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Press Release

Barrio Azteca Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A Barrio Azteca (BA) gang member pleaded guilty today for his participation in a racketeering conspiracy, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell 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 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) El Paso Field Division announced today.

Luis Humberto Hernandez Celis, aka Pac, 32, of El Paso, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in the Western District of Texas to racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to import heroin, cocaine and marijuana.  The court has not yet set a sentencing date.

According to court documents and information presented in court throughout this case, the BA gang formed 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, soldiers and associates – 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, since Jan. 1, 2003, members and associates of the BA have engaged in a host of criminal activity committed, 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 Redelfs and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another U.S. consulate employee.

The BA profits by importing heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico.  Gang 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 gang 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 information presented in court, beginning in or around 2009, Hernandez Celis was an associate of the BA.  During his association, Hernandez Celis used violence or threats of violence to advance BA criminal activities, including stealing cars, managing drug distribution points and collecting quota money for a BA leader in Juarez.   

Thirty-five members and associates of the BA gang, including Hernandez Celis, 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.  Of the 35 defendants charged, 33 have been apprehended.  Of those defendants, 25 have pleaded guilty, one defendant committed suicide while imprisoned during his trial and one defendant was found guilty at trial.  Hernandez Celis was among three defendants, along with Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, aka Chino, and Alberto Nunez Payan, aka Fresa, recently extradited from Mexico.  Trial is currently set for Feb. 3, 2017.  Three 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: Luis Mendez and Eduardo Ravelo, who is an FBI Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitive. 

Trial Attorney Joseph A. Cooley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Trial Attorney Jay 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 are prosecuting the case.  The Criminal Division’s Offices of International Affairs and Enforcement Operations provided valuable assistance.

The FBI’s El Paso Field Office and 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, New Mexico, Prison Facility provided special assistance.          

Updated July 14, 2016

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 16-815