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Border & Immigration

No Bail For Mexican Official Accused Of Passing Info To Violent Tijuana Drug Gang

Bail was denied today for a Mexican official accused of using his post to gain access to confidential law enforcement information in the United States, then sharing it with high-ranking members of a violent Tijuana drug gang.

After an hourlong hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruben Brooks ruled that government prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence that Jesus Quiñonez Marquez had significant ties to Mexico and not the United States.

Quiñonez, a Mexican citizen and married father of three, is charged with federal conspiracy and racketeering.

The defendant worked with U.S. law enforcement officials as an international liaison in the Baja Attorney General's Office.

He and 42 others were charged last month with conspiracy to commit offenses including murder, kidnapping, drug smuggling and money laundering.

A federal grand jury then returned an indictment alleging the defendants are members and associates of the Fernando Sanchez Organization, an offshoot of the powerful Arellano-Felix drug cartel.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Robinson told the judge today that authorities intercepted many calls over a 30-day period between Quiñonez and high-ranking FSO members.

In the calls, Quiñonez was overheard passing information to the FSO members about homicide investigations and talked about framing a rival gang for certain killings, Robinson told the judge.

"He abused his position with the Mexican government," the prosecutor said. "He abused that position of trust."

Quiñonez, 39, was arrested July 22 after being summoned to a meeting in the United States to explain his alleged association with a high-ranking FSO member, the prosecutor said.

The defendant said he "didn't know anything" when confronted about the situation and was later overheard asking for an apartment and payments that he had been promised, Robinson said.

Defense attorney Patrick Hall argued that Quinonez was a dedicated father who has relatives living in the South Bay.

Hall said his client has a history with the Baja Attorney General's Office, and part of his job was to investigate violent crimes, such as homicides.

The attorney said Quinonez was "lured" to the United States the day of his arrest.

Hall said he disputed the government's interpretations of phone conversations between his client and an alleged high-ranking member of the FSO -- Jose Alfredo Najera Gil -- whom Hall said Quinonez knew as a former law enforcement officer.

"It's not clear at all what they're talking about," Hall said of the wiretaps.

Hall said Quinonez's brother-in-law was willing to put up his home to secure a $300,000 property bond, but the judge granted the government's motion for detention pending trial.

A motion and trial-setting hearing is set for Sept. 10.

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