Mexico May Help Track Money For Coyotes, Drugs, Official Says

Mexico may help track money for coyotes, drugs, official says

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Arizona Star
Tucson, Arizona
Published: 07.26.2007

PHOENIX Arizona prosecutors may soon be able to get financial information directly from Mexican officials that courts have so far ruled they cannot legally get here.

Francisco Figueroa, director of the Department of Public Safety for Sonora, said Wednesday he agrees with efforts by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard to track the transfer of money by wire into Mexico. Some of those funds are believed to be used to pay for smuggling humans and drugs.

Figueroa said Sonora has limited authority over financial records. But he said Gov. Eduardo Bours is working to secure the cooperation of Mexican federal officials who do have that right to share information with U.S. officials.

The Sonoran DPS chief was in Phoenix on Wednesday to meet with law enforcement and security officials from the 10 states on both sides of the border on issues of security and safety.

Leesa Berens Morrison, director of Arizona's Department of Homeland Security, said the various agencies also want to cooperate on “illicit wire transfers.” She said the plan is to “communicate the information that we're not able to get right now.”

That will require the cooperation of Mexican officials.

Goddard has subpoenaed the records of several wire transfer firms. He has had no trouble getting documents detailing cash shipped from or into Arizona.

But Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court rejected his subpoenas for information on funds that were shipped from other states to Mexico.

Cameron Holmes, an assistant attorney general, said Goddard believes money to pay coyotes to bring people into Arizona is being sent from other states to points in Mexico. He said it is “convenient” for these people to do their financial business outside of Arizona “in order to avoid our scrutiny.”

The judge, however, said Goddard failed to prove the information he wants is relevant to his investigation of the smuggling of people across the international border into Arizona.

That ruling, however, would have no effect on information gathered by Mexican authorities about money shipped into their country.

Some of what was discussed Wednesday is going to serve as recommendations for the governors of the 10 states who will be meeting in September.