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Former Prosecutor's Case Reveals Major Corruption in War on Drugs

By Seth Ferranti 07/06/16

Sergio Guadalupe Adame Ochoa turned drug traffickers into informants for the US government who in turn paid him for his services.

Former Prosecutor's Case Reveals Major Corruption in War on Drugs

A nine-count federal indictment filed in San Antonio this past April that charged former Mexican prosecutor Sergio Guadalupe Adame Ochoa with being a part of a drug trafficking and money-laundering conspiracy in Texas and Oklahoma led by ex-members of the shattered Gulf Cartel, has gone to trial. Adame is facing wire fraud charges in connection with the approximately $6 million that drug lord Gilberto Villarreal Arelis gave him through family members to invest in developmental property in the Rio Grande Valley.

The trial has shown that Adame, who has joint U.S./Mexico citizenship and operated as not only a federal prosecutor in Mexico, but as the director of intelligence in Jalisco, turned to drug dealers when his commercial real estate interests in McAllen, Texas, were jeopardized. Adame had a prior relationship with Villarreal, who he’d helped escape the Zetas drug cartel the year before, and had no problem asking the drug lord for $1.7 million to pay off his real estate debts. Testimony in the case revealed the inner workings of the shady informant system federal drug agents use to track and capture cartel leaders

“It seems that the feds and Adame had a longstanding mutually beneficial relationship,” criminologist Jeffrey Ian Ross, PhD, from the University of Baltimore tells The Fix. “Over time, the informant either continued his illegal activity or escalated the seriousness of the crimes he and his network engaged in. The feds were probably worried that they could no longer allow him to operate independently because either he was no longer of use to the agency and/or was becoming a liability.”

IRS agent Steve Pennington testified at the trial that Adame got paid to bring in informants to the feds, convincing cartel higher-ups to surrender and cooperate with U.S. authorities, especially when their lives were threatened by other underworld figures. The Zetas cartel killed Villarreal’s supplier and Adame convinced him to flee to the U.S. and cooperate instead of being killed by the Zetas. But Villarreal didn’t give up his prior vocation when he fled to the states, and continued to use his connections and influence to sell drugs. Prosecutors say Adame made close to $15 million in his shady dealings, investing the money in businesses and real estate.

“My understanding is that he has a relationship with U.S. law enforcement,” said Pennington. “If he gets an indication that U.S. law enforcement is looking for someone, he will try to convince that person to come to the U.S. and cooperate. In return, if the U.S. is investigating someone and Mr. Adame is introduced to that individual, he will try to convince that individual to come to the U.S. and cooperate. So it kind of works both ways.”

Adame’s attorney, Jason Davis, brought letters to introduce into evidence in court from high-ranking officials who praised Adame for facilitating numerous War on Drugs activities for U.S. drug warriors. The lawyer told the judge that Adame is not a snitch or informant, but a high-level assistant for the FBI, DEA and CIA. Apparently though, Adame has become a liability due to his close relationship with the Villarreal faction.

“Liability in the sense that he could reveal sensitive information to either criminal elements or questionable, unethical and possibly illegal actions by law enforcement,” Ross tells The Fix. “Similar to the Whitey Bulger case.” Federal authorities are trying to seize 11 properties tied to the investigation and Adame is facing up to 20 years if convicted as part of the money-laundering conspiracy charges.

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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