Special Reports
DHS, DOJ seeking to deliver informant to House of Death's door
By Bill Conroy
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 24, 2006, 00:32

The informant in the House of Death mass murder case is now facing the consequences of his Faustian bargain with the U.S. government.

In exchange for taking the government�s gold, some $200,000, and participating in torture and murder to help advance a big drug case for U.S. prosecutors, the informant now finds himself in the devil�s court, with his life hanging in the balance.

Legal pleadings filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit reveal that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which employed the informant to narc on high-level players in the drug-trafficking netherworld, is now seeking to send the informant back into that netherworld, with his identity exposed, to face the very people he ratted out.

The appeals court pleadings trace the path of the informant�s efforts to avoid deportation to Mexico, where his deeds as an informant were carried out against a ruthless narco-trafficking organization.

DHS, which is implicated in the cover-up of their agents� complicity in the House of Death murders, initiated the deportation proceedings against the informant, the appeals court pleadings show. DHS is arguing that the informant faces no danger in Mexico despite the fact that he betrayed powerful members of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Ju�rez drug organization.

This is a curious position for DHS officials to take, given that the informant could expose the full extent of the role played by DHS agents in the House of Death murders -- so it could be argued that DHS might have a motive to see the informant out of the picture, permanently.

However, according to the court records, the immigration judge in the informant�s case disagreed with DHS� contention and granted him relief from deportation under Article III of the United Nations Convention Against Torture -- after concluding that the informant would likely be tortured and murdered by the narco-traffickers he betrayed while working for DHS if he was returned to Mexico.

DHS was not happy with that outcome and appealed the judge�s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is part of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ, too, has been implicated in the House of Death cover-up. An Assistant U.S. Attorney in El Paso, Juanita Fielden, and the U.S. Attorney in San Antonio, Johnny Sutton, have been accused of turning a blind eye to the informant�s participation in the House of Death murders because they were more interested in making a drug case against the Carrillo Fuentes organization.

The Board of Immigration Appeals, perhaps predictably, overturned the immigration judge�s ruling, which forced the informant to take his case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in an effort to forestall his deportation.

This informant, Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro (also known as �Lalo� and by the alias Jesus Contreras) had infiltrated a narco-trafficking organization in Ciud�d Ju�rez that was overseen by Heriberto Santillan-Tabares, whom U.S. prosecutors claim was a top lieutenant in Carrillo Fuentes organization. Between August 2003 and mid-January 2004, while under the watch of DHS agents, Ramirez helped to operated a House of Death in a residential neighborhood in Ju�rez where a dozen people were tortured and murdered by Mexican police who were working under the direction of Santillan.

Murder machine

The murder machine was exposed publicly in mid-January 2004 after a DEA agent and his family were nearly abducted by Santillan�s thugs. In the wake of that incident, DEA was forced to evacuate its personnel from Juarez.

Santillan was later indicted on murder and narco-trafficking charges. However, the fact that the U.S. government�s own informant, Ramirez, was complicit in those murders -- with the knowledge of his DHS handlers -- gave Santillan�s defense team the leverage it needed to negotiate a sweetheart plea deal with the U.S. Attorney�s Office in San Antonio -- which included dropping the murder charges. (Ramirez� handlers were federal agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is part of DHS.)

The plea deal with Santillan was announced on April 19, 2005. Three days later, according to the appeals court pleadings, Ramirez emerged from U.S. government protective custody to turn himself in to U.S. immigration officials in order to seek protection -- because he feared DHS was about to send him back to a certain death in Mexico at the hands of the narco-traffickers he double-crossed.

� . . . Heriberto Santillan pled guilty before trial. Mr. Ramirez, of no further use to United States law enforcement agencies in an informant�s role, was compelled to seek protection in the United States,� states Ramirez� attorney, Jodi Goodwin, in the pleadings filed in the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A couple weeks later, DHS began deportation proceedings against Ramirez.

