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Special Reports Last Updated: Aug 22nd, 2007 - 01:04:46

House of Death cover-up is unraveling fast
By Bill Conroy
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 22, 2007, 01:01

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Sometimes it�s the little people that power seeks to squash like mice, who, in the end, bring down the elephant.

In the case of the House of Death mass murder, it appears that �mouse� has begun to roar.

Renae Baros, a former low-level investigative assistant for the El Paso, Texas, office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has filed a lawsuit in federal court that reveals a pattern of alleged discrimination and integrity lapses on the part of two ICE supervisors who played key roles in the House of Death case.

Specifically, recent pleadings in the lawsuit, filed in El Paso, claim that one of those ICE supervisors falsified documents related to informant payments. The pleadings also assert that the supervisor demonstrated a callous indifference to the House of Death murder victims by referring to them as �just Mexicans.�

With respect to the other ICE supervisor, pleadings in the litigation allege that he failed to �timely report� information related to the House of Death case and also, in a separate matter, that he engaged in violence in the workplace, misused a government vehicle and made �false statements� to government investigators.

These two ICE supervisors helped to direct a U.S. government informant (Guillermo Ramirez Peyro) who assisted, and even participated, in the torture and murder of a dozen people at the House of Death in Juarez, Mexico, between August 2003 and mid-January 2004.

In legal pleadings in a separate pending federal lawsuit also filed in El Paso by the families of the victims of the House of Death, these same two ICE supervisors have denied any responsibility for their informant�s murderous activities. One of those supervisors, Curtis Compton, has sworn in an affidavit that is now part of the case record that he did not know, nor could he have predicted, that the informant would continue to assist in the murders after ICE became aware of his participation in the first murder in August 2003.

From Compton�s affidavit in that case:

I was not aware of any of the [House of Death] killings described in the [lawsuit brought by the victims� families] prior to the events taking place. Moreover, to my knowledge, no one at ICE or the Untied States Department of Justice was aware that the murders would take place prior to their occurrence.

After that first murder, at least 11 more people would be tortured, murdered and buried in the backyard of the House of Death. The informant Ramirez claims he informed his ICE handlers about the murders, often in advance, in testimony he provided under oath in U.S. immigration court. (The U.S. government is currently seeking to deport Ramirez to Mexico, back to a certain death at the hands of the narco-traffickers he betrayed, he claims)

Given the allegation in the Baros lawsuit that ICE supervisor Compton has a past track record of making false statements to law enforcement agents, Compton�s credibility with respect to his claims of ignorance in the House of Death murders might now be deemed suspect.

Likewise, as a result of the Baros lawsuit, now in question is the veracity of the other ICE supervisor accused of falsifying payment documents related to an informant. (And Narco News sources claim that those falsified payment documents involved the House of Death informant Ramirez.)

Those are disturbing revelations considering what transpired in the House of Death and in light of a DEA whistleblower�s claim that high-level officials within the Bush Administration, to this day, are going to great lengths to cover up the U.S. governments complicity -- and liability -- in the brutal murders in Juarez.

After the initial House of Death murder on Aug. 5, 2003, ICE supervisors, with the approval of a federal prosecutor in El Paso, continued to send the informant back to the House of Death after receiving clearances from high-level officials at both the departments of Homeland Security and Justice. (ICE is part of Homeland Security, or DHS, and the prosecutor works for the U.S. Attorney General, who heads the Justice Department.)

In the end, the bodies of 12 victims were unearthed in a shallow grave in the backyard of the House of Death at 3633 Parsioneros -- a street in a middle-class neighborhood in Juarez.

A Juarez cell of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) drug organization operated the House of Death. ICE's informant, a former Mexican cop, also was a major player in the VCF. The informant, along with a group of Mexican state policemen, worked for the leader of the Juarez narco-trafficking cell (Heriberto Santillan Tabares) and carried out the House of Death murders as part of the drug organization�s �business� operations.

ICE El Paso was using the informant to penetrate the VCF cell in order to make a big drug case, which would have helped to bolster the career prospects of the ICE supervisors running the show.

