Local Prosecutors Working to Clamp Down on Cartels, Terrorist Groups

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WESLACO – Drug cartels and terrorist groups are now in the crosshairs of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The DOJ recently announced they are countering the kind of crimes seen in the Rio Grande Valley through prosecution task forces set throughout the country.  

In the Valley, a different kind of effort focuses on law enforcement against transnational criminal organizations.

On Monday, the DOJ said they would focus their efforts against MS-13, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJDG), Cartel de Sinaloa, Clan del Golfo, and the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Valley law enforcement agencies say they’re also doing their part to help keep law and order.

The tattoos discovered on several people in Border Patrol custody signal allegiance to the MS-13, or other criminal organizations. Now, they're part of the group the Justice Department's Transnational Organized Crime Task Force will focus on prosecuting.

Cartels and terrorist groups have designated prosecution task forces in the U.S.

The State Department doesn't believe they work together. In the newly released Country Reports on Terrorism for 2017, they state: 

"At year's end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States."

But, Local prosecutors see something different.

"We have had, in the past, at least two different situations where terrorists have been apprehended trying to enter the country illegally,” Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz recalls.

Saenz and Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez believe the possibility of ties exists.

"There's always, where there's maybe ties not only to those types of organizations but to many others as well. I mean, it's a business,” Rodriguez said.

Whether they are working together or independently, Valley officials are working in collaboration against them.

"Criminals don't care of jurisdictional lines,” Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra explains.

Guerra showed CHANNEL 5 NEWS around the Transnational Intelligence Center where they work against threats to the safety of Valley residents.

"We have 64 known gangs operating here in Hidalgo County and 18 prison gangs,” he said.

Local, state and federal law enforcement agents share data they collect.

Guerra assigned four criminal analysts, who use the databases to create a portfolio of people they're looking for.

“First of all databases that are accessible to law enforcement, databases of DPS, the jail, if a police officer stopped an individual, he's going to have that individual's name, the car he was driving, the color of the car, who was in the car, at what time, what date,” he explains.

Guerra says they can also access intel jail reports, Border Patrol data and even information from license plate readers.

The sheriff's four criminal analysts work with McAllen and Weslaco police, the Department of Public Safety and Border Patrol in these cubicles; and they have space to grow as they continue to enforce the law against criminal organizations that now will receive more attention in the federal courtrooms.

Activity between cartels and terrorist groups continues to be monitored.

Although the State Department doesn't believe cartels work with terrorists they did mention this in their report:

"The U.S. southern border remains vulnerable to potential terrorist transit, although terrorist groups likely seek other means of trying to enter the United States."


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