From the appeals court pleadings:

Removal Proceedings [against Ramirez] began with issuance of a Notice to Appear, (NTA), on May 9, 2005. The NTA alleges Mr. Ramirez is not a citizen of the United States but a citizen of Mexico who was not in possession of a valid entry document when he presented himself for admission to the United States on April 22, 2005 . . . At a hearing before the [the immigration judge] on June 9, 2005, Mr. Ramirez admitted the truth of the factual allegations, conceded inadmissibility as alleged, and requested relief in the forms of Asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the CAT [United Nations Convention Against Torture]. Mr. Ramirez subsequently stipulated in his pre-hearing brief that his involvement in drug trafficking rendered him ineligible for asylum and withholding of removal.

Mr. Ram�rez testified he entered the Mexican drug trafficking industry after he left the Mexican federal highway police. His first job was as a distribution manager in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. He became a United States government informant in 2000 and subsequently made contact with the Carrillo Fuentes Organization, (CFO), in Ciud�d Ju�rez. His performance as an informant is extensively documented in the record. Mr. Ramirez explained he was tasked with infiltrating groups of organized criminals as a means to effectuate the arrest and prosecution of high-level participants.

Mr. Ramirez testified he was present when individuals who were involved with CFO in drug trafficking or whom CFO members believed were a threat were assassinated by two Mexican police officers in Ciudad Juarez. Mr. Ramirez submitted payment records
confirming he was paid over $200,000. The record details over fifty persons were successfully prosecuted and are serving prison sentences as a result of his cooperation. Mr. Ramirez was taken into custody as a material witness when Heriberto Santillan was arrested. Mr. Ramirez was placed into protective custody after death threats upon his life came to the attention of the United States Attorney.

Ramirez, though, was far more than �present� when �CFO members� tortured and killed people at the House of Death. According to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, he actually participated in the first murder at the House of Death in early August 2003.

Ramirez� ICE handlers later debriefed him about the murder, which also was recorded on tape, according to law enforcement sources. Rather than shut down the drug sting at that point, Ramirez� ICE handlers allowed him to return to the House of Death to pay a gravedigger for burying the body, FOIA records show.

In addition, Ramirez was allowed to continue his work in the House of Death murder machine -- which was responsible for at least 11 more homicides over the ensuing four months.

A gravedigger who assisted Ramirez at the House of Death confirmed that Ramirez was physically present for at least five of the murders, according to timeline of events developed by the DEA in the days immediately following the evacuation of its personnel from Ju�rez.

After Sandalio Gonzalez, the DEA chief in El Paso at the time, objected to this outrage by writing a letter in February 2004 to U.S. Attorney Sutton, rather than investigate Gonzalez� charges, Sutton used his pull within DOJ to retaliate against Gonzalez in order to silence him, according to FOIA documents obtained by Narco News. Sutton claimed, the FOIA records show, that Gonzalez� letter contained �discovery material� that could threaten the drug case against Santillan.

Convention Against Torture

Based, in part, on a report prepared by a federal asylum officer as well as reports from other government agencies, the immigration judge in Ramirez� deportation case granted him relief under the UN Convention Against Torture, the U.S. appeals court pleadings state. That ruling was based on evidence showing there was a high probability that Ramirez would be tortured and killed by narco-traffickers, or by Mexican law enforcers who worked with the narco-traffickers, should he be deported to Mexico.

From the appeals court pleadings:

Mr. Ramirez is a 35-year-old married male. He is a native and citizen of Mexico. Mr. Ramirez was a police officer in the Mexican state of Guerrero until 1995. He became involved in drug trafficking when he left the police force. Between 1995 and 1998, he coordinated transshipments of narcotics within Mexico and from the Mexican interior to the U.S. Mexico border.

As an informant for United States Customs, redesignated the Bureau of Customs and Immigration Enforcement, (ICE), pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2003, Mr. Ramirez provided information to the Drug Enforcement Administration, (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI), and the United States Secret Service. Mr. Ramirez successfully infiltrated the CFO in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Ciudad Juarez is directly opposite El Paso, Texas, and CFO transports drugs through El Paso to distribution points throughout the United States.

 . . . The Asylum Officer stated: "[Ramirez] infiltrated a drug smuggling Mexican cartel and became an informant for ICE, which resulted in multiple arrests. Since that time two separate attempts were made on [Ramirez�] life by the Cartel and [Ramirez] now believes that if he returns to Mexico he will be killed by the Cartel because of his actions as an informant."

