It had the makings of a dramatic story: Members of a Mexican drug cartel on Saturday took control of two ranches in Laredo, Texas, as the ranch owners fled for their lives.
If only it were true.
The tale, reported by Dan Amato, a Pennsylvania anti-immigration blogger, gained traction throughout the blogosphere. Amato, who blogs under the name of Digger, claimed that members of Los Zetas — dangerous Mexican gunmen heavily involved in the international drug trade and other criminal activities — had crossed from Mexico into Texas and taken over the two ranches in the border city of Laredo. “The source is law enforcement in the area,” Amato wrote from his perch some 1,800 miles away.
In truth, Amato’s source was Jeff Schwilk, the bellicose leader of the virulent San Diego Minutemen anti-immigration group, as Amato subsequently revealed. Schwilk’s home base is about 1,300 miles from Laredo. And Schwilk’s source? Another San Diego anti-immigration diehard, Kimberly Dvorak. She wrote on Saturday at Examiner.com that the so-called ranches takeover “could be deemed an act of war against the sovereign borders of the United States.”
No such pronouncements were forthcoming from the White House or the State Department. Perhaps that’s because the Amato-Schwilk-Dvorak troika appears to be trafficking in pure fiction.
At least a few real-life reporters contacted local authorities about the supposed international incident. Haven’t heard a word about it, said the Laredo Police Department. Same here, said the Webb County Sheriff’s Department. Ditto, added the U.S. Border Patrol.
As Amato began fielding skeptical queries later on Saturday, he disclosed that contrary to his moniker of “Digger,” he did no digging at all to determine the veracity of the story. Instead, he relied on second-hand and third-hand information, first from Schwilk, then Dvorak. The latter supposedly “had made multiple confirmations within the Laredo Police Department.” At that point, Amato said, “the story to me … was 100% confirmed.”
Amato had a simple explanation as to why local law enforcement said they knew nothing of the brazen actions by Los Zetas. With the deluge of media phone calls, “there may indeed by (sic) a bona-fide news blackout as they try to resolve the situation,” he wrote. “The story is still developing and I’ll report more as I find out,” the Digger added on Saturday.
Amato did not immediately respond to an email from Hatewatch today asking if he still stands by his story. Apparently, the “story” is still developing.