: Trump blames ‘illegal immigrant gang members’ for Chicago crime

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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    Trump blames ‘illegal immigrant gang members’ for Chicago crime

    02/08/2017, 10:40am
    Lynn Sweet

    WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump remained fixated on Chicago on Wednesday, still offering no solutions as he blamed – with no proof – “illegal immigrant gang members” for crime in the city.

    Trump is preferring to keep talking about a problem rather than do something about it. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson are clearly on the record as eager to work with the Trump administration.

    Wednesday’s remarks before a law enforcement group are the eighth time since Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20 – counting a reference on the Trump White House site – that Trump singled out violence in Chicago.

    Mayoral spokesman Matt McGrath said, “With all the talk and no action, you have to wonder whether the administration is serious about working with us on solutions, or if they are just using violence in this great city to score political points.

    “We’ve been clear, there are ways the federal government can help, and we’re happy to partner with the administration whenever they decide to stop talking and start acting.”

    Johnson said, “I hope the President had an opportunity today to hear from police chiefs around the country who are facing many of the same challenges Chicago is facing, including too-easy access to illegal guns, inconsistent sentencing, and a more fractured and decentralized gang structure where gunfire is as likely to erupt from a feud on social media as a battle over turf.

    “We’re clear-eyed about the challenges we’re facing in Chicago and will continue working day and night to address them, and we’re eager to work more closely with the federal government.”

    Trump so far has offered no federal assistance to Chicago despite Mayor Rahm Emanuel having met with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

    Speaking to the Major Cities Chiefs Association’s winter conference at a hotel near the White House on Wednesday, Trump said, “In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone, and the rate so far this year has been even higher. What is going on in Chicago?” Trump said.

    “…Whether a child lives in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, or anywhere in our country, he or she has the right to grow up in safety and in peace. No one in America should be punished because of the city where he or she is born. Every child in America should be able to play outside without fear, walk home without danger, and attend a school without being worried about drugs or gangs or violence.

    Trump then brought up illegal immigrants and crime, once again throwing a spotlight on Chicago.

    He urged the law enforcement officials to tell the Department of Homeland Security John Kelly to tell him “who the illegal immigrant gang members are. Now, you have that power because you know them, you’re there, you’re local. You know the illegals, you know them by their first name, you know them by their nicknames. You have that power. The federal government can never be that precise. But you’re in the neighborhoods — you know the bad ones, you know the good ones.

    “I want you to turn in the bad ones. Call Secretary Kelly’s representatives and we’ll get them out of our country and bring them back where they came from, and we’ll do it fast. You have to call up the federal government, Homeland Security, because so much of the problems — you look at Chicago and you look at other places. So many of the problems are caused by gang members, many of whom are not even legally in our country.”

    Backstory: Trump may be trying to set a trap for Emanuel here, by linking, with no proof, illegal immigrants and crime in Chicago. Emanuel and other officials have made a strong stand in maintaining Chicago as a sanctuary city despite Trump threats to withdraw federal aid to sanctuary cities.

    This is the second day in a row Trump threw a spotlight on Chicago – the city that he highlights the most in his speeches, always for its violence.

    On Tuesday, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway told the Sun-Times, “All I can say is, he’s been in touch with Mayor Emanuel and that’s great. It’s nice bi-partisan action to try to solve what clearly, I think, anybody would admit is a vexing problem. So I’m sure they will have another private discussion before anything is formally revealed.”

    She commented after Trump earlier Tuesday told a group of sheriffs in the White House, Trump told the sheriffs, “if you ran Chicago, you would solve that nightmare, I tell you. … Because to allow — I mean, literally — hundreds of shootings a month, it’s worse than some of the places that we read about in the Middle East, where you have wars going on. It’s so sad. Chicago has become so sad a situation.”

    As reported in the Tuesday Sun-Times, Chicago’s City Hall wants to get to work with the Trump White House.

    “Instead of focusing so much energy on rhetoric about Chicago, the people of this city would be better off if the president would finally partner with us to improve public safety for Chicago,” Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath told me.

    Here’s a rundown on Trump speaking out on crime in Chicago:

    *In his July 21, 2016 speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump talked about the shooting victims “in the President’s hometown of Chicago.”

    *While President-elect, in a Jan. 2 post on Twitter, Trump said Chicago should ask for “federal help,” even though Emanuel did in a meeting he had with Trump in New York on Dec. 7.

    *On Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, Trump’s WhiteHouse.gov web site mentioned Chicago shootings.

    *Trump said in a Jan. 24 Twitter post he will “send in the feds” if Chicago does not stop the “carnage.”

