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Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.
WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Tancredo’s charge that Mexican drug cartels are buying up legitimate businesses in U.S. cities to launder money and using some of the proceeds to win local mayoral and city council seats for politicians who can shape the policies and personnel decisions of their police forces, has been backed up by a veteran gang investigator.
Richard Valdemar, a retired sergeant with the L.A. County sheriff’s department and a longtime member of a federal task force investigating gang activity, went beyond the charges made by Tancredo, the chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus who has led the fight to secure America’s southern border.
In fact, he cited first-hand experience in investigating attempts to take over seven cities in Los Angeles County – Southgate, Lynwood, Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Hawaiian Gardens and Huntington Park.
He also told WND in an exclusive interview that he has since become aware of similar efforts by Mexican drug cartels throughout the Southwest – in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.
The stunning disclosures substantiate claims made by Tancredo in his new book, “In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security,” in which he exposes what he has learned from meetings with law enforcement authorities regarding a concerted effort by the Mexican mafia and drug cartels to extend its corruptive influence in urban areas dominated by illegal alien populations.
Tancredo says some of these small cities have become hostile and dangerous places for legitimate law enforcement officials. Valdemar agrees, saying the sophisticated technique being employed in the U.S. was “invented in Mexico.”
Valdemar, the grandson of legal Mexican immigrants and now a consultant to law enforcement agencies across the country on gang activity, explains how the operations work.
“In the typical scenario, a wealthy Mexican immigrant opens a business in a small town,” he says. “It could be a very nice Mexican restaurant. He’s well-dressed, speaks English, seemingly a real gentleman. He gets involved in the community. His business welcomes police officers with discounts. He makes friends with city officials and other businessmen. No one has any idea where his money comes from – the Mexican drug cartels.”
Valdemar says the agent of the cartels often sets up other businesses – including the sale of cheap used tires and used autos. These businesses are used almost exclusively as fronts for laundering money.
Then he begins targeting political power in the town. When election time rolls around, Valdemar says, he sponsors – directly or indirectly – a number of candidates for the city council with the express purpose of winning a majority of seats for his handpicked operatives. Some of the candidates are simply in place to level baseless accusations against incumbents, while others keep above the fray, positioning themselves for victory.
As soon as they take power, the new majority fires the city attorney and names a replacement. Often the second city official to go is the city manager. Both of these moves are designed to cover up the illicit activities that will follow.
City contracts for trash collection and other services are given to friendly businesses – also in league with the cartel. Regulations on auto-repair businesses and alcohol sales are lifted – again, making it easier for cartel-tied businesses to operate more freely. Gambling ordinances are changed to permit casinos and bingo parlors. Loan sharking, prostitution and increased drug business follow – all of which increase revenues for the cartels and power for their agents in the city.
Valdemar says very few prosecutions are successful because of the wealth and political ties of those involved. The situation in the Southwest is grave, he says, and the problem is spreading nationwide.
“We lost California,” the Arizona resident says. “That’s why I don’t live there any more.”
Tancredo, who blew the whistle on the growing power of the Mexican drug cartels and Mexican mafia in his book, “In Mortal Danger,” explains who is behind the plot.
“The Tijuana-based Felix drug cartel and the Juarez-based Fuentes cartel began buying legitimate business in small towns in Los Angeles County in the early 1990s,” he writes. “They purchased restaurants, used-car lots, auto-body shops and other small businesses. One of their purposes was to use these businesses for money-laundering operations. Once established in their community, these cartel-financed business owners ran for city council and other local offices. Over time, they were able to buy votes and influence in an effort to take over the management of the town. They wanted to create a comfort zone from which they could operate without interference from local law enforcement.”
Tancredo, now a powerful force within Congress for opposing amnesty plans for illegal aliens and for promoting tougher border security measures, points in his book to the L.A. County city of Bell Gardens – where corrupt elected officials under the influence of drug lords actually tried to shut down the police department.
“City officials who would not cooperate with the Mexican-born city manager were forced out of office,” he writes. “Eventually, the L.A. County attorney’s office moved in, and the city manager was prosecuted on charges of corruption. Unfortunately, Bell Gardens was only the tip of the iceberg. Other Los Angeles suburbs – including Huntington Park, Lynwood and Southgate – became targets for the cartels.”
Tancredo, too, cites similar efforts under way to undermine law and order by Mexican criminal gangs in Texas, Arizona and elsewhere.
“The corruption spreading from south of the border is not confined to Southern California,” he writes. “In Cameron County, Texas, the former sheriff and several other officials were recently convicted of receiving drug-smuggling bribes. In Douglas, Arizona – where the international border runs down the middle of the town and divides it from its sister city of Agua Prieta, Mexico – the mayor’s brother was discovered to have a tunnel from one of his rental properties going into Mexico.”
Tancredo reports he has had confidential briefings with top officials in big-city law enforcement who say there are entire cities under the virtual control of Mexican criminal street gangs and their associated businesses, in some cases, making it dangerous for county, state and national law enforcement officers to venture in and rendering any interdepartmental cooperation impossible.
This under-reported aspect of the immigration and border problem is just one of the reasons Tancredo believes the U.S., as a nation, is “in mortal danger” as the debate over solutions rages on in Washington.
Throughout “In Mortal Danger,” Tancredo, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the border security issue in the nation’s capital, tells the whole story of the threats facing the nation, the solutions within its grasp and his own personal quest to awaken the political establishment to the seething discontentment gripping America as a result of illegal immigration.
Tancredo warns that the country is on a course to the dustbin of history. Like the great and mighty empires of the past, he writes, superpowers that once stretched from horizon to horizon, America is heading down the road to ruin.
English historian Edward Gibbon, in penning his classic “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” (ironically published in the year America’s Founding Fathers declared independence from Great Britain), theorized that Rome fell because it rotted from within. It succumbed to barbarian invasions because of a loss of civic virtue, its citizens became lazy and soft, hiring barbarian mercenaries to defend the empire because they were unwilling to defend it themselves.
Tancredo says America is following in the tragic footsteps of Rome.
Living up to his reputation for candor, Tancredo explains how the economic success and historical military prowess of the United States has transformed a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles of right and wrong into an overindulgent, self-deprecating, immoral cesspool of depravity.
His recipe for turning things around?
Without strong, moral leadership, without a renewed sense of purpose, without a rededication to family and community, without shunning the race hustlers and pop-culture sham artists, without protecting borders, language and culture, the nation that once was “the land of the free and home of the brave” and the “one last best hope of mankind” will repeat the catastrophic mistakes of the past, he writes.
Tancredo, born and raised in Colorado, represents Colorado’s 6th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to his election to Congress in 1998, Tancredo worked as a schoolteacher, was elected to the Colorado State House of Representatives in 1976, was appointed by President Reagan as the secretary of education’s regional representative in 1981, and served as president of the Independence Institute. He serves on the International Relations Committee, the Resources Committee and the Budget Committee, and is the chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus. Tancredo and his wife, Jackie, reside in Littleton, Colo.
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