Score a huge win for the good guys!
Recently, the DEA arrested a major Mexican trafficking cartel in the Twin Cities. The Sinaloa cartel was part of a “drug distribution cell” transporting cocaine and methamphetamine to the area from Mexico and Canada. Thirty-seven people were charged with ties to the Sinaloa cartel. Agents seized 4 pounds of methamphetamine, 5.9 pounds of cocaine, 1 pound of marijuana, seven guns, ten vehicles and $33,000 in cash. These drug dealers were transporting cocaine and methamphetamine to the Twin Cities from Mexico and Canada and netting about $3.5 million a month.
During a 21-month multi-agency investigation called Operation Xcellerator, more than 750 people across the country were arrested and more than 23 tons of drugs and $59 million in cash were seized. Arrests were also made in Maryland and California.
The Sinaloa cartel is one of the largest organized crime operations in the world and is responsible for the violence in Mexico and the U.S. Mexico has four main drug cartels named after the areas of their operations – Sinaloa cartel, Gulf cartel, Tijuana cartel and Juarez cartel. These cartels control the trafficking of drugs from South America to the U.S. at an estimate of $13 billion a year. Because the U.S. anti-narcotic operations in the Caribbean and Florida have increased, the flow of drugs is now coming through Mexico.
Gangs of drug cartel thugs are terrorizing innocent people living along Mexico’s drug corridor. Last May in a town, called Villa Ahumada, seventy cartel hit men killed the police chief, two officers and three townspeople. The next day, the entire police force of twenty quit. Soon after nine residents of this small town were kidnapped and held for ransom. Six of the hostages were killed but Mexican soldiers rescued the remaining three hostages.
The town of Villa Ahumada is a key stop on one of Mexico’s busiest drug-smuggling routes. The Sinaloa cartel has been fighting with the Juarez gang for control of this area. A railroad and the PanAmerican Highway run through the town making it a good passageway to smuggle marijuana and cocaine into the U.S. The town is located about 80 miles south of El Paso, Texas.
Drug Cartels treat these towns as their own little fiefdoms. This type of organized crime hurts all the members of the community. They are extorted for protection money. The alternative of not paying for protection is that they will kill you.
Even though this area is far from where most people live, recently, the drug cartels are making runs into the U.S. to kill and kidnap people. You may not live near a border town, but as the drug cartels get bolder, it does put all Americans at risk.
Minnesota law requires anyone convicted of a felony, those released from prison after serving a felony sentence, or felons whom the state accepts through an interstate compact and those charged with certain predatory felonies must submit to a DNA sample . All DNA samples collected are forward to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCAA) where it is processed and maintained under its DNA database.
However, state lawmakers in other states, such as Colorado, are considering rolling back this process. The bill would reduce the number of cases where DNA evidence would have to be preserved. The Colorado House Bill 1121 would no longer require DNA evidence from non-sexual misdemeanor cases to be preserved. Last year, Colorado lawmakers passed a bill requiring the preservation of DNA evidence in all cases where a defendant is sentenced to life in person.
If this bill were passed, this would be a huge mistake. How many cold cases would be left unsolved through DNA evidence? How many innocent people charged with a crime would be incarcerated? Is there a cost factor involved in this? With huge strides in scientific methods in solving crimes, now is not the time to cut costs and go back decades leaving innocent people in jail or not closing cold cases for the victim’s families.
According to the FBI Strategic Plan submitted to the national Association of Chiefs of Police the new Radiological Evidence Analysis Lab Suite (REALS) in Aiken, South Carolina will serve as a hub laboratory for FBI and intelligence agencies. These agencies will be involved in the prevention of terrorism and investigation of disbursement of radiological materials.
Now the FBI will have a flexible radiological containment laboratory where their experts can safely conduct forensic examinations on items of evidence associated with radiological material. Up to now, traditional forensic laboratories were not designed for the safe examination of radiological materials and evidence associated with a radiological disbursement. It is important to properly collect, preserve, and analyze forensic evidence in order to solve crimes.
The FBI conducts more than one million forensic examinations annually. From terrorism, espionage, public corruption, civil rights, criminal organizations and enterprises, to white collar and violent crime, the volume of evidence will increase dramatically each year. In addition, the complexity of the examination methods, as well as the complex nature of the investigations has increased.
The FBI will also help develop the forensic capabilities of other countries through partnerships with other forensic laboratories and scientists. In this way, the FBI can provide the optimum level of forensic services to meet the increasing demands. Constant improvements in forensic analysis are necessary in order to develop robust research and development programs that can be quickly deployed to support the entire forensic community.
Over the weekend, the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task force conducted a drug bust at a home in Mankato that netted 17 pounds of a box of khat (pronounce COT). Khat is a plant that is legal in East Africa. Users chew the plant to get a caffeine like stimulus. However, it is illegal to possess here in the U.S. When fresh, khat is more potent but after 48 hours, its potency diminishes substantially. The khat seized during the weekend was of the milder variety.
Khat comes from the leaves of a flowering evergreen shrub from East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Over 10 million people use and abuse Khat primarily in the Middle East. The effects of khat are similar to but less intense than methamphetamine or cocaine. You can chew it, smoke it, or brew in tea. Khat alleviates fatigue and reduces appetite. However, long-term use or abuse can cause insomnia, anorexia, gastric disorders, depression, liver damage and cardiac complications. Manic behavior, delusional behavior, violence, suicidal depression, hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis result in abuse of khat.
The box of khat came from France and when authorities from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection alerted law enforcement agency, they set up a sting operation. An undercover agent delivered the package to the home and when the resident signed for the package, the people in the home were arrested. Three women from Mankato were arrested on felony fifth-degree drug possession.
