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For Immediate Release

January 24, 2013 Amelia Swenhaugen, Deputy U.S. Marshal
District of Arizona – Phoenix (602) 828-8349
U.S. Marshals Come Together with Partners in Law Enforcement to Educate on the Use of Patron Saints in the Drug Underworld

Phoenix, AZ - On January 24, 2013, the United States Marshals Service (USMS) hosted a free training seminar for their law enforcement partners. The training served to educate and inform law enforcement officers on the use and prevalence of Patron Saints in the drug underworld. Presented by U.S. Marshal Robert Almonte from the Western District of Texas, this seminar accommodated approximately 260 members of law enforcement throughout the state of Arizona.

“The use of traditional religious icons and folk Catholicism by drug cartel members and other criminals is an issue that is growing on both sides of the border,” stated District of Arizona U.S. Marshal David Gonzales. “The training given today to the Arizona criminal justice community was designed to provide potential criminal indicators of illegal activity, in addition to alerting officers to potentially dangerous situations, thereby resulting in the safe and efficient execution of criminal cases throughout the state.”

This presentation included information and cases on the use of prayer in traditional or recognized religions to facilitate drug trafficking and other crimes and was led by U.S. Marshal Robert Almonte. Marshal Almonte retired at the rank of Deputy Chief after 25 years of service with the El Paso Police Department where he spent the majority of his career on the frontline of the drug war. He spent years conducting extensive research on the Mexican drug trade and his course serves to educate, enhance knowledge and alert law enforcement.

The continued education and collaboration between members of law enforcement at both the Federal and State levels in Arizona, serve to create a more informed and efficient level of criminal justice throughout the state. Officer safety, along with an understanding of frequent criminal indicators are both invaluable elements of an investigation. This unique course is beneficial to law enforcement officers in all parts of the country who may encounter images, icons, statues, or other items during or pursuant to an investigation with a drug nexus. This training has been a vital component in several significant drug and money seizures throughout the country.

Participants included law enforcement officers from several agencies in Arizona to include: U.S. Marshals Service, Immigrations Customs Enforcement, Customs Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Transportation Security Administration, United States Fish and Wildlife, Office of the Inspector General, Maricopa County Adult Probation, Pinal County Probation, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Pima County Sheriff’s Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arizona Department of Corrections, Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Department of Agriculture, Tohono O’odham National Police, Fort McDowell Police Department, Bullhead City Police Department, Avondale Police Department, Goodyear Police Department, Mesa Police Department, Globe Police Department, Avondale Police Department, Phoenix Police Department, Tempe Police Department, Chandler Police Department, Tucson Police Department, Sierra Vista Police Department, Eloy Police Department, Kingman Police Department, Peoria Police Department, Nogales Police Department, La Paz County Police Department, National Guard, Fort Huachuca Criminal Investigators Office, Gila River Prosecutors Office and the Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control.

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at


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