Thursday, March 28, 2019

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Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter -Back Home

The key to surviving a hit from a cartel is to be prepared beforehand, take all necessary precautions and be armed to the teeth for a massive counterattack.  I also wondered if I was overreacting to things and was overthinking the situation.

This made me think of a situation that I came across in the desert on the west side of the city several years ago in a remote area known as Pajarito Mesa. This area is a popular place for people who dump trash and also, many people go there to target practice. I was driving around looking for interesting things to photograph. I could hear gunshots in the distance echoing in the canyon. Someone was target shooting. I though, it might be a cool idea to photograph someone actually target shooting. I drove to the sound of the gunfire. I saw two late model pickup trucks that were backed up against a hill and it appeared that about three men were armed with long guns. They were shooting at some paper targets and bottles propped up on a wooden pallet.

I immediately noticed that some of the men were nicely dressed in western wear, similar to what I have seen from men that are from the northern part of Mexico (Sinaloa, Chihuahua). Three of them had ak-47s. They saw me and smiled. They were Mexican nationals as they spoke to me in Spanish. They become nervous and they started putting their weapons away. The whole scene also made me nervous. I did not even ask if I could photograph them, I just greeted them in a friendly way and drove away. The scene just did not seem right to me, but I could not pin point what seem out of place at the time. This was an area where people go shooting all the time and I had seen my share of people armed with long rifles, including ar-15s and such. But this just seem different, I just could not figure it out.

Later on, when I started to learn more about Mexican sicarios and cartel members from Sinaloa, I wonder if they were cartel members? This possibility is not far fetched considering the proximity to the border and the large amount of the Mexican community living in the state. Based on what they were wearing, the late model pickup trucks, Mexican nationals and their behavior, just made me wonder.

Cartels would have no problem reaching out to me for sure.
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This incident remind me of a traffic stop by Bernalillo county deputies (BCSO) that resulted in the arrest of two Mexican nationals and another man native of Albuquerque, NM. It was reported by Mike Gallagher/Albuquerque Journal Investigative Reporter on March 23, 2019. The men were found with eight rifles, six handguns, night vision goggles, multiple sets of body armor, ballistic helmets, more than $33,000 in cash, and a small amount of cocaine.

These types of traffic stops are common and routinely seen in Mexico.

Two of the rifles, including one fully automatic “machine gun” have already been confirmed to be stolen. Jesus Samaniego-Villa and his two passengers were charged with possession of stolen firearms in state court, but the case was quickly handed over to federal prosecutors to avoid being botched up by the seemingly incompetent New Mexico state court system.

Jesus Samaniego-Villa and the two passengers are part of a criminal organization ran by Jesus’ brother, Sergio Samaniego-Villa, who the FBI has been buying heroin and crack from through informants to build a case against the group. It is said that they may have ties to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Sergio was deported back in 2012 while facing pending drug charges. He and his wife were arrested again for drug trafficking in 2018, but posted bail and fled the state to California, where he continued to run the organization back in Albuquerque through surrogates like his brother Jesus.

The gun bust happened back in August 2018, but the Federal case is just now starting to be deliberated in court. The prosecution is claiming that the vehicle was followed because it matched the description of one involved in a domestic disturbance call, and was then pulled over after it swerved out of its lane of travel.

The defense attorneys are claiming that the vehicle search and seizure was illegal, as there was no probable cause, and that the weapons were in the vehicle because the defendants had spent the day at the range shooting.
Daniel Landeros-Garcia, Sergio Samaniego-Villa, Jesus Samaniego-Villa, Jessica Moya, Christian Meza-Samaniego

A portion of more than $3,000 Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies found in the center console of Jesus Samaniego-Villa’s truck. More cash was wrapped in plastic under the back seat, for a total of $33,289.

Eight rifles and six handguns, along with armored vests, helmets and night-vision goggles, were found in Jesus Samaniego-Villa’s truck. The fully automatic rifle (center photo, far left) is one of two that deputies believe were stolen.

A statuette of Santa Muerte, one of the patron saints of smugglers, and a model of a skull were on the dashboard of Jesus Samaniego-Villa’s pickup truck when stopped by deputies.

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