Feds Helped Mexican Drug Honcho Move Millions

Transferred cash, drugs across international borders

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 9, 2012 6:48 AM CST

(Newser) – The New York Times last month revealed that undercover US agents have laundered and smuggled millions of dollars for Mexico's drug cartels—and today the paper shines a light on one such operation, in which federal agents helped one drug trafficker and his Colombian supplier move cash and cocaine across international borders. Over a period of months in 2007, US and Mexican agents worked with that supplier—Harold Mauricio Poveda-Ortega, aka "The Rabbit"—who fed cocaine to cartel leader Arturo Beltran Levya, the New York Times reports.

The Times obtained an extradition order against Poveda-Ortega that gives the details of the operation, which at times reads "like a script for a B-movie," writes Ginger Thompson. It describes, for example, agents pretending to be pilots willing to carry cocaine worldwide. In one instance, traffickers deposited $1 million in a bank account set up by US agents; that money was eventually transferred to Panama. Later, some 730 pounds of cocaine were moved from Ecuador through the US to Madrid, where the drugs were seized by Spanish officials who had been tipped off by the DEA. One thing that stood out to the Times: just how long it takes for these operations to pay off. Though agents worked their way into Poveda-Ortega's operation in 2007, he wasn't captured until 2010. Click through for more details of the operation.

In this file photo, police officers handle packages containing cocaine in southern Colombia.   (AP Photo/William Fernando Martinez)
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The same rules required domestically do not apply when agencies are operating overseas, so the agencies can be forced to make up the rules as they go along. - Former assistant US attorney Morris Panner

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