U.S. Attorney General backing effort to silence House of Death informant

The government informant who participated in the House of Death murders in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, while under the supervision of U.S. federal agents and prosecutors, is now in a battle for his life with the U.S. Justice System.

The informant, Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez-Peyro (also known as “Lalo”) is a former Mexican Highway Patrol officer. He is currently embroiled in deportation litigation pending before the U.S Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Narco News has learned.

Ironically, the case ( G. Ramirez-Peyro v. Alberto Gonzales) pits the informant against the U.S. Attorney General and the Department of Justice, which itself has been implicated in the cover-up of the House of Death mass murder.

Jodi Goodwin, Lalo’s Harlingen, Texas-based attorney, says the outcome of the appeal could literally be a matter of life and death for Lalo.

“My position [in the case] is that Lalo is afraid to return to Mexico because he would be killed,” she says. “Legally, you can seek protection in the United States if you fear you are being returned to a place where you would be killed.” Goodwin adds that if Lalo is unsuccessful in his appeal, the case could be brought to the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lalo finds himself in this position after working as an informant for the very same government that is now seeking to deport him to what he fears will be a certain death at the hands of the narco-traffickers he betrayed while on the payroll of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

While working as an ICE informant, Lalo participated in up to a dozen murders between August 2003 and mid-January 2004 at the House of Death in Ciudad Juárez. Lalo had penetrated a narco-trafficking organization — headed by Heriberto Santillan-Tabares — that employed police officers in Juárez to help carry out the murders.

Public records show that Lalo assisted with the murders, with the knowledge of his ICE handlers and an assistant U.S. attorney in El Paso, Texas. Once the news of the murders became public, the law enforcers involved in the botched drug-war case went to great lengths to cover up their involvement — with the assistance of high-level officials within DHS and the Department of Justice, including the U.S. Attorney in San Antonio, Johnny Sutton.

In February 2004, Sandalio Gonzalez, who was the head of DEA’s operations in El Paso, wrote a letter to Sutton and an ICE official to express his concerns about the ICE agents’ complicity in the murders — which ultimately led to an attempt being made on the lives of a DEA agent and his family by narcos connected to the House of Death.

Rather than investigate Gonzalez’ allegations, Sutton used his leverage as a U.S. Attorney to retaliated against him, Gonzalez claims.  

In September 2004, Gonzalez sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), asking the watchdog agency to investigate the case, claiming that he was being retaliated against for disclosing “murder, gross mismanagement of a criminal case and (obstruction of) an investigation of a threat against the lives of a federal agent and his family.”

The following is from Gonzalez’ letter to the OSC, which Narco News obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request:

… This issue began on February 24, 2004, when I sent a letter to the Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] in [El Paso, Texas] in essence holding him responsible for the actions of ICE personnel and one of their informants regarding the discovery of several bodies buried in the backyard of a residence located in the city of [Ciudad Juárez] Republic of Mexico, and the obstruction of an investigation about a threat against the life of a DEA agent and his family. Since a federal prosecutor was in the mix, I also sent the letter to the prosecutor’s supervisor in the Office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas, [San Antonio]....

A few days later I received a telephone call from [name blacked out], the Chief of Operations of the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA], who informed me that the United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas [Johnny Sutton] had been given a copy of the aforementioned letter and that [Sutton] was very upset with it, and had alleged that my letter had created discovery material in the federal case against (narco-trafficker Heriberto Santillan-Tabares). [The Chief of Operations at DEA] also said that [Sutton] had gone directly to the Department of Justice to complain about me, and that DOJ officials had contacted [the] DEA Administrator [Karen Tandy] to inform her about [Sutton’s] complaint....

Gonzalez subsequently received a negative job-performance evaluation as payback, he says, for seeking to expose the U.S. government’s role in the murders. He has since retired from the DEA.

And now the informant Lalo finds himself facing down the gun of deportation proceedings being spearheaded by the Department of Justice and under the name of the U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales — who it turns out has helped to pave Sutton’s path to career success within the Justice Department.

Golden boy

Sutton, a former assistant district attorney in Harris County, Texas, hitched his star to the Bush political machine in 1995, when he was named the Criminal Justice Policy Director for then-Governor Bush. He served in that post until 2000, when Bush was elected president. In the wake of Bush’s victory, Sutton was named associate deputy attorney general at DOJ in Washington, D.C., and also served as a policy coordinator for the Bush-Cheney presidential transition team.

In late October of 2001, Sutton was appointed by Bush to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio. The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment a month later.

So Sutton does indeed have friends in high places, including his current boss at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

San Antonio native Alberto Gonzales also skyrocketed into the big time on the coattails of the Bush machine. Like Sutton, Gonzales also practiced law in Harris County (Houston) prior to joining Gov. Bush’s staff.

Gonzales served as general counsel and a senior advisor to Gov. Bush while Sutton also was on the governor’s staff as a legal advisor. After Bush was elected president in 2000, Gonzales was upgraded to White House Counsel, a position he held until February of 2005, when he became the major domo at DOJ.


Despite the allegations about a cover-up in the House of Death case, Attorney General Gonzales in May 2005 appointed Sutton to the post of vice chairman of his Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, which plays a key role in determining DOJ policies and programs. In late March of this year, Gonzales tapped Sutton to be chairman of the committee.

“Johnny Sutton is a well-wired guy, all the way to the White House,” former DEA supervisor Gonzalez said in a prior interview with Narco News. “No one is going to go after him. That’s the bottom line.”

When queried by Narco News previously about the House of Death case, Attorney General Gonzales declined to comment about whether there is any investigation currently underway into the role of the informant and U.S. law enforcers in the mass murder.

Now it is clear that Gonzales himself has a role in the House of Death as it is his department that is actively seeking to deport Lalo. The informant’s removal to Mexico — and likely death as a result —would be a convenient outcome for those determined to put the final bow on the package of this cover-up. If Lalo is out of the picture, a major witness to the U.S. government’s complicity in mass murder will be silenced.

In yet another twist of irony, should Lalo be deported, it would be ICE’s job to escort him back to Mexico.

 “We ensure that every alien who has been ordered removed departs the U.S. as quickly as possible,” ICE’s Web site assures.

For more information on this story, go to the following link: “DHS, DOJ seeking to deliver informant to House of Death's door”

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About Bill Conroy