Compton is a group supervisor with ICE. The other ICE supervisor now in the spotlight as a result of the Baros case, Patricia Kramer, served as associate special agent in charge of the agency�s El Paso office at the time of the House of Death and, as such, was the No. 2 commander in the office. Both Compton and Kramer are named as defendants in the lawsuit filed by the families of the House of Death victims.

Here�s what pleadings in that lawsuit, have to say about Compton, Kramer and other ICE agents, as well as the U.S. prosecutor in El Paso (Juanita Fielden) -- who was charged with coordinating the House of Death investigation for the Justice Department:

[They] were all in agreement in recruiting, encouraging and allowing [the informant] Ramirez to torture and kill several victims including [U.S. legal resident] Luis Padilla, under shield of law, which was undoubtedly unlawful and beyond their call of duty amounting to conspiracy. . . .

However, the judge in the lawsuit dismissed the families' case in a ruling just issued on Aug. 20. Part of the reasoning in his complicated and layered ruling was that the ICE agents could not have reasonably anticipated the House of Death murders occurring, despite the fact that their own informant assisted with the murders -- actually holding down the legs of the victim in the first murder.

�No actions by the Government Defendants [ICE agents] placed the victims in the predicament leading to their demise,� the federal judge in El Paso ruled. � . . . Further, the summary judgment evidence shows the deaths were not foreseeable, as Defendants [ICE agents] could not have reasonably anticipated the consequences of their acts on indeterminate victims.�

Of course, this ruling was issued before any of the new evidence about the two ICE supervisors' alleged lack of candor and falsifying documents could be put into the case record.

And, after all, these �indeterminate victims� were �just Mexicans.�

The Baros case

In her federal discrimination lawsuit, Baros alleges that in August 2001 an ICE supervisor sexually harassed her. At the time of the incident, Baros was an investigative assistant who worked with a group of U.S. Customs agents primarily in a support and clerical capacity, so she was not a law enforcement officer. U.S. Customs became part of ICE in 2003 after the creation of DHS.

Although Baros was a low-level employee, her experience and track record as an investigative assistant did qualify her in high-standing as a candidate for a special agents job, an opportunity she claims was derailed in the wake of the alleged sexual harassment.

After reporting the incident to her superiors and later filing an Equal Opportunity Employment (EEO) complaint, Baros claims in her federal court pleadings that ICE supervisor Kramer, and others within ICE, retaliated against her by fostering hostile working conditions, refusing to consider her for promotions and initiating a series of internal affairs investigations against her.

This retaliation occurred over a period of years, even while Baros� EEO case was pending. Baros now works as an administrative support person in ICE�s Las Cruces, N.M., office.

In one of the many internal affairs investigations Baros was subjected to, she was accused of exhibiting a lack of candor with investigators, which resulted in her being suspended for 10 days without pay in September 2006, according to her court pleadings.

Baros�s attorneys, however, contend that the internal affairs investigations were frivolous and part of a pattern of discrimination and retaliation against their client.

Attorneys for ICE claim Baros� allegations of discrimination and retaliation are without merit.

The case (Renae Baros vs. Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security) is now pending in U.S. District Court in El Paso.

'Protecting' the truth

In the most recent development in Baros' case (one that directly relates to the House of Death), the government filed a motion for a protective order seeking to prevent Baros� attorneys from questioning ICE supervisors Compton and Kramer about their disciplinary records.

In seeking the protective order, the government argues that the supervisors� records are not relevant to Baros� case and that releasing the information would violate Compton and Kramer�s privacy and also hold them up to public ridicule.

In fact, the government even invokes Narco News� coverage of the House of Death case as a source of concern on that front.

From the government�s motion for a protective order in the Baros case:

Curtis Compton and Patricia Kramer have been the victims of unfounded negative publicity. In particular, [Baros] testified in her deposition that she acquired negative information about Curtis Compton from a web site known as �Narco News.� Additionally, there have been several stories in various media outlets where either Kramer or Compton have been cast in a negative light. To the extent that any disciplinary history may exist as to either Curtis Compton or Patricia Kramer, the potential exists that if it is disclosed, it will make its way into these media outlets and be used for purposes of further harassing and embarrassing both Compton and Kramer.

