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(Zoltan Gergely Kelemen/MTI via AP)
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Former agent: Money transfers may help dismantle Middle East groups in Mexico

(Zoltan Gergely Kelemen/MTI via AP)

PHOENIX — A former border agent believes an investigation into money transfers between the Middle East and Mexico could be key to dismantling terror cells south of Arizona’s border.

“That is just the tip of the iceberg as far as this situation is concerned because, for years, the United States intelligence and law enforcement communities have been aware of (terror) cells operating in cities in Central and South America,” retired Immigration and Naturalization Service special agent Neville Cramer said.

Cramer also said the investigation could lead to some sort of human trafficking organization.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office began investigating contact between people in Mexico and the Middle East after six Middle Eastern men were arrested crossing the border in November. Agents ran background checks on all the men and no “derogatory information” was found.

However, investigators found suspicious wire transfers sent from people with Middle Eastern names and from countries in the Middle East and Africa to two cities in Mexico: Tapachula and Nogales.

Cramer said investigators will likely find the source of the transfers.

“It will help us a great deal in finding out where they are because you cannot move people and equipment around the world without money,” he said, adding that he believes the money could be tied to terrorist organizations.

Brnovich’s office said Tapachula received the most money from a sender with a Middle Eastern connection. The city in southern Mexico is a hub of human smuggling for migrants.

Nogales, located on the border of Arizona and Mexico, received the second-most amount of money.

Brnovich said the investigation is still underway.

Gov. Doug Ducey said he is unaware of the investigation but works closely with Brnovich’s office when necessary.

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