DHS Alerted AZ Sheriffs That Mexican Drug Cartel Was Sending Assassins Into Arizona Valley, Then Did No More Than Set Up Signs To Warn Travelers Away

October 15, 2010 - 6:06 PM


Paul Babeu

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has made public an e-mail sent by the Department of Homeland Security to law enforcement officials in Arizona in May warning of Mexican drug cartel operations in the state's Vekol Valley, located about 70 miles from the U.S. border with Mexico. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned Arizona law enforcement officials in May that Mexican drug cartels were deploying assassins to kill bandits hijacking their drug loads in the Vekol Valley, 70 miles inside Arizona. Then the federal government set up signs in the region to warn American citizens away from this area of U.S. sovereign territory.   

That local law enforcement would be left to confront agents of a foreign cartel coming across the international border of the United States to carry out a deadly drug war on U.S. soil is further evidence that the federal government is not doing its duty to secure the border, said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. 

“This is confirmed intelligence that Mexican drug cartels are now working in concert to protect their drug loads in the United States, literally, to send well-armed, military trained--even with ballistic vests--up to my county,” Babeu told CNSNews.com.

“This clearly is no longer a public safety issue,” he said. “This is a national security issue. The violence is bleeding into America and we must stop it.”

The DHS sent an e-mail on May 13, 2010 to several law enforcement agencies warning that Mexican drug cartels were deploying “sicarios” (assassins) into the western part of Pinal County, Ariz., to “take out” bandits that were robbing drug smugglers who had entered the United States from Mexico through the Arizona desert.

The e-mail was sent on May 13, 2010, and made public this Friday, Oct. 15, after local media in Arizona obtained the e-mail and questioned local law enforcement about it.

Babeu said that until now the e-mail was kept private because it was considered “law enforcement sensitive.” But Babeu, a critic of the Obama administration’s handling of immigration and border security issues, said he released it today because it constitutes further evidence that the government is not protecting Americans from the threats posed by a porous border.

“This is unacceptable for our federal government not to secure the border and not to respond to these threats,” Babeu told CNSNews.com. “How has it become in America [that] local sheriffs and law enforcement have to go up onto hillsides and pull people out of caves and take lookouts and scouts, who have binoculars, and night vision, and communication devices which are encrypted and rolling – they said so, right in the memo.”

The May 13 e-mail reads, in part: “We just received information from a proven credible confidential source who reported that last weekend, a meeting was held in Puerto Penasco in which every smuggling organization who utilized the Vekol Valley was told to attend. This included rival groups within the Guzman cartel.

“It was decided that the cartel would send a group of fifteen, very well equipped and armed sicarios complete with bullet proof vests, into the Vekol Valley” the e-mail continues. “The Cartel has a map of where the most bandit activity has been occurring. The group will walk into the valley taking four days to get into LPOP positions and communicate back to Penasco. Penasco will then send groups of simulated backpackers carrying empty boxes covered with burlap into the Vekol Valley to draw out the bandits. Once the bandits have been identified, the sicarios will take out the bandits.”

“Incidentally” the e-mail continues,” the night of the Vekol Valley shooting, we received information from a source who reported that the scouts in the valley (the Cartel has 23 scout locations with rolling encryption) were reporting that bandits had shot two sheriff’s deputies and the area was covered with cops.”

US-Mexico border

The international border in Nogales, Ariz., as seen on Thursday, April 22, 2010. (AP Photo)

The last portion of the e-mail apparently refers to the reported ambush of Pinal County Deputy Louie Puroll, who was shot while scouting the Vekol Valley area on April 30, two weeks before DHS sent the e-mail warning of drug cartel operations in the small location.

While Vekol Valley in southwest Arizona is about 70 miles north from the U.S.-Mexico border, Puerto Penasco – the site where DHS said the drug cartels were meeting to discuss the assassination plot – is a resort town on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, a little more than 60 miles south from the border.

Babeu said despite the federal government’s intelligence, it failed to respond to its own warning, except to install 15 billboard-sized warning notices in the Vekol Valley area cited in the DHS e-mail. (See story.)

“It is right in that exact location,” Babeu said of the signs that were erected shortly after the e-mail was sent. “That’s why they put up these signs. They knew of this and the only thing they did was put up signs warning our citizens to stay out.”

Babeu said the federal government’s border security policy has failed and action should be taken immediately to stem further violence by Mexican drug cartels on U.S. soil.

DHS did not respond to phone or e-mail requests from CNSNews.com for comment on this story and the May 13 e-mail.