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Mexican Boasted of Role in Drug Agent Torture, Court Told

February 10, 1988|KIM MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

A former Mexican police official accused in the 1985 torture-murder of federal drug agent Enrique Camarena admitted that he was an "enforcer" for a major Mexican narcotics organization and claimed knowledge about the torture of Camarena and his pilot, federal prosecutors disclosed Tuesday.

In the opening day of the trial of Raul Lopez Alvarez on an unrelated murder-for-hire conspiracy charge, prosecutors said they have evidence that Lopez Alvarez bragged about his role in the Camarena case and offered to murder a U.S. Customs agent for a $10,000 fee.

In a series of recorded interviews between Lopez Alvarez and an undercover federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent introduced in Los Angeles federal court, the former Guadalajara homicide detective claimed he was working for Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, a Mexican drug kingpin, who currently is being held in jail in Mexico City in the Camarena case.

Torture Described

"That (obscenity) was beaten to death, and he was still alive. Well, he was unconscious," Lopez Alvarez said of Camarena in a tape recorded meeting with undercover DEA agent Abel Reynoso at a Montebello restaurant.

"And the other . . . took his eyes out. They had fun there," the former police official said.

Lopez Alvarez spent a year in prison in Mexico after he signed an affidavit admitting to participating in the murder. But he was released after a magistrate in Mexico City found that he had been tortured before signing the confession, said his lawyer, Elsa Leyva.

Leyva claims that U.S. officials set up Lopez Alvarez in the conspiracy to murder the customs agent--a plan that was never carried out--in order to get him across the border to face charges in the Camarena case.

Lopez Alvarez is one of nine men indicted last month by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles in connection with Camarena's death. He is one of only three suspects presently in U.S. custody. Trial for the three is scheduled for March.

"My theory is the government thought that he either was involved or knew about the Camarena murder and could squeeze him for it," Leyva, a federal public defender, said.

The discussions with Reynoso about setting up a cocaine transaction, talks which eventually evolved into the purported murder-for-hire plot, were merely "a ruse to get him here," she said.

Lopez Alvarez and his two co-defendants, Carlos Quintero Maldonado and Fabian Jimenez Martinez, contend their intention from the beginning was to appear to go along with Reynoso's idea about a cocaine transaction and then run away with the money.

But the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Atty. Jimmy Gurule, said the tapes make clear that Lopez Alvarez "offered his services as an enforcer, as a contract killer" to the undercover agent and repeatedly detailed the methods of torture which he said had been employed on Camarena and could be used on the customs agent as well.

Among the methods were electrical shocks to the testicles and anus and soda water poured up the nose while the mouth was gagged, Gurule said.

Lopez Alvarado offered to do the job for $10,000, but increased the price to $25,000 when he learned the target was a federal customs agent, he said.

According to the tapes, Lopez Alvarez told Reynoso he would need a van, a cattle prod, a "little wrench," a body bag and a secluded house in order to accomplish the job.

"How do you want it? Do you want him tied up? Tortured?" he asked in the first taped meeting.

"The guy won't see, won't see, we won't give him time. He'll be blindfolded and tied up. We have to neutralize him. . . . From there, we take off to work comfortably," he said. "The thing is to catch him off guard, and then to have a house . . . there he's tied up, and what you ask for gets done."

The tapes reveal that Lopez Alvarez first met with the undercover DEA agent about a cocaine transaction on behalf of Fonseca Carrillo, referred to variously as "Don Neto" and "the Old Man," who needed additional money for his "legal defense" in the Camarena case.

The "defense," Gurule said, amounted to payoffs to Mexican officials, payoffs which, according to some conversations, had already totaled $4 million.

"Right now, we need money for the defense--for the old man--the Don Neto," Lopez Alvarez said. "They want dollars. Pure gold. The old man . . . needs $600,000."

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