Barrio Azteca Associate Sentenced in Texas to 18 Months in Prison for Role in Racketeering Conspiracy
Total of 25 Barrio Azteca Members and Associates Convicted to Date
WASHINGTON – An associate of the Barrio Azteca (BA), a trans-national border gang allied with the Juarez Cartel, was sentenced today to serve 18 months in prison, 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 Special Agent in Charge Mark Morgan of the FBI’s El Paso, Texas, Office and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
April Cardoza, 24, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in the Western District of Texas. In addition to her prison term, Cardoza was sentenced to serve five years of supervised release.
On Oct. 18, 2012, Cardoza pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering offenses (RICO).
According to court documents and information presented in court throughout this case, the Barrio Azteca is a violent street and prison gang that began in the late 1980s and expanded into a transnational criminal organization. In the 2000s, the BA formed an alliance in Mexico with “La Linea,” which is part of the Juarez Drug Cartel (also known as the Vincente Carrillo Fuentes Drug Cartel or “VCF”). The purpose of the BA-La Linea alliance was to battle the Chapo Guzman Cartel and its allies for control of the drug trafficking routes through Juarez and Chihuahua. The drug routes through Juarez, known as the Juarez Plaza, are important to drug trafficking organizations because they are a principal illicit drug trafficking conduit into the United States.
According to court documents and information presented in court, Cardoza assisted the BA by providing communication to and from BA members, including BA Captain Manuel Cardoza, and facilitating money laundering.
Cardoza and 34 other BA members and associates based in the United States and Mexico were charged in a 12-count third superseding indictment unsealed in March 2011. The indictment contains charges related to various alleged criminal acts, including racketeering, narcotics distribution and importation, retaliation against persons providing information to U.S. law enforcement, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice and murder, including the 2010 Juarez consulate murders.
Of the 35 defendants charged, 33 have been apprehended. Twenty-five of those defendants, including Cardoza, have pleaded guilty. One defendant committed suicide while imprisoned during his trial. Another defendant was extradited from Mexico and is awaiting trial. Six other defendants are pending extradition from Mexico. U.S. and Mexican law enforcement are actively seeking to apprehend the two remaining fugitives in this case, including Luis Mendez and Eduardo Ravelo, an FBI Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitive.
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 Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gibson 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 by 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’s El Paso Field Office, Albuquerque Field Office (Las Cruces Resident Agency), DEA Juarez and DEA El Paso. Special assistance was provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. 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.