International Drug Trafficker Sentenced to 30 Years in Federal Prison for Transporting Thousands of Kilograms of Cocaine to United States
CHICAGO — A former high-ranking commander in the Mexican Federal Police has been charged in federal court in Chicago with conspiring with others to corruptly impede a U.S.-based narcotics investigation.
IVAN REYES ARZATE, also known as “La Reina,” conspired with others to warn members of a Mexican drug cartel that they were the targets of an investigation being carried out by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Reyes had acquired the information through his position as a commander in the Mexican Federal Police, which was working with the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago to investigate an international drug trafficking and money laundering organization, the complaint states. Reyes and his co-conspirators tipped off cartel members when the DEA had obtained judicial authorization to intercept their phones, and leaked the identity of a cooperating source who was covertly working with the DEA to gather evidence against the cartel, the complaint states.
The complaint was filed Feb. 10, 2017, and ordered unsealed today. It charges Reyes, 45, of Mexico City, with conspiracy to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding. Reyes was ordered detained in U.S. custody after making an initial appearance last week before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Finnegan in Chicago. The case is next up before Judge Finnegan on April 13, 2017.
The complaint was announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Dennis A. Wichern, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the DEA.
The investigation is being conducted through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force. Valuable assistance has been provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, the Chicago Police Department, the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Illinois State Police, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“The United States and Mexico have a long history of close cooperation in combatting transnational organized crime,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Levin. “The criminal complaint announced today is the first step in holding Mr. Reyes accountable for attempting to impede that bilateral cooperation by allegedly obstructing a significant investigation for personal gain. We remain steadfast in the unwavering commitment to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations and fight against corruption at all levels; our bilateral efforts will continue.”
According to the complaint, U.S. and Mexican authorities over the past year have been working together to investigate certain narcotics traffickers in Mexico. The investigation revealed that a network of high-level cartel members transported multiple tons of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, and ultimately on to the United States.
Reyes was the principal point of contact for information being shared between U.S. law enforcement and the Mexican Federal Police. He first drew the attention of U.S. authorities in September 2016 while the investigation was active and ongoing, the complaint states. A member of the conspiracy sent a law enforcement surveillance photograph to an alleged Mexican drug trafficker and notified the man that he was a principal target of an investigation, the complaint states. In a conversation intercepted by law enforcement, a member of the conspiracy further informed the alleged trafficker that a confidential source cooperating with U.S. law enforcement was present at the meeting and “sitting with you the day of the picture,” according to the complaint.
Reyes’s name also surfaced the following month in additional intercepted conversations between members of the alleged Mexico-based transnational drug trafficking organization that was targeted in a joint investigation with U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Chicago and San Diego. The members of the organization discussed obtaining law enforcement information about the investigation, prompting one of the alleged Mexico City-based traffickers to identify the source of the information as “Ivan,” the complaint states. The alleged trafficker went on to say that “Ivan” previously leaked law enforcement information to a different Mexican cartel.
“Who is Ivan?” the alleged head of the transnational drug cartel asked in the intercepted conversations, according to the complaint. The alleged Mexico City trafficker responded, “The boss,” in an apparent reference to Reyes’ position as a high-ranking officer in the Mexican Federal Police. According to the complaint, in November 2016 Reyes met in person with the head of the cartel in Mexico City and discussed the leaked surveillance photograph.
The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Katherine Sawyer, Michael Ferrara and Devlin Su.