Baros� attorneys have a different take on the matter, as one might expect. (One of those attorneys is Mark Conrad, a former regional supervisor of internal affairs for U.S. Customs -- ICE�s predecessor agency.)

Baros' lawyers claim that the disciplinary records are critical to demonstrating that the ICE office in El Paso is a breeding ground for racial discrimination, particularly with respect to Hispanic women -- such as Baros.

Kramer and Compton played important roles in creating that hostile and discriminatory working environment, Baros� attorneys argue in court pleadings.

From Baros� court pleadings responding to the government�s motion for a protective order:

Ms. Kramer�s disdain toward women in general in her office and towards Hispanic women led to 10 Hispanic females filing a Congressional Complaint that led to an internal investigation of Ms. Kramer�s discriminatory practices. . . . That investigation was conducted by Senior Special Agent Steven Cooper.

The Plaintiff [Baros] has asked for this document in discovery and is entitled to it since it will bolster [her] claim of gender and racial discrimination.

 . . . [Baros�] attorney has also developed information that Ms. Kramer referred to those who died in the so-called House of Death matter in a derogatory manner when she stated �they�re just Mexicans.�

 . . . According to Ms. [Anita] Trujillo [an ICE special agent who has a discrimination case pending against ICE], Mr. Compton harassed, assaulted, verbally abused and discriminated against her because she was a Hispanic female. Later, according to Ms. Trujillo, when she was reassigned to another Group Supervisor, Joe Bosarge, she was harassed by Bosarge. Upon his retirement, Bosarge told Ms. Trujillo he was sorry for the harassment but that it was done at the behest of Ms. Kramer.

Baros� attorneys, in arguing against the government�s motion for a protective order, also contend that the disciplinary records of Compton and Kramer will expose a history of a lack of candor on the part of the two ICE supervisors, which is crucial to demonstrating that ICE management is not held to the same standard as are lower-level employees when it comes to the issue of telling the truth.

From Baros� court pleadings:

 . . . The Defendant (the Department of Homeland Security represented by the Department of Justice) is in the unenviable position of claiming that the higher up you are in position, title and grade the less accountable one is with regard to the truth. . . . We, however, should not be surprised given the recent admissions of the Attorney General [Alberto Gonzales].

Tangled web

In this garden of litigation that has sprung up over the dysfunction of ICE management in El Paso, the House of Death keeps popping to the surface, even as the government�s attorneys are doing their best to keep evidence related to the mass murder buried. The protective order being sought in the Baros case appears to be, at least in part, directed toward that end.

But this should come as no surprise to those who have been following the House of Death story.

DEA whistleblower Sandalio Gonzalez, a former special agent in charge of the agency�s El Paso field division, in February 2004 sent a memo about the House of Death to his counterpart at ICE in El Paso. A copy of that letter also found its way to U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in San Antonio -- whom President Bush describes as a �dear friend.�

In that memo, Gonzalez expressed his outrage at the role ICE and a U.S. prosecutor (Juanita Fielden) played in enabling a government informant (Ramirez) to participate in multiple murders at the House of Death -- actions that nearly caused the deaths of a DEA agent and his family.

Gonzalez claims further that after he sent the memo, a government cover-up was hatched that involves the highest levels of the departments of Justice and Homeland Security. As part of that cover-up, Gonzalez claims that DEA Administrator Karen Tandy retaliated against him in an effort to silence him -- eventually forcing Gonzalez into an early retirement. All this was done, Gonzalez asserts, at the behest of President Bush�s Texas pal, U.S. Attorney Sutton.

The Department of Justice recently agreed to pay $385,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit that Gonzalez filed against the government in federal court in Miami. That lawsuit stemmed, in part, from the heavy-handed treatment Gonzalez received from his employer after he brought to light the U.S. government�s complicity in the House of Death mass murder in Juarez, Mexico.

So, it would appear that the U.S. government is very determined to keep the truth of the House of Death under wraps. And it appears that whatever is in ICE�s records about Compton and Kramer is a threat to that effort.

From the government�s motion for a protective order in the Baros case:

 . . . Kramer and Compton are named defendants in a civil lawsuit [filed by the families of the victims of the House of Death] the basis of which arose during their tenure in El Paso. . . .

