Ex-Mexican police official faces drug-trafficking charges

NEW YORK (AP) — A former Mexican intelligence unit commander who was a main point of contact for intelligence sharing between U.S. agencies and Mexican federal police pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking charges in federal court in New York on Friday.

Authorities say Ivan Reyes Arzate received thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for assisting Mexican cartels to ship cocaine to the United States.

Federal prosecutors say one of the cartels Arzate assisted, El Seguimiento 39, is associated with the Sinaloa cartel, whose former leader is Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Arzate also allegedly provided sensitive law enforcement information in the mid-2000s to the Beltran Leyva Organization, which was then a faction of Guzman’s cartel.

Arzate, 57, was arraigned in Brooklyn federal court before Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak, who ordered him held without bail. His lawyer, Mark DeMarco, did not comment to the media after the arraignment.

According to the indictment, Arzate was a police officer assigned to the Sensitive Investigative Units from 2003 to 2016, and in 2008 he was appointed commander of the unit, making him its highest-ranking officer and main point of contact for information sharing between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement assigned to these units.

But in 2017 Arzate turned himself over to American officials.

The following year a federal judge in Chicago handed Arzate a three-year prison sentence on charges he divulged American investigative secrets to cartel bosses in Mexico. He drew on access to U.S. intelligence to help unmask a cartel informant, who was later tortured and killed, according to filings by prosecutors.

On Friday, a prosecutor requested the case against Arzate to be reassigned to U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, who presided over last year’s trial of Guzman.

The prosecutor, Michael Robotti, said in a letter to the court that the case of Arzate is likely related to Guzmán because the facts arise out of the same criminal schemes, transactions and events.

He also said the case is related to that of Mexico’s former top security official, Genaro García Luna, who is fighting charges he took tens of millions of dollars in bribes to protect Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel.

The next hearing for Arzate is scheduled for Feb. 19.

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