Tuesday, May 15, 2012



Note: well that makes it ok.

Defendants cite economic factors for committing drug-running offenses
Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 8:47 am
Nogales International

In one case, the underemployed defendant said he needed money to pay
a mounting child-support bill – and stay out of jail in the process.
In another, the defendant said he had recently lost his job and was
facing intense pressure to provide for his family.
In both cases, the two men said, their economic situations convinced
them to smuggle marijuana. And in both cases, they were arrested,
convicted and sentenced on April 30 in Santa Cruz County Superior
Court to probation and jail.

One defendant, 30-year-old Jose Luis Villegas, Jr. was sentenced by
Judge James A. Soto to three years of probation – including 90 days
in jail – for a conviction on one count of possession of marijuana
for sale, a Class 3 felony. Soto also ordered Villegas to perform 30
hours of community service and pay more than $2,000 in fees and fines.
According to court documents, on July 17, 2009, agents with U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement advised their colleagues with the
Santa Cruz County Metro Task Force of a white van suspected of
carrying marijuana to an address on Neumann Street in Nogales. When
Metro and NPD officers arrived at the address, Villegas reportedly
answered the door and subsequently showed the officers the bundles of
marijuana that he had been unloading from the van into the house. The
bundles were later weighed at 282.2 pounds.
In subsequent interviews with investigators and a probation officer,
Villegas said he had met a man while playing softball in Nogales, and
that the man at first hired him to do some home repair at the Neumann
Street residence, and then convinced him to run drugs for "a lot of
extra money."
And so, on the date of the bust, Villegas said, he drove his mother's
van to Wal-Mart and left it there for someone else to take and fill
with marijuana. The van was later dropped off at K-Mart, where
Villegas picked it up and drove it to Neumann Street.
In his March 29 pre-sentencing interview, Villegas reportedly told a
probation officer that he had been without full-time employment for
about a year-and-a-half before the smuggling incident. He was behind
about $8,000 in court-ordered child support and authorities were
threatening to put him in jail unless he paid up.
"I committed this offense because of economic stress," Villegas said,
according to the presentence report. "I really was afraid that I
would go to jail for not being able to pay my child support."
In a separate case, Judge Soto sentenced 24-year-old Oscar Rafael
Castro on April 30 to three years of probation – including 30 days in
jail – for a conviction on one count of facilitation/unlawful
possession of marijuana for sale, a Class 6 felony.
Soto also ordered Castro to perform 30 hours of community service and
pay nearly $2,000 in fees and fines.
The conviction stemmed from an incident on Nov. 8, 2011, when a plain-
clothes Metro agent spotted a suspicious man conducting surveillance
in the area of Morley Avenue and East Street, and subsequently saw
him taking special interest in a Nissan sedan that approached the
As the sedan pulled away, the Metro agent radioed for an NPD officer
on Grand Avenue to stop the car. Instead, the driver of the Nissan
"made high-speed evasive actions" off Grand and onto Third Street
before pulling into an auto body shop. The driver, later identified
as Castro, was eventually confronted by law enforcement officers at
the body shop. A search of the Nissan turned up 71.9 pounds of
marijuana in the trunk.
In an April 12 pre-sentencing interview, Castro reportedly told a
probation officer: "I let three guys I hardly knew sweet talk me into
committing offense."
He said he had been going store-to-store on Mariposa Road, asking
managers if they had any job openings.
"Every day when I looked for work I saw these three guys always
hanging around," he said. "They were always shopping or spending
money, or just making the scene as if that was all they had to do."
One day, he said, they approached him and offered $500 to move a drug
load. They said they had scouts everywhere and so it would be a
virtually risk-free job.
In a handwritten letter to the judge titled "The biggest mistake of
my life" and dated April 12, Castro wrote that he and his wife, who
were raising a young son, had both lost their jobs in mid-2011.
"I had already received disconnect letters from both electricity and
gas services. To make matters worse, I was going on my third month
without paying rent. My family and I were about to get evicted," he
wrote. "I honestly had never felt so much pressure in my life, not
even when I had my child as a teenager.
"Living here in Nogales there are very few job opportunities," he
continued. "Lots, if not most of the people here in town, one way or
another have their encounter with the people in the drug business.
"If I hadn't had so much pressure and had a job," he said, "I
wouldn't be writing this letter today."

