Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ex-ICE Officer Charged in Drug-Smuggling

Yet another case of law enforcement officials involved in drug smuggling was exposed this week. Richard Padilla Cramer was arrested for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US. Cramer was a former high-ranking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who worked near the border in Arizona. He retired in 2007.

The Associated Press recently published an article about their investigation on corruption among law officers on the border. Unlike any discussion about Mexican citizens or migrants involvement in drug trafficking or other crimes (or US citizens of color involved in drug dealing), this article was very sensitive to the officers' vulnerability to bribery. Nonetheless, they exposed that this isn't just a case of rotten apples. I would take it one step further and argue that this is a systemic problem- that law enforcement is by its very nature corrupt.

It is ridiculous that the supposed attempt to fight the drug war is to get more law enforcement involved. It's no wonder that since the Merida Initiative, aka Plan Mexico, there has been more corruption (I discuss this further in Breaking Down the Mexican Drug War).

From On Border, Agents Struggle with Corruption
As Calderon sent thousands of soldiers to northern Mexico to stop the gruesome cartel violence and clean out corrupt police departments, CBP, the largest U.S. law enforcement agency, boosted its border forces by 44 percent or 6,907 additional officers and agents on the southwest border.

At the same time, CBP saw the number of its officers charged with corruption-related crimes nearly triple, from eight cases in fiscal 2007 to 21 the following year...

In the past 10 months, 20 agents from CBP alone have been charged with a corruption-related crime. At that pace, the organization will set a new record for in-house corruption; 90 employees have been charged with corrupt acts since October 2004. Agency officials expect those cases to continue to climb: There are 63 open criminal investigations - including corruption cases - against CBP employees.

I have been casually keeping track of cases such as this for a few years. I have been particularly interested in the fact that migrants are stereotyped as drug smugglers while law enforcement is not. While obviously nearly everyone has vulnerability to this lucrative business.

Human smuggling, is another lucrative business. Most of these non-drug related corruption charges involve providing "legal" paperwork for folks crossing the border- probably those who have money and are therefore probably involved in the drug trade. So who's to blame for drug traffickers entering the US.

An opinion piece from October 2006, Corrupt officials at home hinder real immigration reform lays out a number of examples of border-area law enforcement corruption, particularly drug trafficking, such as this example: "Border Patrol agent David Duque faces up to 15 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for legal documents. He sold fake passports, birth certificates and Social Security cards. He even received $5,000 to allow a cocaine shipment through the Texas border."

Surely decriminalizing drugs and migration would solve the problem of corruption. And surely poverty and the perceived need for more and more money by those who already have it are to blame as well. People will always have incentive to do wrong within capitalism. The drugs and migration are not necessarily the problem in and of themselves- it's the abuse of the drugs, and especially the violence that pervades these underground markets, that are the problems.

While watching a video on the Mexican drug trade, I wrote down a quote from a woman who was heavily involved in drug trafficking in Mexico: "You'd have to wipe out the government to wipe out drug trafficking." I'm quite certain she was referring to how corrupt the Mexican government is. But clearly government officials, with their power, access, and impunity (mostly), along with everyone assuming they're innocent because they are part of law enforcement, are not immune from participating in that which they claim to counter, whether in the US or not. So maybe we really would have to get rid of the government to get rid of these crimes.

By the way, since Arpaio was involved with the DEA in Mexico, someone should really look into what he might be hiding...


  1. Great narrative! I personally know Richard Cramer and also know Gerardo Chavez, another ICE top ranking official sentenced to 70 or 90 months in prison for bribery and corruption activities. They both were from Arizona. I am a retired federal criminal investigator who in 1984 was involved in the investigation of border corrupt officials in the Nogales-Douglas, AZ area. Federal corruption among top level officials has been well documented. I like Customs former SAC Internal Affairs John W. Juahsz reported and named suspected corrupt federal law enforcement officers in Arizona. However, our reports were trashed and no investigation was ever conducted. Now, we have some of these named corrupt officials running DHS. My sources are telling me that DHS' Janet Napolitano will send 100 ICE special agents to Mexico. No wonder DHS and its agencies are not trusted by other agencies such as the FBI and DEA.

  2. Padilla was in corrupt DEA and FBI territory. DEA in Colombia and Panama work for the narcos, the guerrilas and the AUC laudering money. See the murder o drug detective Franklin Brewster in Panama. A bullshit FBI investigation with the DEA, bogus federal agents, fake documents in a murder investigation and the cover up by the last 2 Ambassadors at the US Embassy in Panama and the clam up by the head of the FBI. Nobody knows anything now