    *On Jan. 25, in an ABC News interview, Trump said two people were shot and killed on Jan. 10, when now former President Barack Obama was in Chicago delivering his farewell speech at McCormick Place. There were no homicides in Chicago that day.

    *At a Republican retreat in Philadelphia on Jan. 26, Trump, talking about murders in cities said, “And then you look at Chicago, what’s going on in Chicago? I said the other day, ‘What the hell is going on?’”

    *On Feb. 1, during a meeting at the White House to mark Black History Month, Trump said if Chicago officials don’t take steps to stop violence, “we’re going to solve the problem for them,” and suggesting that direct intervention with street-gang leaders might be a good idea.

    *On Feb. 7, talking to a group of sheriffs in the White House, Trump compared Chicago to violence in unnamed Middle East nations.

    http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/tru...on-in-chicago/
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Send in ICE!! Start cleaning it out!
    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
    Save America, Deport Congress! - Judy

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    Chicago: 75% of Murdered are Black, 71% of Murderers are Black ...

    www.intellectualtakeout.org/.../chicago-75-murdered-are-black-71-murderers-are-bla...

    Jul 27, 2016 - Simply put, Chicago has a massive Black-on-Black murder problem. ... that 90% of the victims are male is that a lot of young, Black men are being killed in Chicago. ... Unlawful gun owners commit 80 percent of gun crimes.
    NO AMNESTY

    Don't reward the criminal actions of millions of illegal aliens by giving them citizenship.


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  4. #4
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Crime in Chicago - Wikipedia

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Chicago

    Crime in Chicago has been tracked by the Chicago Police Department's Bureau of Records ... Chicago's homicide rate is higher when compared to the larger American ...
    75.3% of victims and 70.5% of offenders were African American, 18.9% were Hispanic (20.3% of offenders), and 5.6% were white (3.5% of offenders).
    Overview · ‎Chicago street gangs · ‎List of Chicago's street gangs

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  5. #5
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    Gang warfare on streets of Chicago fueled by Sinaloa Cartel heroin

    By Andrew O'Reilly
    Published February 05, 2015
    FoxNews.com


    Police investigate the shooting death of 14-year-old Tommy McNeal, whose body is covered by a sheet on the sidewalk on September 20, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (2013 Getty Images)


    On Valentine’s Day 2013, the heads of the Chicago Crime Commission and the Chicago office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration named infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán as the city’s Public Enemy No. 1.

    The timely label, occurring 84 years after gangster Al Capone first earned it following the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, lasted only a year as Guzmán was arrested in Mexico the following February, but the imprint his organization made – and continues to make – on Chicago has helped turn the U.S.’s third-largest city into one of the nation’s largest drug trafficking hubs, replete with the violence and related crimes that come with that designation.

    “Sinaloa Cartel traffickers sit on the top of the pile, and they feed down all the way to the street level dealers,” Dennis Wichern, special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago field division, told Fox News Latino.

    The drug trade in Chicago has helped fuel pervasive gang violence that has resulted in a quickly rising homicide rate. Chicago ended 2014 with 425 murders, and this year the city had seen 30 slayings by the end of January.

    New York may have the famed five families of the Mafia, and Los Angeles is the cradle of the Bloods and the Crips, but Chicago remains gangland capital in the United States.
    From Capone and his North Side Gang rival, Hymie Weiss, in the 1920s to the Vice Lords and Latin Kings in the 1950s to biker gangs like the Outlaws that emerged in the city’s suburbs, the Second City has bred some of the U.S.’s most dangerous and famous criminals over the past century.

    Now, however, the heavy-hitters from the criminal class appear to be moving to Chicago from south of the border and using the city’s ever-growing Mexican population to camouflage themselves and recruit new members.

    “It’s not a new phenomenon up here in Chicago,” Wichern said. “Like any population, there will be a small element that gets involved in criminal activities.”

    Cook County police say that the neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village, both of which are about 82 percent Hispanic according to Census data, have become hubs for Sinaloa Cartel associates who traffic heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine across the city and – with easy access to the Stevenson, Dan Ryan, and Eisenhower Expressways – across the country.

    Chicago is one of the U.S.’s largest interior cargo ports, the world’s third-largest handler of shipping containers, and is located along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line. It also sees 1.5 million tons of imports and exports a year go through O’Hare International airport alone in a year.

    The city has 1.3 billion square feet of warehouse property – one of the largest concentrations of industrial space in the U.S. – which offers plenty of space for traffickers to hide their product.

    “It’s a huge distribution center with so many interstates and train lines that [traffickers] can run their products out of the city,” Adam Isacson, a senior associate for regional security policy at the Washington Office on Latin America told FNL.