Note: and then we have the ongoing reports from Mexican law
enforcement of stolen vehicles recovered after drug busts or shootouts.

Border car thefts: Fact, fraud, or a bit of both?
Jonathan Clark
Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 8:45 am
By JB Miller
For the Nogales International

"I went over to Mexico to do some shopping, and when I returned my
car was gone!"
It's a common refrain heard by the Nogales Police Department, and one
that's regularly reflected in entries of the Nogales International's
weekly "cop shop" report.
"8:19 p.m. A woman who parked along North Robbins Street before
walking over to Mexico returned later and discovered her car had been
stolen," reads one report from April 12.
"1:46 a.m. A female driver told police that someone stole her
mother's car, which was parked along the 100 block of North Sonoita
Avenue. The driver told officers that she parked her car at
approximately 8:29 p.m. and walked into Mexico and when she returned
it was missing," states an entry from March 10 that also adds that
police found no signs of forced entry at the scene.
"9:37 p.m. A man told police that he had parked his car on North
Sonoita Avenue and walked into Mexico, but when he came back the
following day, his car was missing," says another report from Feb. 26.
But while the Mexican border does offer and enticingly close getaway
for car thieves, and though car theft is a legitimate problem in
Nogales, investigators say that in more than a few cases, the went-
into-Mexico-and-my-car-was-stolen story could be only a half-truth.
"I would not be surprised to find out that there is a high level of
insurance fraud going on," said Brian Salata, executive director of
the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority. According to Salata, when the
economy is bad, people are more likely to find themselves in a
situation where they can't afford to make car payments. And so they
might seek an easy solution.
"They've lost their job so they park their car in a place and
location where they think it will get stolen," he said.
The Nogales Police Department did not have car theft statistics
available for 2012, but according to previous data, 71 vehicles were
reported stolen in 2011 and 97 were reported stolen in 2010. Salata
said those numbers represent a "pretty significant amount."
"That's higher than what you would find in other parts of the state
in cities of that same size," he said.
Lt. Carlos Jimenez of the Nogales Police Department said the numbers
represent a variety of realities.
"It is probably a combination of legit stolen cars and some
fraudulent in nature," he said.
And while Jimenez said that many of the reports come from "downtown,"
he added that the problem is not widespread in the area.
It's an observation confirmed by some downtown residents who say
their neighborhood is as safe as any other when it comes to car thefts.
David Courtland who lives approximately three blocks from the U.S.-
Mexico border on Noon Street, near the intersection with North
Sonoita, said he couldn't think of a single person he knows that has
had a car stolen in recent years. "And I know a lot of people," he
It wasn't always that way, however. During the 1980s, Courtland said,
he had two Ford Broncos stolen, which were later seen headed south
into Mexico.
"That was a long time ago," he said. "I haven't even thought of it as
being an issue for years."
"It's really quiet here," added Gustavo Lozano, who lives near the
intersection of Elm Street and North Sonoita. "I haven't seen
anything happen."
Lozano said the only criminal activity he has heard of related to car
theft was a pilfered stereo and a relative who couldn't start his car
because a part had been pinched. However, Lozano added, he drives an
older-model vehicle that is perhaps not as desirable an SUV or VW
Jetta, two types of cars that he has heard are in high demand in Mexico.
But according to Jimenez, the model of a car is not likely to affect
its chances of being stolen.
"The type of cars stolen vary," said Jimenez. "No particular type
seems to be taken more than others."
That may not be too reassuring to the owner of a gold-colored Land
Rover, who reported the vehicle stolen on April 22 after he parked it
along the 500 block of North Potrero Avenue the night before.
And not every car thief gets away with the crime, either, as
evidenced by this police report entry from April 11:
"5:39 p.m. A stolen car was recovered at the DeConcini Port of Entry
and a man arrested for attempting to drive a stolen car into Mexico,"
it read.

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