Barrio Azteca Gunmen Charged With US Consulate Cd. Juarez Murders Found Guilty on All Counts

In February 2014, we blogged about the US Consulate Ciudad Juárez Murder Trial in El Paso. The victims of that 2010 tragic incident were El Paso County sheriff’s detention officer Arthur Redelfs, his wife Lesley Ann Enriquez Redelfs, who worked at the U.S. Consulate in Juárez, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, husband of Hilda Salcido who also worked at the consulate.
On February 4, 2022, USDOJ announced that the Barrio Azteca Gunmen who committed the US Consulate Murders in Ciudad Juarez were found guilty on all counts. Excerpt below:

A federal jury in Texas yesterday convicted two members of the violent street and prison gang, Barrio Azteca, on all counts related to the murders of a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband, and the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee.

Jose Guadalupe Diaz Diaz, aka Zorro, 43, of Chihuahua, Mexico, and Martin Artin Perez Marrufo, aka Popeye, 54, of Chihuahua, Mexico, were found guilty at the conclusion of a 13-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division. The jury found Diaz and Marrufo guilty of conspiracy counts for racketeering, narcotics trafficking, narcotics importation, money laundering, and murder in a foreign country; three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and three counts of murder resulting from use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to crimes of violence and drug trafficking.

Evidence presented at trial demonstrated that on March 13, 2010, Diaz and Marrufo served as gunmen on the hit teams that murdered U.S. Consulate employee Leslie Enriquez, her husband, Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee. The victims were targeted by the hit teams after departing from a child’s birthday party in Juarez because they were mistaken initially for rival gang members. Diaz shot and killed Enriquez and Redelfs. Marrufo shot and killed Ceniceros.

“The murders of Leslie Enriquez, Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros are a tragedy,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “These convictions demonstrate the Department’s commitment to combating violent transnational criminal organizations. I want to thank the Mexican Government for its cooperation including extraditing both defendants to the United States to face criminal charges.”

“Although 12 years have passed since these senseless murders, our office has only strengthened its resolve to seek justice for victims of cartel violence,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff for the Western District of Texas. “These guilty verdicts demonstrate the diligent pursuit of our prosecutors and our commitment to protecting communities from ruthless brutality.”

“These convictions represent the FBI’s commitment to take aggressive action against anyone who takes the lives of innocent American citizens,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Even the most ruthless criminals, whether here or afar, cannot evade justice, and we will continue to hold those accountable who commit brutal acts of violence.”

“Today’s convictions serve as a stark warning to all drug traffickers that we will pursue and prosecute any and all who compromise the safety and health of Americans and those who support our U.S missions abroad,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The hardworking women and men of DEA will continue to work with our domestic and global partners to rid our communities of the intimidation, violence, and drug abuse these criminal drug networks inflict.”

At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Barrio Azteca is a transnational criminal organization engaged in money-laundering, racketeering, and drug-related activities in El Paso, Texas. The gang allied with other drug gangs to battle the Sinaloa Cartel, at the time headed by Chapo Guzman, and its allies for control of the drug trafficking routes through Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The drug routes through Juarez, known as the Juarez Plaza, are important to drug trafficking organizations because it is a principal illicit drug trafficking route into the United States.

A total of 35 defendants were charged in the third superseding indictment and are alleged to have committed various criminal acts, including the 2010 Juarez Consulate murders in Juarez, Mexico, as well as racketeering, narcotics distribution and importation, retaliation against persons providing information to U.S. law enforcement, extortion, money laundering, murder, and obstruction of justice. Of the 35 defendants charged, all have been apprehended and 28 have pleaded guilty. One was convicted by trial, one committed suicide before the conclusion of his trial and three are awaiting extradition from Mexico.

Diaz was extradited from Mexico on Nov. 13, 2019 and Maruffo was extradited from Mexico on Jan. 18, 2020. The extraditions were the result of close coordination between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities, who also cooperated in the investigation and prosecution of this case.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 9. Diaz and Maruffo face a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.

