Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean (KFOX-TV, El Paso, Texas)
The Border Patrol agent with family ties to the Mexican drug smuggler in the case of two jailed border agents may have been involved in back-channel communications with Mexican drug cartels, investigative reports obtained by WND suggest, prompting calls for a special prosecutor to look into the charges.
“We now know that DHS and prosecutor U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton found [smuggler Osbaldo] Aldrete-Davila because the mother-in-law of Border Patrol Agent Rene Sanchez talked with Aldrete-Davila’s mother on the phone,” Andy Ramirez, chairman of Friends of the Border Patrol, told WND. “How many other conversations in Mexico did Border Patrol Agent Rene Sanchez have and what was the purpose of those conversations?”
An investigative report filed by Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Christopher Sanchez July 18, 2005, stated that on July 11, 2005, the DHS Office of Inspector General in El Paso spoke to agent Rene Sanchez in the Willcox, Ariz., Border Patrol Station, concerning a telephone call Rene Sanchez made to Border Patrol Agent Nolan Blanchett in the Ysleta BP Station in Texas.
At the time of the phone call, Blanchett wasassigned temporarily to the Fabens Border Patrol Station, the scene of the Feb. 17, 2005, incident with Aldrete-Davila that led to the imprisonment of agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.
According to the July 18, 2005, DHS memorandum of activity:
(Rene) Sanchez stated that he called Blanchett one or two days after he spoke to DHS OIG on March 5, 2005. Sanchez said he asked Blanchett if he knew anything about a shooting that occurred on February 17, 2005 involving a van loaded with dope in which BP agents shot at the driver. Sanchez said Blanchett told him he knew nothing about the shooting.
A separate March 14, 2005, DHS memorandum of activity filed by Christopher Sanchez, documents that agent Rene Sanchez “queried the Border Patrol Tracking System and found that the Fabens Border Patrol Station seized a load of marijuana on February 17, 2005.”
These reports drew the suspicion of Ramirez.
“Why is this Border Patrol agent Rene Sanchez over in Willcox, Arizona, so interested in searching out this drug bust information in Fabens, Texas?” Ramirez asked WND. “Sure, we know that Aldrete-Davila and Rene Sanchez grew up together in Mexico. But how much more to the story is there than that?”
WND has learned prosecutor Sutton’s office took steps to prevent Blanchett from testifying in open court, claiming his testimony would compromise an ongoing investigation.
WND has also learned Blanchett had received phone calls from Rene Sanchez tipping him off that a sensor hit was about to take place on the border, giving advance warning that a drug-smuggling transport across the border was going to take place. Knowing in advance the when and where of a sensor hit on the border would allow a Border Patrol agent to be in position to interdict the drug shipment and arrest the smuggler.
“How do we know that Agent Rene Sanchez wasn’t working with Aldrete-Davila’s drug cartel?” Ramirez asked. “Calling Blanchett in advance and letting him know where to interdict a drug shipment might be a good way to eliminate the competition of Aldrete-Davila or whomever he is linked to.”
At the Ramos-Compean trial, the defense was not allowed to call Blanchett to the stand for testimony.
“The connection is a little bit too convenient,” Ramirez pointed out to WND. “Here we have this Border Patrol Agent Rene Sanchez over in Willcox, Arizona, and the only way DHS and Johnny Sutton’s office find out that Aldrete-Davila was the drug smuggler is because Rene Sanchez tips them off. Then Aldrete-Davila gets immunity and medical care from the prosecutor. Just how closely was Rene Sanchez working with the drug smuggler and what did Rene Sanchez stand to gain when Aldrete-Davila got immunity?”
WND previously reported Aldrete-Davila’s cell phone was found in the abandoned vehicle. This apparently contradicts prosecutor Sutton’s repeated claim there was no evidence at the scene, which would have permitted law-enforcement investigators to identify Aldrete-Davila as the perpetrator.
“Where is Aldrete-Davila’s telephone?” Ramirez asked WND. “I wonder if Rene Sanchez’s phone number was one of the numbers in that phone’s memory, or maybe others of higher ranks inside U.S. government agencies or bodies. But then again, what if this guy is a runner for the Tucson Mafia and I am not referring to people of European ancestry either. Why is it that even today nobody knows what network of people Aldrete-Davila called? Why isn’t Johnny Sutton going after the drug dealer’s network? He gave Davila immunity, not the people Davila liked to call.”
WND has obtained the transcripts from the Ramos-Compean trial for the testimony given by Border Patrol agent Arturo Vasquez Feb. 24, 2006, and by agent Oscar Juarez Feb. 23 and 24, 2006. Both agents gave testimony about the drug dealer’s cell phone they found on the scene on Feb. 17, 2005.
Vasquez testified he found the phone in the front seat of the abandoned drug smuggler’s Ford Econoline van, with a charging device plugged into the cigarette lighter.
In cross-examination by defense, Vasquez testified about the cell phone as follows:
Q: While you’re looking at the phone, you’re scrolling through whatever information you can find?
Q: Did you notice whether or not any of the calls are recent?
A: I didn’t have the chance to find what I was looking for. I didn’t have enough time to get into some of the directory, the actual directory where you can get that information from. Because, while we were going that (Supervisor) agent (Jonathan) Richards and Lance (Mendrano) got to the area, and I had to hand the phone over to Agent Mendrano.
Q: I thought your testimony, though, was that, pretty much, all you do is check out the phone.
A: Yes, but I didn’t get to the part where I could actually see times and all that.
At this point, prosecutor Debra Kanof interrupted and objected that the testimony was not relevant to the guilt or innocence of Ramos and Compean. Judge Kathleen Cardone agreed, commenting, “It’s late on a Friday … .”
Judge Cardone ruled out cross-examination about the cell phone, stating: “Mr. Aldrete-Davila is not on trial. And everybody knows he’s got a phone and everybody knows he was transporting the drugs, but, unless we’re getting somewhere that’s got to do with this case, I’m concerned we’re going of … .” At that point, Judge Cardone was interrupted once again by Debra Kanof.
On page 186 of his testimony, agent Juarez corroborated agent Vasquez’s testimony that the drug smuggler’s cell phone was found in the abandoned van containing 743 pounds of marijuana.
WND is unable to determine who currently has possession of the cell phone or if any law-enforcement officers made any attempt to identify the owner or the identify of the names in the incoming and outgoing call memory or the service provider records of the same.
As far as WND can determine, no law-enforcement agency made any attempt to identify Aldrete-Davila’s drug network or associates from the recovered cell phone, or if agents were able to determine if the phone records indicate any calls to or received from Border Patrol agents or others connected with U.S. agencies or law enforcement.
As WND previously reported, agent Vasquez was fired by the Border Patrol and agent Juarez resigned in anticipation of being fired.