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[00:00:00]

And I heart radio, we bring you the best podcasts from the Ron Burgundy show to the Breakfast Club to stuff you should know really all of today's biggest names. But each of these shows started with an idea and now we want yours. We're looking to you for the next great podcast. Simply go to the next great podcast, Dotcom, to get the details and submit your pitch will select up to 10 semifinalists and give them a thousand dollars to produce a pilot.

[00:00:29]

Then listeners from across the world will vote on their favorite to decide the next great podcast. Enter today at next. Great podcast, Dotcom. That's next. Great podcast, Dotcom. Why shouldn't the next great podcast come from you? Forgotten is a production of IHOP, media and unusual productions before we start, this podcast contains accounts which some listeners will find disturbing, but without them, the story can't be fully understood. Please take care while listening. Previously on Forgotten.

[00:01:10]

It was like a perfect storm. You have the women coming from southern Mexico desperate for work to help their families to come work at the maquiladoras like antelopes at the water hole. I had an eyewitness who alleged that he had been at these parties where these women would be brought into this, not here are the bad guys and the good guys. There were no good guys. Everybody was involved.

[00:01:35]

That's another misnomer about drug trafficking, is that it's Mexican groups invading the United States. No Mexicans and Americans working together to produce, to transport, to smuggle, to sell drugs.

[00:01:53]

The first time Monica took me to meet Dinah Washington Valdez, I was overwhelmed. Over the course of three hours, she talked about young women being selected for murder and about a network of computer schools used to get details on victims who vanished from crowded streets. She also told us that she'd had to stop reporting in Juarez because of death threats she received.

[00:02:15]

One was traced back to a Mexican military intelligence with the help of a source in US law enforcement and among all of Dianna's law enforcement sources, there was one person she suggested that we tried to track down for an interview.

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And you talk to her. The conflict is very friendly and he probably will be a very good source of information for you.

[00:02:38]

Crawford was one of the most senior government officials on the US Mexico border. He became a special agent in charge of the FBI's El Paso office in 2001. That was the year that Alejandro was abducted on her way home from work and the year that eight women's bodies were discovered at the cotton field. And Hardrock took a special interest in the fate of the women even traveling across the border to better understand what was happening to them. Crawford says when he made a trip to Juarez to downtown with one of his assistants, they looked around and said, yeah, this is where they pick their victims.

[00:03:15]

This is where they see them coming and this is where they're taken. The slogan of the activist community against the murder of women in Juarez is enormous. Hamas, not one more. It's a phrase Diana inscribed in my copy of her book. And with an ally of Hardwicke's influence, the goal seemed within reach. Then something happened here because there are a lot of weird things about what's going on with him to this day.

[00:03:43]

It is inexplicable. It's comforting to imagine that the weird and inexplicable parts of this story take place on the Mexican side of the border. But its fate disturbs that narrative. To understand it, we had to talk to him ourselves about how he became outspoken on the women's murders and about what happened to him by the time I get to El Paso.

[00:04:11]

I'm stunned and amazed at the response of our colleagues in Mexico to an enormous crime, a mind numbing crime. But also not stupid, I know that's not our country. He was well aware that back in 1999, the FBI had offered to help local Juarez police solve the women's murders as part of Operation Plaza Sweep. In fact, by coincidence, the agent who led the operation, Frank Evans, have been harder, his former partner from their rookie days in Cleveland, Ohio.

[00:04:46]

So Hardrock knew that the Juarez authorities had twisted the bureau's findings before to pile more blame on scapegoats. But looking out the window of his office towards Juarez, where young women were being brutally murdered with impunity, he felt he had to try to do something. I have members in my own office who have women in their family in Mexico. And the fact that I have two daughters, it affects you, it affects you on a personal level. How could I face my own office and sit there and do nothing like Pontius Pilate, just wash my hands?

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So it was a delicate balance of, OK, how do I perform this mission and at the same time not meddle in the affairs of a sovereign nation?

[00:05:34]

And that was the crux, these murders, they were happening within sight of Hardwicke's office, but outside of his jurisdiction, I was keenly aware that you can step on a landmine in that regard if you did.

[00:05:51]

But maybe I just got injured, I'm still blown to bits. So what did happen to Hardrock and did his fate connect in any way to the list of people who'd investigated these murders and ended up threatened, discredited or dead? I must Voloshin. And I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe. This is forgotten. The women of Juarez I the body politic system. But I'm little out there, she's so brave, you know, now she's got some. Since the early 1990s, young women have been disappearing from the streets of Juarez and turning up dead, often dumped in the desert, there were forced confessions and changed statements.