The street value of the khat was estimated at $6,000.
The Minnesota House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee recently approved a bill that would help law enforcement agencies apprehend and prosecute scrap metal thieves. This bill HF457 requires scrap metal dealers to keep records of every purchase of scrap metal and have it available to law enforcement agencies. The bill also requires dealers to install, maintain and operate video surveillance cameras and require that all payments for scrap metal be by check.
Thieves have been stealing copper pipes and wires at an alarming rate, as it has become a source for fast and easy cash. As a result the price of copper pipes and wires are rising and affects utilities, abandoned houses and construction sites and costs thousands of dollars to replace.
Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, introduced a companion bill in the Senate that would increase the penalties for scrap metal theft. The bill calls for up to 20 years in prison for metal theft if the stolen property was a conduit for gas or electricity and “was removed in a manner that creates a risk of death or bodily harm or serious property damage.”
However, this current legislation has opposition. Some say that this legislation would unfairly put police responsibilities on recycling businesses and place unrealistic reporting requirements on businesses that may see 300 to 400 customers a day. In addition, scrap metal doesn’t have serial numbers on it, so how can you tell if the metal is stolen. Even recyclers have been victims of copper and metal theft. Finally, the principal of regulating businesses does not fair well with the opposition. However, this is a huge property loss for everyone involved and passing some type of legislation is a high priority.
State legislators have passed legislation that try to catch and punish identity theft throughout the nation. However, some legislation efforts may fall short of achieving this goal. Minnesota identity theft law states that “A person who transfers, possesses, or uses an identity that is not the person’s own, with the intent to commit, aid, or abet any unlawful activity is guilty of identity theft and may be punished..”
This is where the law gets tricky. It isn’t illegal to have someone’s other personal documents without their permission. You can possess other personal documents, such as the case in Colorado where an identity criminal possessed peoples’ passports, driver’s licenses, medical records and Social Security cards.
As a result, Colorado is looking to tighten up the rules on identity theft by making it illegal to have these types of identity documents in someone else’s possession without permission.
As you know, your passport, Social Security number or driver’s license number or other personal identifying information can begin the process of identity theft. In addition, some states have a statute of limitations for identity theft. The date begins when the person is victimized and may only extend for up to three years in some states.
That’s why Colorado legislators are introducing a theft bill that would make possessing documents without permission illegal, extended the statue of limitations, as well as the number and type of documents in possession illegal. For example, having two of those records would be a felony and punishable for up to 18 months in jail.
Having your identity stolen and trying to clear up your good name and credit can be a never-ending process. Many people have tried for years with little or no success. Perhaps with new state legislation, the victims of an identity theft crime would have a faster process, an easier way to catch the identity thieves, as well as knowing that these criminals would have a longer jail time.
Recently, an intruder hacked into a Colorado woman’s Facebook page to scam members. This may be the first reported case in Colorado. As hackers get more sophisticated, everyone using Facebook regardless of where you are should be alert to potential scamming schemes.
The scammer was using the woman’s account and sending emails to her friends and family account asking for money. The scammer posed as this woman and claimed that she was in London where she was robbed and wanted her friends and family in her Facebook account to send money. When the real owner of the account and her friend logged into her Facebook account, she emailed to ask if she was still there. The scammer answered that she was. That’s when the woman knew that her account was hacked into.
Here are some ways to stay safe on social network sites.
– Always attempt to call or send an email to confirm a situation before wiring money.
– If you’re not sure whether or not the person you are interacting with digitally is truly the person they say they are, try asking a question only your friend would only know the answer to.
– Make sure your computer’s antivirus and firewall software is up to date.
If you think your account has been hacked, contact the social network immediately and report the incident to law enforcement.
On February 10, 2009, the Sun Newspaper announced that Hennepin County launched a YouTube program to assist law enforcement to catch the county’s ten most wanted fugitives as well as photos of about a dozen people with felony warrants. Because of the popularity of YouTube, law enforcement believes that tips from viewers will help catch these fugitives.
Currently on the YouTube Most Wanted site is embedded the first two episodes, which have already been viewed 1,596 and 498 times, respectively. The Sheriff’s Office and Crime Stoppers of Minnesota co-produce the program. You can also view it on city cable-TV channels. The Sun Newspapers also plans to carry it at mnsun.com.
To keep up with current technology, Crime Stoppers recently began accepting tips via text messaging. You can send a text tip to text “TIP674” plus your message to CRIMES (274637).
The Texas software executive who allowed 32 bison to be slaughtered on his neighboring ranch in Colorado last year was recently sentenced. Jeffrey Hawn will spend 10 days in jail. He also had to pay restitution of $483,362 to the owner, Downare, of the bison; $70,000 to seven charities and $4,007 to the Park County Sheriff’s Department. Back in November, Hawn plead guilty to one felony count of criminal mischief and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty.
As you may recall, Hawn gave 14 people permission to conduct a bison hunt on his ranch. When they arrived on March 19th, 16 of the animals were already dead. The 14 shooters have not been charged. Several of the bison were pregnant and about to calve when they were killed and some were shot as many as five or six times.
The caretakers at Hawn’s ranch, John and Roberta Norman, said that Hawn had no choice but to protect his property and the people on it. They also said that they felt they were hostages of the bison. Well, boo hoo! Bison are not domesticated but wild animals with grazing as part of their nature. Mass slaughtering of wild animals is not the answer.
Even the Park County Judge Stephen Groome said that many of the bison has suffered and 10 days in jail for this was a bargain for Hawn. The judge could not give him a longer sentence according to the law.