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New Arizona border-crime unit to prosecute Mexican cartels

A new Tucson-based Border Crime Prosecution team will investigate and prosecute the smuggling of weapons, humans, drugs and money across the border by the Mexican cartels.

Attorney General Terry Goddard announced formation of the team Wednesday.

The 10-12 person team of investigators and prosecutors will be partially headquartered at the federal Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The team will be funded from a $94 million settlement with Western Union relating to money transfers that the Attorney General's office alleged were related to criminal activity. Western Union settled to end a lengthy investigation into drug smugglers' use of wire transfer companies.

Western Union agreed to pay $21 million to the state of Arizona and $50 million to the Southwest Border Anti-Money-Laundering Alliance, which includes Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

"This initiative will bring unprecedented resources and sophistication to our ongoing fight against organized criminal operations on the border. Our border crime team puts Arizona in a much stronger position to combat the violent cartels that threaten our state and smuggle people and drugs across our border," Goddard said in a news release.

The team will be headed by Richard Wintory, a former senior prosecutor in the Pima County Attorney's Office. Wintory is a two-time Arizona Prosecutor of the Year.

Goddard also announced that Assistant Attorney General Kip Holmes will become the executive director of the Southwest Border Anti-Money-Laundering Alliance. Holmes worked on the Western Union case.

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