 . . . Asylum Officer Jack Berger interviewed Mr. Ramirez concerning his fear of returning to Mexico on May 1, 2005, approximately one week prior to the initiation of removal proceedings. Relying on a report by the United States Department of State issued in 2004, Officer Berger found Mr. Ramirez had a credible fear of the Mexican government. Supervisory Asylum Officer Helen Mireles reviewed the credible fear proceedings and concurred with Officer Berger.

The [immigration judge] found that the record presents various aspects of police involvement in Mexican drug trafficking, and in combination with [Ramirez�] credible testimony, he had established a probability of torture by drug traffickers and law enforcement in Mexico if he were forced to return. Mr. Ramirez substantiated his credible testimony by presenting documents prepared by agencies of the United States government, including the Office of the United States Attorney and the DEA.

The DHS appealed the immigration judge�s ruling to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which is under the oversight of U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales -- who, along with Sutton, has deep ties to the Bush Administration that date back to George W. Bush�s tenure as governor of Texas.

The BIA sided with DHS and overruled the immigration judge, setting Ramirez up for deportation to Mexico. (Again, it is important to note that the BIA is part of DOJ, which is overseen by Sutton�s boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who has the power to appoint the board�s members and overrule or modify its decisions.)

From the appeals court pleadings:

The Department of Homeland Security, (DHS), disapproves of the findings of fact and the conclusion of the [immigration judge] and insists the record contains no evidence that Mr. Ramirez would be tortured by Mexican law enforcement while acting in their official capacity. The DHS also contends the record does not support a finding that Mr. Ramirez would be tortured by Mexican drug traffickers with the acquiescence of Mexican law enforcement.

The BIA concentrated on documentary evidence and concluded that the Mexican government is strengthening drug enforcement laws and is now more effective in eliminating organized drug traffickers such as those against whom Mr. Ramirez informed. The BIA paid special attention to testimony and record evidence concerning an offer of immunity from the Mexican government and stated it�s opinion that because most drug trafficking organizations operate in northern Mexico, the petitioner would remain safe if he relocated to a different part of the country.


The short mention of the Mexican government�s offer of immunity to Ramirez should not be overlooked. The Mexican government, under President Vicente Fox, has been conspicuously silent on the House of Death case, considering that most of the murder victims were Mexican citizens. The fact that a U.S. government informant was complicit in those homicides, with the knowledge of U.S. federal agents and prosecutors, should have prompted cries of protest from the Mexican government. Instead, according to the appeals court pleadings, the Mexican government is willing to provide the informant Ramirez with �immunity.�

You, the reader, will have to decide why that course was pursued -- and whether some type of deal was struck between U.S. and Mexican government officials to export the House of Death cover-up to the Mexican side of the border as well.

In any event, Ramirez clearly doesn�t trust the word of either the U.S. or Mexican government, which is what prompted him to appeal the BIA decision to the U.S. Eighth Circuit in mid-June of this year. That appeal is still pending a decision.

Ramirez� pleadings before the Eight Circuit state:

The [immigration judge�s] decision granting [Ramirez�] application for relief under Article III of the United Nations Convention Against Torture was improperly overturned by the BIA in the face of sufficiently corroborated evidence demonstrating that petitioner has a well-founded fear of torture at the hands of agents of the Mexican government in the event of his return to Mexico.

 . . . The DHS asserts in it�s brief, �There is no objective proof that the Mexican government would do anything to [Ramirez] other than protect [Ramirez]. If Mr. Ramirez had any confidence in the promises of the Mexican government to protect him, he would have freely returned to Mexico.

DHS� contention that Ramirez would have nothing to fear from the narco-traffickers he betrayed if returned to Mexico is a fantasy that might fly in a corrupted legal system, but for anyone with an understanding of how the narco-trafficking world really works, it is an argument that lacks any credibility -- like the drug war itself.

The informant Ramirez certainly is not a poster child for the cause of justice, but his return to Mexico is certain to serve the interests of U.S. officials who have blood on their hands in the House of Death mass murder.

Because, as we all know, dead men can�t talk.


Read the informant�s legal pleadings before the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals.

For more background on this story, see DHS informant implicated in House of Death mass murder is still in U.S., attorney confirms.

Bill Conroy, an investigative reporter and correspondent for Narco News, can be contacted at wkc6428@aol.com.

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