    The biggest cash earner for the Sinaloa Cartel – which controls about 45 percent of the entire U.S. drug market – in Chicago is heroin. Many people addicted to painkillers have switched to heroin both because it's cheaper than prescription pills and because purity levels of heroin have risen in recent years.

    In Chicago, the largest increase in heroin overdoses has occurred in the suburban areas surrounding the city, according to the DEA’s 2014 National Drug Threat Assessment.

    The Mexican cartels, especially Guzmán’s Sinaloa group, have also found heroin to be very profitable as they deal with falling cocaine consumption and marijuana legalization in parts of the United States. Once known as small-scale producers of low-quality heroin, the Mexican cartels are now refining opium paste into high-grade, white heroin that sells for a fraction of the cost that it did a few years ago.

    “Heroin is making a ridiculous comeback in the U.S. right now,” Isacson said. “It’s not that low-grade, black tar stuff anymore… It’s now so pure you don’t even need a needle to get high because you can just snort or smoke it.”

    The DEA's 2014 National Drug Threat Assessment found that while Afghanistan is by far the world's largest producer, it largely sends its heroin to markets in Europe and Asia. While half the heroin found in the United States now comes from Mexico, up from 39 percent in 2008.

    The Sinaloa cartel's near-monopoly on the drug trade in Chicago has led to skyrocketing levels of violence among lower-level drug gangs throughout the Windy City and left drug enforcement officials in the Midwest struggling to catch up.

    Officials at the DEA admit that winning the drug war is not something that is entirely feasible, but they did highlight a number of recent high-profile arrests and convictions that put dents in the Sinaloa Cartel's armor.

    The DEA in Chicago has a very strong case against Guzmán if he is ever extradited to the U.S. – something that is being debated in Mexico right now. Also last week two major capos-turned-informants in Sinaloa’s Chicago organization were convicted of running a $2 billion drug ring. That was quickly followed by a federal indictment of nine alleged drug traffickers connected to the Mexican crime group.

    “The DEA is out there banging away and making arrests every day,” Wichern said.

    Even so, Wichern added, it is difficult to keep up with the evolving tactics of the cartels and the market which they cater to.
    “The game is always changing out there,” he said.
    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/02...el-heroin.html

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  6. #6
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    From 2015.............

    07/25/2015, 12:00pm

    Chicago’s other drug cartel, founded by the Handsome Frog
    Frank Main

    Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s infamous Sinaloa Cartel continues to dominate the narcotics trafficking from Mexico to Chicago, but an upstart cartel founded by a former Chicago resident is now considered a major challenger.

    Guzman’s daring escape from a maximum-security prison in Mexico on July 13 refocused international attention on the Sinaloa Cartel.

    But little has been mentioned about Guerrero Unidos, a fledgling Mexican drug cartel, feeding Chicago’s enormous appetite for heroin. The cartel is infamous mainly for the kidnapping and presumed slaughter of 43 students last fall in Mexico.

    Mario Casarrubias Salgado, who is nicknamed The Handsome Frog or El Sapo Guapo in Spanish, is credited with creating Guerrero Unidos around 2011. He was formerly a bodyguard to Arturo Beltran Leyva, the late kingpin of another cartel in Mexico.

    Casarrubias, 34, a native of Mexico City who once lived in the Logan Square neighborhood, is suspected of masterminding a heroin distribution network to Chicago using passenger buses from Mexico.

    Last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration busted a suspected Guerrero Unidos cell operating in Chicago, but the cartel is still thought to be a major heroin supplier to the area.

    “Did we wipe them out in one case? Probably not,” said Dennis Wichern, special agent in charge of the Chicago division of the DEA.

    The Sinaloa Cartel still “has the biggest footprint in Chicago,” Wichern said.

    The authorities are closely watching to see whether Guzman, the DEA’s most-wanted man, will retake direct control of the Sinaloa Cartel’s narcotics operations in Chicago and other parts of the United States.
    But they’re also keeping an eye on Guerrero Unidos, which has transported huge quantities of heroin to the Chicago area since 2013, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court here.

    Guerrero Unidos is one of the “new, younger organizations coming up” after the Mexican government launched offensives that seriously damaged established cartels such as the Juarez Cartel, Wichern said.
    The Guerrero state on the west coast of Mexico, where Acapulco is located, is that country’s No. 1 producer of opium poppies, which are used to make heroin, Wichern said.

    “And the GU deals mostly in heroin,” he said.

    Pablo Vega Cueva, the alleged head of the Chicago cell of Guerrero Unidos, and seven other associates were charged with federal drug crimes in December. His attorney had no comment on the charges on Friday.

