deportation officer throwing bundles of marijuana out of the window as he fled; apprehended!

ARIZONA BORDERS AND CITIZEN SAFETY...

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A deportation officer with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement led Arizona state police and federal agents on a high-speed desert chase in his government vehicle, throwing bundles of marijuana out of the window as he fled, the Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.

The deportation officer, identified as Jason Alistair Lowery, 34, had been under surveillance for more than month after a known smuggler who had been arrested gave authorities a tip about the officer in an effort to get lenient treatment, Department of Public Safety Officer Carrick Cook told The Associated Press.

In a criminal complaint filed late Wednesday against Lowery, who also used to be a Border Patrol agent, a Department of Homeland Security investigator wrote that he got further information about Lowery through a confidential informant on Oct. 4.

The informant, whose identity was protected, said that he or she was involved with Lowery and another man in a “rip” crew in which Lowery used his status in law enforcement to help steal marijuana from illegal immigrants, wrote Brian Gamberg-Bonilla, a special agent with the DPS’s Office of Investigations.

The informant agreed to call Lowery and arrange for him to pick up 500 pounds (226 kilograms) of pot in the desert on Tuesday, which is how authorities were able to follow him and begin to make their case, Gamberg-Bonilla wrote in the document.

DPS and federal agents tried to pull Lowery over after he picked up the marijuana with his unmarked ICE pickup truck, Cook said. Lowery then fled, leading agents on a 45-minute chase at speeds of up to 110 mph as he threw 10 of the 14 bundles of pot that he had in the truck out of the window, he said.

“He got pretty desperate,” Cook said.

The chase began in the Vekol Valley about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south of Phoenix and ended just south of Sacaton, about 20 miles as the crow flies northwest from where the chase began. It ended when Lowery’s truck rolled over and he gave himself up.

Lowery, who lives in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, appeared in federal court in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday but did not address the court. He sat quietly awaiting the hearing and at one point looked up at the ceiling and repeatedly shook his head.

Prosecutor John Lopez argued that Lowery should be detained as his court case proceeds, saying that he poses a risk to the community and could flee the state. He also said that Lowery had a non-government-issued gun on him when he was arrested.

Federal Magistrate Michelle Burns set a hearing in the matter for Tuesday.

Lowery’s court-appointed attorney, Rebecca Felmly, declined to comment. Lowery’s wife, who identified herself as Trina Lowery, also declined to speak to The Associated Press.

Mexican drug cartels have infiltrated federal law enforcement agencies along the border for years, targeting hiring initiatives with their own people or recruiting officers.

Between 2003 and early 2010, 129 U.S. customs officers and Border Patrol agents were arrested on corruption charges, according to Tom Frost, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant inspector general for investigations. The office was not immediately able to provide an updated figured to the AP.

“This is becoming all too common, in my opinion,” said Jim Dorcy, a retired Border Patrol agent who later investigated corruption among agents for the Justice Department. “Statistically it’s pretty rare, but you have to understand that as a law enforcement agency, it should be approaching zero.”

He said any amount of corruption in a police agency, let alone dozens of cases, destroys the public’s confidence and criminals’ respect. The heart of the problem lies in recent hiring booms in ICE and the Border Patrol in which the bar was lowered to meet hiring quotas, Dorcy said.

As for the corruption cases he investigated, Dorcy said it usually came down greed.

“They just want to make more money than the job offers, and they get offered a very tempting amount of money,” he said.

In one notable case, former Customs officer Margarita Crispin was arrested in El Paso, Texas, in 2007 and sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import more than 1,000 kilograms (2,204 pounds) of marijuana. Prosecutors alleged that she accepted more than $5 million in bribes over several years in exchange for letting smugglers’ vehicles pass through her checkpoint without inspection.

In a more recent case, former Border Patrol agent Michael Angelo Atondo was found guilty of trafficking marijuana in southwestern Arizona after fellow Border Patrol agents found him in a remote area along the border near San Luis — several miles outside of his patrol zone — with 745 pounds (338 kilograms) of marijuana in his vehicle.

Prosecutors say Atondo appeared to be a mole who infiltrated the agency to smuggle drugs. The 34-year-old will be sentenced Jan. 9.

In Lowery’s case, DPS believes that he was taking the 500 pounds (226 kilograms) of marijuana that he picked up in the desert to a man working for a drug cartel whose house served as the nexus of the drug distribution.

Lowery was booked into Pinal County jail on charges of smuggling and felony flight and was turned over to ICE custody Wednesday morning. The sheriff’s office also booked the man who was to receive the marijuana, identified as 33-year-old Joshua Duane Powell of Arizona City.

At Powell’s home, police found 14 rifles and guns in the trunk of his car, seven of which had been reported stolen, according to a DPS document.

The document also said that Powell had been out on a $25,000 bond stemming from a separate investigation last month in which multiple bulletproof vests, weapons, stolen night-vision equipment, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and various drugs were found in his home.

Powell does not yet have an attorney and he has declined interview requests from the news media.

ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard said that Lowery worked as a deportation officer for the agency since August 2008 but declined to provide further information about Lowery.

Lowery worked as a deportation agent in ICE’s fugitive operations team, which goes after illegal immigrants who fail to leave the country after they’re ordered to be deported. Such officers carry weapons and have arrest powers.

Border Patrol spokesman Mario Escalante said Lowery also worked for that agency before going to ICE, but did not know for how long.

listeria outbreak in the USA, Cantaloups!

Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium responsi...
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As many as 16 people in the United States have died within the last two months after contaminated cantaloupes tainted with the listeria bacteria made its way to grocers across America.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found cases of listeria poisoning in 18 states so far, and has pegged the problem as causing at least 13 deaths. They are investigating more passings and believe that 72 people in America have been infected so far.

Listeria is a bacterium that is resistant to both extreme hot and cold conditions and is usually found in soil, water and the innards of animals. Food-wise, an outbreak tied to a cantaloupe harvest is unusual, however. Typically the bacterium is carried in dairy products and raw meats. There around 800 cases of listeria illness in the United States every year, but rarely does an outbreak cause so many deaths. An outbreak in 1998 caused by contaminated hot dogs and deli meats caused 32 people to die from coast-to-coast. Around 100 others were injured in that incident.

The bacterium poses quite a problem to people because it could take a victim up to a month to show symptoms. “People who ate a contaminated food two weeks ago or even a week ago could still be falling sick weeks later,” says Dr. Robert Tauxe of the CDC to The Associated Press. Illnesses in this outbreak were first identified in late July, but the product was shipped to at least 17 different states between July 29 and September 10.

The “Rocky Ford” brand of cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado is considered the culprit in this case. The distributor has issued a recall on their produce earlier this month, but because of its ability to withstand various heat conditions and lengthy incubation period, even those that consumed cantaloupe weeks earlier should show concern. The FDA has asked that all consumers throw out the recalled melons in order to avoid illness.

Shoppers that may have picked up Rocky Ford-brand melons should look out for common symptoms of listeria, which includes fever and muscle aches, occasionally with other gastrointestinal symptoms. Meningitis and cervical infections are also known symptoms, the latter of which has been known to cause cases of stillbirth. If the condition worsens, it can often cause victims to become incapacitated and unable to speak. Pregnant women, people with AIDS and those with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to the outbreak, says the CDC.

Already more people have been killed by the listeria outbreak than the last big food scare in America. Infected peanuts back in 2008 managed to take nine lives from salmonella poisoning.