A lot of people who worked on this case deserves our gratitude:

Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Trial Attorney Christina Taylor of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Spitzer of the Western District of Texas are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico and the Criminal Division’s Offices of International Affairs and Enforcement Operations provided significant assistance in this case.

The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force located at the Texas Anti-Gang Center in El Paso, FBI Albuquerque Field Office, DEA Juarez and DEA El Paso investigated the case. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Federal Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; El Paso Police Department; El Paso County Sheriff’s Office; El Paso Independent School District Police Department; Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission; New Mexico State Police; Dona Ana County, N.M., Sheriff’s Office; Las Cruces, N.M., Police Department; Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility and Otero County Prison Facility New Mexico provided valuable assistance. 

 

Photo of the Day: @StateDept’s First Evacuation Flight Out of Wuhan, PRC, Jan. 29, 2020

 

Via State/DS

DSS regional security office team helps process and board 195 Americans and other passengers for the first evacuation flight out of Wuhan, PRC, Jan. 29, 2020. (U.S. Department of State photo)
In January 2020, as the new and highly infectious coronavirus began spreading through People’s Republic of China (PRC), the local government unexpectedly closed the airport, stopped public trans- portation, and closed the roadways. U.S. diplomats and other personnel posted at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan were caught in the lockdown, worried about potential inability to access medical care and support services, and fearful they might not be able to leave Wuhan. DSS revised its evacuation plan quickly to help evacuate Americans on the first airlift out of Wuhan. This laid the groundwork for four additional evacuation flights that brought 600 Americans home by the end of February 2020.

Read more at: https://www.state.gov/the-untold-coronavirus-story.

USCG Almaty on Voluntary Departure For Non-Emergency USG Staff/Family Members

 

On Friday, January 7, 2022, the State Department issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory for Kazakhstan due to COVID-19 and civil unrest. It also announced that the Department approved the voluntary departure of Consulate General Almaty non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of all Consulate General Almaty U.S. government employees.
On Saturday, January 8, US Mission Kazakhstan issued a Security Alert for U.S. citizens in the country announcing the voluntary evacuation of non-emergency USG staff and family members at the Consulate General in Almaty. The Alert also advised U.S. citizens in country to shelter in place if a safe departure is not possible:

The U.S. government has authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members at the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty.  

U.S. citizens in Almaty are advised to shelter in place until safe departure is possible.  Avoid standing next to balconies or windows and stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.  Further, all U.S. citizens in Kazakhstan are advised to avoid crowds or demonstrations.

A nationwide state of emergency and curfew is in place between the hours of 11pm and 7am and will remain in effect until January 19.  Expect security checkpoints controlling access to population centers, public transport disruptions, and limitations on movement throughout the country.  Overland border crossing to neighboring countries may not be possible or safe at this time, and access to fuel may be limited.

Unrest in Almaty continues, and there were reports of gunfire overnight and ongoing direct conflict between armed groups and Kazakhstani government forces. Widespread flight and train disruptions continue, and there are cancellations on both domestic and international routes.  Almaty airport and railway stations are currently closed.  You are advised to check with your airline to confirm your flight and reminded to avoid travel during curfew hours.

Communications services countrywide have been limited and internet restrictions continue.  However, the government of Kazakhstan reports that access to limited news outlets has been restored.  Disruptions to internet access may continue to impact other services such as banking, credit card transactions, and COVID-19 testing.  Coordinate with your medical provider to determine testing availability.