    Authorities said they seized 68 kilograms of heroin, nine kilos of cocaine and more than $500,000 in cash from the cartel’s associates. A kilo can fetch $60,000 wholesale and $200,000 on the street, officials said.
    Vega, who used the nicknames Transformer and Ninja, lived in a tidy frame house in Aurora. He and Mario Casarrubias were caught on a wiretap discussing a heroin shipment on April 28, 2014, authorities said.
    “What’s going on buddy? Have they made the delivery yet?” Casarrubias asked, according to the federal complaint.

    Casarrubias allegedly instructed Vega to deliver two kilos of heroin wrapped in orange tape and bearing the stamp of an iguana — along with a third, unmarked kilo.

    Days later, the Mexican authorities arrested Casarrubias in Mexico. In a statement to reporters, they said he was “considered the main drug dealer to the city of Chicago,” although DEA officials said the Sinaloa Cartel is still tops here.

    Casarrubias knows the Chicago area. He lived in the 2300 block of North Campbell in the early 2000s, according to court records, and had some run-ins with the law.

    In 2002, he pleaded guilty in Cook County Criminal Court to burglary and received probation. Then in 2004, he pleaded guilty to possession of an illegal firearm and was sentenced to three years in prison. He served about nine months, according to state prison records.

    Authorities got onto his associate, Vega, about two years ago.

    On Aug. 21, 2013, police stopped a vehicle that contained $200,000 in cash. They then searched the driver’s home in Chicago and found another $231,000 in cash, 12 kilos of heroin and nine kilos of cocaine, according to a federal complaint.

    Through that bust, DEA agents developed an informant who led them to Vega.

    Agents learned Guerrero Unidos was shipping drugs on buses that took passengers from Mexico to Chicago.

    The bus companies are listed in the federal complaint were Autobuses Volcano Travel Agency and Autobuses Monarca Zacatecanos. A law-enforcement source said they were affiliated with a company the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered to stop operating in the United States in 2012 because of safety concerns.

    The cartel allegedly unloaded heroin from hidden panels in the buses to warehouses in Aurora and Batavia in the western suburbs, according to the federal complaint. The U.S. attorney’s office filed a 131-page complaint against Vega and his co-defendants on Dec. 8.

    Such alleged heroin operations are the top priority for the DEA in Chicago, where more people are seeking treatment for addiction to the drug than anywhere else in the country, Wichern said.
    “Our focus is to save lives,” he said.

    As the case against Vega and his co-defendants plays out in federal court in Chicago, human-rights activists are paying close attention to another case involving Guerrero Unidos — the abduction of 43 students in Mexico.

    Casarrubias’ brother, Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, was arrested in October in connection with the kidnappings and the suspected murders of the students in the town of Iguala in Guerrero state.

    Mexican authorities said they believe the police chief of Iguala orchestrated the kidnappings and killings on the orders of Sidronio Casarrubias. The mayor of Iguala and his wife have also been charged in connection with the abductions.

    The students, who attended a rural teachers college, traveled to Iguala on Sept. 26 to steal buses to use in a protest march in Mexico City, the authorities said.

    Mayor Jose Luis Abarca allegedly ordered the police to detain the students, and they were turned over to Guerrero Unidos, which killed them and incinerated their bodies at a trash dump, officials said.
    The cartel’s leaders were allegedly under the impression the students were tied to a rival drug gang.

    The case has exposed the pervasive corruption of local governments in Mexico by drug cartels and embarrassed President Enrique Pena Nieto on the international stage.

    Human-rights groups across Mexico and the United States have blamed Pena Nieto’s government of bungling the investigation, which is continuing. Only one student has been identified from the charred remains found in the landfill.
    http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chi...handsome-frog/

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  7. #7
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    How twins from Little Village rose to win trust of drug kingpin El Chapo

    Annie Sweeney and Jason Meisner
    Contact ReportersChicago Tribune

    How drug-running twins from Little Village built an empire, toppled 'El Chapo'

    Margarito Flores was cruising through Humboldt Park in a brand new Cadillac on a fall evening when Chicago police stopped him.

    At the time, Flores, 22, and his twin brother Pedro had built a drug empire that, at its peak, would move tons of cocaine and heroin into the U.S. from Mexico, and they were living a life that reflected it — houses, luxury cars and cash-fueled partying on Rush Street.

    But when Margarito was stopped about 9 p.m. that night in 2003, it was no big drug bust. He'd driven into a routine checkpoint on West Chicago Avenue with his seat belt undone and a joint in the ashtray worth no more than $5, a comical amount considering the high-level trafficking he was engaged in. The misdemeanor charge that resulted was the most serious trouble either twin had then faced.

