WASHINGTON – A member of the Barrio Azteca (BA) gang pleaded guilty today to racketeering conspiracy, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman for the Western District of Texas, FBI Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigative Division Kevin Perkins and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Jorge Diaz, 33, aka “Payaso,” and “Narizon,” of El Paso, Texas, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norbert J. Garney in the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division, to racketeering conspiracy.
According to court documents, Diaz is a member 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.
According to court documents, members and associates of the BA have engaged in a host of criminal activity committed since Jan. 1, 2003, including drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering, kidnapping and murder, including the March 13, 2010, murders in Juarez of U.S. Consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband Arthur Redelf and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of a U.S. Consulate employee.
The BA profits by importing heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico. BA members and associates also allegedly charge a “street tax” or “cuota” on businesses and criminals operating in their turf. These profits are used to support BA members in prison by funneling money into prison commissary accounts of gang leaders and to pay for defense lawyers or fines. The “cuota” profits are also allegedly reinvested into the organization to purchase drugs, guns and ammunition.
According to the plea agreement, for more than a year, Diaz maintained extortion fees provided to him by other BA members based on fees they charged drug dealers operating on BA turf. Upon receiving these funds, Diaz coordinated the distribution of that money to jailed BA leaders. Diaz also admitted that he had reason to know the BA gang and its associates had trafficked more than 30 kilograms of heroin and 150 kilograms of cocaine. According to the plea agreement, Diaz will receive a prison term of 20 years, if approved by U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone.
Thirty-five members and associates of the BA gang, including Diaz and 10 others who have pleaded guilty, were charged in a third superseding indictment unsealed in March 2011 with various counts of racketeering, murder, drug offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph A. Cooley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Trial Attorney Brian Skaret of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Texas - El Paso Division. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico provided significant assistance in this case, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Davenport. Valuable assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Offices of International Affairs and Enforcement Operations.
The case was investigated by the FBI. Special assistance was provided by the DEA; 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; El Paso Independent School District Police Department; Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission; New Mexico State Police; Dona Ana County, N.M., Sheriff’s Office; Las Cruces, N.M., Police Department; Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility and Otero County Prison Facility New Mexico.