Along with Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer; FBI Executive Assistant Director, Shawn Henry; and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator, Michele Leonhart, I am here to announce the U.S. government’s latest actions 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 – including the international gang known as “Barrio Azteca.”
In an indictment unsealed today, 35 alleged Barrio Azteca members and associates have been charged with various counts of racketeering, murder, drug trafficking, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Twelveof these defendants were arrested just this morning by teams of U.S. federal, state, and local authorities in Texas and New Mexico.
Of the 35 defendants, 10 Mexican nationals were charged with the last year’s 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 another U.S. Consulate employee. Seven of the 10 defendants charged with these murders, and two other indicted defendants, are in custody in Mexico. U.S. authorities are working with Mexican authorities regarding extradition and other relevant matters related to this ongoing prosecution.
I want to thank the many Mexican and American prosecutors, investigators, and law enforcement officials who contributed to the success of our latest actions against Barrio Azteca.
Since the late 1980’s, Barrio Azteca has been operating in West Texas; in Juarez, Mexico; and in state and federal prisons throughout the U.S. and Mexico. It has evolved into a transnational criminal organization. As today’s indictment alleges, Barrio Azteca wields its power with a militaristic command structure; and it profits by charging illegal “street taxes” and by importing illegal drugs – including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana – from Mexico into the United States.
Without question, the arrests and charges that we are announcing today will disrupt Barrio Azteca’s current operations. They also reaffirm the fact that this Justice Department – and this Administration – will not tolerate acts of violence against those who serve and protect American citizens.
Just as we have worked tirelessly to seek justice for U.S. Consulate employees and their families , we will continue working with our Mexican colleagues in our critical efforts to seek justice for Special Agent Jaime Zapata – the 32-year-old ICE Agent who was killed in Mexico last month – and for his fellow agent, Victor Avila, who was wounded. We also will continue to seek justice for the death of Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in December during a gunfight in Southern Arizona.
Let me be clear: no matter where they live or hide out – even if it’s beyond our borders, in Mexico or in other countries – those who have threatened and devastated American lives will be held accountable for their actions. This is the firm policy of this Administration and this Justice Department.
Criminal by criminal, gang by gang, mile by mile – we will keep up our fight to end the scourge of violence along our Southwest border, and to prosecute acts of violence to the full extent of the law. We will do all we can to protect the lives of the citizens of the two great nations that share that border- Mexico and the United States.
This work will not be easy. But as we have demonstrated – today and repeatedly over the last two years – we are striking at the heart of international criminal operations. And, at every level of government and law enforcement, we are working with our Mexican counterparts more effectively than ever before.
In fact, I want to note that the progress we’re announcing today would not be possible without the assistance of our partners in the Mexican government – leaders like Mexico’s Attorney General Chávez Chávez and Mexico’s Deputy Attorney General for Special Investigations against Organized Crime, Marisela Morales Ibañez. I’m pleased that Deputy Attorney General Morales is here with us today. She has served as a critical partner to our investigators and prosecutors – and been a leader in bringing some of Mexico’s most dangerous and notorious criminals to justice, in advancing efforts to root out corruption and to restore public confidence in law enforcement, and in establishing Mexico’s first Federal Witness Protection Program.
Deputy Attorney General Morales, as well as Attorney General Chávez Chávez and their colleagues in the PGR – and other leaders across Mexico’s government and law enforcement community – are waging a courageous battle against gangs and drug cartels within their own borders. We will continue to stand by them. And, together, we will build on the historic work being done to combat gang-, gun-, and drug-fueled violence – and to protect the safety of the American people and the Mexican people.
I look forward to this work. And I am committed to this work.
And, now, I’d like to turn things over to one of the key leaders in this effort – Assistant Attorney General, Lanny Breuer.