    Despite their rapid rise to becoming wholesale distributors for Mexico's infamous Sinaloa cartel, the twins had cautiously avoided the pitfalls of gang life in their Little Village neighborhood and largely steered clear of law enforcement.

    The tight-knit brothers kept their heads down and made few enemies. Instead, they relied on their smarts, personality, greed and, most important, each other. It was the quintessential American success story turned on its head.

    "That is a unique dynamic — twin brothers who always looked out for each other," said a former Chicago police investigator. "And it served them well."

    Even when the heat inevitably came, the brothers were a step ahead. About a year after Margarito's traffic stop, with a federal investigation into their operation mounting, the twins relocated to Mexico and expanded, gaining the trust of the world's most powerful drug boss, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

    The Flores brothers' recorded conversations: El Chapo

    When it all came crashing down in the spring of 2008, the brothers took yet another extraordinary gamble. They came in to talk to law enforcement — and soon became two of the most significant undercover operatives in the history of the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago.

    In one intense month, the Flores twins took on the most dangerous cooperation imaginable, recording conversations with Guzman on the phone and taping face-to-face talks with his top leaders using a recorder hidden in a pocket.

    Their undercover work ultimately led to arguably Chicago's most significant drug indictments ever — against the feared El Chapo and his immediate Sinaloa cartel underbosses, the leader of a rival cartel and dozens of other drug wholesalers and middlemen from Chicago to Mexico.

    After reviewing hundreds of pages of court records and interviewing law enforcement and people who knew the twins in their youth, the Tribune has pieced together new details of their lives on the streets of Little Village, of the multikilogram deals they cut at a grubby used car dealership on Cicero Avenue and, ultimately, of the high-level meetings they had with El Chapo himself in the mountains of Sinaloa.
    How the Flores brothers took down El Chapo and others

    Always together

    Pedro and Margarito Flores were born in 1981 to Mexican immigrant parents. As they grew, they became known as "Pete" and "J" or "Junior." The identical brothers — delivered 17 minutes apart — spent their first 14 years in a modest, one-story red brick home in the heart of Little Village, a working-class enclave where families contend daily with gang and drug violence.

    Their parents had immigrated to Chicago around 1970, raising a large family just steps from the neighborhood's bustling 26th Street corridor of shops and restaurants. Their parents worked factory jobs.

    On South Homan Avenue, the street where they were born, neighbors remembered the twins as polite boys who could often be found throwing a football in the street or buzzing around on a motorcycle. They bought dulces and papitas at the corner store with their friends and were never seen in the colors of the Latin Kings, the street gang that ruled the neighborhood.
    "Eran chamaquitos," said a smiling neighbor, using a Spanish term of endearment.

    But court documents show the twins were exposed to the dangerous undercurrent of Little Village from a young age. Their two older brothers racked up arrests — some drug-related — beginning when the twins were just 5. One was caught in 1989 with a group of teens driving through the neighborhood firing guns out of a car while flashing gang signs and yelling "King Love," police alleged. The charges were dismissed.

    In 1992, when the twins were just 10, Chicago police executed a search warrant on the Flores home and found $195,000 worth of marijuana in feed bags, court records show. Two years later, gang intelligence officers raided the home again, this time recovering a .380-caliber handgun in a bedroom. Their brother, Armando Flores, told police he kept the weapon because the neighborhood was not safe for his family, according to police records.

    Despite the proximity to the drug culture, the twins stayed clear of serious trouble as teens and entered high school at Farragut Career Academy, just a few blocks from the family home. An acquaintance recalled the two as well-dressed, quiet and low-key — always around if trouble was brewing after school but tending to linger in the background. They were always together, said the acquaintance, who like many others interviewed by the Tribune asked not to be identified out of concern for their safety.

    The first time the twins popped up on any public law enforcement record was 1999. Pedro was charged in DuPage County with domestic violence for allegedly hitting a woman, though the charges were later dropped. That same year, both were charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass to a vehicle after police stopped them sitting in a car that was obstructing traffic on a Little Village street.
    On the arrest report, Margarito listed his occupation as a mechanic, Pedro as a student. But in reality, the twins were already established drug dealers with a low-level contact in the Sinaloa cartel, court records show.

    The veneer of law-abiding citizens was still in place when Margarito was stopped at the seat belt checkpoint in 2003. He told the arresting officers he was a barber at a salon on South Pulaski Road, records show. The business, Millennium Cuts, offered "the best fades on the South Side." Federal agents later alleged the shop was one of a handful of legitimate businesses the twins set up as a front.

    Distinct roles

    The brothers worked in concert but took on distinct roles to build their business. Margarito was responsible for making sure the drugs got into the U.S. from supply sources in Mexico. Pedro ran operations on the ground in Chicago, where he had to coordinate the movements of about 15 couriers and ensure they made connections with the wholesale customers.