[00:07:09]

Flores was far from alone amongst the victims mothers in believing that the authors of the crimes remain free. Oscar Myners, the Juarez chief forensics officer, resigned after being asked to plant evidence on two bus drivers of the cotton field and the lawyers who defended them. Mario Escobedo Jr. and Dante Amara's were both assassinated. Even reporters who were American citizens like Diana Washington Valdez and Alfredo Corchado received death threats as they got closer to the truth.

[00:07:39]

That's what made Hardwick's arrival at the border in 2001 and his personal interest in solving these crimes a potentially huge turning point.

[00:07:48]

It looked like the authors of the crimes might finally have met their match. But how did the special agent in charge of El Paso get so deeply invested in crimes taking place in another country? To understand that, we have to go back to Hardwicke's assignment to the border.

[00:08:06]

I was angry with God for that. I worked hard.

[00:08:11]

And as you can imagine, you know, let's be candid. You're not a black S.A.C. unless you're on top of your game. And Hardrock was on top of his game. He was the most senior FBI agent on the African continent when he responded to Osama bin Laden's bombing of the American embassy in Kenya. And he'd been the number two in the bureau's Miami office taking on the Colombian cartel and their drug smuggling operations.

[00:08:38]

The danger was tons of cocaine flooding our cities, making zombies American citizens. Come on, let's face it. I'm an African American. I saw up front and close in Cleveland what cocaine did to my community. And so the way I saw this is war. You're destroying my country from within, and so there was no hesitation to take them on. In 2001, Hardrock was up for promotion to the coveted position of sasy or special agent in charge. There were two such openings at the time, El Paso and Cleveland, Ohio, where Heidrick had grown up.

[00:09:18]

And he made an impassioned case to the FBI deputy director to return home.

[00:09:23]

And I went, I'm a Cleveland kind of guy says, you want to be an S.A.C.. You're an El Paso kind of guy. I called the wife and said, we're going to El Paso. She was no little down, no one. Cleveland was open and we didn't get it. But number two, it almost nearly as important as that will speak Spanish.

[00:09:42]

I felt that all those times that I risked my life for the bureau and you reward me by sending me to the border where I can speak Spanish. So I was hurt. But I'm a professional, so you give him the job in some sense because you're an outsider, correct? An outsider with a sterling reputation for management and leadership. So the FBI office in El Paso kind of has a reputation as one of the early special agents in charge had to resign in disgrace after being caught selling weapons to Mexican revolutionaries.

[00:10:22]

And another special agent from that office was murdered, which is the only unsolved murder of an FBI agent in the line of duty in the bureau's history. So what makes the posting so hard? In El Paso?

[00:10:38]

We all have some sort of ties to Juarez, to Mexico. So the opportunities for corruption are vast for law enforcement. That presents a huge challenge unlike anywhere else in the country, because of these binational ties, those connections can get you in trouble.

[00:10:58]

Family, culture, business. And in fact, it's absolutely necessary for the black market to thrive, for the corruption to exist on both sides of the border. And so, yeah, you could see the mentality behind sending an outsider like Hardrock Crawford in thinking, all right, he's not going to be susceptible to these same kinds of weaknesses.

[00:11:24]

Central to Hardwicke's mission in El Paso was stopping the flow of drugs into the US to do this, you have to keep an eye not just on Mexican drug traffickers, but on his own colleagues. After all, he'd been assigned to the border partly because his background made conflicts of interest unlikely.

[00:11:42]

And in 2002, Hardrock led an investigation that revealed a translator in his office was selling information to the cartel. It's like one of your family has said, because we were a family in a field office. And to discover that because you trust everybody implicitly. So, yeah, that was like a dagger to the heart. Yes. And that was one of our prime missions, public corruption. Cartels, they're bad guys, but if it's a corrupt US official, our very institutions are at stake.

[00:12:11]

I spoke to Frank Evans, I guess your partner in Cleveland, right? I remember Frank. Yes. And he said that basically the cartels couldn't operate their smuggling operations if it weren't for corrupted U.S. officials.

[00:12:24]

He's correct. They're much more efficient if they can bribe at that point of entry instead of having to sneak in, just drive it right through. In Juarez, La Linea enforced the cartels power by corrupting officials to the extent the policemen were kidnapping women, this wasn't happening in El Paso, but the same money could buy silence or complicity on either side of the border. So he had his hands full, but he was still in search of a higher purpose in El Paso.

