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Report: U.S. Marshals Service used spy planes to capture Mexican kingpin Dámaso López Núñez

August 4, 2017  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Report: U.S. Marshals Service used spy planes to capture Mexican kingpin Dámaso López Núñez

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A shocking report has revealed how the U.S. Marshals Service managed to triangulate the location of a top cartel boss before his capture by Mexican forces back in May.

The explosive investigative report published by Buzzfeed News indicated that the US Marshals Service used a small spy plane to intercept cell phones used in Sinaloa days before the capture of Dámaso López Núñez, who is also known as “El Licenciado,” “The Bachelor,” or ” The Graduate” in reference to his degree in law.

At the time of his arrest, Lopez Nunez was in the midst of a violent power struggle for control of the Sinaloa Cartel, which transformed the region surrounding Culiacan into a war zone and prompting the state’s homicide rate to skyrocket.

Lopez Nunez is a one-time trusted top lieutenant of imprisoned Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

However, after Guzman’s arrest, Lopez Nunez attempted a hostile take over of the criminal organization against Ivan Archivaldo, and Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, the sons of “El Chapo,” and his longtime partner Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

Damaso Lopez Nunez following his arrest back in May

According to the Buzzfeed report titled “U.S. Officials used a secret spy plane to catch narco leaders in Mexico,” U.S. Marshals utilized a small Cessna plane, which is part of a fleet of high tech spy planes, to fly surveillance missions over El Dorado near Culiacan.

The town is the stronghold of Lopez Nunez, where the alleged kingpin’s family resides, days before his capture in an affluent neighborhood in Mexico City on May 2nd.

The report confirms for the first time the involvement of U.S. federal authorities in the capture of a wanted fugitive, a direct violation of Mexican law, which prohibits the involvement of foreign agents in domestic law enforcement.

BuzzFeed News analyzed flight data and company documents submitted to the United States FAA, which identified the aircraft operated by the U.S. Marshals and a shell company used to cover their tracks.

Flight map indicates the plane’s circling  pattern used by U.S. (MArshals Image from BuzzFeed/Flightradar)

The report confirms for the first time that an airplane of this type participated in the operation that ended in a major detention in Mexico.

A 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal detailed how the federal agency employs a small fleet of high tech light aircraft to catch fugitives.

The technology has raised concerns among civil liberties groups.

The aircraft comes equipped with advanced devices called dirt boxes, which mimic cell towers, allowing agents to track any mobile phones as the craft flies overhead.

By analyzing data from Flightradar24, a site that tracks flights, BuzzFeed News identified an aircraft registered to a company called Early Detection Alarm Systems which was used to circle locations in a similar fashion to surveillance planes employed by the FBI.

The company did not appear to have any other official documentation beyond the records of the aircraft and is registered to a UPS store address in Springs, Texas.

The report adds that FAA documents all but confirmed that the entity is a shell company for the U.S. Marshals Service.

Buzzfeed also analyzed the company’s similar flight patterns to the one that occurred over El Dorado from April 28th to May 1st.

The online publication revealed that patterns were repeated during earlier flights over Carver Shores in Orlando, Florida days before the arrest of Markeith Loyd, a fugitive wanted for the December 2016 murder of his wife and the killing of an Orlando Police officer who attempted to arrest him on January 9th.

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“The plane with the most advanced technology that we identify seems to be the same plane that flew over Sinaloa. It loads a device that can transmit video and other data in real time to other members of a network connected by radio signal. With this equipment, the aircraft can act as ‘Wi-Fi in the sky,’ and assist in the pursuit of a fugitive by offering air surveillance to agents on the ground,” Buzzfeed details.

The report adds: “The plane appeared in Sinaloa for the first time on April 14th and began a series of flights during the following week, which it flew inland and disappeared off the radars of Flightradar24 when approaching the hills of the province of Durango, a vast area known for heroin production. The plane returned to Texas from its temporary base in Baja California Sur, before returning on April 27th.”

Buzzfeed reported the second series of flights, which focused on the town of El Dorado at the time of the capture of David López, the bodyguard of Damaso Lopez Nunez.

The investigation confirmed an earlier report published on May 6th by the news portal rabiaytinta.com, which indicated that witnesses reported seeing “an unmanned aerial vehicle flying over El Dorado, for several hours on April 27th, five days before Mexican authorities arrested “El Licenciado.”

The Mexican government and the U.S. Marshals Service refused to comment on the Buzzfeed report.

However, the office of Mexican President Enrique did release a general statement.

“The details of the strategies and operations carried out by the institutions that make up the security cabinet are reserved so as not to compromise their effectiveness and the integrity of those who carry them out,” the statement read. “All the actions, including the ones that are carried out with international cooperation, are conducted with strict adherence to the law.”

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