Police officers are sworn to protect and defend citizens from criminals. They are certainly not supposed to protect and defend international drug smugglers – much less aid and abet their crimes.
Unfortunately, Ivan Reyes Azrate, a former Mexican Federal Police commander, is accused of doing just that.
Drug Smugglers Got Tips from “the Boss”
For the past two years, the United States and Mexico worked together to complete a joint investigation of a drug cartel moving cocaine from Colombia to America. The things this cartel was doing are pretty serious – tens of thousands of pounds were being moved. Ivan Reyes Azrate played a big role in this investigation, frequently communicating with federal police, U.S. law enforcement, and Mexican law enforcement.
In September 2016, however, investigators started to suspect that Reyes was talking to more than law enforcement. A conversation with someone close to Reyes and an alleged trafficker was intercepted. Reyes’ co-conspirator told a trafficker that they were a big target and currently being investigated by law enforcement. Another conversation pointed even more directly at Reyes, when cartel members were caught talking about information they had received from “Ivan” or “the boss,” referring to Reyes’ role in the investigation.
When authorities investigated further, they found evidence of Reyes talking to traffickers about the investigation, letting them know when calls were being intercepted, and naming people who were working closely with the DEA.
A complaint was filed in a U.S. District Court in Chicago this past February. Reyes was charged with conspiracy to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding. The case was opened in April and Reyes has been held in U.S. custody while he waits for his court date. This is a big investigation involving multiple countries, so it will be a few months before Reyes knows his fate.
Anyone Involved in Drug Smuggling May Face Charges
Reyes may not have actually moved – or even seen – any of the cocaine involved in the investigation, but his communication with the drug traffickers could still put him behind bars for decades. After all, multiple tons of cocaine were being moved across international borders.
When you think of drug trafficking offenders, you probably think of people who are packaging drugs, hiding them, and trying to cross international borders and sneak past law enforcement. However, the people physically moving the drugs are rarely the masterminds behind a large operation. In some cases, those people don’t even realize that the drugs are present in their cars, luggage, or wherever.
Let’s take this story for example. A woman in North Dakota hopped in a truck with a man after they had gotten high on meth. She didn’t know the man very well, and had no idea that he had a pound of meth in the passenger seat below her feet.
Still, when police officers pulled the two over, she was charged and faced life in prison for her association with the man. Luckily, with the help of a criminal defense lawyer, she only ended up serving three years of probation.
Whether you’re sitting next to drugs that you are unaware of, working the door of a house where drug trafficking operations occur, or sending messages between members of a big cartel, you may still be charged as if you were smuggling drugs with your own bare hands. It is a huge deal, and if you get caught, it is vital that you work with someone who has an in-depth understanding of drug trafficking laws.
A Prosecutor May Offer Plea Deals
The penalties of drug trafficking charges can be terrifying. A defendant may face life in prison for conspiring with big-time drug traffickers. It’s a scary prospect, and prosecutors know that.
That’s why they often try to offer defendants a plea deal before their court date. If you plead guilty to the crime, you may only have to face half of the recommended sentence – sometimes an even a small portion. For example, instead of facing a mandatory 10 years in prison, pleading guilty might only put you behind bars for three.
Many defendants are persuaded to take these plea deals. After all, going to court for trafficking charges, especially if the case is a federal matter, is incredibly intimidating, because federal prosecutors have the power of the DEA, FBI, and CIA behind them.
There is nothing wrong with plea deals in general, but they should always be carefully considered. If you are arrested and charged with drug trafficking at the state or the federal level, it is crucial to consult with a criminal defense lawyer who has experience with these types of cases. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to help you go through your options, understand what you’re up against, and give you the best chance at a positive outcome.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.