• Photo Gallery: 3/30: Homecoming SOUTH EL MONTE – Family and friends of soldiers on Friday welcomed home their fighting men and women from a 13-month deployment in Iraq. More than 120 U.S. Army reservists from or attached to the 250th Transportation Company arrived at the U.S. Army Reserve Center in South El Monte by bus about 5 p.m., greeted by welcoming banners and loved ones holding balloons. Eva Howard anxiously waited for the arrival of her husband, Sgt. Ryan Howard, with their children, Franchesca, 6, Chaonaeene, 9, and 8-month-old twins, Ryan Jr. and Collin. Phariss was especially proud of the service of Sgt. Jose Lazo of Panorama City, who he credited for saving his life. “If it wasn’t for \, me and my driver wouldn’t be here,” said Phariss. “The guy was solid, he did what he had to do. He’s one of the heroes of Iraq.” On Aug. 24, 2006, Phariss’ three-man vehicle was ambushed while escorting civilian trucks, said Phariss. A ferocious 30-minute close-quarter firefight ensued against insurgents who had them greatly outnumbered, he said. While Phariss exited the vehicle under fire and rescued four civilian contractors, Lazo engaged the enemy with his machine gun, holding them at bay until help could arrive. Both Phariss and Lazo have been recommended for the Bronze Star for bravery as a result of that day, Phariss said. Three soldiers are to be presented with Purple Hearts today, and three more are pending, Army officials said. Brigade Cmdr. Wendy McGuire of the 1397th Transportation Terminal Brigade is also pleased with the service of the 250th. “They had a very busy deployment,” she said, “and they really pulled together to get the job done.” Although out of the line of fire, returning soldiers have new challenges to face as they deal with the psychological tolls combat can take, Phariss said. “Everyone’s excited to see their familied right now,” he said, “but in a couple of weeks, people are going to need to check themselves out. Nearly everyone here has seen somebody get killed or a dead body.” The Army has chaplains and other services in place to help recently deployed service members, “make the transition back into civilian life,” said 63rd Regional Readiness Command spokeswoman Patricia Ryan. Phariss, a member of the 211th Transportation Co. who was attached to the 250th during its recent deployment, plans to rejoin his old unit and redeploy to Iraq in six months, he said. “I love being a soldier,” Phariss said, “No one can take what I’ve done in the military away from me.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2105160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “Ever since he left, it’s been hard,” said Howard, who had not seen her husband since Christmas, “You’ve just got to take it day by day.” Soldiers also congratulated each other on their safe return as shouts of, “I knew we’d make it,” echoed across the Reserve center. David Phariss, staff sergeant and truck commander of the Night Rider 23 Combat Logistics Patrol, is proud of the work his soldiers did in Iraq. “They did very well,” the Huntington Beach resident said. “We kept the casualties to a minimum. I’m one of the older guys, and to see all these young guys get back uninjured feels good.”
APTN National NewsLake St. Martin First Nation was swept away in the 2011 spring floods. The buildings were wiped out, and all of the community members were evacuated.A new, temporary village is being built while the people of Lake St. Martin wait in hotels in Winnipeg. But they say their stay is becoming uncomfortable.APTN National News reporter Meagan Fiddler finds out why.
