DOCJT Hosts Cartel Investigation Course

DOCJT Hosts Cartel Investigation Course

Crystal meth, heroin and fentanyl – the overwhelming majority of drugs in the hands of the commonwealth’s citizens today originated in Mexico, said Department of Criminal Justice Training Special Assistant Carey Kitts.

Together with the Kentucky League of Cities and Kentucky Association of Counties, DOCJT brought in two Mexican cartel experts to serve as guest instructors and provide specialized training to Kentucky’s law enforcement on the subject.

“These guys have worked on the border and worked in areas where these drugs are originating and coming into the U.S.,” Kitts said. “Their experience and knowledge about how those drugs are coming through, how it is switched over, who’s bringing it in and how it’s being distributed is invaluable.”

 Jose Garza (Photo by Jim Robertson)

Jose Garza (Photo by Jim Robertson)

Guest instructors Robert Almonte and Jose Garza presented the 32-hour course last week to 88 students. Course topics included drug trafficking, human trafficking, conspiracies, money laundering and violence associated with Mexican cartels. Additionally, Almonte and Garza discussed legitimate and illegitimate saints and icons used by criminals, hotel and motel investigations, identifying stash houses and more.

Almonte served six years as the United States Marshal for the Western District of Texas following 25 years of service to the El Paso (Texas) Police Department, mostly as a narcotics investigator. Garza worked as a state trooper and criminal investigator for more than 20 years with the Texas Department of Public Safety. He followed that service with 13 years as an FBI intelligence analyst and later served as a Homeland Security director in Kansas City, Mo.

“Those guys together have many, many years of experience on this subject,” Kitts said. “It allows our people, who are running into these traffickers and mules, know what indicators to look for and know when they need to be on their toes.”

On the final day of class, Garza discussed the corruption in Mexico, including its politics and law enforcement. Mexican police officers make between $600 and $800 per month, so they are easily bought by the cartels, he said.

“If you go against anything down there, you’re dead,” Garza continued. “There are unmarked graves all over the place in Mexico. Each one of those graves has 30, 40 or 50 bodies.”

Newly-elected Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), is working to change the political landscape. Dealing with cartels and the U.S., Garza explained that AMLO’s concept to reduce narcotics violence is to explore every option from amnesty to demanding the U.S. work to decrease demand.

“Now you’re seeing all these changes,” Garza said. “Have you all seen an increase of fentanyl here? Cocaine? Meth? It’s going to get worse.

“These cartels are sending in their people,” he continued. “They could be here in Kentucky. They will meet with one of the main gangs or drug dealers here, and once they meet with them, they’ll set up a meeting between them and two or three of their representatives. Once that meeting is set up, they’ll come to the table and they’re in charge of distribution.”

 (Photo by Jim Robertson)

(Photo by Jim Robertson)

Then the pipeline is established. Garza reiterated that building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico will have no effect on transportation of drugs across border lines. Drug runners already use sling shots and catapult devices, ramps and vehicles to cross existing border barriers.

“They will climb over it or dig a tunnel underneath it, whatever it takes,” he said. “(The wall) will not work. How is the wall going to stop it? It’s not.”

Response to the class was very positive, Kitts said, including several requests for the speakers to return in the future and offer more training on the subject. With that in mind, Kitts said DOCJT will continue pursuing training that meets the needs of Kentucky’s officers.

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