A drug informant facing deportation who recently won a reprieve in his case was scooped up last week by federal agents from a county jail in Minnesota and flown to an immigration detention center in upstate New York, his attorney said.
Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez-Peyro, also known as Lalo, was taken out of solitary confinement at 3 a.m. and escorted by a SWAT team onto a plane, in which he was the only prisoner, his attorney, Jodi Goodwin, said. He is now being held at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, New York. The facility is run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security.
Ramirez-Peyro, a former Mexican police officer turned drug trafficker who became an ICE and Drug Enforcement Administration informant, was a central figure in the notorious “House of Death”, a dwelling in Ciudad Juarez where a dozen corpses, the alleged victims of drug-related slayings, were recovered. He witnessed or was involved in several killings, according to government documents.
Working undercover, Ramirez-Peyro had infiltrated the Vicente Carillo Fuents drug syndicate, also known as the Juarez Cartel. His information also led to the conviction of more than 50 people.
For the past few years Ramirez-Peyro had been in solitary confinement at the Sherburne County Jail in Elk River, Minn. Ramirez-Peyro had been placed in protective custody in 2004 after his identity became public and there were two attempts on his life.
The stealthy move was not the first time Ramirez-Peyro had been transported undercover. He arrived in Minnesota after being flown by helicopter from South Texas, where he was previously held, Goodwin said.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently remanded the deportation case to the Board of Immigration Appeals for a second time as the board has twice reversed an immigration judge’s decision to allow Ramirez-Peyro to stay in the country rather than face the probability of being murdered in Mexico, his native country.
Ramirez-Peyro reported the first killing, which took place in August 2003, to his handlers at ICE. He even provided a secret recording to an ICE agent named Raul Bencomo, who is now fighting to get his job back after being fired by ICE. Agents instructed the informant to keep working, but to try to avoid such situations in the future. But Ramirez-Peyro was present for several more killings.
The “House of Death” incident became an embarrassment for the U.S. government, and caused considerable friction between the local DEA and ICE offices after a DEA agent was almost killed and the agency’s Juarez office was evacuated.
The El Paso ICE Office of Investigations is embroiled in controversy again following the May killing of an informant outside of his El Paso home. Jose Daniel Gonzalez-Galeana was a member of the Juarez cartel who lived near the El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen. He was allegedly killed by a group organized by another ICE informant.