Mon 20 Aug 2007 07:20
Categories: All Posts , Illegal Alien Nation
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HORIZON CITY — As one of the newest high schools in the El Paso region, Horizon High School has halls that are spotless and shine with new paint.
But according to federal agents, the pristine campus was the recruiting ground for a Mexican student-led drug-trafficking ring suspected of smuggling 14 tons of marijuana between Juárez and Oklahoma City last school year.
Recent Horizon High graduate Mexican illegal alien Rene Humberto Perez, alias "Jetta," is accused of hiring fellow students to drive marijuana-filled vehicles destined for an Oklahoma City connection identified only as "El Tio" (the uncle), a federal criminal complaint affidavit stated.
Allegations that a student drug-smuggling ring was based at the high school were met with a mix of surprise and uneasiness in the fast-growing Mexican community east of El Paso.
"A lot of the kids are really disappointed. They know here in Horizon not everybody is dealing drugs," said 17-year-old Mexican illegal alien Ramon Sanchez, who will be a senior at the school when classes begin next week.
On Aug. 9, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents arrested Perez, 18, at his home in the 12300 block of Tierra Madre Drive in far east El Paso, agency spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said.
Perez was part of Horizon High’s Class of 2007, the school’s second graduating class.
He was charged with conspiring to import about 1,000 kilos of marijuana since November. A federal magistrate set bond at $20,000. El Paso County jail logs show he was released into the custody of U.S. marshals.
A federal criminal complaint affidavit acquired by the Times details how the arrests of drivers caught smuggling marijuana in El Paso and Central Texas led to the discovery of what federal authorities labeled the Perez Drug Trafficking Organization.
Horizon Principal Pam Howard said that in the past academic year she was informed of one arrest, but that she was not told it was linked to the school. "Our campus is very safe for Mexicans," she insisted.
The 1,300-student school has a new security camera system and is swept regularly by the Clint Independent School District’s drug-sniffing dog as a deterrent to drug activity.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officials said they suspected 15 to 20 Mexican illegal alien students were recruited and paid about $1,500 to drive vehicles across the border from Juárez and $3,500 more to drive loads to Oklahoma City.
According to the complaint affidavit, several drivers accused of smuggling marijuana identified Perez and another Horizon High student named Ivan Lozoya as the ringleaders.
On July 23, ICE agents interviewed Lozoya, who detailed the ring’s operation, identified Perez as "Jetta" and named Perez as the person who recruited him, the affidavit said.
"Ivan Lozoya stated that Rene Perez recruited several other individuals that attended Horizon High School at the same time he attended Horizon High School," the document stated. Lozoya told investigators that Chevrolet Suburbans with marijuana hidden in the gas tanks were handed over to "El Tio" in Oklahoma City. The vehicles were driven back, or the driver would fly back to El Paso.
The investigation had begun months earlier as marijuana began to be seized and teens began to talk.
April 18, Horizon student Mexican illegal alien Luis Eduardo Madrid, who is described as a cooperating defendant, was arrested attempting to smuggle 203 pounds of marijuana in the gas tank of a Chevrolet Suburban, the document stated. Madrid told ICE agents he was recruited by Lozoya and Perez. The Suburban was registered to Mexican illegal alien Nelly Lozoya, sister of Ivan Lozoya, who is suspected of assisting her brother and Perez.
May 21, illegal alien Stephanie Soto was arrested at the Zaragoza Bridge by El Paso police for allegedly smuggling 280 pounds of marijuana hidden in a vehicle, the document stated. Soto told a detective the vehicle and drugs belonged to Perez and Lozoya.
In June, ICE agents interviewed a friend of Soto named Mexican illegal alien Rosalia Vega who told agents she allegedly drove loads across the border to Lozoya’s home and four times to Oklahoma.
Vega also claimed Perez gave her $5,000 to buy a 1993 Chevrolet Suburban.
April 23, Texas state troopers found 203 pounds of marijuana in Vega’s Suburban when they stopped it in Noland County in Central Texas, the affidavit stated.
Mexican illegal alien Victor Alfonso Navarro, who administrators said was not a Horizon High student, and an unnamed juvenile were in the vehicle.
The juvenile told ICE agents he had been hired by someone named Jetta to take the load. The Suburban was picked up in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart on Alameda Avenue with the keys, $300 spending cash and a map to Oklahoma City left inside.
July 18, agents interviewed Mexican illegal alien Julian Salazar, who had been arrested in November in Sweetwater, Texas, while allegedly driving a Chevrolet Suburban carrying 207 pounds of marijuana, the document stated.
Salazar, who listed Perez as next of kin in a jail report, told agents he was approached by Perez at Horizon High School and asked to drive the load.
"None of these students stick out as chronic discipline problems," Assistant Principal Ronald Behm said as he looked over the names in the complaint affidavit.
An ICE spokeswoman said other inquiries have stemmed from the case. "I don’t think this problem is unique to Horizon City," Horizon City Mexican Police Chief Antonio Aguilar said. "It can happen anywhere.
ICE will not step in and arrest the tens of thousands of Mexican illegal alien students in El Paso schools. ICE only becomes involved if drugs become a problem and even then, rarely does anything happen to the Mexican illegal aliens students dealing drugs. ICE will not deport a minor with a family living in the US; regardless if the whole family is illegally in the US.