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Around the World in Tweets: Consuls General

 

 

EEOC Reverses @StateDept Dismissal of Reasonable Accommodation Complaint Over Housing Assignment

 

 

Via EEOC Appeal No. 2021001832:
At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant was employed as a Criminal Investigator, GS-1811-13, with the Department of Justice – Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Caribbean Division – Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles Country Office, and stationed at the Department of State’s (hereinafter Agency or State) U.S. Consulate – Curaçao. On January 6, 2020, Complainant filed an equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint against State alleging he was discriminated against based on his disability (asthma and association with his minor son with asthma who was part of his household) and reprisal for prior protected EEO activity under the Rehabilitation Act (requesting reasonable accommodation) when:
1. he was denied reasonable accommodation regarding his housing assignment in Curaçao; and
2. his assignment to US Consulate Curaçao was terminated on September 13, 2019.
State conducted an EEO investigation and then issued a FAD dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim because Complainant was not a State employee, it had no decisionmaking authority on him, and it took no action “independent” of the DEA, Complainant’s employing agency. On appeal, Complainant submits a State regulation which indicates the Chief of Mission (Ambassador or Consul General) has full responsibility for the direction, coordination, and supervision of all U.S. executive branch employees in their country, with exceptions that do not apply here. We note that in his investigatory statement, the Consul General at Curaçao stated he was responsible for overseeing the activities of the DEA at his post, including Complainant, and that DEA asked if he would concur with curtailment (terminating the tour), which he did.
Additional details:

Complainant repeatedly articulated his view that State discriminated against him. See e.g., EEO complaint, at Bates No. 4; Affidavit A, at Bates Nos. 59, 60, 71; Rebuttal letter by Complainant’s former counsel writing Complainant “rebuts… that [the Consul General’s] actions to curtail… his assignment at… Curacao was at the request of DEA” at Bates No. 200; Complainant’s appeal statement that, “State was unilaterally responsible for the denial of a request for reasonable accommodation with respect to complainant’s housing assignment on September 13, 2019 (claim #1) and complainant’s assignment to… Curacao was broken on September 13, 2019 (claim #2)…. At no point in time did any individual from [DEA] request to break the… assignment at… Curacao or deny [my] request for a reasonable accommodation.”

Under a plain reading of 29 C.F.R. § 1614.106(a) – and this Commission’s own case law – Complainant’s belief alone is enough to enable him to file a discrimination claim with State. See e.g., Pion v. OPM, EEOC Request No. 05880891 (Oct. 18, 1988) (pointing out that the forerunner to current 29 C.F.R. § 1614.106(a) had once been amended precisely to guarantee the right of complainants “to bring a complaint against any agency they believed engaged in discriminatory conduct”); Warren v. OPM, EEOC Request No. 05950295 (Aug. 17, 1995) (ruling that “[i]n the present case, although [complainant] is clearly an employee of the Department of Agriculture, the Commission finds that the complaint was properly made against [OPM], the agency which allegedly discriminated against [him]”); Koch v. OPM, EEOC Appeal No. 01A13849 (Dec. 21, 2001) applying all the above cited cases. Thus, on these particular facts, State had no right to reject complainant’s complaint on the grounds that it was filed with the wrong agency.
[…]
The Agency is ordered to process the remanded claims, as redefined herein, from the point processing ceased. This means the Agency shall, within 10 days from the date of this decision, shall again notify Complainant that he has the option to request a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge (AJ) or an immediate FAD within 30 days of receipt of the notice in accordance with 29 C.F.R. § 1614.108(e). 2 If Complainant requests a FAD without a hearing, the Agency shall issue a final decision on the merits of the claim within sixty (60) days of receipt of his request.
[…]
Failure by an agency to either file a compliance report or implement any of the orders set forth in this decision, without good cause shown, may result in the referral of this matter to the Office of Special Counsel pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1614.503(f) for enforcement by that agency.

Full decision is available to read here (PDF).

Click to access 2021001832.pdf

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Around the FS World: New Faces at ASEAN, Brasilia, Vancouver, Peshawar, New Delhi

 

@StateDept Releases Tijuana Accountability Review Board (ARB) Fact Sheet

 

On July 26, the State Department released a Tijuana Accountability Review Board Fact Sheet. A notice dated March 9, 2021 posted on regulations.gov announced the convening of ARB-Tijuana (see Convening of an Accountability Review Board to Investigate the Murder of an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Locally Employed Staff member in Tijuana, Mexico).

