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Special Reports Last Updated: Jan 30th, 2007 - 00:31:32

U.S. Attorney Sutton's media pitch on Border Patrol agents' conviction may be a spitball
By Bill Conroy
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 30, 2007, 00:28

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I had to do a double take on a recent Friday night, Jan. 19, when I saw U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in my living room -- well, at least his image.

Sutton beamed into my life, and into the homes of millions of other Americans, while making an appearance on FoxNews� Hannity & Colmes show -- you know, the talking-head news program where Hannity plays the role of the righteous, insightful conservative and Colmes weighs in as the well-intentioned but misguided, bumbling liberal.

Sutton, who oversees federal prosecutions in West and South Texas from his seat of power in San Antonio, is one of the key figures in the House of Death mass murder case. Juanita Fielden, the assistant U.S. attorney in El Paso who prosecuted the case, is under his supervision.

But Sutton wasn�t on Fox to address the House of Death. In fact, Sutton has refused to comment publicly on that case. So it was strange seeing him make an appearance on national TV to address another case that has caused quite a stir in the conservative blogosphere, and particularly among its fan base which is rabidly xenophobic -- at least when it comes to undocumented immigrants crossing the border from Mexico.

Sutton also has issued a flurry of press releases over the past 11 months seeking to advance his talking points on this same case -- a prosecution carried out by Sutton�s office that was brought to national attention by Lou Dobbs of CNN.

By now, most everyone in the country has heard of this case. It involves two Border Patrol agents, stationed near El Paso, who in February 2005 shot a drug smuggler in the butt cheek after a bungled apprehension attempt and then allegedly covered-up the evidence of the shooting. The agents (Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean) were prosecuted by Sutton�s office, convicted by a jury of violating the smuggler�s civil rights and of covering up evidence, and recently each sentenced to more than a decade in prison.

The case has become a cause c�l�bre among the anti-immigration hawks who claim the Border Patrol agents were the victims of an overzealous prosecutor who is carrying out the White House�s pro-illegal immigration agenda. They point out that the two agents were only doing their jobs in trying to apprehend a Mexican national who was trying to smuggle more than 700 pounds of marijuana into the country.

Sutton�s appearance on FoxNews on Jan. 19 was an effort to spin the story in his favor. He told Hannity and Colmes that the Border Patrol agents in this case �deliberately lied, deliberately covered-up . . . and filed false reports� about the shooting of the smuggler, an individual named Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila. Sutton also stressed that the agents were convicted by a jury based on the facts, which he alleged have been distorted by the media.

I found Sutton�s comments on national TV very fascinating, given that Sutton has refused to talk to the media about the House of Death mass murder. I find that odd, given his intimate involvement in that case -- which also involves acts of violence carried out against Mexican nationals with the involvement of U.S. law enforcers and prosecutors.

Surely, though, if Sutton were to finally step into the media limelight to spin out talking points on the House of Death, his defense of actions taken by his office in that case would be grounded on the same philosophic underpinning that he is advancing in the case of the Border Patrol agents.

After all, in both cases, law enforcers have been accused of violating the civil rights of Mexican nationals through acts of violence and then working to cover-up evidence of those violations.

As a result, given Sutton�s apparently devout adherence to the principles of the U.S. legal system, and as a simple matter of integrity, he must hold the law enforcers and prosecutors involved in the House of Death mass murder to the same standards of justice that Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean have been held to in his prosecution of their case.

But that�s where Sutton�s talking points begin to lose their spin, because unlike the Border Patrol agents' case, Sutton himself is allegedly part of the cover-up in the House of Death case. And, unlike the case of Ramos and Compean, there has been no criminal prosecution pursued by Sutton�s office, or anyone within the Department of Justice, of law enforcers involved in the House of Death case to date.

Yet, for some reason as yet not clear, the conservative blog world, even the mainstream press, have failed to connect these two cases in any meaningful way, to point out the hypocrisy of Sutton�s media talking points.

So, it is only appropriate that we take the opportunity to allow readers to make those connections for themselves.

Among Sutton�s recent press releases is a five-page screed issued a few weeks ago comparing what Sutton calls the �Myths� surrounding the Border Patrol agents' legal prosecution and what he terms the �Reality.�

It seems appropriate that a similar approach be used in comparing Sutton�s �reality� in the case of Ramos and Compean with the reality of the House of Death.

