Photo: Casino Royale
A Mexican judge handed down sentences of between 75-100 years in prison to seven defendants convicted of participating in an August 2011 arson attack on a casino here that killed 52 people, judicial officials said.
The defendants each got 50-year sentences for homicide and another 25 years for criminal conspiracy, while one of them, Julio Tadeo Berrones, was sentenced to an additional 25 years due to his prior criminal record.
A spokesman for the court in Monterrey, capital of the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon, told Efe Friday that Tadeo Berrones was on parole at the time of the attack.
The others defendants convicted in the case were identified as Juan Angel Leal, Jonathan Jahir Reyna, Luis Carlos Carrasco, Jose Alfredo Grimaldo, Tomas Barbosa and Jonathan Emanuel Estrada.
The prison sentences are the first to be handed down for the attack at the Casino Royale, while six others defendants are awaiting trial.
Ten men and 42 women died on Aug. 25, 2011, when members of the Los Zetas drug cartel - generally regarded as Mexico’s most ruthless criminal outfit - doused the inside of the casino with gasoline and set it ablaze.
Investigators determined that the criminal gang was trying to intimidate the casino’s owners, who had refused to make extortion payments, and that many more lives were lost than intended in the poorly planned daytime attack.
By law, those convicted in the case can serve no more than 60 years dating from the time of their arrest.
The gunmen told the people inside the casino to get out before setting fire to the building, but the emergency exits were closed. The majority of the victims - employees and gamblers, most of them women - died from smoke inhalation, with only seven burning to death.
Some suspects told investigators they were scolded by their bosses for killing so many people at the casino, which was the target of an extortion racket common in several parts of Mexico.
Home to many of Mexico’s industrial giants, Monterrey long seemed immune to the drug war that claimed some 60,000 lives during the tenure of former President Felipe Calderon, who stepped down earlier this month.
But the metropolis and its suburbs began to experience a spike in drug-related violence in March 2010.