Plane that Crashed with Jenni Rivera Aboard is Owned by Accused Drug Smuggler with Ties to DoD Contractor in San Diego
Photo: Christian Esquino Nuñez
Data Dump by Alex Constantine
Yesterday, a number of “mainstream” media outlets, including Fox News and NPR, reported that the plane that crashed with Mexican singer Jenni Rivera aboard belongs to Christian Esquino Nuñez, an accused Mexican drug smuggler with an interest in Starwood Management in Las Vegas, licensee of the doomed plane.
But it appears that Mr. Nunez, whose whereabouts are unknown, has not only been tied to a Mexican drug cartel but has political connections, as well. Last April, La politica, a news blog, published a report on Saadi Qaddafi’s escape from Libya. (Saadi is the late colonel’s third son.) Fuller reports follow a story from the celebrity press on Nunez’s links to the cartel.
The first article mentions but does not explore the Quaddafi episode and its American/Canadian ties — especiially to Gregory Gillespie, a central figure in Saadi Gaddafi’s escape plan.
Gillispie is a former Marine who heads up Veritas Worldwide Security, a firm in San Diego that engages in mercenary “clandestine operations” and “armed combat.”
Essential information about the company has somehow “fallen off” the Internet since Gillespie’s involvement in the plan was exposed by a scattering of press reports. But a company co-founder has described Veritas as a contractor that provides “training to the United States military and law enforcement forces.”
The third story below from the San Diego Reader on March 26 of this year concerns Veritas principals– including a former Chula Vista police chief and other persons of interest.
Jenny Rivera Plane: Christian Esquino Nuñez Battles Cartel Link – EXCLUSIVE
LALATE, December 11th, 2012
LOS ANGELES (LALATE EXCLUSIVE) – Was Jenny Rivera’s plane owned by Christian Esquino Nuñez, a man accused of being linked to a Tijuana, Mexico cartel? The plane which mysteriously crashed carrying Jenni Rivera, cited as “Jenny Rivera” in flight logs, is being linked to purported owner Christian Esquino aka Christian E. Esquino Nuñez or Ed Nunez, LALATE can report.
Esquino has been accused by federal prosecutors of allegedly being tied to a Tijuana cartel operated by the Arrellano-Felix brothers. He has been accused of allegedly smuggling dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saadi, into Mexico. And Esquino has been allegedly deported from San Diego to Mexico. Today, Mr. Esquino whereabouts remain unknown. …
The plane is registered to Starwood Management. But documents released to news today claim that Starwood is allegedly owned secretly by Christian Esquino Nuñez, a once deported Mexico citizen and former resident of San Diego, California.
LALATE can report that Christian Esquino was allegedly deported from the U.S. to Mexico by DEA. Esquino was accused of handling flights out of Toluca de Lerdo, Mexico. Moreover, Esquino purportedly confessed before a Mexico court that one of his planes was used to smuggle Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saadi, into Mexico.
Esquino was born in Mexico but traveled to the U.S. in 1969. But earlier this year he witnessed two of his planes seized in Arizona and Monterrey. He was accused at the time of being involved with several plane companies, namely Argentum Air, Aircraft R Us, Wing Financial and Starwood Management, the company that flew Rivera Sunday.
But over the years, Esquino has been accused of different shocking allegations. “In 1991, he was indicted in Orlando, Fla., along with a dozen suspected members of a [cartel] ring”, claims the National Post. In a court document, Esquino’s attorney wrote “Mr. Esquino has known for over a year that he was under investigation by federal authorities in San Diego for … trafficking, money laundering and tax evasion.”
Previously, prosecutors claimed that Mr. Esquino was allegedly linked to a Tijuana cartel, controlled by the Arrellano-Felix brothers. Prosecutors ultimately never charged Esquino with such claims but brought 44 fraud counts against him. He pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit fraud involving aircraft. After serving a two year fraud term, he was allegedly deported to Mexico. …
The trouble with Christian Eduardo Esquino Nuñez
La politica, 26 April 2012
Christian Eduardo Esquino Nuñez, the lead witness in the case against Cynthia Vanier, is now out of his Mexican jail cell, and he is apparently threatening to expose secret voice and video recordings of Gregory Gillispie, the American who brokered the aircraft lease for Ms. Vanier to fly to Libya.
