A Barrio Azteca (BA) gang lieutenant was sentenced on July 20, to life in prison today for his participation in a racketeering and drug trafficking conspiracy.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin Jr. of the Western District of Texas; Special Agent in Charge Douglas Lindquist of the FBI’s El Paso, Texas, Office; and Special Agent in Charge Will Glaspy of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) El Paso Division made the announcement.
Ricardo Valles De La Rosa (Valles), aka Chino, 52, of El Paso, pleaded guilty on January 13, before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone of the Western District of Texas to racketeering conspiracy; conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances; conspiracy to import heroin, cocaine and marijuana; and conspiracy to commit money laundering. As part of his plea, Valles agreed that he conspired to commit murder in a foreign country. Valles is one of 35 members and associates of the BA gang charged in a third superseding indictment unsealed in March 2011, with various counts of racketeering, murder, drug offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
As alleged in the indictment, members and associates of the BA have engaged in a host of criminal activity, ranging from drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering to kidnapping and homicides, including the March 13, 2010, murders in Juarez of a U.S. consulate employee and her husband, as well as the husband of another U.S. consulate employee. These individuals were killed by the BA because they were mistakenly believed to be rivals associated with the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Drug Trafficking Organization.
In connection with his plea, the defendant admitted that the BA gang is a paramilitary gang with members in West Texas and Juarez, Mexico, that operates both inside and outside the prison system, and engages in drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, intimidation, violence, threats of violence and murder. In addition to profiting from drug importation and distribution, the gang also profits through the collection of a “street tax” or “cuota” through extortion from individuals engaged in both legal and illegal activities in the gang’s territory.
According to further admissions made in connection with his plea agreement, beginning in or around 1995, Valles became an associate of the BA while imprisoned at a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility, where he rose to the rank of sergeant. Following his release from the BOP facility and deportation to Juarez, in July 2007, Valles was promoted to lieutenant and placed in charge of prostitution and illegal after-hours alcohol sales in downtown Juarez, and also collected “cuota.” Additionally, Valles maintained contact on behalf of the BA with a Mexican law enforcement entity, and would use that contact to obtain information regarding the arrests of BA members, the activities and locations of rival gang members and the results of hits carried out by the BA. Further, Valles maintained rosters of BA members in Juarez and was in charge of conducting daily roll-calls, as well as maintaining communications between the BA in Juarez and BA members who were in and out of prison in the U.S.
In addition, Valles admitted that on March 13, 2010, upon instructions from a high-ranking BA member, Valles obtained the location of a specific vehicle and sent BA members to that location. Valles admitted that he was aware that he was assisting the other BA members to locate and commit crimes against the occupants of the vehicle, including murder. BA members subsequently located the vehicle and killed the driver, who was the husband of a U.S. Consulate employee.
The defendant was sentenced to life in prison on each of counts one through three, and to 240 months in prison on count four, all to run concurrently. The defendant was also sentenced to five years of supervised release on counts one through three, and three years of supervised release on count four.
Of the 35 defendants charged in this case, 33 have been apprehended, 25 of whom have pleaded guilty, one committed suicide while imprisoned during his trial and one was found guilty at trial. Most recently, Valles, Luis Hernandez Celis, aka Pac, and Alberto Nunez Payan, aka Fresa, were extradited from Mexico in October 2015.
The FBI’s El Paso Field Office, Albuquerque Field Office (Las Cruces Resident Agency); DEA Juarez; and DEA El Paso investigated the case. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Federal Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Diplomatic Security Service; Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Department of Criminal Justice; El Paso Police Department; El Paso County Sheriff’s Office; El Paso Independent School District Police Department; Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission; New Mexico State Police; Dona Ana County, New Mexico, Sheriff’s Office; Las Cruces, New Mexico, Police Department; Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility; and Otero County Prison Facility New Mexico provided substantial assistance in the investigation.
Trial Attorneys Joseph A. Cooley and John C. Hanley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Trial Attorney Jay A. Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gibson of the Western District of Texas-El Paso Division are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Office of Enforcement Operations provided valuable assistance in this matter.