DHS informant implicated in House of Death mass murder is still in U.S., attorney confirms

The fate of the U.S. government informant who was involved in at least a dozen murders at the House of Death in Ciudad Juárez is still up in the air, but prior media reports about his imminent extradition to Mexico are not accurate, according to the informant’s Harlingen, Texas-based attorney.

The informant’s real name is still a bit of a mystery, but court records identify him as Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro, also known as “Lalo.” He was under the watch of U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents in El Paso, Texas, when the mass murder operation was carried in out in Juárez between August 2003 and mid-January of 2004.

During that period, a dozen people were kidnapped, tortured and butchered at the House of Death by Mexican cops and drug dealers affiliated with a narco-trafficking organization that had been infiltrated by the informant —who was working for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is part of DHS.

The House of Death is located in a typical residential neighborhood (Calle Parsioneros 3633) in Juárez, which is just across the border from El Paso.

"[The U.S. government] never tried to extradite him, but he has not been granted asylum,” says Jodi Goodwin, Lalo’s immigration attorney. “He was granted another type of relief, but it is not asylum. To my knowledge, there has never been any extradition request.” When asked if Lalo had been put into a witness protection program, Goodwin initially responded by saying she could not confirm or deny that was the case, but then added that technically, “no,” he is not in a witness protection program.

Goodwin did confirm that the “relief” granted to Lalo, who is a former Mexican Highway Patrol officer, was "somewhere between temporary and permanent."

Goodwin also says she has advised her client not to talk with the media "until his [immigration] status is resolved completely."

"He is still concerned that he might be sent back [to Mexico],” Goodwin says. “Whether that would be through extradition or through some other means, I don't know."

If the informant were to be sent back to Mexico, U.S. law enforcers familiar with the House of Death case say the narco-trafficking group he double-crossed while acting as a U.S. government informant would almost certainly exact a bloody revenge.

Dark dealings

Although Narco News was unable at this time to arrange an interview with the informant, he was interviewed on Feb. 12, 2004, by an assistant legal attaché for the Attorney General’s Office of Mexico. The debriefing, which was obtained by Narco News through a public records request, provides a glimpse into the type of people the U.S. government got into bed with in order to make a drug case against the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes narco-trafficking organization operating in Juárez.

“At that point, [Mexican state police commander Miguel] Loya told them to lift their shirts over their faces so they wouldn’t see the boss [Santillan],” the informant states in the debriefing. “At that point, Loya put tape around their head, but they could still breathe and one of them began to moan loudly, so Loya shot him in the head with a pistol with a silencer, but he didn’t die immediately.

“Upon hearing this, the other one began to struggle and was shot in the head as well. After they were dead, Alex and I put them under the staircase of the Parsioneros house [the House of Death] and later they were buried. These were killed because they were careless with their work taking the drugs across the border.”

Although many of the individuals killed at the House of Death were likely connected to narco-trafficking, at least one person, a 29-year-old U.S. legal resident and father of three, appears to have been picked up by the House of Death hit squad by mistake.

“Ramirez [the informant] and his band of cutthroats continued to kill anyone who crossed them, whether or not they were involved in the drug trade,” states a civil lawsuit filed against ICE officials in federal court in El Paso by the families of the House of Death victims. “The victims are targeted for sequestration, torture and eventual killing.

“The targets, however, were seldom found alone. Many were taken off the street, at restaurants, shops, and businesses. And along with the targets, any perceived companions were also abducted and killed. Luis Padilla was one such innocent victim.”

When the informant’s role came to light, after his activities nearly cost the lives of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent and his family, rather than investigate the callous activities of U.S. law enforcers who allowed the informant to commit murder under government cover, the leadership of the U.S. Department of Justice and DHS chose to bury the facts along with the bodies.

A cover-up was hatched, that continues to this day, and the high-ranking DEA agent, Sandalio Gonzalez, who blew the whistle on the whole sordid affair, became yet another victim of the House of Death.

According to public records and law enforcement sources, Gonzalez’ career was ruined by a high-ranking U.S. prosecutor, Johnny Sutton, who used his political connections to silence the messenger so he could save his career-enhancing drug case.

In fact, Karen Tandy, the top official at the DEA, concedes in U.S. court proceedings, during questioning by Gonzalez’ attorney, that she and the highest-ranking individuals in the Department of Justice were very aware of the role played by DHS agents and the U.S. informant in the mass murder in Juárez.

“Absolutely. I had already briefed the Attorney General [Ashcroft] and Deputy Attorney General [Comey] on the issues, the underlying issues with [DHS’] handling of this informant…,” Tandy stated under oath in August 2005.

Still, despite all the information now out there, the bloodbath in the House of Death remains in the shadows of a cover-up.

When contacted recently by e-mail for a comment on the House of Death case, Mark Corallo, the chief media spokesman for the Department of Justice at the time of the murders, replied as follows:

“To be honest, I have absolutely no recollection of the case. … Sorry to be so unhelpful.”

However, Corallo, who now runs his own media relations firm and has served as a spokesman for White House insider Karl Rove, was certainly in the loop about the House of Death murders at the time they took place.

In an e-mail sent in March 2004 by DEA Administrator Tandy to high-level officials within the Department of Justice, including Corallo, she berates DEA agent Gonzalez for exposing the U.S. government’s complicity in the House of Death. Tandy also begins to orchestrate what can only be described as a high-level cover-up of the U.S. government’s complicity in the murders.

“… I apologized to [U.S. Attorney] Johnny Sutton last night and he and I agreed on a no comment to the press,” Tandy states in the e-mail. “Mike Furgason, Chief of Operations, notified the El Paso SAC [Special Agent in Charge Gonzalez] last night that he is not to speak to the press other than a no comment, that he is to desist writing anything regarding the Juárez matter and related case and defer to the joint management and threat assessment teams out of HQ — and he is to relay these directions to the rest of his El Paso [DEA] Division.

“The SAC [Gonzalez], who reports to Michele, will be brought in next week for performance discussions to further address this officially.”

Tandy concedes in her August 2005 U.S. court testimony that Gonzalez was not considered for promotions within DEA in the wake of blowing the whistle on the House of Death. (Gonzalez subsequently received a negative job-performance evaluation in retaliation, he says, for seeking to expose the U.S. government’s role in the murders. He has since retired from the DEA.)

A joint assessment team composed of ICE and DEA investigators did undertake a “joint management” review of the House of Death mass-murder case, which involved conducting more than 40 interviews with ICE and DEA personnel and others. To date, the report prepared in the wake of those interviews has not been released publicly.

“If someone in [the U.S.] Congress is not willing to take a stand on this, the nation as a whole loses some integrity in the process,” Gonzalez stresses. “This isn’t about national security, spies or intelligence work, this is police work, right here. There are bodies out there.

For more developing news on this story, check out the following link: U.S. government tried to deport House of Death informant

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