Mexico Media Mogul Among Those Indicted in Alleged Crime Ring; Hip-Hop's Swizz Beatz was Close Associate of Suspects

The roundup of alleged crime ring members we told you about on Thursday also snared Mario de la Fuente Manríquez, a Mexican media mogul who owns cable TV companies, a Nogales, Sonora TV station and newspaper.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, and police officials are scheduled to hold a 2 p.m. news conference today about the bust.

News of the busts has made headlines in Arizona and Mexico and is also causing a buzz in the hip-hop community. Music producer Swizz Beatz was a close associate of the suspects, and reportedly is the godfather to the son of suspects Nazreth Derboghossian and Jodi Upton.

As we reported, Manriquez's son, Mario de la Fuente Mix, was picked up in Nogales, Arizona and arrested last week with Derboghossian and Katie Marie Peters, who police nabbed at their Valley homes. The Latin American Herald Tribune reported over the weekend that Manriquez was also taken into custody in Nogales, Arizona, though we haven't confirmed that. The Herald Tribune cites another paper, the El Diaro in Mexico, which is said to be part of the De La Fuente family's holdings.

According to the newspaper:

The De la Fuente family has a history of doing business in Tucson and Phoenix. All of the charges are being investigated in Maricopa County, in Phoenix, where the businessmen are being interrogated," the newspaper said.

The De la Fuentes "are fully disposed to clear up any doubts the authorities" may have about their activities, El Diario de Sonora said.

De la Fuente Manríquez is president of Omni Cable, the umbrella corporation that owns Diario de Sonora newspaper and TV station, Canál 3, in Nogales, Sonora. The network spans the entire length of the Sonora-Arizona border, from San Luis Río Colorado, Puerto Peñasco, Caborca, Nogales, Magdalena de Kino, Santa Ana, Cananea and Agua Prieta.

The elder De La Fuente's brother, Lorenzo de la Fuente Manríquez, was mayor of Nogales, Sonora, between 2003 and 2006 under the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

The Arizona Republic, meanwhile, came out with an article on Saturday that portrays the de la Fuentes as something close to a northern Mexico aristocracy. The elder de la Fuente also owns "more than a dozen" cable-TV companies and his company "once operated a bullfighting ring in Nogales, Sonora, where a brother of de la Fuente Manríquez served as mayor from 2003 to 2006," reports veteran Republic writer Dennis Wagner.

Meanwhile, our Thursday article has pulled in several interesting comments, both from supporters and detractors of the suspects. Here's an excerpt from a commenter who called himself "Cheech:"

Hey Ray, I hope you are as big a man to apologize when the time comes as you are to suggest wrong doing now. I worked for Naz for almost seven years. I know the man pretty good. Almost as my brother. And even if to outsiders he looked as a "sheister" he was very well liked by all of his close associates. The reason why everybody hates him is because he did everything in record time. He also was a pretty sharp business man.

A commenter who claims to be Derboghossian's daughter writes, in part: father was a good man n did not mean to harm anyone intentionally.

Phoenix police issued the following news release about the arrests and today's scheduled news conference:



On February 2nd, 2009 Phoenix Police Detectives form the Liquor Enforcement squad conducted a "Hot Spot Liquor Task Force" inspection of the "Scorch Bar" located in north Phoenix (Desert Ridge). The inspection revealed the bar had been purchasing alcohol from a local grocery retailer and re-selling the product to its patrons. This was in direct violation of Arizona Revised Statues and the subsequent investigations into the bar's activities initiated "Operation Scorch"; an almost two year investigation which, with the assistance of the Arizona Attorney General's office, culminated on January 20th 2010 with the service of search warrants throughout the state, the arrest of several suspects for criminal enterprise activities and the seizure of millions of dollars in cash and assets.

On Monday, January 25th, at 2:00 p.m., the Phoenix Police Department will host a media conference to present the details of this investigation. Scheduled attendees include Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Phoenix Councilwoman Peggy Neely, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and Public Safety Manager Jack Harris. Phoenix Police Lieutenant John Collins will detail the investigation.

Local authorities seem to believe they've taken down some big game here, and officials want to grandstand a bit. With a media mogul being accused, though, it probably won't be long before we start hearing propaganda from the other side, too.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern