House of Death Informant Files Lawsuit Against U.S. Government
Former Mexican Cop Who Helped Oversee House in Juarez Used for Torture and Murder Claims ICE Still Owes Him Money
A deactivated U.S. government informant who played a key role in multiple homicides in Mexico while under the supervision of U.S. prosecutors and federal agents has filed a lawsuit against the United States in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
Although the pleadings in the litigation are are now cloaked from public inspection, the attorney handling the case told Narco News previously that he planned to file the lawsuit, which he said would allege that Uncle Sam has failed to pay his client in full for his informant services.
The pleadings in the former informant’s litigation are filed under seal, in part, to assure that his location is not revealed, given his life is in jeopardy, according to Steve Cohen, the attorney for the sidelined informant — Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro.
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., is authorized to hear money-related claims based on federal statues, the Constitution and contracts involving the United States. Ramirez Peyro, according to past testimony he provided in immigration court, claims the U.S. government, specifically his past employer, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), owes him at least $400,000 in informant fees on top of the more than $200,000 he has already been paid. The litigation, if successful, would undoubtedly add interest and damages to that amount.
Cohen, when contacted by Narco News last week, did not comment on the pending litigation, other than to indicate that Ramirez Peyro’s life is still very much in danger due to his informant work against a cell of the powerful Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug organization in Juarez, Mexico.
The actual arguments advanced in Ramirez Peyro’s pending lawsuit are not known because they are sealed. However, in an exclusive interview with Narco News last year, Cohen outlined his plan to file a lawsuit in Federal Claims court and indicated then that the litigation would likely allege the U.S. government still owes Ramirez Peyro hundreds of thousands of dollars in informant fees.
Cohen added that he also planned to include claims in the litigation asking the court to order the U.S. government to honor the alleged commitments it made, through ICE and the Department of Justice in this case, to provide “green cards” to Ramirez Peyro as well as to his children and their mother. [SEE UPDATE BELOW]
“Our law firm [HoganWillig of New York] has a team of five lawyers and three paralegals on this case,” Cohen said in the interview conducted late last year. “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 fact that the pleadings in Ramirez Peyro’s case are now sealed completely — as opposed to just being redacted in part to assure sensitive information is not disclosed — is facing some scrutiny from the judge, Margaret Sweeney.
She issued the following order in the case on June 28:
The court will conduct a brief telephonic status conference in the above-captioned case[the Ramirez Peyro case] to discuss the necessity of placing the parties’ pleadings and other documents under seal. The parties shall confer, and by no later than Friday, July 8, 2011, contact the undersigned’s judicial assistant, Ms. Beryl Sanders, at … to schedule the status conference.
Ramirez Peyro is a former Mexican cop who rose to a very high level within a Juarez cell of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug organization that was overseen by an individual named Heriberto Santillan Tabares. At the same time he was working as one of Santillan’s right-hand men, helping to oversee his criminal enterprises, including a house that served as a torture and killing chambers (the House of Death), Ramirez Peyro also was working as an informant for ICE, with his activities not only known, but also approved, by high-level officials within DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part.
The Santillan cell that Ramirez Peyro served was responsible for murdering more than a dozen people between the summer of 2003 and early 2004 — most of whom were tortured first and then buried in the backyard of the House of Death in Juarez, a Mexican border city south of El Paso, Texas. Ramirez Peyro helped to arrange and even participated in some of those murders, according to public records.
Evidence of the U.S. government’s efforts to cover-up its complicity in that carnage was later exposed exclusively by Narco News in a series of stories pointing the finger at high-level officials within DHS and the DOJ. [See Narco News’ House of Death series, begun in 2004, at this link.]
Ramirez Peyro, was deactivated as an informant short time after the grisly scene at the House of Death came to light in early 2004 and in the wake of the Santillan organization threatening the life of a DEA agent and his family.
A February 2004 letter penned by the DEA Special Agent in Charge in El Paso, Sandalio Gonzalez, that made its way to then-U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, and was later obtained exclusively by Narco News, also helped to open the curtain on the House of Death.