[00:12:57]

That's when he received a letter from a group of activists in Juarez. They sent me this passionate letter asking for assistance in addressing this horrible, tragic crime of the murder of these women in Juarez. I was caught off guard. It was not us. Help us know it was Hardrock Crawford. Help us. It hit me on a personal level, more so than it did on a professional level. It sounds funny, but I thought, OK, now I know why God sent me to El Paso was this this was the reason I was sent here.

[00:13:30]

Hardrock had been angry with God for his posting, but after receiving this letter, the situation was beginning to make sense to him. It was 2002, just a few months after eight women's bodies have been discovered at the cotton field and in response to the letter, offered the FBI's resources in profiling, forensics and even training to the Juarez police. But he recognized that stopping the murders of women requires political will. And that's when he took the highly unusual step of appearing on ABC News to publicly criticize Mexico's response to the crimes.

[00:14:07]

Increasingly, Mexican police and government officials are under fire from people here in the U.S.. There appears to be no meaningful effort to solve the disappearances, all of the resources of the FBI are available to our Mexican colleagues. Such matters, DNA, blood, typing, profiling, the response from the Mexicans to that offer.

[00:14:30]

Heretofore, the response has been they have these matters in hand and don't require our assistance.

[00:14:37]

Audrey's words were cloaked in official language, but there was no doubting the message. He was claiming on national television that the murders of women in Juarez were not being solved because Mexican officials didn't want to solve them, not just the street cops who abducted women, but their bosses, perhaps even their bosses bosses. And this accusation wasn't coming from a journalist or an activist. It was coming from a US government official. But Heidrick strategy wasn't just about public complaints.

[00:15:10]

It was also about private alliances. When we come back, the FBI agent begins to make powerful friends in Juarez. I don't know if I my was.

[00:15:34]

He was an unimaginable crime. There's blood all over the house. It was the second biggest mass murder in 2016 behind the Pulse nightclub shooting.

[00:15:43]

Eight people dead, all from the same family. It would become the largest criminal investigation in Ohio's history.

[00:15:51]

Pike County sheriffs requested state help immediately after they got word in the early morning of April 22nd, 2016.

[00:15:59]

Eight members of the Rowden family were brutally murdered, shot to death execution style in their homes.

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Eight victims, 32 gunshot wounds, three children left alive at the scene. This is the PYKEN massacre.

[00:16:20]

Listen to the pectin massacre on the I Heart radio app, on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. At the same time as Hardrock was castigating Mexican officials on television, he made it his mission to develop personal relationships with Juarez's powerbrokers.

[00:16:48]

I used to travel to wars quite frequently. I became friends with a Mexican businessman at the racetrack in Juarez. And when you're on the border, you're your liaison. It includes foreign liaison with the other field offices don't have. The friend he mentions is Jose Maria Guardia. He was a complicated figure. He'd been invited to George W. Bush's presidential inauguration, but he's also been caught up in a bribery scandal with the U.S. consular official.

[00:17:17]

In fact, he would later come to light that when Heidrick arrived at the border, Guardia was a confidential informant for the FBI. That's something Hardrock told us he was never informed of by his own office, who made the initial introduction that was lent to him by my media rep, who fully understood that liaison was critical to my performance. So I struck up a relationship with him, likeable fellow, went to the racetrack with him, and at the racetrack he would bring various officials.

[00:17:47]

Racetracks have a long history of association with corruption and organized crime, a problem endemic to Juarez. But Guardia had friends who vouched for him, and one in particular made a big impression on Hardrock.

[00:18:00]

He's really, really close friendship with Cardinal Sandoval, who was on the short list for the pope when the pope died. That to a large extent assuaged any concerns or fears that I might have not only did the Cardinal endorse Guardia, but he became something of a spiritual guide for Hardrock, how to describe the cardinal as a great ally in the fight against corruption and for justice for the women.

[00:18:26]

I was baptized by by the cardinal and my religious faith. Yes, they did have a part to play. And it was not quite the mission that Diana Valdés Washington has with regard to these terrible crimes.

[00:18:42]

But I had an official and a moral mission that I felt that I was empowered on a different level than the US Constitution. I was beginning to see his mission in terms of a higher calling, superceding even his duty to the Constitution. And at the same time as he was publicly calling out officials in Juarez, he was privately trying to get Buy-In from the right people, and he saw the racetrack as the ideal place to do it. It was a place that was insulated from cartel violence because it was a useful place for all kinds of people to do business.

[00:19:17]

Criminals, almost certainly, but also the city's wealthy industrialists and official power brokers.

[00:19:24]

From my ability to be at the Juarez racetrack, I became really, really good liaison friends with the cardinal, with the mayor of Warriors, with the chief of police of Juarez, with the governor of Chihuahua. They would all come to the racetrack. What a great place to effect liaison. I wasn't stupid, I was aware that at any time any one individual that I'm meeting could have been corrupted by the cartel, of course, but he can't do business with that premise.

