Community leaders meet FBI SAC, U.S. Attorney at FBI open house

Demetrio Avelino, Perrye K. Turner and Malcolm Bales

The FBI Beaumont office hosted an open house Thursday, Jan. 22, presenting an opportunity for community leaders to meet new Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Houston Division Perrye K. Turner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas Malcolm Bales, Supervisory Senior Resident Agent of the FBI Beaumont office Demetrio Avelino and FBI program managers in areas such as outreach, training, civil rights, cyber security, media and others.

“We’re here to build partnerships with our community,” Turner said.

In July 2014, Turner was named SAC for the Houston Division field office, which covers 40 counties and includes five satellite offices, known as resident agencies. Beaumont is one of them.

Turner’s experience in drug trafficking and Mexican/Crime Syndicate investigations will serve the office well, he said in an interview with the Examiner in October. While the presence of these syndicates will no doubt test his office, Turner said the challenge only serves as a motivator.

Thursday, Turner praised the work of U.S. Attorney Malcolm Bales. Both men are key leaders in agencies of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which combines the resources and unique expertise of numerous federal agencies in a coordinated attack against major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

The OCDETF was recently responsible for the arrest and prosecution of Gulf Cartel leader Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez.

The Gulf Cartel network is international, and is believed to have dealings with crime groups in Europe, West Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, and the United States, according to the Congressional Research Service report, Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Violence.

“They are a key part of Mexico’s brutal drug trafficking-related violence that has been dramatically punctuated by more than 1,300 beheadings, public hanging of corpses, killing of innocent bystanders, car bombs, torture, and assassination of numerous journalists and government officials,” the report states. Besides drug trafficking, the Gulf Cartel operates through protection rackets, assassinations, extortions, kidnappings and other criminal activities and is known for intimidating the population and for being “particularly violent,” according to the report.

Federal agents arrested Gulf Cartel leader Saenz-Tamez on Oct. 9, 2014, while he was shopping in Edinburg, Texas. Saenz-Tamez pleaded guilty Jan. 13, 2015, to distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, a press release by the Department of Justice states.

“We have a very aggressive district attorney’s office,” Turner said, complimenting Bales and adding that the FBI Houston Division will continue to work side by side with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to keep criminals like Saenz-Tamez off the streets.

Following Turner’s remarks, Bales addressed the group of community leaders gathered at the open house, enjoying refreshments and the rare opportunity to mingle with FBI and DOJ agents and staff.

“We are your U.S. Attorney’s office. People are always watching what we are doing … especially having spent so much time with the BISD case,” Bales said, referring to the roles of both the U.S. Attorney’s office and FBI in the indictments and subsequent guilty pleas of former Beaumont Independent School District director of finance Devin McCraney and former BISD comptroller Sharika Allison, and the indictment of former BISD purchasing agent Naomi Lawrence-Lee, with others possibly to come.

“We’ve got a lot of territory to cover, but we will accomplish a safer, more prosperous Southeast Texas,” Bales said.