Following are comments taken from Sutton�s press releases over the past 11 months concerning the case of Ramos and Compean set against the allegations and evidence that have surfaced so far in House Death mass murder in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. After you are done reading this comparison of diverging realities, ask yourself why Sutton, or someone within DOJ, has not pursued a prosecution in the House of Death case, to at least allow a jury to assess the evidence of guilt or innocence.

Sutton press release dated Aug. 11, 2006

The laws of the United States make it a crime for law enforcement officers to use excessive force in apprehending suspects.

House of Death reality

The assassins at the House of Death worked for one of the most powerful Mexican narco-trafficking organizations, which is a business the size of a major corporation, whose CEO is an individual named Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

Under Vicente are a host of managers, or lieutenants, who help run his organization, referred to as the VCF. In Juarez, at the time of the House of Death, the top lieutenant was a man named Heriberto Santillan-Taberes.

Between August 2003 and mid-January 2004 up to a dozen people were tortured and slain at the House of Death in Juarez by Mexican state police who were on Santillan�s payroll -- the very same police who are supposed to arrest narco-traffickers. But these cops didn�t use their police vehicles to fight crime; rather, their squad cars were put to use hauling loads of dope and dead bodies for Santillan and his employer, the VCF.

The House of Death murders were carried out as part of the VCF�s �business plan� to assure it continues to dominate the cocaine and marijuana smuggling operations in the Juarez/West Texas corridor � a distribution hub that is the heartbeat of a major drug-transportation network whose capillaries are spread through the heart of America. The VCF maintain this control by coercion, intimidation and force � including kidnapping and murdering rival traffickers who have not been approved to smuggle drugs within the corridor.

The House of Death, then, was a place where the contracts and rules of the narco-trafficking business are enforced by Santillan and the VCF.

But in the case of this particular murder factory in Juarez, the House of Death at 3633 Parsioneros Street, there was a rat on the loose whose treachery would ultimately expose the whole bloody business.

Guillermo Ramirez Peyro grew up in Mexico City, the son of professional parents who worked as civil engineers. After taking a stab at college, he went to work as a federal highway patrol officer in the state of Guerrero in southern Mexico for about a year before he was fired because he had problems getting along with his boss.

After leaving his job as a federal cop in the late 1990s, Ramirez moved into the drug business full-time. Ramirez says that was a natural career move, since he had already made numerous connections in that world while working as a cop. He managed the distribution of drug shipments for a narco-trafficker based in Guadalajara, Mexico, (coordinating the movement of drugs from Colombia into Mexico) for a while and eventually made his way to Juarez, where he hooked up with Santillan�s organization.

He rose in favor in the Juarez organization, and became a trusted associate of Santillan. In his role as Santillan�s second-in-command, Ramirez also developed a close relationship with members of the state police in Juarez, particularly with the night-shift commander in the city, Miguel Loya � who is a ruthless killer. Loya personally carried out some of the executions at the House of Death. In one case, two drug mules lost a load of Loya�s marijuana to a seizure by the Juarez municipal police. The two men were brought to the House of Death, told to lift their shirts over their faces, and then Loya shot them in the head using a pistol with a silencer.

In 2000, however, Ramirez also took on another role, one hidden from Santillan and the VCF, a role that would have gotten Ramirez killed if his narco-world employers had been aware of it.

It is not clear how Ramirez came upon this moonlighting job. He says he volunteered for the job out of a sense of doing the right thing. However, some say he was forced into the employment in 2000 as a means of avoiding incarceration after being caught by U.S. law enforcers on the U.S. border with a load of dope.

Whatever the case, Ramirez, already a trusted and high-level operator within Santillan�s Juarez drug organization, was recruited by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as an informant � a snitch. It was a perfect arrangement for ICE, since Ramirez was in a position to feed them information about the criminal activities of the VCF Juarez operations from inside the criminal group. In exchange, Ramirez got some pocket change from the U.S. government � about $225,000 between 2000 and 2004. And he claims he is still owed hundreds of thousands of dollars more by the U.S. government.

In June 2003, Ramirez was caught running a load of marijuana across the U.S. border behind the backs of ICE and DEA. At that point, DEA, which also used Ramirez for a short time as a snitch, deactivated him as an informant and washed their hands of him. DEA felt Ramirez could not be trusted and that he, in fact, was likely deceiving U.S. law enforcement agencies at the same time he was spying on Santillan and the VCF. Ramirez was playing a dangerous game as a double agent with his only loyalty being to himself, and neither the criminals (the VCF) nor the supposed good guys, the DEA and ICE, really knew what he was up to at that point.

