The Narco News Bulletin

July 21, 2018 | Issue #36 - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America

The House of Death Online

Narco News Publishes Full Archive of FOIA Documents in DEA/Customs-Linked Mexico Mass Murder

By Bill Conroy
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

April 3, 2005
This report appears on the internet at

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supervisor Sandalio Gonzalez fired off a letter in February 2005 to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in El Paso, Texas, that blew the whistle on an alleged cover-up within the U.S. justice system.

The letter exposed federal agents' complicity in multiple murders in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juárez. The homicides were tied to an investigation into Heriberto Santillan-Tabares, who U.S. prosecutors claim is a top lieutenant in Vicente Carrillo Fuentes' Juárez drug organization.

Santillan has been charged with cocaine and marijuana smuggling along with five counts of murder. His case is currently pending in federal district court in San Antonio, Texas, and is slated for trial in May.

A confidential informant, who allegedly had attained high standing within the Juárez organization, played a critical role in snaring Santillan. The informant's name is Jesus Contreras, who is also known by the nickname "Lalo."

Between August 2003 and mid-January 2004, a dozen people were tortured, murdered and then buried in the yard of a house in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juárez. Contreras, according to sources, participated in many of those murders.

The informant's handlers, agents and supervisors with the El Paso office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), were allegedly fully aware of the Contreras' complicity in the murders. However, they did nothing to stop the killing for fear of jeopardizing the Santillan case and a separate cigarette-smuggling case that they were trying to make with the informant's help.

The Santillan case falls under the jurisdiction of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, who is considered to be "wired" into the current Bush administration. Sutton, a former policy coordinator for the Bush-Cheney Transition Team, served as the Criminal Justice Policy Director from 1995-2000 for then-Governor George W. Bush.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Juanita Fielden - who is the lead prosecutor on the Santillan case - also worked closely with the ICE supervisors and agents who handled the informant at the center of both the Santillan and the cigarette-smuggling cases.

Gonzalez is now claiming that DEA brass retaliated against him because his letter ruffled the feathers of Sutton, a big-shot U.S. Attorney in San Antonio.

The letter represents evidence that the government screwed up, and the U.S. Attorney's Office didn't want that letter being thrown in their faces during a trial, law enforcement sources contend. As a result, Gonzalez was told to shut up, his work record tarnished in retaliation and the letter buried - until now.

Following are links to the actual Freedom of Information Act documents that have brought this whole matter out of the shadows and into the light of day for everyone to see.

The FOIA Documents

Other Records

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