Relations between the U.S. and Mexico were extremely tense when the DEA’s top boss in Mexico City decided to throw himself a birthday party. It was late October of 2020, and Mexico’s president was furious over the DEA’s arrest of a top military general accused of cartel corruption. But at the fiesta, the mood was jovial. There was drinking and food and a mariachi band to entertain the guests.
The attendees included several high-ranking Mexican officials, along with a few bigwigs from other U.S. law enforcement agencies. At least one person left wondering how the host, who was celebrating his 50th birthday, managed to score a taxpayer-funded house so large and outside the zones typically authorized for housing for senior U.S. officials in Mexico City. One person described the house as a “mega-mansion.”
The party was one of several events that contributed to the downfall of regional director Nick Palmeri, who quietly retired from the DEA last year one day before he was due to be fired. Parts of his undoing, including allegedly improper meetings with defense attorneys who represent cartel members, have recently been made public. But there’s far more to the story, including bitter infighting at the highest levels of the DEA, allegedly