To the extent that any disciplinary history may exist, there is a likely possibility that this information may unfairly be used in an effort to undermine Ms. Kramer�s and Mr. Compton�s legal rights in the lawsuit. . . .

Baros� attorneys reply, in her court pleadings, as follows:

The defendant [DHS] fails to note that it is also a defendant in those civil suits and has a major stake in suppressing any unfavorable information about the bigotry and credibility of both Ms. Kramer and Mr. Compton since their actions in those civil suits [related to the House of Death] may have created substantial liability for [the government]. That something unfavorable to Ms. Kramer or Mr. Compton might come out in this case that could cause harm to them in another case is not a valid reason for [DHS or ICE] to withhold this requested information.

 . . . [Baros�] attorney, during his initial investigation of this case, learned that during the time when Jesus Torres was the Acting Special Agent in Charge for the El Paso [ICE] office, (May �July 2005) Torres received the . . . Report of Investigation (Red Book) pertaining to Ms. Kramer. Mr. Torres reviewed the Red book and proposed her removal from the federal service for the falsification of government documents pertaining to informant payments.

Since [ICE] is relying upon Ms. Kramer�s denials of discriminatory conduct in this case [Baros] is entitled to any information in [ICE�s] possession that could challenge her credibility and integrity. If she falsified government documents to improperly pay government informants, how can anything she would testify to be credible. [Baros] is entitled to make inquiries into this area and is entitled to a copy of the government�s investigation that goes directly to Ms. Kramer�s credibility.

 . . . If Compton and Kramer, have engaged in past conduct that led to their predicament, this is simply a consequence of their choices in life. [Baros] has demonstrated that the credibility of Ms. Kramer is a critical issue. [DHS] has, heretofore, relied upon Ms. Kramer�s affidavits in the investigation to deny any discrimination or retaliation on her part, yet [ICE] was proposing to remove her from public service for falsifying documents.

The allegations related to Compton�s past credibility issues are spelled out in even more detail in an excerpt from a legal deposition that is attached to Baro�s court pleadings as an exhibit.

The deposition was taken in January 2007 and is related to yet another legal case pending before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). In the deposition, Kenn Thomas, a former ICE program manager (and now the special agent in charge of ICE�s Office of Professional Responsibility, or internal affairs, in San Diego) testified directly about Compton�s past disciplinary issues.

From the deposition (in which questions are addressed to Thomas by Baros� attorney, Mark Conrad, who is representing a separate client in the MSPB case):

Conrad: All right. We�ll kind of switch gears a little bit. You already indicated, correct me if I�m wrong or misstate this, you indicated earlier that Anita Trujillo had problems with Curtis Compton?

Thomas: Yes.

Conrad: Again, for the record, are you aware that Anita Trujillo is also a client of mine?

Thomas: Yes, I am.

Conrad: . . . I just want to make it absolutely clear in my mind, was Curtis Compton honest, candid, forthright in the answers he responded during the [ICE] management inquiry involving Anita Trujillo [related to her allegation that Compton harassed her in the workplace]?

Thomas: No.

Conrad: I�m sorry?

Thomas: No.

Conrad: And was he less than candid more than one time in that investigation?

Thomas: Yes, he was.

Conrad: Are we talking about a dozen times, three or four, to the best that you can recall?

Thomas: I recall substantiating a false statement allegation that included four or five examples.

 . . . Conrad: Do you know what the charge was [for Compton in relation to ICE�s investigation of his alleged misconduct]?

Thomas: There were two files. There was one substantiated violation from what you�re referring to as the House of Death. I don�t know what the actual case title is. That had to do with failure to timely report [which Narco News sources claim was related to the first House of Death murder].

Then there was the allegations that I substantiated [with respect to Trujillo�s case] when I was in OPR [the Office of Professional Responsibility, or ICE internal affairs] that had to do with violence in the workplace, misuse of a government vehicle, time and attendance violations, and false statements. The two cases were lumped together. . . .

Thomas then goes on to testify that ICE officials actually �re-colored,� or whitewashed, the final internal affairs report on Compton and based on that gave him only a one-day suspension -- which Narco News sources claim was administered on a non-work day, a Saturday.