“I am writing now to express my frustration and outrage at the mishandling of the Heriberto Santillan Tabares investigation that has resulted in the unnecessary loss of human life in the Republic of Mexico and endangered the lives of Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and their immediate families assigned to the DEA office in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico,” DEA Commander Gonzalez states at the outset of the Feb. 24, 2004, letter, which is directed to the head of ICE in El Paso.
In the wake of the unraveling of the House of Death, Ramirez Peyro spent nearly six years behind bars, most of that in solitary confinement, fighting DHS’ efforts to deport him back to Mexico and to a certain death.
Ramirez Peyro’s release from jail in April 2010 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.”
Ramirez Peyro is now being allowed to stay in the U.S. only so long as the court determines the situation in Mexico that puts his life in danger remains unchanged, or until another country agrees to take him in (an unlikely scenario), Cohen told Narco News previously. Cohen also pointed out that Ramirez Peyro has been active as an informant since at least 2000 helping to make numerous cases against many dangerous criminals and at great risk to his own safety.
As a result, Cohen contends the government has a duty to honor its contract with Ramirez Peyro and to pay him the money due and to provide the promised green cards allowing him and his family to establish permanent residency in the U.S.
Lawyers for the government have yet to file a reply in the Ramirez Peyro case.
“In that this is a recent filing, we’d have nothing we can provide at this juncture,” Charles Miller, spokesman for the Department of Justice, said when contacted by Narco News for comment on Ramirez Peyro’s lawsuit. “My understanding from the attorney currently assigned the case is that the government’s response to Mr. Ramirez Peyro’s suit isn’t due until August 1.
In a related matter, Ramirez Peyro’s ICE handler, former special agent Raul Bencomo, also recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against the government. Those pleadings, lodged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, are still in the early stages, with the parties’ briefs not available.
Bencomo is seeking redress for what he contends was ICE’s wrongful termination of his employment in February 2009. ICE fired Bencomo, in large part, due to what it claims was his failure to follow supervisors’ orders related to the House of Death case. Bencomo initially appealed his firing through the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, which issued a final ruling against him in February of this year. That ruling has been appealed directly to the Federal Circuit court.
Prior to his official termination, Bencomo had been on ICE’s payroll but off the job since 2004 as a result of being placed on “administrative” leave for reasons still not publicly acknowledged by the agency. His dismissal this past February, some five years after being benched by ICE, arguably was carried out to clean up one of the few remaining loose ends in the House of Death carnage.
The script in this case: a lone Hispanic federal agent, Bencomo, is to blame for the bloody deeds of a U.S. government informant, Ramirez Peyro. [See past story on Bencomo’s case here.]
Bencomo, when contacted by Narco News, declined to comment due to his pending litigation.
Ironically, among the claims raised in Bencomo’s MSPB pleadings, according to the MSPB’s final ruling in that case, is that “the agency [ICE] took a position in [Bencomo’s MSPB] appeal that was inconsistent with the position the Department of Justice took in defending a civil suit” brought against the U.S. government by the families of the victims of the House of Death.
More from the Feburary 2011 MSPB ruling:
The appellant [Bencomo] specifically argues that the agency [ICE] took the position in the civil suit [filed by the families of the House of Death victims] that the appellant [Bencomo] violated no agency rules or regulations in connection with SA-913-EP [confidential informant Ramirez Peyro], and then charged the appellant [Bencomo] with misconduct in connection with the same confidential informant [leading to Bencomo’s termination from ICE in 2009]. ….
… The plaintiffs [the House of Death victims’ families] alleged that, despite knowledge that SA-913-EP [Ramirez Peyro] participated in a murder in August 2003, the defendants [DHS] allowed him to continue operating as a confidential informant. The plaintiffs further alleged that SA-913-EP [Ramirez Peyro] was subsequently involved in at least 12 other murders.