    "Junior … was more personable on the phone," courier Antonio Aguilera testified at a federal trial. "And Pedro was more, 'Go here, go there.'"

    The twins expanded their customer base along a busy stretch of Cicero Avenue, where brother Armando worked in a car dealership called Crown Motors in the late 1990s.

    According to federal court documents, Armando had been selling drugs out of the Cicero dealership, and in August 1998 he was arrested by federal authorities and charged with narcotics trafficking. He was sentenced the next year to five years in prison — creating a vacuum for his younger brothers to fill.

    An acquaintance of Armando's told authorities he introduced Pedro to some of Armando's customers in 1999, court records show. The following spring an employee at Crown handed over an even bigger prize — an introduction to Armando's suppliers.

    Over the next three years, the business took off, with the twins routinely selling multikilo loads of cocaine to dealers in Milwaukee, according to the documents. They also had become quite rich in the process. By the time they were 22, the brothers owned five houses as well as a fleet of luxury vehicles and motorcycles, court documents show. Margarito boasted of spending $20,000 on landscaping for his home, according to the documents.

    The twins were also regulars at several Rush Street clubs, arriving in BMWs and picking up the bill for friends. People who were there recall the brothers were always together, friendly and easygoing, ordering the most expensive dishes in restaurants and tipping generously. They also enjoyed travel, jetting to Las Vegas to catch Oscar De la Hoya fights at the Mandalay Bay casino, court records show.

    Acquaintances who spoke to the Tribune said that while the twins had a reputation for avoiding trouble, everyone knew they were into something. It was hard to miss — the boyish-looking brothers with their neatly pressed clothes, wearing the latest Air Jordan sneakers, driving Jaguars and Escalades and always carrying cash.

    But their well-established street rep also came at a cost. In the summer of 2003, the twins were targeted for a kidnapping by a notorious Chicago drug dealer who had been introduced to the brothers at Hoops the Gym on the Near West Side, where they played pickup basketball, according to court records.

    The dealer's associates, posing as cops, snatched Pedro out of his blue Lexus, covered his eyes and took him to a Burbank basement. Margarito negotiated about a $2 million ransom of cocaine and cash, the documents allege.

    Pedro was released unharmed. Even though the twins had a good idea of who was involved, they simply absorbed the loss rather than strike back.

    Their restraint in such matters would become well-known on the street.

    Under the radar

    Several couriers who moved drugs and money for the Flores operation later provided an inside look in their trial testimony at how the brothers used similar discipline and business savvy to stay under the radar of law enforcement.

    Couriers were recruited from just about anywhere — one met Pedro at his wedding, while a former college football player had experience in the trucking business and a history of drug abuse, according to federal court documents.

    They set up stash houses in Chicago and the suburbs that were equipped with secret compartments to hide contraband. Security was so tight that even the remote controls that operated the hydraulic trapdoors were often hidden — including two stowed in a hair spray can with a false bottom.

    Couriers were responsible for keeping utilities paid and sometimes spent long, idle hours in the homes. Trial photos of one stash house in Hinsdale showed homey touches like a Christmas elf on the front door. The same photos showed money counters and loads of cash, including one 8-foot-long, 3-foot-high stack of bills as big as a coffee table.

    One courier, Hector Simental, testified that they were instructed to never have more than $7 million cash in one house. He described a laborious money-counting and bundling process that involved Seal-a-Meal vacuum bags, cling wrap, duct tape and fabric sheets to throw off police dogs. Couriers typically collected between $100,000 and $1 million from each customer, and counting it all could be a full-time job.

    "About a million dollars would take us maybe two hours," Simental testified.

    To evade wiretaps, the twins constantly switched phones used to communicate with customers, sometimes twice a month, according to court testimony. Their crews drove vehicles with hidden compartments all over Chicago to exchange drugs and money. One trap door could be tripped only by pushing a foot pedal on the floor and simultaneously activating the windows and defroster.
    While the operation was not unheard of in its sophistication, experts said the twins upped the game.

    "You had some pretty young, ambitious, cautious CEOs here who really looked at this as a business," said Jack Riley, former head of the Drug Enforcement Agency office in Chicago and now chief of operations at its Washington headquarters. "... They moved up the line."

    In spite of the twins' caution, authorities in Milwaukee had begun working their way up the chain by the spring of 2003, first picking off dealers who were buying from them in Wisconsin. Authorities starting hearing about suppliers named "Peter" and "Junior" or "June" Flores in Chicago, court documents show. Soon investigators zeroed in on the twins, executing search warrants on several Flores properties.

