House of Death informant, now in hiding, is heading to court
Former Mexican cop's lawyer says litigation should be filed by year’s end
The Department of Homeland Security will soon have to deal with some dirty laundry from the House of Death mass-murder case that its leadership likely hoped would be well buried by now.
Before the holiday season is over this year, the attorney for former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informant Guillermo Ramirez Peyro says he plans to file litigation in two federal venues alleging the U.S. government abridged various of his client’s rights.
The litigation, once filed, promises to yet again put before the public — who, in larger and larger numbers, are growing weary of an endless escalating drug war — the House of Death murders and the long-running cover-up of the U.S. government’s role in those gruesome homicides.
Last April, Ramirez Peyro, a Mexican citizen, was released from the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in upstate New York and has been in hiding somewhere in the states ever since, given his life is under threat due to his work as an informant in Juarez, Mexico, against a quite merciless narco-trafficking organization.
Ramirez Peyro, after being deactivated as an informant, spent nearly six years behind bars, most of that fighting DHS’ efforts to deport him back to Mexico and to a certain death.
Steve Cohen, Ramirez Peyro’s attorney, says he is preparing to file before the end of the year a claim on behalf of his client in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C, alleging that the U.S. government still owes him hundreds of thousands of dollars (up to $400,000, according to immigration court pleadings) in informant fees on top of the $225,000 ICE already paid to him.
In addition, Cohen says he also is preparing pleadings, which he expects to file by year’s end or sooner in federal district court, alleging that the U.S. government violated Ramirez Peyro’s constitutional rights. Although specific details on the arguments or named parties in those pleadings are not available at this time, Cohen stresses that “the Constitution applies to anyone [citizen or not] inside the U.S. borders.”
Ramirez Peyro remained in isolation units, against his will but supposedly for his own protection, while locked up in various U.S. prisons for more than half a decade as he fought DHS’ efforts to deport him back into the hands of the criminal syndicate he betrayed — as part of his work for DHS. Ramirez fought those deportation efforts by arguing in the courts that he should be granted a deferral from deportation under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
DHS contended in immigration court pleadings that Ramirez Peyro, an admitted drug-trafficker who lacked a valid U.S. “entry document,” would face no danger from the government of Mexico, a level of proof required for a CAT deferral, if deported to Mexico, despite the fact that he betrayed powerful members of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) Juarez drug organization — which has government officials and law enforcers on its payroll.
Ramirez Peyro’s release last April came only after he won a crucial court victory. After ruling against Ramirez Peyro in several prior decisions, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in late March 2010 finally came down on his side, stating that he “has shown that he more likely than not would be tortured upon return to Mexico, either directly by government agents or indirectly by government agents turning him over to the cartel.”
Cohen contends that Ramirez Peyro’s deportation nightmare itself came about because ICE chose to break a contract with his client. Cohen claims the agency assured Ramirez Peyro that he and his family, in exchange for his dangerous work as an informant, would all be allowed to live and work in the U.S. under permanent resident status.
Cohen adds that he will include claims in the litigation he plans to file asking the court to order the government to honor the commitment it made to provide those “green cards” to Ramirez Peyro as well as to his children and their mother.
“Our law firm [HoganWillig of New York] has a team of five lawyers and three paralegals on this case,” Cohen says. “Retired Congressman John LaFalce [D-New York; special council to HoganWillig since 2007] is part of that team, and he helped us to obtain some key documents that we would not otherwise have been able to get.”
The Neverending Story
The case of Ramirez Peyro is well known to regular readers of Narco News. Besides his past history as a drug smuggler and key lieutenant for a ruthless VCF narco-trafficker named Heriberto Santillan Tabares, Ramirez Peyro, a former Mexican cop, also worked as a paid informant for ICE for some four years, starting in 2000.
ICE agents and U.S. prosecutors, as well as high-level officials within ICE and the Department of Justice, were made aware of Ramirez Peyro’s participation in multiple murders being carried out in 2003 and early 2004 by Santillan and his assassins (who were, for the most part, Mexican state police officers).
A dozen of the victims of those torture and killing sessions were buried in the backyard of the infamous House of Death in Juarez — including a U.S. resident murdered at the house and allegedly a U.S. citizen who was murdered elsewhere in Juarez. In addition, a DEA agent and his family narrowly averted a trip to the House of Death, courtesy of Santillan and his enforcers.
