Former Mexican Cartel Lieutenant and Paid ICE Informant Busted in Florida on Cocaine Charges
The infamous ‘House of Death’ informant is linked to multiple brutal murders in Juarez, Mexico, carried out with the knowledge of his ICE handlers
Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro, who helped a Mexican drug organization carry out multiple gruesome murders in Juarez, Mexico, in the early 2000s while working as a paid U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informant — a case since dubbed the “House of Death” — is once again back in the slammer. This time he’s facing federal charges in Florida accusing him of conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine.
If convicted, Ramirez Peyro could face up to a 10-year prison sentence, court records show. He was caught up this past spring in a sting involving an FBI confidential informant as well as audio and video surveillance, which the criminal complaint alleges is evidence of Ramirez Peyro’s intent to purchase and distribute at least five kilos of cocaine.
The federal criminal complaint against Ramirez Peyro, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges he was involved in multiple meetings with an FBI informant (described in court records as a confidential source) seeking to purchase a large quantity of cocaine. In at least one of those meetings, an accomplice, referred to in the pleadings only as “Pollo,” also was present.
“Ramirez Peyro indicated he wished to purchase five kilograms of cocaine from the confidential source for approximately $120,000.00,” the criminal complaint alleges. “That meeting was audio- and video-recorded.”
Between late March and mid-April of this year, Ramirez Peyro allegedly met with the FBI informant several times at locations in the greater Miami area, including a Dunkin Donuts shop, and provided the individual with a total of $20,000 as a downpayment on the cocaine contraband. “The [informant] told Ramirez Peyro that the cocaine was located at La Carreta, 14791 Miramar Parkway, Miramar, Florida,” the complaint alleges.
“As Ramirez Peyro was driving to the above area, he was stopped by the Miramar Police Department,” the court pleadings continue. “Miramar Police Department subsequently recovered $50,000 from the car. That was the same money Ramirez Peyro had shown to the [FBI informant] that [he] intended to use to purchase the five kilograms of cocaine ….”
Ramirez Peyro is currently being held in jail without bond because, according to the detention order filed with the court, he is deemed a flight risk. An “immigration detainer” also has been issued against Ramirez Peyro, court pleadings assert, an indication that ICE is seeking once again to deport its former cartel informant. He is being represented currently by a public defender.
“Having considered the evidence and arguments of counsel presented at the hearing, the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant poses a reasonable risk of flight if allowed to be out on bond,” the detention order filed on April 24 in federal court states. “This is based on the lengthy mandatory-minimum sentence [Ramirez Peyro] faces here if convicted, the strong evidence against him, the defendant’s Mexican citizenship, his connections to Mexico and the Mexican cartels, the immigration detainer on the defendant, the multiple identification documents the defendant was carrying, [including a Mexican passport and Puerto Rican drivers’ license], and the defendant’s lack of connections in the Miami area.”
The Deeper Story
Ramirez Peyro is a former Mexican cop who rose to a high level within a cell of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) drug organization, also known as the “Juarez Cartel.” The VCF cell was overseen by an individual named Heriberto Santillan Tabares.
At the same time he was working as one of Santillan’s right-hand men, helping to oversee his criminal enterprises, including a house in Juarez, Mexico that served as a torture and killing chamber (the House of Death), Ramirez Peyro also was working against his cartel boss as an informant for ICE. His criminal activities on behalf of Santillan and the VCF in the early 2000s were not only known to his ICE handlers in El Paso, Texas, but also allegedly approved by high-level officials within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
More recently, Ramirez Peyro spent 15 months in a county jail in Newton County, Missouri, on an alleged kidnapping charge related to a volatile relationship with a former girlfriend. He was released in April 2015 with credit for time served after the kidnapping charge against him was reduced to a misdemeanor count of violating a court-protection order obtained by his ex-girlfriend.
The case made headlines at the time when Ramirez Peyro was arrested by local police in December 2014 after he and his girlfriend arrived in Joplin, Missouri, driving a flashy $250,000 red Ferrari 612 Scaglietti with Mexican plates. The couple stayed at a La Quinta hotel in the city of some 50,000.
Ramirez Peyro hit the bed in the hotel room and by 11 p.m. or so he was out cold. It was then that his now-estranged girlfriend decided to strike. She scooped up the keys to the Ferrari, her purse and cell phone and snuck out of the La Quinta hotel room. She then called the police from another nearby hotel to report she had been kidnapped by Ramirez Peyro.
At 40 minutes past midnight, Ramirez-Peyro heard a loud knock on his hotel door. He awoke to find himself alone. Again, the loud knock. He pulled himself together, slipped out of bed and opened the door. In front of him were several Joplin police officers.
Ramirez-Peyro was arrested without incident, according to Lt. Matt Stewart of the Joplin Police Department. “He didn’t try to run or fight, so no issues there,” Stewart said at the time.
Juarez Cartel Connections
The Santillan-led Juarez Cartel cell that Ramirez Peyro served was responsible for murdering at least a dozen people between the summer of 2003 and early 2004 — most of whom were tortured first and then buried in the backyard of the House of Death in Juarez, a Mexican border city south of El Paso, Texas.