[00:19:53]

Did you talk about the killings of the women that he on meeting with the mayor of Warez and with the chief of police? Yes, I was very impressed with the chief of warriors, not so impressed with his police officers. But at the same time, I was also aware that there are certain things that the chief of police of Juarez would never do because he wants to live. He doesn't want to harm his family. So there are limitations.

[00:20:18]

No, I don't care how honest you are, how competent you are. The cartel looms large. These meetings at the racetrack were taking place before La Linea became public knowledge, thanks to Alfredo's reporting.

[00:20:35]

But the cartel's ability to enforce silence was clear to Heidrich, the chief of police seemed like an ally in stopping the murders of women. But if he stuck out his neck too far, he might well end up dead himself, whereas Hardwicke's informants indicated that the cartel considered him untouchable.

[00:20:54]

They reported back that the cartel is scratching their heads. What do we do about this guy, Crawford?

[00:21:01]

And one of the responses was. Are you crazy? You do something to the FBI, S.A.C., do you have any idea what that crazy cowboy Bush would do? So I kind of chuckled. He felt emboldened, even obliged to use his protected status to speak out, to force a conversation that would go way above local officials and catch the attention of Mexico's federal government. In other words, to generate the kind of political pressure that went beyond even what activists like Esther Chavez, Cano and mothers like Paola Flores could achieve alone.

[00:21:39]

There appears to be no meaningful effort to solve the disappearances.

[00:21:44]

Hardrock was consciously stoking international media attention on the femicide for someone in Juarez like Dante or Mario Escobedo. This was fatal. But a special agent in charge of El Paso, Hardrock didn't believe he had as much to fear from Molina. Nonetheless, after his interview, he did receive a warning, but it came from the last place he expected. There's no question it annoyed and infuriated some. I'm sure I do recall some suggesting that I might temper my words.

[00:22:20]

Because big business is involved and I'm going, what do you mean big business is involved? Well, the maquiladoras are American companies. And if the maquiladoras are getting bad press because of the murder of women and workers, many of them are maquiladoras workers. It looks bad for American companies who are doing business down there.

[00:22:40]

And you might wind up making enemies of people on this side of the border without being aware that you are. Who gave you that warning? You know, I can't remember, but it was 17 years ago. Now I'm not remembering, but I was being told to knock it off, leave it alone. It's not your problem. In his interview with ABC News, Hardrock didn't make any explicit connection between the victims and the maquiladoras, but elsewhere in the broadcast, the journalist John Quinonez did.

[00:23:16]

Prominent in the piece was an account of the last day of Claudia Gonzalez, who was turned away from her job at the Coke factory for being a few minutes late. Her body was subsequently discovered in the cotton fields. The inherent vulnerability of these young women because of their work was clear. And then there was an interview with Roberto Urrea, the spokesman for the McKeyla Association in Juarez. He was asked what responsibility the factories had for the murder of so many young female employees.

[00:23:48]

This was his response. Where were these young ladies, where they were seen last, where they drinking right? Where they were with where they partying? Were they in a dark street?

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Victim blaming, just as Juarez authorities had done before broadcast on national television in the US, it was not a good look for the industry and it was unfortunate that Hardrock didn't remember the key detail of who had warned him against bringing more bad press to the maquilas because it was reminiscent of the warnings Alfredo had received in Mexico when he started asking questions about La Linea. Tancredo, be careful. We've already established how the drug traffickers use the murder of women to create bonds of loyalty and how they had local police on their payroll, but the idea that Juarez is legitimate businesses which were often run with American partners, might also want to hush up the murders of women.

[00:24:52]

This was opening up a whole new web of potential responsibility for these women's deaths. So up until this point, the maquiladoras, the factories have been looming in the background of our reporting, but his Hardrock moniker saying that his activism basically left him getting a warning to leave the maquilas alone. And I'm frankly surprised they would have enough influence to deliver that kind of warning to a senior FBI agent. How powerful are these economic interests?

[00:25:28]

The Makela industry is the backbone of the Juarez economy, and trade between the U.S. and Mexico generates more than half a trillion dollars every year. Millions of jobs in the U.S. are tied to trade. And in Juarez, you'll find companies like Boeing, like Dell, General Electric, Johnson and Johnson manufacturing things. There's probably something you use in your everyday life that was made in Juarez, whether it's the seek cover in your Ford or maybe your Mercedes Benz, the inside of your washing machine, your laptop computer or your dog's chew toy.