However, despite Ramirez� shady activities (and after he was caught smuggling dope in June 2003), ICE and Assistant U.S. Attorney Fielden, with approvals from their supervisors in Washington, D.C., made the decision to keep using Ramirez as an informant, because they were intent on making a career-boosting case against Santillan. This is the first evidence that ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the U.S. Attorney�s Office were willing the bend the rules in order to achieve their objectives. It also created a major rift between ICE and DEA in the Santillan investigation.

Sutton press release dated Oct. 23, 2006

 . . . If we are to demand that the laws be followed on our Southwest border we must be prepared to apply them to our own agents when they willfully and intentionally violate them.

(Link to entire press release here.)

House of Death reality

The informant Ramirez, as part of his job for the VCF �corporation,� and while on the payroll of the U.S. government, would make the preparations for the House of Death murders -- which were referred to by Santillan as �carne asadas� -- or barbeques. These preparations included handling the keys to the house, assembling the assassins, and purchasing lime to aid with decomposition of the bodies. He also paid the gravediggers who buried the bodies (including Mexican attorney Fernando Reyes� corpse) in the backyard of the House of Death at 3633 Parsioneros in Juarez.

In fact, Ramirez actually recorded the murder of Mexican attorney Fernando Reyes. The informant was at the House of Death on August 5, 2003, when Reyes was restrained by the two Mexican police officers. He was in the living room that day and provided the plastic bag that was placed over Reyes� head; Ramirez also purchased the duct tape that was used to secure that bag around Reyes� head; and Ramirez, by his own admission, participated in the murder itself by restraining Reyes� legs as he was moved from the chair to the floor, where he was choked with the electrical cord and later bashed on the back of the head with the shovel that would be used to bury his body.

And, according to several law enforcement sources, the torture and murder of Reyes also was listened to live, as it was happening, via cell phone by ICE agents (who had a wiretap on the informant�s phone). In addition, ICE agents that same day debriefed Ramirez about the Reyes� murder at the ICE office in El Paso.

So clearly, as of the first House of Death murder, ICE agents, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Fielden, were aware that Ramirez had participated in a homicide while working as their informant. However, they decided to continue using the informant to deepen the case against Santillan. They choose to do this despite the fact that in March 2003, several months prior to the first murder, the informant had set up sting involving a delivery of dope by Santillan�s men to a location in northern Texas. So ICE already had enough evidence to arrest Santillan for narco-trafficking, but they wanted more; they wanted to snare Santillan in more serious criminal activity and also likely wanted to keep using Ramirez to see how far they could penetrate into the VCF � maybe even getting the ultimate prize of taking down the CEO of the VCF, Carrillo Fuentes himself. For everyone involved on the U.S. side, that would have been the ultimate play for their bureaucratic careers.

In court records that have since surfaced concerning the House of Death, Fielden claims that high-level Justice and Homeland Security officials (including U.S. Attorney Sutton�s office in San Antonio) authorized the continued use of the informant after they became aware of the Reyes murder. However, Fielden and the ICE agents involved (including the head of ICE�s El Paso office, Giovanni Gaudioso; the second-in-charge Patricia Kramer; Group Supervisor Curtis Compton; and the informant�s direct handler, ICE agent Raul Bencomo) contend that they could not have anticipated that Ramirez would participate in additional murders after the initial murder of Reyes. This flies in the face of what Ramirez has testified to in court. He claims he did make ICE and the U.S. Attorney�s Office aware of each murder, often in advance of them taking place. And ICE agents most certainly were aware that the informant was charged with overseeing the burial of the bodies, since they actually allowed Ramirez to return to Juarez after the Reyes murder to pay the gravedigger. In fact, that gravedigger confirmed that Ramirez was present for at least five of the murders at the House of Death.

In order for ICE to justify the continued use of the informant, either high-level approvals would have been needed from Justice and Homeland Security (including Fielden�s boss, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton), or the ICE agents and U.S. prosecutor in El Paso would have had to run this case as a rogue operation, which would have entailed destroying and fabricating reports and evidence to assure their bosses did not discover the full extent of their activities. It is possible a little bit of both happened.

So it went, and the informant was allowed to return to Juarez time and again over the course of the five months after Reyes� murder (August 2003 through early January 2004) to help set up or participate in additional murders at the House of Death, working closely with Loya and Santillan. Over that period, a total of at least 11 more people would meet their maker at the House of Death -- and their corpses were all buried like garbage in the backyard of the house.