Ramirez Peyro helped to lure victims to the House of Death and even participated in carrying out at least one murder, according to his own description of the events, which he detailed in a past interview. Ramirez Peyro also made his ICE handlers aware of his role in overseeing and assisting with murders linked to the House of Death, where a dozen bodies were unearthed in the backyard in early 2004 by Mexican Law enforcers.
Ramirez Peyro even clandestinely recording at least one of the torture/murders and provided that tape to his ICE handlers, Ramiro Peyro confirmed in a prior interview. However, he also claims, from his point of view, that he did not murder anyone — although a leaked ICE memo states that Ramirez Peyro “supervised and had minimal participation” in the initial murder at the House of Death in early August 2003, which is the homicide Ramirez Peyro also secretly recorded. Although most of the victims at the House of Death were Mexican citizens, many with ties to the narco-trafficking world, at least one was a U.S. legal resident and suspected U.S. government informant and another was allegedly a U.S. citizen.
But even with that knowledge, prosecutors and ICE agents involved in the case, with the approval of high-level officials at the Departments of Justice and ICE, chose to keep Ramirez Peyro in the field, where it was clear more murders would play out — and they did, at least 11 more over the ensuing six months.
Evidence of the U.S. government’s efforts to cover-up its complicity in that carnage was later exposed exclusively by the online publication Narco News in a series of stories pointing the finger at high-level officials within ICE and the DOJ. [See Narco News’ House of Death series, begun in 2004, at this link.]
Ramirez Peyro was deactivated as an informant a short time after the grisly scene at the House of Death came to light in early 2004 and in the wake of the Santillan organization threatening the life of a DEA agent and his family.
A February 2004 letter penned by then DEA Special Agent in Charge in El Paso, Sandalio Gonzalez, that eventually made its way to then-U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton and was later obtained exclusively by Narco News, also helped to open the curtains on the House of Death.
“I am writing now to express my frustration and outrage at the mishandling of the Heriberto Santillan Tabares investigation that has resulted in the unnecessary loss of human life in the Republic of Mexico and endangered the lives of Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and their immediate families assigned to the DEA office in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico,” DEA Commander Gonzalez states at the outset of the letter, dated Feb. 24, 2004, which was directed to the head of ICE in El Paso and later became public via a Freedom of Information Act request.
In the wake of the unraveling of the House of Death, Ramirez Peyro spent nearly six years behind bars, most of that in solitary confinement, fighting ICE’s efforts to deport him to Mexico — and to a certain death.
Ramirez Peyro’s release from jail in April 2010 came only after he won a crucial immigration court victory. After ruling against Ramirez Peyro in several prior decisions, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in late March 2010 finally came down on his side after a federal appeals-court ruling that forced the BIA’s hand. Its ruling stated that Ramirez Peyro “has shown that he more likely than not would be tortured upon return to Mexico, either directly by government agents or indirectly by government agents turning him over to the cartel.”
Ramirez Peyro was subsequently allowed to stay in the U.S., but only so long as the court determines the situation in Mexico that puts his life in danger remains unchanged, or until another country agrees to take him in (an unlikely scenario). Ramirez Peyro started working as an informant for the U.S. government in 2000, helping to make numerous cases for multiple federal law enforcement agencies against many dangerous criminals and at great risk to his own safety, said the attorney representing Ramirez Peyro’s during his immigration woes. For his work, he was paid at least $225,000 by the U.S. government and claims he is still owed some $400,000.
During Ramirez Peyro’s long fight to prevent his deportation, he claimed he would be murdered by cartel operatives if returned to Mexico. In fact, he has already been the target of a failed assassination attempt at a Whataburger fast-food restaurant in El Paso, Texas. The plot played out in 2004, shortly after his role as an informant became known with the arrest of Santillan by U.S. law enforcers via a sting Ramirez Peyro helped to carry out. (Santillan is now in prison in Louisiana, scheduled for release in July 2023, federal Bureau of Prison records show.)
The assassin in the Whataburger hit, however, ended up targeting the wrong person. Instead of Ramirez Peyro, the victim ended up being an alleged FBI informant named Abraham Guzman — whom Ramirez Peyro had convinced to show up in his place at the fast-food joint for a purported money drop that turned out to be a cartel trap.
Guzman found himself at the Whataburger near downtown El Paso at about 11 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2004, waiting in a purple Lincoln Navigator for a bag of money to be delivered to wrap up a supposed ICE sting operation. Some sources contend, however, that the Whataburger money drop may in reality have been an off-the-books deal involving shady characters that was set up by Ramirez Peyro in an effort to earn some extra cash.
Regardless, Guzman ended up on the receiving end of four bullets to the face and chest delivered by a VCF assassin.
“I’m absolutely going to be killed by the Juárez Cartel or the Mexican government, which is basically the same thing,” Ramirez Peyro said in a prior interview conducted while he was in prison in Missouri on the kidnapping charge. He stressed then that his only link to the cartel is this: “They want to kill me.”