Related posts:

As best we could tell, the Tijuana ARB report has not been released publicly.  Below via the State Department Fact Sheet:

On January 4, 2021, former Secretary of State Pompeo convened an independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) to review the facts and circumstance surrounding the murder of Mr. Edgar Flores Santos, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) Locally Employed (LE) Staff member in Tijuana, Mexico that occurred on September 30, 2020.  The body was discovered on October 1, 2020. The Tijuana ARB, as well as local and American law enforcement officials, concluded this unfortunate incident was a case of Mr. Flores being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

The ARB’s mandate was to determine the extent to which the incident was security related; whether security systems and procedures were adequate; whether those systems and procedures were properly implemented; the impact of intelligence and information availability; and other factors and circumstances which may be relevant to appropriate security management of U.S. missions abroad.

The ARB first met on February 23, 2021.  Former Ambassador George M. Staples served as Chair of the Board.  Board members included Ambassador Janice Jacobs, former USAID Mission Director Dirk Dijkerman, former Diplomatic Security Service Special Agents John Eustace, and Kimber Davidson.  On April 23, 2021, the Board submitted a report of its findings and recommendations to Secretary of State Blinken.  The Department of State appreciates the judgment and insight contained in the report and is grateful for the service of the Board.  Pursuant to law, the Secretary submitted a report to Congress on July 22, 2020, outlining the ARB’s recommendations and actions taken in response.

The United States Department of State, the USDA APHIS operations, and many other U.S. government agencies have a broad presence and role in Mexico.  The United States is Mexico’s largest agricultural trading partner and the growing agricultural ties between the United States and Mexico have created a vital role for the USDA’s APHIS in ensuring that existing trade between the two economies flows smoothly.  In particular, APHIS provides critical safeguarding of U.S. agriculture, helping to prevent the spread of animal and plant pests and diseases. 

Advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives inherently involves diverse types of risk, and the Department recognizes that taking considered risks is often essential to achieving U.S. government objectives abroad.  Working in dangerous locations such as Mexico’s northern border area is critical to maintaining the safety, security, prosperity, and welfare of Americans.  The work accomplished by Mr. Flores and his USDA APHIS colleagues is vital to the agricultural security of the United States; the Department of State is grateful for their service.   

In the Tijuana operating environment, the Board found that the Department’s security systems and procedures were overall adequate and properly implemented, though the Board identified a few challenges in communication and information sharing that were immediately rectified following this incident.  Moreover, the Board did not find any U.S. government employee engaged in misconduct or perform unsatisfactorily in a way that contributed to this incident. 

The ARB issued 11 recommendations that focus on security systems and procedures and security management.

Security Systems and Procedures:  The ARB found that by all accounts, Mexican law enforcement and U.S. law enforcement agencies at the embassy responded quickly to the incident and shared available information and assisted the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in response to this incident.  However, the Board recommended that APHIS and the RSO take steps to ensure closer monitoring of security-related incidents, information sharing and integration of that intelligence into APHIS’s operational decisions.  The Department of State in coordination with USDA/APHIS will review policies and procedures to strengthen the security of APHIS personnel overseas.  U.S. Embassy Mexico City and all posts with an APHIS presence in their district will engage in robust publicity efforts to raise public awareness about what APHIS does, how it works, and how the work benefits Mexico.

Security Management:  The Board also made several recommendations that USDA and State will take to improve the safety of field inspectors related to their roles and responsibilities; program requirements considering threats and vulnerabilities; and enrolling USDA/APHIS locally employed staff in the Department of State’s worldwide standardized emergency notification system.