As far as the cross-border cooperation between law enforcers, ICE officials decided, after the first murder, to inform their Mexican counterparts of only the fact that Ramirez had �witnessed� a murder in Juarez. So it is clear from that written communication from ICE to Mexican federal officials that the truth in this case was being concealed from the Mexican government. ICE officials in El Paso did inform DEA�s Juarez office about the Reyes �murder incident� at the House of Death, but ICE did not provide DEA with sufficient information to identify the location of the house. In addition, ICE officials in El Paso refused to allow Ramirez to assist DEA with locating the house because they claimed it would jeopardize the safety of their informant.

ICE agents and supervisors in El Paso who were employing Ramirez as their informant, and everyone else in the chain of command (Fielden, Sutton and high-level officials at Homeland Security and the Department of Justice) who were in the know, had to make a choice after becoming aware of their informant�s participation in the first House of Death murder. They could either shut down the Santillan investigation and cut their losses, or they could look the other way, rationalize the initial murder, and the ones that followed, as regrettable, but unavoidable casualties in �the war on drugs.�

By choosing the latter course, they might snare the generals of the narco-trafficking world in Mexico and gain national recognition, and consequent career favor. But if they failed, the murders could well become a chopping block for their heads in the arena of public opinion and even the courts. The bottom line is that they should have all known (ICE, the U.S. Attorney, the bureaucrats in Washington, even the White House) that allowing Ramirez to commit murder was a violation of every rule on the book in terms of the use of government-sponsored informants, and they also should have been cognizant of the fact that they could be accused of being complicit in the House of Death murders as well.

Sutton press release dated March 8, 2006

�Everyday the brave men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol put their lives on the line to protect us. We thank them for their sacrifice and trust them with the burden of enforcing the law. Agents Compean and Ramos abused that trust through violence and cover-up. The fact that they are now convicted and will soon be punished for their crimes is a perfect example of why America stands out as a country where no one is above the law,� stated United States Attorney Johnny Sutton.

House of Death reality

The lid was blown off of Santillan�s death house operation, as far as ICE being able to keep its dirty laundry in-house, when on Jan. 14, 2003, a DEA agent and his family were targeted for a trip to the House of Death. Santillan�s men pulled the agent�s car over in Juarez after mistaking him for a rival drug smuggler. ICE agents in El Paso had no choice at that point but to inform DEA of the incident.

As a result of the traffic stop, DEA evacuated all of its agents and their families from Juarez as a safety precaution. The next day, Jan. 15, the ICE attach� in Mexico, along with a DEA official, informed the Mexican Attorney General that the informant Ramirez had actually participated in the murder of attorney Reyes at the House of Death. (This corrects the lie told to the Mexican government months earlier -- when ICE claimed Ramirez had only �witnessed� a murder at the House of Death.)

That same day, Jan. 15, 2004, two Mexican cops pull over a white pick-up truck that had just exited a gated subdivision in Juarez. One of the cops asks the driver, Rodolfo Renteria Cervantes, for his identification. When he showed the police officer his ID, the cop shot him in the face with a 9-mm handgun. He died at the scene. A passenger in the truck also was shot -- in the mouth and neck -- but he survived, though refused to cooperate with law enforcement. A DEA source within the Chihuahua State Police indicated that the murder was carried out personally by Miguel Loya and was related to �the loss of a 4,000-pound load of unspecified drugs.�

Two days later, on Jan. 17, 2004, the Mexican government dispatched a federal prosecutor and some 80 federal agents to Juarez to investigate the House of Death murders. About 10 days later, more than a dozen of Loya�s state police gang and some low-level thugs, gravediggers, were taken into custody. Loya, though, was still on the loose.

ICE�s hope to build a case against the top leaders of the VCF was now shattered because DEA was now concerned that the narco-trafficker Santillan posed a threat to its agents in Juarez. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fielden and ICE officials in El Paso put plans into motion to arrest Santillan.

Santillan still did not realize Ramirez was an informant, so ICE enlisted Ramirez to lure the VCF boss across the border so that he could be taken into custody. Ramirez contacted Santillan by phone and they agreed to meet in El Paso to talk about business. While Ramirez and Santillan were driving, along a pre-designated street, the El Paso Police Department initiated a traffic stop and Santillan was arrested on narco-trafficking and murder charges -- on Jan. 15, 2004, the day after the traffic stop involving the DEA agent and his family.

