Photo: Barrio Azteca Gang Members
Thirty-five members and associates of the Barrio Azteca (BA) gang have been charged in a third superseding indictment unsealed today with various counts of racketeering, murder, drug offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice, announced Attorney General Eric Holder. Of the 35 defendants, 10 Mexican nationals were charged with the March 13, 2010, murders in Juarez, Mexico, of U.S. Consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband Arthur Redelfs and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of a U.S. Consulate employee.
Attorney General Holder was joined in announcing the charges by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy for the Western District of Texas, FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry and Administrator Michele Leonhart of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Today, teams of U.S. federal, state and local authorities arrested in Texas and New Mexico 12 of the charged defendants not already in custody. Seven of the 10 defendants charged with the March 13, 2010, murders, and two other indicted defendants, are in custody in Mexico. U.S. authorities are working with Mexican authorities regarding extradition and other matters related to this ongoing prosecution.
“The indictment unsealed today represents our continued action to ensure safety along our Southwest border, to seek justice for victims of violent crime in this region, and to weaken dangerous criminal organizations currently operating in Mexico and the United States,” said Attorney General Holder. “These arrests and criminal charges will disrupt Barrio Azteca’s current operations, and they reaffirm that we will not tolerate acts of violence against those who serve and protect American citizens. We will continue to stand with our partners in Mexico, and together, build on our unprecedented joint efforts to combat violence and protect the safety of the American and the Mexican people.”
“Barrio Azteca gang members are cold blooded criminals who show no respect for the law or justice , murdering innocent victims, trafficking drugs and inciting violence,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “But, along with our FBI partners and the support of the government of Mexico, we have shown that the rule of law will prevail, and working together we will bring these individuals to justice to answer for their ruthless criminal activities.”
The indictment alleges that the defendants are members or associates of the BA, which began in the late 1980s as a violent prison gang and has expanded into a transnational criminal organization. The BA is primarily based in West Texas; Juarez, Mexico; and throughout state and federal prisons in the United States and Mexico. The gang has a militaristic command structure and includes captains, lieutenants, sergeants and soldiers – all with the purpose of maintaining power and enriching its members and associates through drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, intimidation, violence, threats of violence and murder.
The indictment alleges that to increase its power and influence, the BA formed an alliance with the Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes (VCF) drug trafficking organization in Mexico. As part of this alliance, the BA allegedly conducts enforcement operations against VCF rivals and the VCF provides illegal drugs to the BA at discounted prices.
The indictment alleges a host of criminal activity committed by members and associates of the BA since Jan. 1, 2003, including drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering, kidnapping and murder, including the March 13, 2010, consulate murders in Juarez.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that on March 13, 2010, Ricardo Valles de la Rosa called an individual in the Western District of Texas and received verification of the description of an intended target for murder. The indictment alleges that 10 named BA members, among others, participated in the murders of Enriquez, Redelfs and Salcido in Juarez.
In addition to the consulate murders, the indictment alleges that in December 2006, a BA member shot and killed Jose Luis Oviedo in El Paso. In 2007, BA members allegedly kidnapped a man in El Paso and took him across the U.S./Mexico border to Juarez. In March 2008, the BA allegedly ordered the murder of BA member David Merez, who was killed that same month in Juarez. The indictment also alleges that the BA caused two persons to be shot and killed in Socorro, Texas, on July 2, 2009. In August 2010, the indictment alleges that BA members kidnapped the wife and parents of a BA member whom they believed was cooperating with U.S. law enforcement and also killed the BA member’s step-daughter.
According to the indictment, the BA profits by importing heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico. The indictment points to specific acts in which more than 8 kilos of heroin, more than 100 kilograms of cocaine, and nearly 300 pounds of marijuana are associated with the possession, distribution or importation of controlled substances into the United States.