Racketeering Charges Allege Responsibility for Murder of a U.S. Consulate Employee in Juarez on March 13, 2010
United States Attorney John E. Murphy and FBI Special Agent in Charge David Cuthbertson announced the arrests of 12 members and associates of the Barrio Azteca criminal organization based on federal racketeering charges which allege acts of kidnapping, extortion, drug distribution, and murder including the slaying of a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband, and the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee in Juarez last year.
A superseding federal grand jury indictment, returned on March 2, 2011, and unsealed today, charges those arrested today, 16 other individuals already in custody (seven in the U.S., nine in Mexico) and seven fugitives (see below list) with violating the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization, or RICO, statute. The indictment alleges that since January 2003, the defendants have conspired to carry out the mission of the Barrio Azteca criminal organization through the smuggling and distribution of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana; robbery; extortion; firearms trafficking; money laundering; obstruction of justice; witness retaliation; and numerous acts of violence, including kidnapping and murder, in the U.S. as well as in the Republic of Mexico.
According to the indictment, the Barrio Azteca, which began in the 1980s as a violent prison gang and has expanded into a transnational criminal organization, is primarily based in West Texas; Juarez, Mexico; and throughout state and federal prisons in the U.S. and Mexico. To increase its power and influence, the indictment alleges that the Barrio Azteca formed an alliance with the Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes (VCF) drug trafficking organization in Mexico. As part of this alliance, the indictment alleges, the Barrio Azteca conducts enforcement operations against VCF rivals in return for which VCF pays the Barrio Azteca or provides them with illegal drugs at discounted prices.
The indictment alleges that defendants Enrique Lopez, Jose Acosta, Eduardo Ravelo, Luis Mendez, Arturo Castrellon, Ricardo De la Rosa, Jose Diaz, Martin Marrufo, Luis Hernandez, and Miguel Nevarez conspired to cause the deaths of three individuals with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, Mexico. On March 13, 2010, 25-year-old Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, a U.S. citizen and employee of the U.S. Consulate; her husband, 30-year-old Arthur Redelfs, a detention officer with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office; and 37-year- old Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, a citizen of Juarez whose wife also worked at the U.S. Consulate, were all tragically gunned down in Juarez, Mexico.
“The vicious murders of Leslie Enriquez, her husband Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido illustrate how far- reaching and senseless the violence perpetrated by the drug cartels and their affiliated criminal gangs has become. Our hearts go out to the families of these three innocent victims, as well as thousands of others, who have suffered tragic losses for which there can be no reparation. The indictment reflects our resolve to vigorously pursue those responsible for these wanton acts and hold them accountable under the rule of law,” stated United States Attorney John E. Murphy.
In addition to the consulate murders, the indictment alleges that in December 2006, a Barrio Azteca member shot and killed Jose Luis Oviedo in El Paso. In 2007, Barrio Azteca members allegedly kidnapped a man in El Paso and took him across the U.S./Mexico border to Juarez. In March 2008, the Barrio Azteca allegedly ordered the murder of Barrio Azteca member David Merez, who was killed that same month in Juarez. The indictment also alleges that the Barrio Azteca caused two persons to be shot and killed in Socorro, Texas, on July 2, 2009. According to the indictment, in August 2010, Barrio Azteca members kidnapped the wife and parents of a Barrio Azteca member whom they believed was cooperating with U.S. law enforcement, and also killed the Barrio Azteca member’s stepdaughter.
The indictment further charges that the Barrio Azteca also profits by importing heroin, cocaine, and marijuana into the United States from Mexico. The indictment points to specific acts in which more than eight 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.
“Today’s unsealed charges and arrests signal an important milestone in our efforts to seek justice for the families of Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros. Almost one year ago today, our nation was shocked by the brutal murder of these innocent individuals, who were United States Consulate employees and their family members, to include an El Paso County Sheriffs Detention Officer. Today’s charges and arrests also seek to further disrupt the criminal activities of the Barrio Azteca Gang, whose members, the indictment alleges, are responsible for carrying on a pattern of racketeering activity in both the United States and Mexico, and who are responsible for the March 13, 2010 murders in Ciudad Juarez. Today’s events would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of the entire El Paso law enforcement community and without the cooperation of our Mexican counterparts,” stated David Cuthbertson, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, El Paso Division.
Ravelo, who is currently one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, Hernandez, and Mendez are currently at large. The United States has filed provisional arrest warrants with the government of Mexico for the arrest of these men in connection with this case.
Upon conviction, each defendant faces up to life in federal prison. It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Joseph A. Cooley of the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit, Trial Attorney Brian Skaret of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico provided significant assistance in this case. Valuable assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Offices of International Affairs and Enforcement Operations. U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities have cooperated and provided extensive assistance to one another in this ongoing matter.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the DEA. Special assistance was provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Federal Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Diplomatic Security Service; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; El Paso Police Department; El Paso County Sheriff’s Office; West Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), U.S. Probation Service, El Paso Independent School District Police Department; Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission; New Mexico State Police; Dona Ana County (NM) Sheriff’s Office; Las Cruces (NM) Police Department, Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility and Otero County (NM) Prison Facility. The Government of Mexico also cooperated and provided assistance in the investigation of this case.