Two days later, ICE and the informant finally confirmed the location of the House of Death for the Mexican federal police. However, it would take another five days before Mexican officials could obtain a warrant to search the House of Death. The delay was caused by ICE�s refusal to allow Mexican officials access to Ramirez to get his statement to establish the probable cause for the search warrant. DEA officials, too, were frustrated with ICE�s refusal to allow the informant to assist in apprehending other House of Death suspects, including Mexican state police commander Loya. ICE claimed that it would be too dangerous for Ramirez to assist DEA on such an assignment -- even though the informant was willing to help.

On Jan. 21, 2004, ICE finally allowed Mexican officials to obtain a formal statement from an ICE supervisor and two agents to serve as probable cause for a search warrant of the House of Death in lieu of a statement from Ramirez, but ICE still refused to allow Mexican law enforcers access to the informant Ramirez.

A search warrant for the House of Death was issued the following day. However, Mexican officials were not allowed to question Ramirez until some 20 days later, on Feb. 12, 2004 -- long after the House of Death victims had been dug up and their images broadcast over the media.

Ramirez claims that Mexican law enforcers involved in the House of Death search purposely leaked information about the location of the residence to the media, so that the remaining VCF operators in Juarez, including Miguel Loya, would be warned that an investigation was underway.

Shortly after the evacuation of DEA agents from Juarez, the head of DEA, Karen Tandy, met with the Juarez DEA agents and their families in El Paso to discuss the situation. She also spoke with U.S. Attorney Sutton and Assistant U.S. Attorney Fielden and briefed the Attorney General (at the time, John Ashcroft) about ICE�s handling of the informant Ramirez.

A joint DEA/ICE assessment team, or JAT, was assembled to conduct an investigation and to prepare an internal report. DEA, on its own, also began to piece together the chronology of events surrounding the traffic stop.

Sutton press release dated Jan. 17, 2007

 . . . The job of federal prosecutors is to enforce the laws the best we can. If law enforcement officers break the law, they have to face the consequences just like anyone else.

House of Death reality

After Santillan�s arrest and once news of the House of Death hit the media, ICE hid the informant Ramirez at a secret location in San Antonio, Texas -- supposedly to protect him from the VCF organization he had betrayed and to assure his safety as a witness against Santillan in court. Santillan was facing trial in San Antonio -- the home base of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton.

In the wake ICE�s stonewalling of the investigation into the traffic stop of the DEA agents, the head of DEA�s El Paso office, Sandalio Gonzalez, wrote a letter in February 2004 to the head of ICE�s El Paso office, Gaudioso. A copy of that letter also was directed to U.S. Attorney Sutton�s office in San Antonio.

In that letter, Gonzalez decried ICE�s handling of the Santillan investigation and the needless murders that were allowed to take place at the House of Death all in the name of making a drug case. He also expressed his outrage at the fact that ICE El Paso and Assistant U.S. Attorney Fielden had stonewalled DEA�s efforts to gain access to Ramirez after the evacuation of DEA agents from Juarez. In addition, he blew the whistle on their efforts to thwart DEA�s attempt to capture Miguel Loya � who, as a result, managed to escape with several of his henchmen and remains at large.

In reaction to Gonzalez� letter, U.S. Attorney Sutton and DEA Administrator Tandy conspired to silence and retaliate against Gonzalez, rather than investigate his charges. Gonzalez was ordered not to speak of his letter to anyone and received a negative job-performance review criticizing him for poor judgment in writing the letter. He also was denied further promotions and has since retired from DEA, in large part due to the retaliation he suffered at the hands of DEA. Sutton used his pull within the Justice Department to slap down Gonzalez because he feared that the letter would surface in the public record as part of Santillan�s trial and expose the U.S. government�s role in the House of Death murders, according to Gonzalez.

Some six months after Gonzalez fired off his letter to ICE and Sutton�s office, the informant, who, along with his family, was living in San Antonio under the guard of ICE agents, mysteriously was allowed to return to El Paso (in late August 2004) to pick up $25,000 in drug money from some of his narco contacts. Ramirez claims he was participating in drug sting set up by ICE. However, ICE agents claim the informant was acting without their knowledge.