Even after Ramirez Peyro informed his ICE handlers of the murders, and his role in them (often in advance of the murders), officials at ICE and the Department of Justice chose to continue operating the informant, according to Ramirez Peyro and public records.
Though Ramirez Peyro has been free since April of this year, his life is still in jeopardy. As evidence of that fact, Juanita Fielden, the Assistant U.S. Attorney who oversaw the House of Death case, drafted a letter in the fall of 2004 indicating that there were some 40 individuals who “pose a threat” to Ramirez Peyro.
“We are going to great lengths to protect Lalo [Ramirez Peyro’s nickname],” Cohen says.
Among those listed the letter as being a “threat” to Ramirez Peyro is former Mexican state police commander Miguel Loya Gallegos.
Loya Gallegos, along with a dozen or more Judicial State Police thugs under his command in Juarez, helped guard drug shipments, arrange the abductions of VCF rivals, and carried out the slayings of a number of the House of Death victims. One of Loya Gallegos’ homicidal acts is recounted by Ramirez Peyro in a recorded interview he did with Narco News [link here].
Recently, Narco News was provided information that sheds new light on the fate of Loya Gallegos — information that takes on even more significance now that the man who betrayed him, Ramirez Peyro, is once again about to become a part of the national conversation.
Multiple sources who spoke with Narco News contend that Loya Gallegos is still quite alive and active in the narco-trafficking business as part of an enforcement team, with one of his associates allegedly spotted recently on the U.S. side of the border in El Paso, Texas.
Despite that information, it seems Loya Gallegos has little to fear from U.S. law enforcement at this point.
In fact, ICE sources claimed “wanted posters” were worked up for Loya Gallegos and two of his police associates in the immediate aftermath of the House of Death murders in early 2004, but that agents were ordered “from higher ups at ICE” to end their pursuit of the homicidal commandant — even though the agents supposedly had leads on Loya Gallegos’ whereabouts in Mexico. Similarly, efforts by DEA agents to nab Loya Gallegos around the same time allegedly were jammed up by ICE leadership in El Paso.
From a memo written by El Paso DEA Special Agent in Charge Gonzalez in February 2004 to his counterpart at ICE El Paso:
To make matters worse, you would not allow the CS [Ramirez Peyro] to call Comandante Loya so Mexican federal authorities could arrest him for his participation in multiple murders. ... The bottom line is that as a result of these actions, Comandante Loya and other murder suspects are now fugitives. There was no logical reason to prevent the CS [Ramirez Peyro] from calling Loya so Mexican authorities could arrest him.
Then, in April 2005, at the request of Assistant U.S. Attorney Fielden, the court dismissed all of the narco-trafficking charges brought by the U.S. government against Loya Gallegos. At the time, Fielden’s boss, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, told the press only that Mexico had a “superior interest” in prosecuting the case — the same argument he advanced after dropping the murder charges against Loya Gallegos’ associate in crime, Santillan.
From Sutton’s press release announcing the Santillan plea deal:
In dropping the additional charges in exchange for Santillan-Tabares’ guilty plea, Sutton said that Mexico has a superior interest in prosecuting those responsible. All of the murders were committed in Ciudad Juarez, by Mexican citizens, including law enforcement officials, and all of the victims were citizens of Mexico.
[Of course, Sutton’s claim that all of the victims were Mexican citizens is contradicted by Ramirez Peyro’s statements, though U.S. officials don’t seem to disagree that all of the victims were, in fact, human beings.]
Today, with the known murder tally in Juarez at more than 7,200 since 2008 (with what amounts to a nil prosecution rate for those responsible for the murders) and the House of Death cover-up still being propped up by denial, it seems quite certain that Ramirez Peyro should fear Loya Gallegos far more than the latter should fear the Mexican, or even the U.S., government.
Ramirez Peyro seems to have come to grips with that reality, or maybe better put, the magic of Mexico.
From an interview with Narco News, conducted while Ramirez Peyro was still in prison:
… He [Loya Gallegos] was dependable and could handle a fight, and the bosses appreciated that, so they might have just put him in another city as a strong man. He could not work in law enforcement ... well, you never know. A lot of Mexican [police] commanders have warrants [against them] in other states. Mexico is a magical land.