… The dismissal of the civil action [brought by the families of the House of Death victims] was not based on a determination that the appellant’s [Bencomo’s] actions were proper. Instead, the court found that the plaintiffs [victims’ families] failed to establish that the agency [ICE] owed a duty of care to the decedents [the House of Death victims], or that any alleged negligence by agency [ICE] employees (including the appellant [Bencomo]) was the cause in fact of the decedents’ [House of Death victims] deaths.
So there you have it; the rationalization for turning a blind eye to murder.
Despite the fact that an ICE informant, Ramirez Peyro, helped to facilitate a number of the House of Death murders while working for the U.S. government, because the victims were Mexicans, the U.S. government and its law enforcers did not “owe a duty of care” to them. In other words, their murders don’t count, nor is anyone in the U.S. government “negligent” for allowing those murders to occur with an ICE informant’s assistance, even if U.S. officials knew in advance that the murders were to be carried out.
And now, under this same absurd legal reasoning, which defines the drug war, that same informant has legal standing to sue the U.S. taxpayers, essentially, requiring them to make good on money ICE still allegedly owes him for his work — which, of course, includes helping to run the House of Death.
And this legal maneuvering by the informant, still in hiding in some U.S. neighborhood for fear of being murdered, comes only after the U.S. government unsuccessfully sought to deport Ramirez Peyro back to a certain death in Mexico at the hands of the narco-traffickers he betrayed, with the goal seemingly, or at least in effect, of silencing a witness who might threaten to expose the cover-up of U.S. officials’ complicity in the House of Death murders.
And this is the story of only 12 Mexican drug-war murder victims who have been cast adrift in a sea of blood that now counts some 40,000 victims since late 2006.
Stay tuned ….
• To hear an exclusive interview with the informant, Ramirez Peyro, about his role in the House of Death, conducted previously by Narco News and aired on Pacifica Radio in New York city, click on these links: Part I and Part II.
UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 6, 2011
Narco News was able to obtain some details of the complaint filed by Ramirez Peyro’s attorney after our original story went to press. The complaint, as anticipated in the story above, does include claims for money damages due to the U.S. government’s alleged failure to honor its informant contract with Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro.
However, Ramirez Peyro’s initial complaint does not include any claims related to the alleged commitments made by ICE and the Department of Justice to provide “green cards” to Ramirez Peyro as well as to his children and their mother.
According to the information provided to Narco News, Ramirez Peyro’s complaint, lodged with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, alleges:
From approximately 2000 to 2004, Plaintiff [Ramirez Peyro], in his capacity as a “confidential informant” and then as an “operative informant,” proved himself to be among the most successful informants relative to drugs and cigarettes in the history of the United States.
Plaintiff RAMIREZ provided information to the United States Government and participated in covert operations resulting in more than 50 arrests and the seizure of significant quantities of drugs and property worth millions, perhaps billions, of dollars, and more significantly, Plaintiff RAMIREZ provided the United States Government with invaluable intelligence on both a major illegal cigarette operation and the Juarez Drug Cartel, which Defendant [the U.S. government] had thus far been unable to obtain through any other source, and which ultimately resulted in the arrest and indictment of Santillan, a key member of the Juarez Drug Cartel, and all at great mortal risk to himself and his family.
Although compensated for the four (4) covert operations ... Plaintiff RAMIREZ has not been compensated for at least five (5) other covert operations in which he was instrumental in not only providing the information and intelligence necessary for the United States to successfully carry out the covert operations, but with his “operative informant” status issued by the United States Government, also participated in these operations at great mortal risk to himself and his family and all in service to the United States.
In total, the complaint, sources indicate, demands a judgment against the U.S. government totaling $2.5 million plus attorney fees and interest “and other further relief as may be just, proper and equitable.”
On another front, after the story on the lawsuit was published, Ramirez Peyro’s attorney, Steve Cohen, provided Narco News with the following additional comment:
Mr. Peyro put his life on the line for the United States of America time after time. He is directly responsible for approximately 60 criminal convictions of upper echelon cartel members, as well as the removal of huge quantities of drugs from the streets of this country. The United States has breached its contract with Lalo. The conduct of the United States Government in breaching its agreement is unconscionable.