Ms. Vanier, as anyone familiar with this blog knows, is the Canadian facing charges as the ringleader in a plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s third son, from North Africa to Mexico,
Mr. Esquino Nuñez is a curious character. When La politica first became involved with the case regarding Cynthia Vanier, we visited Ms. Vanier’s parents on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico. One piece of information that was given to us at that time, and that seemed very odd, concerned the role of a married couple: “Bertha” and “Ed”.
Ms. Vanier’s parents did not know who these two individuals were. However, we were informed that Ed was a criminal, and that Bertha – the best friend of Gabby de Cueto (aka Gabriela Davila Huerta), who now shares a jail cell with Ms. Vanier in Chetumal, Mexico – might have planted the fake Mexican voting card on Ms. Vanier.
This card is a key piece of evidence in the case against Ms. Vanier, as it was on her person when she was arrested on November 10, 2011, and connects her to a false Mexican identity for one Cinthia Anne Macdonald Grau, who opened two bank accounts that were allegedly to be used to funnel cash into Mexico to support Mr. Gaddafi in his new life.
We now know that Bertha is Bertha Cruz de la Cruz, and Ed is her husband, Christian Eduardo Esquino Nuñez. Both these individuals are central to the prosecution’s case against Ms. Vanier and the three other defendants.
Those other defendants are: Ms. De Cueto, Mr. Gillispie’s business partner and Bertha’s best friend, who helped broker aircraft for Ms. Vanier; Pierre Flensborg, a jet-setting Dane who was a business associate of Ms. De Cueto’s; and José Luis Kennedy Prieto, known as a document forger, but who was also at one time a police commander of homicide squads in Mexico City and Hidalgo.
Bertha Cruz de la Cruz is relevant also because she allegedly received an email to her Gmail account from Gabby de Cueto’s Yahoo account that included an attached photocopy of Saadi Gaddafi’s passport, as well as references to his family members.
According to a statement Ms. Cruz de la Cruz gave to Mexican prosecutors, she queried Gabby de Cueto as to why she received the email, and Gabby then allegedly asked Bertha if she knew of anyone who could put together false documentation for Gaddafi, his wife, and their young son and daughter.
Ms. Cruz de la Cruz, law abiding citizen that she is, apparently told Mexican law enforcement that she further challenged Ms. De Cueto as to why she would be asking for that, as it could land them all in a boatload of trouble.
However, the most solid testimony against Cynthia Vanier may come from Mr. Esquino himself.
Mr. Esquino has told the Mexican government that during a 45 minute car ride on September 20 from Toluca, where Mr. Esquino kept the aircraft he leased, to Mexico City, Ms. De Cueto and her business partner Gregory Gillispie spoke of a plot to bring Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico.
This evidence was given by Mr. Esquino on January 9, 2012 – two months after Ms. Vanier and the others had been arrested, and almost four months after the alleged conversation.
In fact, that evidence was given to the Mexican authorities while Mr. Esquino was wanted in Mexico for aircraft fraud. Mr. Esquino was questioned twice by authorities about the Vanier case before he was arrested on March 17.
In Mexico, individuals can be detained for 80 days without charge. Mr. Esquino’s recent release suggests that Mexican authorities are holding off on criminal charges, perhaps because they consider him to be more valuable on the outside, from where he can assist them in building the case against Ms. Vanier and her co-accused.
A plea, a short sentence, and deportation to Mexico
Mr. Esquino is no small time crook. On January 24, 2005 the Southern District Court of California convicted him of conspiracy to commit fraud involving an aircraft. Mr. Esquino had pled guilty, and was sentenced to two years in prison.
When he got out in 2007 he was deported to Mexico, whereupon he was arrested again, only to walk and assume the name “Ed Nuñez”. Nuñez is Mr. Esquino’s matronymic – his mother’s maiden name. Though in Mexico the matronymic is formally carried at the end of one’s name, it is rarely used exclusively. In effect, Mr. Christian Esquino had assumed another identity as Ed Nuñez without technically breaking the law.
