Thursday, February 11, 2010

NPR series on "House of Death" informant

NPR is running a three-part series on the federal informant connected to the so-called House of Death murders that occurred six years ago in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico: The Case of a Confidential Informant Gone Wrong. For additional coverage of this story, see this 2007 Dallas Observer feature entitled House of Death. The informant, who was known as "Lalo" to his handlers, was working for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) even as he participated in drug-cartel-ordered executions. Top ICE officials deny knowledge of the murders and claim that "rogue agents" failed to follow guidelines, while Lalo's handler, Agent Raul Bencomo, says his supervisors knew about the killings. According to NPR, ICE withheld information about Lalo's role in the murders from the DEA and from Mexican officials. Former DEA Special Agent Phil Jordan describes the Lalo case as a disaster in which every rule was broken.
Even if the man was John Gotti in his prime, you do not allow an informant to run the investigation; you do not let the informant commit felonies, to commit murder. In my mind, he was given a license to kill.
Jordan testified in the now-defunct civil suit against ICE brought by relatives of the slain House of Death victims, two of whom were U.S. residents.
Lalo has been in federal custody for five years. Now that the case against Lalo's target is over, ICE is trying to deport him back to Mexico.