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April 20, 2010

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(McALLEN, Texas) - Luis Alberto Avila-Hernandez, aka Cua Cua, 27, of Reynosa, Tamaulipas Mexico, has been sentenced for conspiracy to kidnap and kidnapping, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Convicted in January 2010 by a federal jury's verdict of conspiracy to kidnap and kidnapping, Avila-Hernandez was sentenced this afternoon by United States District Court Judge Randy Crane to life in federal prison.

During the January 2010 trial, the jury heard testimony about a plan of the Zetas who would run the Rio Grande Valley as they do in Mexico. The Zetas organization would contact and demand of suspected drug traffickers in the Rio Grande Valley that they align themselves with the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel. A refusal of which would result in the individual being kidnapped, threatened, violently assaulted or murdered. That plan was implemented and several persons were confronted and kidnapped between August 2008 to October 2008.

Raul Angelo Hernandez, aka Comandante Vaquero, allegedly ordered the kidnapping of a victim, Daniel, from his place of business in Weslaco, Texas, after he rebuked Cartel demands. Avila-Hernandez, responsible for all kidnappings in the McAllen to Weslaco area, was ordered to kidnap him. Through testimony, the jury heard that he was taken at gun point by Avila-Hernandez and others and transported to three different locations beginning in Weslaco and concluding in the Mission, Texas, area before being transported to the hands of Hernandez in Reynosa, Mexico. Daniel Cavazos-Reyes, 34, of Mission, assisted in the kidnapping by preventing the victim from escaping while being transported. After Hernandez contacted the victim’s father by telephone and demanded $100,000 for the victim’s release, his father agreed to deliver at least $40,000 to Hernandez. While in Mexico, the victim’s father was forced off the road and threatened by Hernandez.

The jury also heard that after Hernandez became aware that law enforcement was involved, he ordered the murder of Daniel. A co-conspirator who testified at trial stated that Hernandez told him he was “cooking” Ramirez’s body. This witness testified that he saw a large drum on fire and understood the victim was in the drum.

Jose Alberto Rodriguez, aka Gordo Maciso, 37, of Pharr, Texas; Gerardo Espinoza-Zamora, 39, of Reynosa, Mexico; and Juan Jose Guerrero, 40, of Misson, Texas, all pleaded guilty to the kidnapping of a second victim as part of the Zetas’ kidnapping scheme. In court, Espinoza-Zamora admitted that he approached this victim and demanded that he align himself with the Zetas in order to continue his drug trafficking activities. When this victim refused, Espinoza-Zamora ordered Guerrero to lure the victim to Guerrero’s ranch in Mission, Texas, in order to kidnap him. After the victim was taken hostage, Rodriguez used a rifle and struck the victim in the genital area as well as provided his motor vehicle to other co-conspirators knowing it would be used to transport the victim into Mexico. Guerrero admitted in court that he lured this victim to his ranch and allowed his ranch to be used to temporarily hold hostages prior to having them transported into Mexico.

In October 2008, a search warrant was executed at Guerrero’s ranch located in Mission. Agents discovered numerous firearms, ammunition and paint ball equipment at the location. The firearms included one modified .223 semi-assault weapon, one pistol with numerous magazines and other semi-assault weapons. The paint ball equipment was used to practice simulated kidnapping schemes in order to prepare for the actual kidnapping that they intended to commit. 

Cavazos-Reyes and Rodriguez are scheduled to be sentenced on April 21, 2010, while Espinoza-Zamora and Guerrero are set for sentencing later in April 2010. Each also face lengthy prison terms up to life imprisonment for their roles in the Zetas’ kidnapping scheme and millions of dollars in fines.

A warrant remains outstanding for Hernandez who remains a fugitive and is presumed innocent unless proven guilty through due process of law. 

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety and the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Robert Wells Jr. and Jesus Salazar are prosecuting the case.


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