Former Mexican federal police commander pleads guilty to drug-trafficking conspiracy


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Date: October 19, 2021


Earlier today in federal court in Brooklyn, Ivan Reyes Arzate, a former Mexican federal police officer and commander of the Mexican Federal Police's Sensitive Investigative Unit ("SIU"), pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking conspiracy. Reyes Arzate received a bribe in exchange for agreeing to assist the El Seguimiento 39 drug cartel ship cocaine from Mexico to the United States. The El Seguimiento 39 cartel is associated with the Sinaloa Cartel, the Beltran Leyva Organization and other Mexico-based cartels. Today's proceeding was held before U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Ray Donovan, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division (DEA); Ricky J. Patel, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI); Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD); and Kevin P. Bruen, Superintendent, New York State Police (NYSP), announced the guilty plea.

"By accepting thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for information about law enforcement's investigation into the El Seguimiento 39 cartel, Arzate forged a deplorable alliance with drug traffickers, and betrayed not only the people of Mexico he was sworn to protect, but also his law enforcement partners who put themselves at risk to disrupt the cartel," stated United States Attorney Peace. "This Office and its law enforcement partners remain committed to rooting out corruption and preventing drug cartels from sending massive quantities of illegal drugs into the United States." Mr. Peace expressed his appreciation to the United States Attorney's Offices for the Southern District of California and the Northern District of Illinois for their assistance on the case.

"Reyes-Arzate turned a blind eye toward drug traffickers, enabling criminal enterprises to operate with impunity, while serving as a commander in the Mexican Federal Police. DEA and our law enforcement partners worked tirelessly to isolate and identify this bad seed and bring him to justice," stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Donovan.

"Arzate turned his back on the people of Mexico who he was sworn to protect, on the oath that he took to uphold law and order, and on his fellow law enforcement brothers and sisters around the globe, who put their trust in each other to combat the scourge of narcotics trafficking carried out by vicious drug cartels," stated HSI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Patel. "At the time when Arzate commanded a special unit of the Mexican Federal Police and worked closely with law enforcement officials from the U.S., he was also meeting with the leadership of several Mexico-based cartels. He chose to selfishly serve his own interest by taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from the cartels in exchange for sensitive information about U.S. investigations. This case was carried out in coordination with the full force of U.S. law enforcement and Arzate will now have to answer for his crimes when he learns his sentence."

"This guilty plea should demonstrate that who choose abuse their position of trust and put others in danger for financial gain, will be brought to justice. This former police officer and commander not only betrayed those he swore to protect, but also his fellow law enforcement working to dismantle a dangerous drug cartel. The State Police will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to prevent cartels from shipping deadly narcotics to the United States, but also to hold accountable those who mistakenly think they can get away with and benefit from these types of crimes," stated NYSP Superintendent Bruen.

SIU officers in Mexico routinely work with U.S. law enforcement to combat narcotics trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities. From 2003 to 2016, Reyes Arzate was a Mexican federal police officer assigned to SIU. In 2008, he was appointed SIU commander, making him its highest-ranking officer and principal point of contact for information sharing between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement personnel assigned to the SIU.

In approximately November 2016, while participating in a joint investigation of El Seguimiento 39 with U.S. law enforcement authorities, Reyes Arzate met with the leadership of El Seguimiento 39, shared with them information about the U.S. law enforcement investigation, and accepted a $290,000 bribe in exchange for his agreement to assist the cartel.

When sentenced, Reyes Arzate faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

This investigation was led by the New York Strike Force, a crime-fighting unit comprising federal, state and local law enforcement agencies supported by the Organized Crime DEA Task Force and the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The Strike Force is based at the DEA's New York Division and includes agents and officers of the DEA, NYPD, NYSP, HSI, U.S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Secret Service, United States Marshals Service, New York National Guard, Clarkstown Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Port Washington Police Department and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The government's case is being handled by the Office's International Narcotics and Money Laundering and Public Integrity Sections. Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan Harris and Philip Pilmar are in charge of the prosecution.