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It doesn't matter if you live hundreds of miles away, you touch something that came from Juarez every day.

[00:26:24]

And why have all these factories set up shop in Juarez? The short answer is because it's cheaper, these companies go to Juarez to cut costs and the number one cost they cut is labor. I'll give you an example. The L.A. Times did an excellent article looking at Delphi, which is an American company that makes car parts. It was once owned by General Motors. Delphi used to have a plant in Warren, Ohio, where one of its workers got paid thirty dollars an hour.

[00:27:01]

He was able to buy a house with a swimming pool and drove a good car.

[00:27:07]

Then Delphi moved that factory to Horace, where it paid its workers just one dollar an hour, one dollar an hour. That's not a wage you can live on. Not in Juarez, not anywhere. That low of a wage is a form of exploitation, and it leaves a whole group of people vulnerable, unable to defend themselves.

[00:27:34]

And so they're preyed upon, whether it's an adolescent boy like Manuelito who gets recruited by gangs or a young woman like Zahradil who gets kidnapped and brutally murdered, they both become easy prey. Hard to believe that the best way to stop people preying on the women in Juarez was to get powerful interests in Mexico to take the crime seriously, and he was trying to use the press to achieve that goal.

[00:28:05]

That's not a crime is going to be solved in a day. It takes money invested in women who don't mean anything to the people that are in the upper class, the throwaway humans, they're unimportant. If it was their daughters, it would be different. But it was poor people and they throw their bodies away like they were garbage. That shocks the conscience type crime. As far as Hargett was concerned when he gave that interview to ABC News, the pressure he was exerting was directed towards government officials in Mexico.

[00:28:43]

But in light of the warning he received, he started to worry he may have accidentally kicked an even bigger hornet's nest.

[00:28:51]

Didn't scare me, but it made me pause. It did. It made me pause. But he didn't pause for long in a 2003 interview with a Mexican newspaper. He described the women's murders as, quote, crimes against humanity. And for a while, it looked like he was right on the cusp of interrupting the status quo and achieving his mission. A few months after Hardwick's appearance on ABC News, the FBI office in El Paso received a fax inviting him to a meeting in Juarez concerning the women's murders.

[00:29:25]

And it wasn't just any meeting. The federal drug czar who Alfredo Corchado met in Mexico City, Jose Vasconcellos, was in attendance.

[00:29:34]

And after the meeting, the president of Mexico, President Fox, spoke in public about the possibility of working with the FBI to solve the murders of women in Juarez once and for all.

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This was everything that Heidrick had been working so hard towards. And finally it felt like his efforts were bearing fruit. But that feeling wouldn't last long.

[00:30:04]

And I heart radio, we bring you the best podcasts from the biggest names, Ron Burgundy, Jack Chelsea Handler, yupp Quest. Love him, too. And the one thing these shows have in common, they all started with an idea and now we want yours. We're looking to you for the next great podcast. Do you have an idea for a podcast? Let's hear it. Any genre, any topic. We want your voice. Pitch us your show for a chance to share it with fellow podcast fans across the globe and become a part of the I Heart radio podcast family.

[00:30:36]

Simply go to next great podcast Dotcom to get the details and submit your pitch in partnership with the creative platform toggle I heart radio will select up to 10 semifinalists and give them a thousand dollars to produce a pilot episode that listeners will vote on. Their favorite to decide the next great podcast. The winning show will be made by our best in class production team and shared with listeners all around the world. Enter today at next. Great podcast, Dotcom. That's next.

[00:31:05]

Great podcast, Dotcom. Why shouldn't the next great podcast come from you? It was early 2003 and Hardrock was using the media to pressure a foreign government, he was meeting with high level officials on foreign soil and he was getting around his lack of jurisdiction in Mexico by focusing on the lack of effort to solve the murders. Meanwhile, his relationship with Jose Maria Guardia, the racetrack owner, was already straining the definition of official liaison when it crossed a definitive line.

[00:31:55]

Gaudí offer my wife a job as the public relations person at the Warriors racetrack to lure Americans over there to gamble. My wife has always been in my shadow for my whole life, and I said, Man. She'd have the opportunity to be an executive. Audrey's career had taken him and his wife, Linda, to Nairobi, Miami and now El Paso, when they both wanted to move home to Cleveland, a job at the racetrack could give Linda her own professional satisfaction.

[00:32:28]

And it also came with a salary of sixty thousand dollars a year and plenty of perks.