    The raids led to a drug trafficking indictment against the Flores twins in 2005. But by then, they knew what was coming and had fled to Mexico. It would be three years before the charges caught up with them amid a bloody cartel war south of the border.

    Powerful friends

    In Mexico the brothers' distribution of cocaine flourished, Pedro Flores said in a statement to a federal grand jury in 2009.

    The twins' status was cemented in the spring of 2005 when they were called to a three-day meeting with several high-ranking Sinaloa bosses, including a sit-down on the last day with El Chapo at his mountaintop compound.

    According to their grand jury statements, Guzman was their main supplier, with a vast operation that ran drugs out of South America using 747 jumbo jets, submarines, speedboats and even amphibious vessels to avoid law enforcement at sea.

    Once the narcotics were moved to U.S. distribution hubs in Los Angeles and Chicago, the Flores brothers' own network went to work, shipping drugs to wholesale customers in eight cities, including New York, Washington and Cincinnati via tractor-trailers and boxcars, the loads hidden behind false walls, in crates of avocados or frozen fish.

    Exactly what allowed the twins to get so close to El Chapo — long known for layers of security that kept him insulated from all but his most trusted associates — is not part of the public record. Rumors have circulated that the twins' father, Margarito Sr., knew people in the cartel and passed those connections to his boys. Others believe the twins met a contact while they were briefly detained in a Mexican prison. Some say it was through an introduction in a seaside bar in Veracruz.

    However the initial connection was made, experts said it was the twins' ability to network and make money that got them to the top.

    "It's all about who you know," said Tristan Reed, Mexico security analyst for the global intelligence and advisory firm Stratfor. "They had very powerful friends in Mexico."

    And there was no more powerful friend to have than Guzman, who at one point even made a rare personal intervention that may have saved Pedro's life.

    According to federal documents, Pedro had a falling out with a former Sinaloa associate over a drug debt that led to him being kidnapped and held for ransom — hardly a rare occurrence in the Mexican cartel world and one that often ends badly.

    But when Guzman learned of the dispute, he stepped in and negotiated Pedro's release. Then, in a subsequent meeting with the twins, Guzman offered the honor of letting them kill the kidnapper personally, court records show. The twins declined. The cartel member later turned up dead anyway, but once again the Flores brothers had stayed above the fray.

    Unprecedented cooperation

    By the spring of 2008, though, the twins faced an even graver threat. A bloody war had broken out between two factions of the "Federation" — El Chapo and co-leader Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia of Sinaloa on the one hand and Arturo Beltran Leyva, now heading his own cartel, on the other.

    The twins were caught in the middle, having trafficked narcotics for both sides. With cartel leaders now locked in opposition, dealing with either put "you at risk of retribution by the other," Reed said.

    Their lives and those of their families were in danger, and the twins decided they were ready to talk to authorities in the U.S. With the Milwaukee indictment still pending, a return trip to the U.S. would be risky, but the twins also realized they had something to leverage. So they made a strategic decision to contact law enforcement.

    "I guess you could say it was a feeling-out process because they were looking to come to back to the United States," DEA Agent Matthew McCarthy later testified. "They knew there was a federal indictment over their head ... (but) you know, they are looking for reassurances."

    An attorney representing the twins first reached out to the DEA with news that the brothers were ready to come home.

    A series of phone calls between authorities and the twins followed, setting the stage for their cooperation. On Nov. 6, 2008, DEA agents and a prosecutor from Chicago took the unusual step of traveling to Mexico under tight security to meet with Pedro and speak in more detail about what cooperation would involve, according to trial testimony from DEA agents.

    For former federal prosecutor Thomas Shakeshaft, now in private practice in Chicago, the Floreses' case was the most consuming for him at the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, with its dozens of defendants and constant security concerns. It was also the most rewarding.

    "It was a nerve-racking trip," Shakeshaft said of the meeting in Mexico that launched the case. "But I recognized, as did DEA and other law enforcement agencies that it was an opportunity to make a significant dent in drug trafficking in Chicago, as well as nationally and internationally."

    What resulted from the intense discussion was unprecedented: The brothers agreed to cooperate from Mexico while distributing tons of cocaine and heroin simultaneously for two warring, violent cartels.

    Over the next month, the twins provided investigators with details on massive amounts of drugs flowing into the U.S., leading to some 20 seizures of drugs and money in Chicago and LA, with federal agents and Chicago police sometimes running two operations in one day.

    In an even bolder move, the twins recorded about 70 conversations with cartel members, over the phone and in person, taped not with a sophisticated, well-hidden wire but by stuffing a recording device into a hip pocket. They recorded numerous high-ranking Sinaloa cartel members, including Guzman's logistics coordinator who told intriguing tales of how El Chapo moved his drugs in an intricate network of tunnels.

