Men dressed in fatigues in Mexico appear to be planting drugs for later pickup by smugglers in this photo taken by New Times from the U.S. side of the border early last year.
Men dressed in fatigues in Mexico appear to be planting drugs for later pickup by smugglers in this photo taken by New Times from the U.S. side of the border early last year.
Ray Stern

Heavily Armed Mexican Cartel Scouts Caught Last Year in Arizona Get Prison Time

Camping or hiking near the border in Arizona this year?

Watch out for Mexican cartel scouts toting semiautomatic rifles and handguns.

Yes, they could be out there, if you haven't heard. Lack of quality border control means they're occasionally spotted by civilians, and sometimes apprehended by authorities.

One of them was sentenced this week to 97 months in prison, his partner in crime having been sentenced in April to three years in prison.

Jose Abelordo Guzman-Perez and Lorenzo Infante-Ortiz, both armed to the teeth, were camping in the Roskruge Mountains west of Tucson in September, serving as lookouts for marijuana smugglers.

The mountains are some of Arizona's minor outdoor treasures — awesome and semi-wild places to visit in your off-roading vehicle. A rookie member of the Southern Arizona Hiking Club posted a fine write-up of his exploration and hike of the area a few months before border authorities caught the two banditos.

An air unit spotted the cartel scouts on September 28, 2016, then directed Border Patrol tactical teams (BORTAC) toward them. The agents found them sleeping in their camp at 1:15 a.m. near a rocky, six-foot drop-off, court records show. Guzman Perez was sleeping within arm's reach of his AK-47, while his compadre had a nearby AR-15. They were also both armed with handguns.

"BORTAC agents struggled for hours in the pitch dark, utilizing only night-vision [technology]," Arizona U.S. Attorney spokesman Cosme Lopez related in a news release on Wednesday.

The agents yelled out to the men to give up and rushed at them. Agents captured Infante-Ortiz as he tried to run away. "Guzman-Perez reached for the AK-47 and was promptly tackled by an agent," Lopez wrote. "Guzman-Perez was combative and violently fought, causing him and the agent to fall off the cliff."

The agent dislocated his shoulder in the fall, but the fight kept up as the scout "continued to push, kick and punch him." Guzman-Perez broke free and ran down the mountainside in the dark, falling several times. Backup agents at the perimeter of the operation then found and detained him.

Guzman-Perez's Tucson lawyer, Brenda Dabdoub, argued during the court proceedings that followed that both defendants claimed they were the victims of "excessive force."

"Both indicate that their heads were stomped on by the agent" or agents, she wrote in a motion to dismiss the case. "However, Mr. Guzman-Perez is alleged to have reacted strenuously to the agents' excessive force and made a zealous attempt to flee. This apparently led to an injury to both the agent and Mr. Guzman-Perez as they fell off a steep ridge. It is unclear the exact cause of the stumble."

Dabdoub claimed that it was unfair for the government to offer Guzman-Perez a plea deal that was harsher than the one offered to Infante-Ortiz. Arizona U.S. Attorney officials replied that they weren't required to offer any plea deals.

They'll both be deported when released from prison. But these men are no amateurs. Who knows — they may be back after they're released.

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