[00:32:34]

But as far as Hardwicke's former partner, Frank Evans, was concerned, the job offer should have been a clear red flag. I was briefed that one of the things that would probably occur is that I would be approached officially from the Mexican side in a gesture of friendship, and that's precisely what happened. My wife and I were invited to the Mexican consulate here in El Paso. And while we were there, you know, several Mexican businessmen from Juarez were also there.

[00:33:03]

And they came up and, you know, it was the oh, we're so glad to have you here. You know, the FBI can correct all these wrongs that are happening in Juarez. And then suddenly it was, you know, is your wife planning to work? You know, someone with her talent?

[00:33:18]

We could we could certainly find a spot for I always remember David Albo, who brought me to El Paso. Dave was born in Mexico. I can always remember Dave telling me you always have to remember that a snake will smile before it bites.

[00:33:38]

Frank was describing more or less exactly what Hardrock had experienced, the flattery followed by the offer and according to Frank, Hardrock should have recognized what was happening, especially considering a big part of his mandate was public corruption. And the slippery slope was a well known tactic for the cartels.

[00:33:59]

You have a concept on the border called Margita Maldita a Bite. It's where people pay policemen not to get a ticket all the way up the line. When you're dealing with the folks in Mexico, nothing is as it seems. Everybody over there has an agenda. And even, you know, your most prominent businessmen, if they're going to conduct business, they're going to have to deal with the cartel from their perspective. They may not be doing anything wrong.

[00:34:33]

However, from our perspective, you know, a bribe is a bribe.

[00:34:39]

Frank and his wife kept their distance from the Mexican businessman, but Hardrock and Linda accepted Guardia's offer. And what if his decision reached Frank, who was still living in El Paso after retiring in 2000?

[00:34:54]

When I first heard that his wife was working for the Juarez racetrack, my first thought was No, that cannot be true.

[00:35:02]

It is not true. Frank had known Hardrock for more than a decade. They'd come through FBI training at the same time and they she a car afterwards that even responded to their first bank robbery together on a snowy day in Cleveland right after graduating from the FBI Academy. Frank had worked on Mafia busts in Ohio while Hardrock had attacked Colombian cartels in Florida. In 1996, Frank responded to the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, and in 1998, Hardrock responded to the US embassy bombing in Nairobi.

[00:35:37]

And Frank had been the number two in the FBI's El Paso office before Hargett was assigned to lead it. He recalled Frank before moving to El Paso to ask for advice. So when Frank heard about Linda taking the job at the racetrack, he felt he had to intervene. He jumped in his car and drove to Hardwicke's house, expecting his old partner to hear him out. I pulled up when he was pulling weeds and I got out and said, Hey, how's it going now?

[00:36:06]

And start talking. I said, What's going on? What do you think? Is this true? If it's true, don't you realize what it looks like? Never went inside this house. We talked in the front yard.

[00:36:18]

He just let me know he was in charge and he knew what he was doing. And basically, I was retired and no longer had any official input into, you know, what the FBI was doing, which was absolutely correct. It was kind of a slap in the face. I kept thinking, you know, after all this time and the guy that, you know, both of us stood in the snow at that first bank robbery. And I thought time has changed.

[00:36:43]

You know, unfortunately, he's taken a path that is going to lead to his destruction.

[00:36:51]

Within months of Linda taking the job at the racetrack, Franks concerns about Hardwicke's friendships were realized in spectacular fashion.

[00:37:01]

Mr. Warrier and the cardinal were accused of collusion with cartels. I was like, oh, my God, moment. And so what did I do? I said a communication immediately to FBI headquarters, to men who I associate with very closely, have been accused of being implicated in organized crime. So I self reported immediately that same day, specifically, Khwaja and Sandoval were accused of colluding with the cartel to launder money at the racetrack. And although Hardrock did self report, he didn't believe his friends had done anything wrong.

[00:37:36]

In fact, the official in Mexico City who accused them had himself previously been accused of being on the cartel's payroll by Sandoval.

[00:37:46]

His unceasing pressure on the Mexican government cost him once one good way to neutralize somebody, make a counter accusation. He's a member. He's operating with the cartel. At the request of his two friends, Hardrock made the extraordinary decision of speaking at a press conference in Juarez to defend them, and when he was asked if he was speaking as a private citizen or the head of the FBI in El Paso, he answered both. I believe I said if they are involved with organized crime.

[00:38:20]

Shame on them.

[00:38:22]

I said I have no knowledge that they are. But if they are. Shame on them. I know him to be a man of God, him to be a good man.

