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An Overview of
Federal Drug Control Programs
on the Southwest Border

Internal Revenue Service
Criminal Investigative Division


PROGRAM SUMMARY

The mission of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) is to enforce the criminal statutes relative to tax administration and related financial crimes. IRS-CI has primary jurisdiction over money laundering offenses that impact the Internal Revenue laws or the Bank Secrecy Act. In that regard, IRS-CI devotes significant resources to the disrupting or dismantling of high-level trafficking and money laundering organizations through the use of the money laundering and asset forfeiture statutes.

IRS-CI has made significant contributions to the nation's anti-drug effort and has fully supported the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force since their inception. To improve the effectiveness of law enforcement counter-drug efforts, IRS-CI has participated in 56 percent of all OCDETF case initiations. Approximately 58 percent of all IRS-CI narcotics case initiations were OCEDTF.

Other federal law enforcement agencies rely on the skills of IRS-CI special agents to follow financial trails which lead to assets of the criminal organization. During FY 1996, IRS-CI initiated 1,333 narcotics investigations, of which 1,100 or 82.5 percent were related money laundering investigations; narcotics convictions totaled 887; and 88 percent of those sentenced were sent to prison. Of these, narcotics investigations initiated along the Southwest border totaled 225; convictions were 123; with 87.7 percent of those sentenced committed to prison.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

The IRS-CI has had successful case activity dealing with narcotics, narcotics-related money laundering and corruption along the Southwest border. Some examples of IRS-CI efforts include the following:

  • A major marijuana trafficker, Ramon Dionicio Martinez, and 17 others pled guilty to various narcotics and money laundering offenses. He was also assessed a judgment of $81 million as part of a RICO settlement. Martinez, nicknamed "lechero" or the "milkman," admitted to distributing over 200,000 pounds of marijuana, which was transported via 18-wheel tractor trailers. His operation grew to where the marijuana was obtained from sources in Mexico and Colombia. Following his plea, he agreed to cooperate.

  • Martinez's cooperation lead authorities to the identity of his Mexican-based supplier, Homero Beltran. Beltran maintained an extensive network of bank accounts both in the United States and Mexico, which was used to launder his narcotics proceeds. Beltran and eight other co-defendants were indicted for importing over 100,000 pounds of marijuana and 2.5 tons of cocaine into the United States. Beltran was also indicted on charges of laundering approximately $12 million in narcotics proceeds; he pled guilty to both narcotics and money laundering charges and was sentenced to 240 months in prison. Following the conviction, Beltran agreed to cooperate with government officials.

  • Information developed from Beltran led to the investigation of the Hidalgo County Sheriff, Brigido Marmolejo, who was alleged to have provided high level narcotics traffickers with special treatment while they were incarcerated. After bribing jail employees to provide favors, Beltran was paying Marmolejo a fee of $5,000 per month and $1,000 per visit by either his family or girlfriend. Marmolejo also received sports cars, watches, and a flat-bed trailer so that he could transport his re-election posters. Marmolejo was given a total of $200,000, part of which was used to construct a 5000 square foot pavilion on his cattle ranch. Marmolejo even solicited a $10,000 interest free loan from Beltran. Marmolejo, and three other persons were indicted on charges of racketeering, bribery, and money laundering. Marmolejo and his chief jailer were found guilty. Mormolejo was sentenced to 84 months in prison and fined $20,000. Marmolejo was further ordered to pay a judgment of $151,000 on the racketeering charge.

  • On June 30, 1997, Jose Jesus Echeogollen and his girlfriend, Guillermina Chavez, were sentenced for their role in the laundering of over $11.7 million in drug proceeds through an elaborate scheme involving domestic and foreign bank accounts. Echeogollen received a life sentence, followed by 5 years supervised release, and Chavez received 78 months incarceration with 3 years supervised release. This investigation was a multi-agency investigation worked with U.S. Customs, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and local agencies.

  • On May 28, 1997, Jorge L. Mancha was convicted of narcotics and money laundering violations resulting from his involvement in the transportation of cocaine and marijuana worth more than $7.8 million. At the time of his indictment, Mancha was a U.S. Border Patrol agent assigned to Douglas, Arizona. This was a multi-agency investigation which included U.S. Customs, U.S. Border Patrol, Inspector General, Pima County Sheriff's Office, and the Douglas Police Department.

  • Since January 1, 1997 to the present, IRS-CI has initiated asset seizure actions against 23 assets relating to Mexican Drug Organizations which totaled $1,279,161. During that same period, IRS-CI forfeited eight assets from Mexican Drug Organizations totaling $275,101.

  • Since January 1994, the IRS-CI Attache stationed in Mexico City, and the Mexican government have supported each other in the investigation of 58 separate investigative matters. Approximately 79 percent of the joint investigative matters involved allegations related to narcotics trafficking.

In support of Treasury's Office of Enforcement efforts to promote anti-money laundering reforms in Mexico, IRS-CI has participated in the following training efforts:

  • Criminal investigation is committed to providing in-depth, expert training for Mexico's criminal investigators and prosecutors who are responsible for the enforcement of Mexico's new financial crime and money laundering laws. The IRS-CI Attache stationed in Mexico City provided technical input into the money laundering and asset forfeiture laws which were enacted by the Mexican government.

  • In November 1996, IRS-CI personnel along with personnel from FinCEN provided training in SAR processing/analysis to investigators and prosecutors from Mexico's Treasury Department (Hacienda), the Justice Department (PGR) and officials from the National Banking and Securities Commission.

  • In December 1996, IRS-CI personnel from the Southwest Border states provided a Money Laundering/Financial Investigative Techniques (FITS) course to investigators from Hacienda, PGR, as well as Mexican Customs officials and the National Banking and Securities Commission.

  • Mexico participated in an IRS-CI/State Department regional money laundering seminar held in El Salvador the week of February 3-7, 1997. The focus of the seminar was: (a) to establish an awareness of the overall threat of money laundering and its impact on the region; and (b) to foster an atmosphere of cooperation and exchange between the countries involved in the seminar in a join effort to combat global money laundering.

  • IRS-CI is committed to the preparation and presentation of four Additional Financial Investigative Techniques (FITS) courses and 1 CTR/SAR Course to be completed by the end of the year to Mexican officials.

  • The Chief of the South Texas District of IRS-CI and the Delegado (Chief Federal Prosecutor for Mexico) in the border state of Nuevo Leon will be conducting money laundering seminars to Mexican federal agents and prosecutors during the week of August 18, 1997 in Monterey, Mexico.

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