Mexican Police Drug Link Told : Served as Private Army for Dealers, Parpers Show

Times Staff Writer

Members of the Jalisco state judicial police force functioned as a private army for narcotics traffickers in Guadalajara, performing personal errands and acting as bodyguards in return for money and cocaine, according to court documents made public Monday.

The signed declarations of seven suspects in the kidnaping and subsequent murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique S. Camarena indicate that Guadalajara's most notorious drug dealers were, in effect, the real bosses of the state police.

One suspect, Gerardo Ramon Torres Lepe, 23, told Mexican federal government investigators that he was one of five men who abducted Camarena on Feb. 7, just outside the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara.

Torres Lepe is one of six members of the judicial police who have been arrested in connection with Camarena's death. The seventh suspect is a former member of the state police. All seven made what investigators described as self-incriminating statements during interrogations, but recanted when they appeared for arraignment Sunday before federal Magistrate Gonzalo Ballesteros Tena, claiming they had been tortured.

One Suspect Died

Mexican news reports said the seven bore bruises on their faces during their brief appearance in court. Six other men were also arrested at first, but one died of acute hemorrhaging of the pancreas, another has been turned over to the state police in connection with another crime and four were released for lack of evidence.

Ballesteros, the magistrate, said all seven of the current suspects have been charged with the "global crime"--that is, with the kidnaping and murder of Camarena and Mexican pilot Alfredo Zavala Avelar, who sometimes worked with Camarena. Under Mexican law, Ballesteros must decide by tonight whether to hold the men for trial--in effect, to issue an indictment--or release them.

Only Torres Lepe admitted to participation in the actual abduction of Camarena, according to a review of their statements, but each declaration offers rich details about the underworld of Mexican narcotics and the cozy links between the drug gangsters and the police force in Guadalajara.

Acted as Bodyguards

To judge from the declarations, the state judicial police were virtually at the beck and call of the drug dealers. Officers were frequently summoned to accompany them on trips, to act as bodyguards or simply to wait around in case they were needed at nightclubs and other spots the gangsters frequented.

For example, on the day of Camarena's abduction, Torres Lepe said, he was called to the home of Rafael Caro Quintero, reportedly one of the top narcotics dealers in Mexico, and was told only that he was going on a mandadito, an errand.

Camarena's abductors knew that the DEA agent would be leaving the U.S. Consulate from a particular door "between 2 o'clock and 2:15 in the afternoon" of Feb. 7, Torres Lepe said in his statement.

Moments after the agent emerged on schedule, he was approached by the five men and was persuaded without any show of force to get into their car because one of the kidnapers showed him a badge and identification card from the Mexican Federal Security Directorate, an important police agency.

"He was told he was being summoned to the security directorate," Torres Lepe said, "and after looking at the five of us, he came along willingly."

However, he was taken to Caro Quintero's home, the statement went on, where another figure identified by U.S. and Mexican authorities as a narcotics kingpin, Ernesto Fonseca, was present.

According to several statements, Fonseca and Caro Quintero were furious because they believed that Camarena and Zavala Avelar were responsible for pinpointing the locations of marijuana plantations and caches of cocaine seized by federal narcotics agents.

Lost Drug 'Investment'

Raul Lopez Alvarez, 26, a state judicial policeman who acted as one of Caro Quintero's henchmen, said he was told that Caro Quintero had lost an "investment" worth more than $1 billion when narcotics agents seized several thousand tons of marijuana in a raid in the northern state of Chihuahua in November.

None of the suspects in custody claimed to have seen Camarena after he was turned over to Caro Quintero. Torres Lepe said he later heard that the agent had been killed by Caro Quintero and buried at Caro Quintero's ranch. Another said he heard the body was buried in a forest outside Guadalajara.

Torres Lepe said he did not realize he had helped kidnap a U.S. narcotics agent until he read about it in the newspapers later.

Caro Quintero, identified by DEA officials and by U.S. Ambassador John Gavin as one of the masterminds of Camarena's killing, left Guadalajara two days after Camarena was abducted, allegedly helped to escape by Mexican federal and state police. U.S. officials say his whereabouts are not known.

The statements of the suspects also tell of frequent parties, sometimes lasting two days, in which they and other policemen acted as bodyguards and bouncers for the narcotics figures.

$400 a Night

In some cases, they were paid up to $400 for a night's work. Several of them said that a police commander who died while under investigation, Gabriel Gonzalez Gonzalez, was paid 1.5 million pesos--$6,250 at the current rate of exchange--by Caro Quintero, Fonseca and others each month.

Several also charged that Victor Manuel Lopez Razon, another police commander who is among the seven suspects in custody, was paid 1 million pesos a month for his services. He was the direct superior of Torres Lepe and four other policemen who are suspects.

Lopez Razon's own statement admits knowledge of criminal activity and links with the narcotics traffickers, but he said he did not learn of the kidnaping until after it occurred. He said he had not come forward earlier because he feared retribution from Caro Quintero and others.

Lopez Razon was tied to the drug dealers by several other statements, however. Jose Guadalupe Villarreal, another suspect in Lopez Razon's police unit, said Lopez Razon told him that Torres Lepe and another police officer--Juan Rufo Solorio Oliva, 22--had taken part in the abduction.

"Lopez Razon said he feared that they had gone too far this time," Villarreal's statement said.

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