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Dirty or Duped?

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"If someone is working off their cases, you can still control them, threaten to send them to the penitentiary," Barbara Markham says. "But once they become a paid informant and get a slice of the pie, they are motivated by nothing but greed."

Alonso was prolific, bringing in case after case, month after month--6 kilos, 12 kilos, 14 kilos, 24 kilos, one cocaine bust bigger than the next, each one field-testing positive for cocaine. DeLaPaz thought he was just a super-snitch, even though friends warned the officer that no informant had that many sources or could be that well-connected.

"When a person rolls and begins to work, you want to get the biggest person he's got first," Markham explains. "Because once word gets out on the street that everyone around this guy is getting busted, no one is going to deal with him anymore."

But Alonso claimed to have numerous contacts in San Antonio, Houston and Laredo, making things more difficult to verify. Then again, the big drug cases he was making might have been verification enough. Alonso was making DeLaPaz shine, and the officer needed to treat him with respect. Good informants are gold; undercover officers build entire careers around them. A "stout" CI who feels neglected or underpaid may latch on to another undercover officer.

But Alonso appeared loyal to DeLaPaz. He even brought him other informants: his brother Luis "Daniel" Alonso, who was interested in making extra money. Another friend, Roberto Gonzalez, also wanted to work, but DeLaPaz turned him down because he had some immigration problems. He had also served a federal sentence for drug conspiracy. And Jose Ruiz turned paid informant after his methamphetamine case was dismissed, at times working with his former partner in crime Alonso as a second CI, according to a source close to DeLaPaz.

Two informants working the same case seemed a recipe for disaster, requiring twice the control, twice the surveillance, twice the trust. The chance that informants who all know each other and work together might try to scam the officers increases dramatically. "Informants will turn on a narc in a heartbeat," Markham says. "After they start producing, things start to get looser, get all buddy-buddy. That's when they start to learn the work habits of the officer, the inside tricks of the operation."

Enrique Martinez-Alonso acted as though he knew many dope-dealing auto mechanics, which made perfect cop sense: Hispanic-owned auto shops might be fronts for narcotics traffickers. Dope travels in cars up from the border; mechanics have the tools to remove it from hidden compartments. Both businesses are cash-and-carry.

Jesus Mejia owned a small auto repair shop on Singleton Boulevard in Oak Cliff. Husband, father of three and legal U.S. resident, he lived peacefully in this country for 11 years and had never been in trouble with the police, his attorney claims. On August 16, when nine officers converged on his shop and placed him under arrest, he thought they were joking. "Why are you taking me?" he asked in Spanish. But the police just told him, "You know."

The arrest warrant was a bit more detailed, charging that a confidential informant (Alonso) met Mejia in his office and Mejia handed the informant 2 kilos of cocaine saying, "Bring me back the money for them, and I'll give you more." Mejia then stated he had more cocaine in a red pickup truck parked outside. As the informant was leaving to bring the 2 kilos to DeLaPaz a short distance away, he claimed he "observed" several packages in a duffel bag inside the pickup. That information was used to obtain a warrant for the vehicle, which when searched uncovered another 12 kilos inside the duffel bag.

"Just didn't happen," says Mejia's attorney C. Tony Wright. "There was never a first delivery inside, and the informant or the cops could have planted those drugs outside."

DeLaPaz had set up no surveillance of any sort, instead relying solely on the uncorroborated word of his informant. But Alonso's rendition of the facts strained credulity. Drugs aren't sold on consignment; they're sold for cash. A dealer might front drugs to someone in his organization, someone he trusted, but rarely to someone with whom he had no prior relationship. A dealer who voluntarily discloses where he keeps his stash--12 kilos in plain view--is just asking to be ripped off. Instead, he would have had good eyes watching his back, accomplices with guns, and plenty of cash from other transactions.

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Mark Donald
Contact: Mark Donald