Images of Jimmy CournoyerBy Jorge Barrera APTN National NewsA Drug Enforcement Administration probe that began in Akwesasne, a Mohawk community straddling the Canada-U.S. border, led to the take-down of a 33 year-old Quebec playboy who managed an international, billion dollar drug operation with links to the Italian Mafia and a Mexican cocaine cartel, court documents show.Jimmy Cournoyer, known as Cosmo, admitted this week in U.S. federal in New York City to heading an organization known as the “Consortium” that moved hundreds of thousands of kilograms of British Columbia-grown marijuana into the United States through Akwesasne and down to New York City.The DEA said the Consortium used cash from marijuana sales to buy cocaine from the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico which was then moved into Canada.In addition to the Sinaloa cartel, the sprawling organization was linked by the DEA to the Hells Angels and the Rizzuto and Bonanno crime families. The Consortium not only dealt in marijuana and cocaine, but also pills and guns.At the centre of this sprawling and lucrative underworld operation were three Akwesasne men who controlled the movement of money and marijuana across the Canada-U.S. border for the Consortium and made so much cash off the enterprise they hid millions of dollars inside their home furniture, according to court documents.The U.S. prosecutors on the case also filed a list of Cournoyer’s “co-conspirators” that included dozens of people from Akwesasne, including one of the most prominent businessmen, along with his son and another man, Richard “Acid” Adams, who was indicted in New York State and Pennsylvania for marijuana smuggling, but has been missing since 2009. Some in the community say he is dead, others say he’s hiding-out overseas.It was the DEA’s case against Akwesasne men Randolf Square, Kenneth Cree and David Sunday that eventually led to Cournoyer who was living a Hollywood-movie worthy life complete with Rizzuto crime family associates as his drivers, body guards and enforcers while he went hand-in-hand with a professional model girlfriend and drove one of the fastest street-legal cars in the world between parties graced by movie stars.While DEA agents were investigating Square, Cree and Sunday, who were indicted in 2009 for their alleged role in moving marijuana and cash back and forth across the border via the St. Lawrence River, they managed to get the Montreal kingpin in their sights.“During the course of the investigation leading to the indictments and prosecution of Square, DEA agents indentified the Canadian leadership responsible for controlling the flow of illegal narcotics through the Akwesasne transportation networks run by (Square, Sunday and Cree) and other high level defendants indicted in Square,” said the court filing. “Rather than indict the Canadian leadership at the time and supersede these defendants into the Square case…the government elected to continue to investigate these targets because of an intriguing new development.”DEA agents discovered Cournoyer’s Consortium would bring in marijuana from British Columbia in transport trucks fitted with hidden compartments. The shipments would then be divided into smaller portions and taken across the St. Lawrence River by the Akwesasne network on boats and snowmobiles in winter, also fitted with hidden compartments.The marijuana would primarily be taken to a portion of Akwesasne known as Snye, which sits in Quebec, but is only accessible by road through the U.S. There, the marijuana would be put into pick-up trucks, also fitted with hidden compartments, and transported down to New York City stash houses in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Cournoyer also had stash houses in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and California.U.S. authorities say the Hells Angels biker gang was also involved in the bulk transportation of the marijuana in transport trucks.DEA agents discovered that a Montreal Consortium member named Mario “Diego” Racine would arrange for the transport of the marijuana across the Canada-U.S. border through the Akwesasne transportation networks.The DEA investigators also discovered that rather than trying to launder the tens of millions of dollars in cash from marijuana sales, the Consortium used it to buy cocaine smuggled into the U.S. by the Sinaloa cartel. Cournoyer’s Consortium would ship tens of millions of dollars from New York to California and Arizona to purchase cocaine for eventual distribution in Canada.“Resulting in enormous profits, but also effectively laundering the money without the need for any cash to cross international borders,” according to a filing by U.S. prosecutors.The DEA then set to work on infiltrating the Consortium using wiretaps, informants, physical and electronic surveillance and undercover sting operations. The investigation led to the seizure of about 50 kilograms of cocaine along with several million dollars worth of drug money.U.S. prosecutors contemplated indicting Cournoyer and the Consortium leaders as part of the Square case, but elected to keep them separate, court filings show.The court filings, however, are silent on how the cocaine money was eventually laundered or how the cocaine made it into Canada.APTN National News has obtained an affidavit from the RCMP used to obtain a search warrant during Operation Cancun in 2008 that states Canadian authorities believe large quantities of cocaine are smuggled north through Akwesasne.Canadian authorities, however, have never made any large scale cocaine busts in the area.The Consortium’s modus operandi of using marijuana cash to buy cocaine is also not new.APTN National News has already reported on a separate case involving individuals under surveillance during Operation Cancun who were indicted in Massachusetts for also using pot cash to buy coke from the Sinaloa cartel in California for eventual distribution in Canada. In this case, marijuana, smuggled through Akwesasne, was distributed to Boston and New York City and stored in stash houses in Queens.That case is also silent on how the cocaine moved into Canada.Cournoyer will be sentenced on Sept. [email protected]@JorgeBarrera