    And on Nov. 15, Pedro made perhaps the most stunning recording in the history of Chicago drug cases when he called El Chapo to talk about reducing the price of a recent shipment.
    El Chapo: "My friend!"

    Pedro: "What's up, how are you?"

    El Chapo: "Good, good. Nice talking to you. How's your brother?"

    Pedro: "Everyone is fine. It's too bad I wasn't able to see you the other day."

    After the niceties, Guzman agreed to reduce the price on a 20-kilo load of heroin. Authorities now had one of the most wanted men in the world on tape placing himself right in the middle of an international drug conspiracy with direct links to Chicago.

    With so many drug seizures being made in such a short time, the danger for the Flores twins was escalating by the day. By the end of November, they were flown out of the country by the DEA, their family following in cars and just a few personal items, according to court documents.

    Once safely in the U.S., the twins sat with federal agents and continued to make calls, focusing now on their stateside customers.

    One by one, they set them up, getting customers to accept a sham delivery of drugs, leading to more than two dozen arrests. In the calls, Pedro's speech switched from polite Spanish to slang as he peppered the conversation with greetings like "bro" and "G," evidence of how seamlessly he moved between the streets of Chicago and the Sinaloa mountains.

    While the twins were safe in witness protection, their undercover work did have tragic repercussions. Shortly after their cooperation became known in 2009, their father returned to Mexico despite warnings from his family and federal authorities. Within days, he was kidnapped. While his body has never been found, he is presumed murdered, prosecutors said.

    A note left on the windshield of his father's abandoned car, found in the Sinaloa desert, had a message for the twins: Shut up or we'll send you his head.

    Looking over their shoulders

    Guzman had escaped prison once by hiding in a laundry cart, but his 13 years on the run ended in February 2014, when Mexican police stormed a condo tower in the Pacific resort town of Mazatlan, and found the drug lord sleeping in bed next to his beauty-queen wife. The dramatic arrest was the culmination of a multinational manhunt that included a narrow escape in the town of Culiacan, where Guzman fled through secret tunnels that tied in with the municipal sewage system.

    It's unknown whether El Chapo ever will be extradited to face charges in Chicago.

    For Pedro and Margarito Flores, their day of reckoning finally came this past January. More than six years after they turned themselves in, they walked into a federal courtroom for the first time amid heightened security at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in downtown Chicago.

    The twins appeared considerably older than the mug shots issued when they were fugitives in 2005. Now 33, they had deep lines set around their eyes, and the years in custody had packed some weight on their 5-foot-4-inch frames.

    Dressed in tan jail garb with their hair buzzed short on the sides — Margarito's parted on the left, Pedro's on the right — they sat side by side at the defense table in U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo's hushed courtroom, whispering to each other and tapping their feet nervously as they waited for their sentencing hearing to begin

    When it came time to address the court, the twins spoke quietly, without accents, their voices devoid of the tough street slang heard in recorded conversations with couriers.
    Margarito spoke first, choking with emotion as he apologized for his "life of crime."

    "I'm ashamed. I'm embarrassed," he said while reading from a folded piece of notebook paper. "I'm regretful for being stupid enough to make such bad decisions. I disgraced myself and my children. I put my family in harm's way, and I will never forgive myself."

    His brother followed by thanking God for "seeing me through all that danger and allowing me to be here today.

    "I thank the government, the DEA, and you, your honor, for allowing me the opportunity to not spend the rest of my life in prison," Pedro said.

    In sentencing the brothers to 14 years behind bars, Castillo said it was a shame they didn't use their street smarts and business acumen to make a legitimate living.

    "I look at the two Flores brothers, and I think, growing up in Chicago under different circumstances, both of you gentlemen probably could have accomplished a great deal if you had been law-abiding," the judge said. "Because there's a lot of things you are, but stupid is not one of them."

    It had been 16 years since the twins from Little Village began their journey from the back streets of Little Village to the mountains of Sinaloa.

    They'd escaped kidnappings and dodged indictments, ultimately making the bold choice to dismantle their billion-dollar empire by going into witness protection as they helped the government bring case after case.

    With credit for time already spent in custody, the twins will likely be released in a little more than five years. But nothing will be the same. They will have new identities and will likely live far from Chicago. Their immediate families have already been placed in witness protection. As Castillo said, the twins and their relatives will be looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives.

    And perhaps most difficult for twins whose closeness has defined their lives, safety concerns may force them to live apart when they are freed from prison. But on this afternoon, they walked out together, as always, without a glance back to the gallery

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/c...327-story.html


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