Sources familiar with Mr. Esquino’s legal troubles in the United States have told La politica that the fraud charge was the low-hanging fruit – it was an easy conviction, which could then assure deportation upon his release.
But there were real victims. Court documents show Mr. Esquino bilked four parties out of a total of $435,000.00.
Mr. Esquino had an aircraft financing company, Wing Financial, which operated out of the same address as his better-known firm, Starwood Management, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Wing Financial, which employed both Mr. Esquino and his sister-in-law, Bertha’s sister Norma Gonzalez (aka Norma Cruz de la Cruz), was embroiled in financial and legal troubles before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the State of Nevada on February 2, 2010.
Interestingly, Mr. Esquino’s sister-in-law was willing to take the fall: Norma Gonzales is named as a “Managing Member” on the petition, but Mr. Esquino is nowhere to be seen.
The trail of tears in this filing is long and soggy: ten plaintiffs, both businesses and individuals, claimed a total of $5,520,000.00 against Wing Financial. The real number is likely higher: two of the individuals placed unknown amounts, claiming assets that were “unliquidated disputed”.
One of the business plaintiffs was Pacific Coast Forecasting (the company was sold in March 2010), which was on the hook for $250,000.00. The company deserves some due for perseverance: ten months later, on December 2, 2010, Pacific Coast Forecasting placed a lien of just over $15,000 on Mr. Esquino’s other company, Starwood Management.
As well, on February 11, 2010, a man named Hugo Alvarez cited Norma Gonzalez, Wing Financial, and Christian Esquino as defendants in a suit regarding a property foreclosure in San Diego, California, where Mr. Esquino lived before his incarceration.
After Mr. Esquino’s release from prison he was not permitted into the United States. However, he appears to have continued to conduct business in the United States, and to be using his sister-in-law to front for him via Wing Financial, just as he used his wife Bertha to run the Mexican side of his aircraft leasing business while he was in prison north of the border.
Interestingly, on March 17, 2010, which was about a month after bankruptcy was declared, a temporary protective order was placed by Barnardo Cárdenas Cota on 13 aircraft owned by Wing Financial. Cárdenas Cota has been linked to the “loss” of ten million pesos (approximately $760,000) related to the construction of a sports complex in Los Mochis, a coastal city in nothern Sinaloa, Mexico.
Esquino Nuñez enters the picture – and moves to the foreground
And as a curious aside, included in the 13 planes was a jet owned by Jasper Knabb, ex- Chief Executive Officer of Pegasus Wireless Corp. Wing Financial acted as the shell company that financed Mr. Knabb’s Gulfstream II. In July of last year Mr. Knabb pleaded guilty to securities fraud related to a $25 million scheme to sell shares for bad debt, with the proceeds then shunted over to Mr. Knabb, his family, and friends.
Mr. Esquino’s legal troubles are far from over, despite his release from jail in Mexico. He recently had two planes seized: one in Arizona, and the other in Monterrey, Mexico.
On April 18 his still-active US-based company, Starwood Management, filed suit against the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration for forfeiture and penalties, presumably in the hopes of getting his plane back.
And now he is upping the ante by promising more damning evidence against Mr. Gillispie.
What is he doing?
In La politica’s opinion, he is promising the Mexican authorities he can deliver them a conviction, in the hopes of buying his freedom.
This is a huge case in Mexico. President Cardenas himself has put the credibility of his administration on the line, having claimed that the arrest of Ms. Vanier and others is proof that Mexico, the United States, and Canada have a successful security partnership.
We don’t yet know the whole truth of how this alleged plot saw the light of day, but one thing is certain: the cat is out of the bag, and now it must be fed.
(NB – No information on this blog post derives from interviews with individuals in Mexico, including the defence team, which has yet to depose Mr. Esquino. This content is based exclusively on third parties outside of Mexico, court documents, and La politica’s own investigations.)
Good Intentions Gone Awry at Veritas
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader, March 26, 2012
… Gregory Gillispie heads Veritas Worldwide Security. In December, he identified two of the people arrested with Vanier — Coronado resident Gabriela de Cueto and the Danish man — as his business partners.