From Thomas� deposition:

I know that in Compton�s case he received a one-day suspension based on the two red books [internal affairs investigations]. . . . Patty Kramer was proposed a severe discipline [for falsifying documents] and chose to retire.

 . . . What I substantiated [in Compton's case] was a hostile work environment, misuse of a GOV [government vehicle], something to do with violations involving time and attendance, dereliction of duty and false statements.

What showed up on the action memo [the final ICE report] was conduct unbecoming and something else. So that case was entirely re-colored, and the discipline was delved out based on that.

Baros� attorneys, in her court pleadings, describe in more direct language what ICE did in the Compton case as follows:

As referenced earlier, Mr. Thomas flatly stated that the Agency (ICE) �re-colored� the results of the serious misconduct (including false statements) and labeled it �conduct unbecoming.�

And if that isn�t evidence of a cover-up in motion, the Thomas deposition also includes this little interrogatory that certainly seems to, at the very least, leave the question of a cover-up very much open:

 . . . Conrad: Mr. Thomas, are you aware of any discussions within the agency as to taking disciplinary actions against the people involved in the House of Death, the concern being the liability of the agency in that matter if they took actions?

Government�s Attorney: Objection. That may be privileged communications if an attorney was present.

Conrad: All right.

Wheel of justice

Whatever you make of these latest revelations, it must be conceded that the Baros case itself is not centrally about the House of Death -- even if some of the players involved are intimately acquainted with that bloody tragedy. However, the pattern of alleged discrimination and lack of honesty revealed in Baros� court pleadings with respect to Compton and Kramer clearly could be viewed as damaging to the U.S. government�s claim that it is in no way complicit in the House of Death mass murder.

In any event, the judge in the Baros case recently issued a ruling on DHS�s motion for a protective order that might be seen as taking the wisdom of Solomon to its extreme in that it actually cuts the baby in half.

In that ruling, the judge agreed that Compton should not be required to testify about or otherwise have his disciplinary record entered into evidence in the Baros case. The judge determined that Compton�s �trials and tribulations� are not relevant to Baros� claims in her case.

However, with respect to Kramer, the judge determined that the government should produce certain portions of the Cooper report (which examined the allegations of the 10 Hispanic females in the ICE El Paso office who accused Kramer of discriminatory behavior in a letter to Congress).

�The plaintiff [Baros] is entitled to those pages of the [Cooper] report which refer to her complaint and complaints,� the judge ruled.

The judge also ruled that he would decide at a later date, when the evidence is submitted by the government for his inspection, whether to admit into evidence the record of Kramer�s alleged document falsification.

From his ruling:

�The plaintiff [Baros] asks the defendant [DHS] to admit that Patricia Kramer, a former supervisor, was allowed to retire in lieu of termination for cause [for falsifying informant payment records]. The related request for production asks the [government] to produce a letter purportedly authored by Jesus Torres proposing removal of Kramer. . . . As it happens, the court is unable to rule on the motion for protective order [related to this matter] at this time because these materials, if they exist, have not been produced by [the government] for . . . inspection.

In all of this legal maneuvering, it is important to keep in mind that at the core of the House of Death mass murder is the still open question of whether high-level officials at ICE, its parent agency DHS, and the Department of Justice -- and possibly the White House -- have conspired to conceal evidence that might implicate U.S. Attorney Sutton, and other �friends� of the administration (possibly even the U.S. Attorney General himself) in obstruction of justice -- an impeachable offense.

Based on the new revelations that have surfaced in the Baros case, at a minimum, there now appears to be reason to be highly suspicious of the �We knew nothing� defense advanced by the U.S. government to date in defending its decision to send their informant back to the House of Death repeatedly on a mission of murder.

And so the wheel of justice turns, slowly, degree by degree, with this case, and a host of others still pending, all in the grasp of the tentacles of the House of Death.

The mainstream media and Congress continue to ignore the cover-up, but it is unraveling just the same, in front of your eyes kind readers.

For his part, Baros� attorney, Conrad -- who also is involved in a number of other pending legal cases with links back to the House of Death -- declined to comment on his client�s case beyond what is in the court record.

�All I can say at this point is there is more to come,� Conrad says. �So 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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