The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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December 31, 2013

Kidnapping suspect has ties to Mexican drug cartel; man also served as paid informant for U.S. government

They got to Joplin in the Ferrari with Mexican plates, and he collapsed on the bed of their room at the La Quinta Inn.

Once he fell asleep Saturday night, she collected her cellphone, purse and the keys to their car, and slipped out of the room. It was the first time she had tried to get away in the five days since he had forced her to fly to Los Angeles with him on Christmas Eve.

The man on the bed: Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez-Peyro, whose real name is Jesus Contreras, a former Mexican police officer, drug trafficker, paid informant of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, infiltrator of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel and self-professed participant in the infamous House of Death murders in Ciudad Juarez.

As the 41-year-old woman from Tonawanda, N.Y., made her way toward the Quality Inn next door, she spotted two police officers in an adjacent parking lot and considered approaching them. But she feared that Ramirez-Peyro might wake up, look out and see her talking to them.

She went on to the Quality Inn instead, checked into a room and asked the front desk clerk to summon the officers.

The account she provided them would lead to the arrest of Ramirez-Peyro, 42, of Buffalo, N.Y., on charges of kidnapping and violating a protection order that she had obtained on him. Her account is detailed in a probable-cause affidavit obtained Tuesday from Newton County Circuit Court.

She told police that Ramirez-Peyro had repeatedly beaten her since they first met in October. He told her that he was an enforcer and hit man for a Mexican drug cartel and a paid informant for the U.S. government while participating in murders and abductions in Mexico. Since then, he had been in prison in Texas, Minnesota and New York, but he had always beaten the charges, she said.

His assaults led to her obtaining a protection order, and she had tried to get away from him, but it did no good, she told police. He always found her, she said. He confiscated her cellphone and would not let her talk to anyone without his permission, frequently answering her calls for her.

He boasted of his cartel ties and how easy it would be to kill her or her family if she ever tried to leave him. After a while, to protect her family, she just stopped trying to get away from him, she told police.

She said that on Christmas Eve, Ramirez-Peyro told her that they were going to Los Angeles to pick up a car. She did not wish to spend her holiday in that way, but he began assaulting her and she relented. He again warned what would happen to her and her family if she “crossed” him, and she went with him “against her will,” the affidavit states.

After taking possession of the 2007 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti in Los Angeles, they had been making the long drive back to New York without her being allowed to contact her family. She told police that Ramirez-Peyro called her mother once to let her know they were returning. She thought that he had done that to keep her mother from filing a missing-person report.

Before contacting and arresting Ramirez-Peyro at the La Quinta Inn, an officer asked the woman if she believed that she had been kidnapped. The affidavit states that she replied: “Well, I don’t know if I can say that because I left with him, but I feared being beaten or worse if I didn’t.”

She said she feared his cartel contacts and what might happen to her family.

The affidavit states that she then entered Ramirez-Peyro’s name on the Internet search engine Google on her smartphone and showed the officer an article titled: “House of Death Informant, a Confessed Killer, Soon to Be Released from Jail.”

A National Public Radio story from 2010 reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement first became involved with Ramirez-Peyro about 13 years ago, when he was a drug runner on the border between El Paso and Juarez. He became an informant nicknamed “Lalo” who helped bring down a cigarette smuggling ring and a corrupt U.S. immigration agent.

ICE hoped that Lalo’s infiltration of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization might lead to the downfall of Heriberto Santillan-Tabares, a cartel lieutenant. While the Drug Enforcement Administration declined to have anything more to do with Lalo after the Border Patrol allegedly caught him trying to smuggle 100 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. in 2003, ICE agents worked with a federal prosecutor to get the charges dropped.

When Santillan-Tabares and his cartel associates began a killing spree of drug gang rivals that year in Juarez, Lalo reportedly kept ICE informed of the murders, even audiotaping a strangling and beating death during which he held the legs of the victim.

Ramirez-Peyro has denied committing any of the murders himself. But he has acknowledged being present during several slayings at a residence in Juarez dubbed the House of Death. He also has admitted driving victims to the residence, and taking duct tape and quicklime there to assist in the murders and burying of the corpses. Twelve bodies were unearthed in the yard of the residence in 2004.

ICE was criticized for its handling of Ramirez-Peyro during the killing spree and for the failure to pass information obtained from him on to Mexican police. Families of the victims filed lawsuits against the agency. But federal agents also claim that his undercover work led to the arrests of several violent drug gang members before his tenure as an informant came to a halt with the discovery of the bodies.

Ramirez-Peyro spent several years in jails and detention centers in the U.S. fighting deportation, a court battle he won in June 2012 when a Justice Department immigration board granted him asylum because of a likelihood that he would be killed if he were sent back to Mexico.

Lt. Matt Stewart, with the Joplin Police Department, said ICE was contacted after Ramirez-Peyro’s arrest to confirm that his presence in the U.S. is legal.

Stewart said the Ferrari was towed to an impound lot, and a drug-sniffing dog walked around the car. The dog gave no alerts. Consequently, no search warrant was sought on the vehicle, he said.

Stewart said the woman did not claim that Ramirez-Peyro assaulted her at any point during their trip and that she did not have any observable injuries.

$250,000 bond

GUILLERMO RAMIREZ-PEYRO remained in custody Tuesday at the Newton County Jail on a cash-only bond of $250,000.

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