Prominently featured in local stories about the alleged Gaddafi smuggling plot was Chula Vista police chief David Bejarano, listed as an officer on the website of a company called Veritas Worldwide Solutions.
Few of the questions raised by the arrests in Mexico have been answered. But San Diegans may be more interested in matters closer to home. What are — or were — Veritas Worldwide Solutions and Veritas Worldwide Security?
Immediately after the story broke in local papers, Veritas Worldwide Solutions began to distance itself from Veritas Worldwide Security. Today, the only remaining sign of Veritas on the internet is its Facebook page.
At the top of the Facebook wall is “Veritas Worldwide Solutions” in bold type. The “Company Overview” section reads:
“Headquartered in San Diego, California, Veritas Worldwide Security, Inc. is in the ideal location to provide Personal Security Detachments (PSD) to both American and Mexican clienteles. With kidnapping and border violence at unprecedented highs, VW Security can provide safety and peace of mind for a wide range of domestic and international scenarios.”
Before veritas-worldwide.com, the website the two companies shared, was taken down, its pages described security protection services, tactical training, port and maritime security services, and a training facility, Veritas Worldwide Ranch. “Nestled in the heart of Texas, Veritas Worldwide Ranch (VWR) is also the heart of our companies,” read the ranch page. “Simply put, the Ranch is where the majority of our training will happen.”
Seven vice presidents at Veritas Worldwide Solutions were listed.
Chula Vista police chief David Bejarano, through his association with Veritas, was at first linked with Gaddafi smuggling plot.
Bejarano was the executive vice president of law enforcement training. A biography touted his service in the United States Marines and the San Diego Police Department, where he was chief of police for four years, as well as his time as a United States Marshal, when he chaired a federal narcotics enforcement initiative.
Michael Najera, an ex–port commissioner, was listed as vice president of acquisitions, Gregory Gillispie as vice president of special operations, Antonio Martínez Luna as vice president of Latin American operations, and Joseph Casas, a former candidate for Chula Vista city attorney, as chief executive officer.
Until recently, Casas was listed with the secretary of state as the agent of process for Veritas Worldwide Security, Inc. Now, Gregory Gillispie is listed. The corporation was registered on January 14, 2011.
In a February 27 interview, Casas said that he and Gregory Gillispie had founded both Veritas companies, but Veritas Worldwide Solutions was “in the fledgling stages.” He said he knew nothing about renting a plane to Cynthia Vanier. Casas said he and Gillispie “stopped talking last August. The first time I heard of him doing anything was this Gaddafi smuggling.” Casas said of Gillispie, “I am not sure how he is involved. He told me, ‘Hey, we were just the enterprise renting the car.’ He insists he did not use Veritas’ name.”
According to Casas, his initial understanding with Gillispie was that Veritas Worldwide Security was only to be “a California security company — think of it like a glorified mall cop company. The charter for that company, the role, was only to do work in California.”
Casas said he was familiar with Gabriela de Cueto, the Coronado woman who was arrested with Cynthia Vanier in Mexico. Casas said he knew her through the Hispanic community in San Diego, which he described as small. He said she had sent some clients his way.
He reiterated many times that he condemned the alleged smuggling plot. “We had a structure just like the military: nothing was supposed to be done without the other partner’s knowledge.… If that’s what occurred, it’s a rogue operation, if that’s what it turns out to be.”
A frustrated Casas said he is in the process of dissolving his relationship with Gillispie and the security company. “I spent so much time building a corporate identity, trying to give it a look of truth and justice,” he said. “It takes a long time to make a good name for yourself.”
The Solutions side of Veritas never really got off the ground, according to Casas. “Never had a contract out the door.”
When asked what kind of organization Veritas Worldwide Solutions was intended to be, Casas replied, “The company was formed with the idea of providing training to the United States military and law enforcement forces.”
Often, according to Casas, the Department of Defense doesn’t have enough personnel to run training. For example, “They don’t have enough personnel for explosive-ordnance-disposal type of training. Our mission was to provide that.
“All of the folks that were involved at the time [when the company was conceived] had impressive veteran careers. I mean, you look at Chief Bejarano, for example, he was a distinguished Marine. [We were all] distinguished Marines. We all pride ourselves on dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s.”
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