A Mexican national suspected of involvement in the 1985 killing of federal drug agent Enrique Camarena has been arrested along with two associates and charged with conspiring to murder a U.S. Customs agent, according to court papers filed by the Justice Department in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
The arrests capped a three-month federal Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation into cocaine trafficking and murder for hire.
The alleged ringleader, Raul Lopez- Alvarez, 29, was arrested Monday as he left a Rosemead motel, where DEA investigators claim he had just finished the negotiations to kidnap, torture and murder an unidentified customs agent. Arrested with him were Carlos Quintero-Maldonado, 25, and Fabian Jimenez-Martinez, 22, who allegedly intended to assist Lopez, agents said.
The three were charged before a U.S. magistrate Tuesday and are being held without bail at Terminal Island Federal Prison, pending arraignment Monday.
A sworn affidavit filed in court by DEA Special Agent Douglas Kuehl said Lopez was released recently from a Mexican prison, where he had been held for a year while under investigation in the February, 1985, murder of Camarena and his airplane pilot near Guadalajara, Mexico.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Jimmy Gurule said federal officials began watching Lopez upon his release. Through confidential Mexican informants, arrangements were made for Lopez to come to the United States for the purpose of making a deal to smuggle cocaine, according to the affidavit.
In the course of negotiating a cocaine transaction, the court papers allege, Lopez said he was a member of the Ernesto Fonseca and Rafael Caro Quintero drug organization. Both of those men have been held in a Mexico City jail since 1985, pending charges in the on-going Camarena murder investigation. Lopez allegedly told the DEA agent that Fonseca "had already spent over $1 million in payoffs for his legal defense and still needed another 600,000 U.S. dollars to complete all payoffs."
Bragged of Methods
The affidavit said Lopez boasted to DEA Agent Abel Reynoso that he used to be a police officer in the Mexican state of Jalisco and he would "take care of undesirable individuals by kidnaping, torturing and then killing them."
Lopez allegedly said he could help the undercover agent if he "had any need for his expert services." The cost: $10,000 for a civilian and $25,000 for a police officer.
Camarena's gruesome death chilled relations between the United States and Mexico after it was alleged that Mexican police were somehow involved in the murder. As yet, no one has been charged in the case.
Gurule said that some of the information allegedly offered by Lopez about the Camarena case "could not have been learned from the newspapers."
When asked if the admissions were simply bragging or a marketing device for a would-be killer for hire, Gurule said: "We are taking these representations seriously, very seriously."
Torture Deal Told
Eventually, Reynoso, the undercover DEA agent and Lopez allegedly struck a deal to have Lopez torture and kill a U.S. Customs agent. To that end, Lopez allegedly smuggled Quintero-Maldonado and Jimenez-Martinez into the United States to assist him.
The three could face life imprisonment if convicted on the conspiracy charges.
Gurule said the Justice Department and the DEA will continue to investigate Lopez's possible role in the Camarena killing.