I just learned yesterday that on Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit will consider whether or not to deport a longtime federal drug informant back to Mexico. If they decide to do so, the informant will almost certainly be killed. But Guillermo Ramirez Peyro isn't just any informant. He's the key witness in the "House of Death" scandal, in which U.S. federal agents turned their backs on a dozen murders in Juarez, Mexico.
Last fall, I interviewed Sandy Gonzalez, the 30-year DEA agent who blew the whistle on the case.
A brief summary: Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) received knowledge that Peyro (also known as "Lalo") had participated in a murder in the course of infiltrating a faction of the Juarez drug cartel. The murder took place at what would later become known as the House of Death. Instead of calling off their investigation after learning of Lalo's participation, ICE agents did nothing, choosing instead to preserve their drug and cigarette smuggling cases. There would be 11 more tortures and murders at the House of Death. Lalo would later admit to having participated in at least five of them. Thus far, the federal government has refused to conduct a thorough investigation. When Agent Gonzalez sent a letter calling for one, he was disciplined and scolded by officials at the DEA, Homeland Security, and the office of then-U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton. Gonzalez was subsequently given the first negative performance review of his career, causing him to take an early retirement. He later won a $385,000 settlement.
If there ever were a thorough investigation, Lalo would be a key witness. Only he knows the extent to which ICE agents allowed these murders to happen. And that may be why the U.S. government wants to deport him, effectively a death sentence.
From my interview with Agent Gonzalez:
reason: The Department of Homeland Security is now trying to deport Lalo back to Mexico, where he'll almost certainly be murdered. Two questions. First, what is their stated reason for deporting him? And the more obvious question—do you think they're trying to deport him because he's likely to be killed?
Gonzalez: There's no doubt in my mind that they're trying to deport him because they know he'll be killed. It gets rid of the main witness against the government should someone ever look into this.
I don't know the stated or official reason they're trying to deport him. I would guess that it's because he's an illegal alien, or something like that.
I mean, they want him dead. There's no question about it.
reason: He has asked that if he is deported, it be to someplace other than Mexico. The government is arguing against that, too.
Gonzalez: I wasn't aware of that, but it wouldn't surprise me. All I know is that they are trying to get rid of him so he can get killed. Once he's out of the picture, there's no way this case can be revived, because all the other witnesses are government agents.
The federal government has paid Lalo more than $200,000 over the years. His tips have led to at least 50 convictions. He is without a doubt a shady character. He's a former Mexican police officer turned drug dealer turned federal informant who participated in tortures and murders. But he's also holding information about U.S. government complicity in a series of a dozen murders, including the murder of a legal U.S. resident.
Lalo was initially granted asylum by an immigration judge. But the government appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which overruled the judge and ordered Lalo deported. He's now appealing to the Eighth Circuit. The Obama administration has apparently decided to push ahead with his deportation.
It may be that Obama's DOJ appointees aren't aware of the story behind Lalo's deportation. I have a phone call out requesting comment from the BIA.