Other law enforcement sources contend Ramirez was demanding more money from his ICE handlers, threatening to expose their role in the House of Death to the court and public if they did not comply. Those same sources say one of the ICE supervisors (sometime in the spring of 2004) paid Ramirez $25,000 or more by breaking ICE�s rules and issuing the payment through another informant�s account � an informant who happened to be dead. As a result, the law enforcement sources say Ramirez� trip to El Paso might well have been engineered by his ICE handlers as a means of getting Ramirez additional money.

In any event, Ramirez, by this point, was extremely paranoid and likely was suspicious that the El Paso money drop could be a set-up. He was already aware that the VCF in Juarez was kidnapping associates who had been close to him, since the House of Death murders and the case against Santillan were the subjects of media coverage.

So Ramirez sent an acquaintance to pick up the money. That acquaintance, 27-year-old U.S. citizen Abraham Guzman, the father of two-week-old boy, was shot dead at the hamburger joint by a VCF-connected drug mule -- who pumped four bullets into Guzman�s chest and face after mistaking him for Ramirez. The would-be assassin was found dead a few days later in an alley in Juarez, according to Ramirez, because he failed in his mission. From that point on, the informant, who is a Mexican citizen, disappeared from public view, and was put in prison at an undisclosed location for his own protection. His wife and children, who were allowed into the United States on humanitarian grounds, are now living in the Southwest with their living expenses being covered by the U.S. government,

Sutton press release dated Jan. 17, 2006

 . . . This office cannot ignore these agents� crimes just because the person they shot turned out to be a drug smuggler. Our system of justice requires that a person be tried in a court of law before he is punished. We do not permit police officers to summarily punish those whom the officers think have committed crimes. . . .

 . . . The courts have held that the 4th Amendment to the Constitution protects all persons in the United States whether they are here legally or illegally. It is a violation of the 4th Amendment to shoot an unarmed person who poses no threat to the shooter. This law applies regardless of immigration status.

House of Death reality

In April 2005, Sutton cut a plea deal with Santillan. As part of the bargain, Sutton agreed to drop all the murder charges against him and avoided a public trial that would have shone a light on the complicity of ICE agents and the U.S. Attorney�s Office � and possibly high-level officials within the Bush administration -- in the House of Death mass murder. Santillan received a 25-year sentence for pleading guilty to charges of �conducting a criminal enterprise� and is now in federal prison.

Sutton issued a public statement after the plea deal indicating that because the House of Death murders occurred in Mexico, the Mexican government was in a better position to pursue justice for the victims (even though at least one of those victims, Luis Padilla, was a U.S. legal resident who was abducted in the United States and killed in Juarez, likely by mistake). Padilla�s body was found in the backyard of the House of Death stripped to the waist, partially decomposed, and covered with blood, particularly thick in the groin area.

The only known investigation into the House of Death conducted to date was the internal (non-criminal) JAT review by DEA and ICE. Both of those agencies have continued to stonewall legal efforts to make that report public -- with DEA even going as far as to threaten to declare portions of it classified under national security law.

To date, no one at ICE or the U.S. Attorney�s Office has lost his or her job due to the House of Death. In fact, Gaudioso, the head of ICE�s El Paso office at the time of the Santillan investigation, was recently named the second-in-command in Houston, a much larger city than El Paso and a more prestigious post -- and he got a pay bump in the process. In addition, Curtis Compton, one of the ICE supervisors who played a key role in handling the informant Ramirez, was recently promoted to Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge in ICE�s El Paso field office.

U.S. Attorney Sutton, too, has since moved up the pecking order in the Department of Justice bureaucracy. His long-time associate, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, (Sutton and Gonzales also both served under George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas) last year appointed him as the chairman of the Attorney General�s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, which plays a major role in determining policy for the Department of Justice.

Ramirez�s fortunes have been quite different, however. The Department of Justice initiated deportation proceedings against him after Santillan�s conviction and is now seeking to send him back to Mexico, where he claims he will certainly be killed by the narco-traffickers he betrayed. His case is pending before the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

And it seems the VCF organization has not forgotten Ramirez and ICE or the House of Death. In November 2006 in Juarez, the mutilated body of a man was found in a park. He had been tortured before being shot to death and his severed finger was stuffed in his mouth � a sign from narco-traffickers that he was a snitch. Two business cards belonging to U.S. federal agents were taped to his head. One of those cards belonged to Raul Bencomo, the ICE agent who recruited Ramirez as an informant.

Stay tuned. . . .

Bill Conroy, is an investigative reporter and correspondent for Narco News, where this story originally appeared. He can be contacted at

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