YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Mexican Official Indicted on Charge of Lying in Camarena Murder Case

September 20, 1986|JIM SCHACHTER | Times Staff Writer

A high-ranking Mexican internal security officer was indicted Friday on a charge of lying twice to a federal grand jury investigating the kidnap-murder of U.S. drug agent Enrique S. Camarena.

The one-count perjury indictment of Mario Martinez Herrera, a commander in the Mexican General Directorate of Investigations and National Security, is the first criminal charge in a U.S. court in connection with Camarena's slaying last year in Guadalajara.

Martinez, who had been jailed as a material witness since his arrest Monday by federal agents while vacationing in Chula Vista, testified for 2 1/2 hours Friday before the grand jury. He did not interrupt his testimony to consult with his attorney and apparently did not invoke the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, defense attorney Michael P. Murray said.

The indictment, unsealed late Friday afternoon, alleges that Martinez lied when he told the grand jury he had never been to the house in Guadalajara where, investigators say, Camarena was tortured by Mexican drug merchants and their henchmen in February, 1985. The indictment does not allege that Martinez was at the house during the torture sessions.

According to the indictment, Martinez was asked, "Have you ever been in Guadalajara at the address of 881 Lope de Vega Street?"

He allegedly answered: "No. Never, never."

Martinez also is accused of lying when he testified that he did not attend a funeral in Guadalajara in the summer of 1984. The indictment does not say whose funeral it was.

Until the moment of the indictment, Murray said, it appeared the Mexican official had been cleared in connection with the Camarena investigation.

"I was hoping he would be able to be released on Monday," Murray said. "Everything else indicated he had no other implication with the Camarena case."

Instead, Martinez now can look ahead to a lengthy incarceration in the United States. Asst. U.S. Atty. Michael Lasater said prosecutors probably would ask at an arraignment early next week that the Tijuana native be held without bond.

Martinez is scheduled for voice testing Monday by an FBI expert, Murray said. Martinez has denied that his voice is heard on a tape recording of Camarena's torture obtained by U.S. investigators. Government analysts also are examining Martinez's hair and blood samples and fingerprints.

The charge against Martinez, making a false material declaration before a grand jury, carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Other officers of Martinez's agency have been implicated in the Camarena killing and surrounding events. A retired veteran investigator of the agency--which has functions equivalent to the FBI and the Secret Service--was held for questioning in Tijuana three weeks after Camarena was kidnaped near the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara.

American investigators also allege that an officer of the agency was the bodyguard of Rafael Caro Quintero, one of the Mexican drug bosses jailed in Mexico on charges of masterminding Camarena's murder, according to court records on file in a federal gun-smuggling case in San Diego.

Also charged by Mexican authorities in Camarena's death is Mexican drug merchant Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo. U.S. authorities have seized $33 million in property and assets belonging to friends and relatives of Fonseca and Caro, who together are alleged to have amassed $3.5 billion in drug earnings.

The Camarena case has put the U.S. and Mexico at diplomatic and legal loggerheads as each nation conducts its own investigation. U.S. officials alternately have complained about foot-dragging, incompetence and possible corruption by the Mexicans and praised top-level Mexican justice officials for their cooperation.

Murray said that by early Friday evening no Mexican official had contacted him on Martinez's behalf. Officials of the security agency had indicated to friends of Martinez that he remained in good standing with the agency and was expected back at work in Mexico City on Tuesday, when the vacation that brought him to the San Diego area was scheduled to end, Murray said.

Los Angeles Times Articles