Precede LOS ANGELES DEA Acknowledges Paying $20,000 to Those Who Brought Alvarez to US Soil
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Drug Enforcement Administration acknowledged today that it paid $20,000 to people who delivered to the United States a Mexican doctor charged in the murder of an American drug agent.
″We did make a payment for services of $20,000″ connected to the delivery of Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain to El Paso, Texas, where he was arrested April 3, said DEA spokesman Frank Shults.
But Shults insisted, ″We did not pay a reward or a bounty.″
Shults would not specify the ″services,″ but noted it may have involved such things as the rental of the plane that flew the Guadalajara gynecologist to this country to face charges in the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of DEA Agent Enrique ″Kiki″ Camarena.
The payment was ″made to the people who were cooperating with us″ about 10 days after Alvarez was arrested, Shults said. He declined to say who received the money.
There was no advance payment even though one had been requested, he said.
″They had an estimate this operation would cost $50,000,″ Shults said. ″They wanted up-front money and we wouldn’t pay it.″
A congressional source said the DEA had planned to pay more but cut off future payments because of the diplomatic uproar from the Mexican government over the alleged kidnapping of Alvarez.
Shults said he did not know if that were true.
″From what I have been told, the only payment made was this $20,000,″ he said. ″There may be somebody out there saying, ’You owe me money.‴
A federal judge in Los Angeles has scheduled a hearing to find out ″the highest level of authority″ that approved the alleged kidnapping of Alvarez.
U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie ordered government prosecutors on Monday to disclose the information. Alvarez’s trial has been indefinitely delayed pending the outcome of the hearing on how he was brought to the United States.
Four other men are on trial in the Camarena case, and a witness testified Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles that all four of those men attended one or more meetings where the crime was planned.
Hector Cervantes Santos, former security chief for a Guadalajara drug cartel, testified that at one meeting, Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero also suggested kidnapping John Gavin, then the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
Cervantes, testifying through an interpreter, said that at the time he was a bodyguard for Javier Barba Hernandez, a Guadalajara lawyer and confidante of numerous drug traffickers.
Ruben Zuno Arce, the brother-in-law of former Mexican President Luis Echeverria, attended the meetings and supported the idea of kidnapping Gavin, Cervantes said.
Gavin was not kidnapped, but Camarena was abducted on Feb. 7, 1985, along with his pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar.
Their bodies were discovered about a month later at a ranch 65 miles outside Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city.
On trial in U.S. District Court for alleged involvement in the slayings are Zuno; convicted Honduran drug kingpin Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros; Javier Vasquez Velasco, a Mexican citizen who also has lived in the United States; and Juan Jose Bernabe Ramirez, a former Mexican police officer.
Cervantes testified that at the last of the four meetings, held just days before Camarena’s abduction, ″Don Ruben said he agreed that the person should be picked up and (it should be) found out how much he knew and who he was cooperating with.″
The drug lords reportedly were incensed because Camarena’s undercover work had led U.S. and Mexican authorities to a desert marijuana plantation, where they seized 10,000 tons of the drug worth billions of dollars.
In his testimony, Cervantes also implicated several former Mexican police officials and Mexico City’s current police chief, Javier Garcia Paniagua.
Matta’s lawyer, Martin Stolar, challenged Cervantes’ testimony. ″He’s basically the butler who wandered in and out of meetings and claimed to hear what was going on,″ Stolar said.
Zuno’s lawyer, Edward Medvene, has said Cervantes’ testimony should be viewed with skepticism because he didn’t come forward when the slayings occurred. He did not comment on Thursday’s testimony.
DEA records show Cervantes has been a U.S. government-paid informant since Nov. 24, 1989. He and his family were relocated to the United States and have received more than $36,000 in DEA payments since November, the records show.