Guillermo "Willie" Gandara

A former elected official in El Paso, Texas, has been sentenced to six years in federal prison and ordered to pay a fine of $300,000 for drug trafficking, rekindling concerns over the corruption rate among US government officials in the border region.

Former El Paso County Commissioner Guillermo "Willie" Gandara pled guilty in August to using his property to distribute over 120 pounds of marijuana, reported the El Paso Times. Gandara, reportedly nicknamed "the Godfather," was running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives prior to his arrest in February 2012 by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In a recorded conversation with undercover DEA agents, Gandara boasted that his drug smuggling network ran from El Paso to Chicago. Gandara's operation reportedly involved smuggling marijuana hidden in boxes of chilli powder.

InSight Crime Analysis

Gandara's arrest is an important reminder that US officials are not immune to drug-related corruption. Another prominent corruption case from 2011 involved the mayor and police chief of a small town in New Mexico charged with smuggling guns into Mexico. The ex-mayor was sentenced to 51 months in prison earlier this year. 

US authorities are particularly concerned about the spread of corruption in the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies. In August, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which houses both agencies, released a report that detailed several cases in which border security and immigration officers accepted bribes, or participated in drug and gun smuggling schemes.

The DHS has blamed the 38 percent rise in complaints against border security officers between 2004 and 2011 on the insufficient vetting of new employees, many of whom were hired during the department's massive post-2004 expansion. Still, many of the most serious criminal violations have involved veteran employees.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.