 

 

 

 

US Mission South Africa to Amcits: Avoid All Non-Essential Movement #CivilUnrest

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Thanks — DS

 

On July 13, US Mission South Africa issued a Security Alert recommending that U.S. citizens avoid all non-essential travel within areas affected by blockages, increased violence, vandalism and criminal activity

Event:  Civil unrest and protests continue throughout KwaZulu-Natal Province and Johannesburg and Pretoria in Gauteng Province.  Following reports of blockages on many provincial and municipal transit routes, increased violence, vandalism, and criminal activity at commercial centers, and calls for calm by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the U.S. Mission to South Africa recommends avoiding all non-essential movement within affected areas.  Exercise heightened caution in commercial areas where looting and violence can and has occurred suddenly.  The situation throughout many areas of these provinces is unstable and authorities are not able to respond to all events.   

The U.S. Consulate General Durban is available for emergency services only.  The U.S. Consulates General in Johannesburg and Cape Town are operating as normal.

There is currently a “Level 4-Do Not Travel” Advisory for South Africa due to COVID-19 and related restrictions and conditions. The advisory also advised U.S. citizens to “Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime and civil unrest. “
The advisory dated July 6, 2021 was “Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information and “If you decide to Travel.”
US Mission South Africa is currently headed by Chargé d’Affaires Todd P. Haskell who joined Mission South Africa as the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim in March 2021. Ambassador Haskell previously served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Congo from July 2017 until January 2021. He is a 35-year career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister Counselor.
Ambassador Haskell’s second in command is Heather Merritt who was “chosen by the Department of State to serve as Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. Mission to South Africa, effective April 16, 2021.”  According to her official bio, she arrived in South Africa on August 28, 2020 as the U.S. Consul General in Johannesburg.

 

Related items:

Related posts:

 

 

 

 

4July2021: Consulates Celebrate America’s 245th Independence Day

 

 

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FSGB: Informal Meetings Between Grievant and Rater “Did Not Constitute Counseling”

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

 

Via FSGB Case No. 2020-025
Held – The Board held that grievant has established by a preponderance of the evidence that informal meetings between grievant and her rater did not constitute counseling and that the only formal counseling, which occurred six weeks prior to the end of the appraisal year, in the circumstances of this case, was not timely.
Case Summary:

Grievant, an FS-06 Office Management Specialist, was assigned to a challenging, newly upgraded position with not only the responsibility to support the Consul General (CG), as her predecessor had done, but also to support the Deputy Principal Officer (DPO). The position was upgraded to an FS-05 two months after her July arrival at post.

Grievant appealed the denial of her grievance of her April 2017 EER. She maintained that 1) she had not received timely counseling and 2) certain comments in the EER by her Rater and Reviewer, as well as language in the Developmental Area, were inaccurate and/or falsely prejudicial. She contended that her routine meetings with her rater had been supportive, as the rater admitted, and that the Rater had not advised her that the CG and she were dissatisfied with her progress until six weeks before the end of the appraisal period. At that point, grievant recommended being temporarily relieved of supporting the DPO position to allow her time to establish systems to support both positions. She accomplished that goal shortly after the start of the next appraisal period, but her 2017 EER reflected that she was not fully supporting both positions at the end of that rating period.

The Department contended that her ongoing meetings with her Rater to manage her workload and her acknowledgement of her difficulties in doing so meant that grievant was aware of her deficiencies from the informal counseling. Moreover, the Department contended that six weeks was adequate notice of her need to improve.

The Board held that, in the circumstances of this case, where the job had been greatly expanded, grievant was new at post, and her meetings with her rater were generally to discuss routine aspects of the position, her rater had failed to put her on notice that her progress was deficient. As to the timeliness of the formal counseling, grievant established that she was able to devise a plan to meet the requirements successfully, but she was unable to accomplish it before the end of the rating period. Consequently, six weeks was too short to be timely notice of her deficiency.

Because the Department failed in its obligation to provide counseling mandated under 3 FAH-1 H-2253.2, it was unnecessary for the Board to reach the issue of whether the statements were inaccurate and/or falsely prejudicial. As a remedy, and as requested by the grievant, the Board ordered expungement of the 2017 EER and reconstituted Selection Boards.

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