[00:38:29]

Sandoval and Guardia was subsequently both cleared of any wrongdoing. But for an FBI agent who'd been sent to the border to avoid binational entanglements and conflicts of interest, Hardwicke's actions were unacceptable. A representative of the Mexican foreign ministry who was close to the government official who originally accused Guatemalan Sandoval complained about Hardrock to the US ambassador. The ambassador revoked Hardwicke's travel privilege in 2003. And that same year, Hardrock abruptly resigned from the FBI. By 2006, he was indicted by a grand jury for false statements regarding his relationship with Guardia and his wife's employment at the racetrack.

[00:39:12]

One of the things I was charged with was misled, and I failed to report to headquarters that Mr. Guardia and the cardinal were accused of serious crimes.

[00:39:24]

And wow, I self reported myself. What are you talking about?

[00:39:28]

The Justice Department was digging into Hardwicke's financial relationship with the racetrack owner. FBI policy prohibits employees from, quote, engaging in private business and financial relationships with subjects, witnesses or individuals furnishing information to the FBI without prior FBI headquarters approval. He maintains that he himself was not employed by Guardia and that he never tried to disguise the fact that his wife was. But they did accept perks like a country club membership and a trip to Las Vegas. But on Hardwicke's financial disclosure form in the gifts and reimbursement section, he listed none.

[00:40:11]

It's almost laughable if it wasn't so depressing, her income and her job was in my tax return, the charges that I'm accused of are things normally that are handled internally by internal affairs, not indictment.

[00:40:28]

In January 2007, he was found guilty on two of the five counts relating to false statements around financial disclosures.

[00:40:37]

He was fined ten thousand dollars and sentenced to six months at the Lewisburg prison camp in central Pennsylvania. It's a prison known for holding drug offenders and members of organized crime. The implication was huge. Without a doubt, they clearly believed that I had been seduced and stepped over the line or was acting to aid and abet those who were on the dark side. The dark side, the powerful men who were raping and murdering the women in Juarez with impunity. Was it possible that Hardrock, wittingly or not, had allied himself with the very people who were responsible for the crimes he was outspoken about preventing?

[00:41:26]

To this day, he maintains his innocence.

[00:41:29]

My brother said, Did you ever think about eating your gun? I said, I did. I did seriously consider killing myself, why? Because I've been dishonored.

[00:41:42]

I'm a knight now, I'm a tarnished knight. And I thought about sticking my nine millimeter in my mouth.

[00:41:50]

And then I said, no, then that just says that he did it because he was guilty. So that's why I didn't. I do talk to my lord about it and say, yeah, I understand pride goes before the fall and you look at me a little bit on this one day, you Lord.

[00:42:07]

But still, the bottom line is those women in Juarez, nobody seems to be caring about them. The timing of Hardwicke's downfall was uncanny and tragic, just as his activism was forcing the president of Mexico to acknowledge the unsolved murders of women and promised action, Hardwick's wife took a job at the racetrack and that began a series of events that culminated with the release of the pressure that had been building to finally take action on behalf of the women. Diana told us she's still angry with heartbreak, but in her book, she does entertain the possibility that he was set up, she writes.

[00:42:51]

A confidential intelligence source in Mexico City claimed Guardia was a U.S. intelligence asset. Crawford's wife was clean and the quote unquote, mafia wanted to get rid of the FBI official. The tip was impossible to corroborate. And in the end, Diana simply says that Hardwicke's behavior was inexplicable. We asked Frank Evans how he understood his former partner story.

[00:43:19]

Here's a guy, Crawford, who's who's charismatic, successful entourage for all these promotions, seemingly with the world at his feet in one of the most exciting field offices of the FBI. You're telling me for sixty thousand dollars a year he throws all that away.

[00:43:34]

You know, sixty thousand is what we are looking at. Hypothetically, could there have been something else? Yes, I do not know that there was. But, you know, you got to remember, even Adam took a bite of the apple. Is it a character flaw? Like I said, I don't know. I still have a hard time sometimes wrapping my hands around it and thinking about it. It's like, you know, what the heck happened.

[00:44:02]

Crawford could have had any door open he wanted in Washington, D.C., Crawford mentioned he felt a higher mission, like a mission from God to intervene in this case.

[00:44:10]

He was out in front on TV criticizing the Mexican government, calling this a crime against humanity. Why do you think he got out in front on this particular issue?

[00:44:19]

You're dealing with the lives of hundreds of women, but frequently when you work organized crime, you don't necessarily want to call the godfather. And so to his face, you want to kind of keep it on the sportsmanlike footing and then you continue to put the S or be in jail. It's the same way with whatever killing those women, you may go home and cry at night, especially when you see some of those girls there remains.

[00:44:45]

But you cry in your home alone or with your family calling the governor of Chihuahua a murderer when you need to be able to perhaps operate inside of the state of Chihuahua, that's not going to get anybody helping you.

