EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Alleged murderers, drug traffickers and migrant smugglers make up this year’s list of the 10 Most Wanted transnational criminals in the El Paso-Juarez area.
The U.S. Border Patrol unveiled the list on Monday as part of the second “Se Busca Información” binational crime stoppers campaign with Mexican law enforcement partners. The program combines elements of proven American crime prevention campaigns such as Neighborhood Watch, Crime Stoppers and the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted, but with an international twist.
Posters with photos of the fugitives believed to be in Mexico will be posted near U.S. ports of entry encouraging residents to call a telephone tip line if they know their whereabouts. Even if the call comes in from Mexico, U.S. law enforcement personnel will take down the information, analyze it and share the relevant results with trusted Mexican partners. The numbers to call are 800-635-2509 and 915-314-8194. Callers can remain anonymous.
The photos of the targets are placed on posters, flyers and billboards. This signage is situated on the United States and Mexico side of the border for public viewing. In Mexico, they are mainly displayed on bulletins and billboards along city streets and on posters in convenience stores. In the United States, posters will be displayed at U.S. Border Patrol stations, immigration checkpoints and international ports of entry in the El Paso and New Mexico border regions.
“It is crucial that we engage with our community on both sides of the border to get their assistance in getting more information on these wanted criminals. By increasing public awareness through the ‘Se Busca Información’ initiative we increase our ability to apprehend these perpetrators which makes our border community more safe and secure,” said, Chief Gloria I. Chavez, U.S. Border Patrol
Chief Patrol Agent for the El Paso Sector.
Five Border Patrol sectors along the southwest border support this binational initiative: El Paso, Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, Del Rio and Big Bend.
The initial campaign in 2019 led to the capture of leaders in the Mexicles, Barrio Azteca and La Linea drug gangs. It also strengthened cooperation and trust between top law enforcement officials on both sides, Chavez said.
“This (program) is a true investment for both sides,” Chavez said. “The relationship is very strong because of our interest in safer communities not only in the United States but also in Mexico.”
Nine of this year’s targets are wanted by Mexican authorities for drug trafficking and murder-for-hire activities. One is wanted by the U.S. Border Patrol for running one of the largest and most ruthless migrant smuggling operations on the border.
The unnamed smuggling kingpin provides ladders for migrants to scale the border wall and sends them through mountain and desert trails with “guides” who will run back to Mexico at the first sign of trouble or abandon men, women and children who fall behind during the trek. Other times, the migrants will be made to carry drugs in their backpacks.
“He (is responsible) for a lot of illegal activity with the smuggling and the transportation of migrants between the ports of entry in very high-risk regions,” Chavez said. “Many times, the migrants take risks because they are encouraged to climb the border wall and often get stuck at the top and not able to get down.”
Depending on how tall the section of wall is or how strong the migrant happens to be, falls occur that result in broken legs, sprained ankles, and other injuries.
“We have done over 200 rescues (this fiscal year),” Chavez said. “He is a very high priority to the Border Patrol because we want to stop him from placing migrants at risk and carrying out illegal activities in this border region.”
U.S. security analysts have told Border Report that trust in Mexican law enforcement and impunity in Mexico’s judicial system are contributing factors to the growth of organized crime south of the border.
American law enforcement officials, however, express confidence in and point to past successes with their law enforcement partners in the state of Chihuahua.
“We have identified between 30 and 40 of the principal generators of violence in our state and have secured arrest warrants against 25 or 26,” said Chihuahua Attorney General Cesar Augusto Peniche. He said previous administrations weren’t very good at following up leads. “Now we identify who the generators of violence are; we have issued many arrest warrants and we are sharing information with our federal government (in Mexico City).”
Peniche said his investigators maintain communication with U.S. federal agents stationed at the American consulates and the embassy to better track organized crime leaders. “I am convinced we have made great advances in combatting organized crime. We have opened an investigation against all members of organized crime that we have been able to identify and, in many cases, issued arrest warrants,” he said.
The attorney general added that one of the biggest successes of “Se Busca Información” was the capture of Jose Dolores Villegas Soto, a.k.a. “The Iraqi,” arrested in May 2020 after a telephone tip led authorities to the neighboring state of Coahuila.
Peniche said Villegas remains in prison despite violent attacks on police last year by members of the Aztecas gang in an effort to get him released.