[00:45:01]

So was undone by his ego. Was he actually corrupted or was it possible that there was some kind of conspiracy against him? I was curious how Hardrock himself interpreted what had happened to him first, his country clearance being revoked, then his indictment and ultimately his conviction and imprisonment.

[00:45:24]

To my surprise, he returned to that warning he received after his appearance on ABC News.

[00:45:30]

It occurred to me, I mean, enemies. And now this is the cost. This is the cost. I'm not stupid, I'm above average intelligence, I could see the connection. OK, big business and US ambassador, uh, Mexicans.

[00:45:46]

OK, I get it. You know, if I was a conspiracy theorist, I you know, I would say that, yes, the State Department and the US corporations who were incensed that all this attention being directed to the maquiladoras, you know, went to the administration and said, look, this guy is harming the maquiladora industry and Mexico is upset. So we're going to have to make a sacrifice on him.

[00:46:16]

The moment that Heidrick drop, this explosive hint that he was silenced by the US government who wanted to hush up the murders of women in order to protect business interests. He walked it back.

[00:46:27]

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would think things like that. But in the end, I just chalk it up to an overzealous Department of Justice or I'd say, oh, look, we can get a high ranking FBI official any.

[00:46:43]

And that's what my mind is settled on.

[00:46:46]

So, Diana, as usual, Monica is right, this saga is weird and inexplicable and is tempting to dismiss it entirely, except we know what happened to so many other people who investigated the women's murders and how one way or another, they met unpleasant fates of their own. And it's also true that these business interests are very, very significant and they profit by keeping people vulnerable. So what do you make of Hardrock story like Diana? I would say it's ambiguous.

[00:47:22]

As an outsider, Hardrock was supposed to be immune from becoming mediæval or involved, and you might say he did so naively because he was an outsider. But you could also say, you're right, I don't buy that an FBI supervisor with his level of experience couldn't see that the path he was going down would get him into trouble. But no matter what, you had this outspoken head of the FBI in El Paso highlighting the most controversial crimes on the U.S. Mexico border, and that no doubt would disturb the authors of those crimes.

[00:48:07]

And more than likely, they would want to get rid of someone like Hardrock, but they can't get rid of him in the same way they got rid of Mario covid or Dante Alvarez.

[00:48:21]

So it's plausible that the powers that be in Mexico could have used Hardwicke's relationship with Guardia and the cardinal to push him out.

[00:48:33]

Mexico is the land of smoke and mirrors. You don't know who you're dealing with, who they're allied with, whether you can trust them, who their friends are, whether or not they have ties to the dark side. It makes it very difficult to navigate and do your job. I couldn't stop thinking about Hardwicke's, quote, conspiracy theory, which went all the way from murdered women to Mexican business interests to his downfall to the State Department. So we called the U.S. ambassador who withdrew Hardwicke's country clearance in 2003 to ask him what happened next time.

[00:49:12]

I'd forgotten that conversation.

[00:49:15]

Antonio Garza Garcia, formerly the United States ambassador to Mexico, from the period November 2002 through January 2009.

[00:49:26]

And we returned to Dinah Washington Valdez, who suggests a powerful businessmen in Juarez who profited from a maquiladora industry were also involved in the murders of women. These are people that are well known not just at the border, but in Mexico nationally. You know, they have global business interests. It was scary when you sit down and think about who may be involved in the names. Oh my God, it's like, oh, my God.

[00:50:02]

Was Voloshin and I'm Monica, if this would even see you next time, I see.

[00:50:20]

Doesn't make up for the scandals in Tennessee, but a second. Forgotten, the women of Juarez is cohosted by me, Monica Ortiz Uribe and me, as often forgotten, is executive produced by me and Mangoush had tequila. Our producers are Julia Moala and Katrina Norvelle, sound editing by Gillian Weller and Jacopo Penso, Lucas Riley is our story editor. Caitlin Thompson is our consulting producer. Production support from Emily Marinus and Aaron Kaufman, recording assistants this episode from Melissa Kaplan, music by Leonardo Headlam and Akobo Lieberman additional music by Aaron Kaufman.

[00:51:40]

I it's all here, I'd like to recommend another show, it's called Darknet Diaries, and it's sort of like a True Crime Meets Cybercrime podcast. They go into stories about hackers breaches and even government hacking, but often they interview the person behind the attack to get the firsthand story of why they did it, how they did it and what the consequences were. It's a show about how our lives online can make us unexpectedly vulnerable. Listen and subscribe to Internet diaries on the hot radio app or wherever you listen to podcasts.