An alleged leader of the Barrio Azteca (BA), a transnational border gang allied with the Juarez Cartel, was extradited from Mexico to the United States to face charges related to the March 2010 U.S. Consulate murders in Juarez, Mexico, 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 Office and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today.
Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, aka “Benny,” arrived in the United States yesterday and made his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Castaneda in El Paso, Texas. Gallegos Castrellon was charged in a 12-count third superseding indictment unsealed in March 2011.
“We allege that Gallegos Castrellon participated in the U.S. Consulate shootings in March 2010,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “His extradition to the United States is an important step forward in our pursuit of justice for the victims of those tragic murders in Juarez, Mexico. Innocent men and women on both sides of our border with Mexico should not have to live in fear of Barrio Azteca and other violent criminal gangs.”
“The extradition represents the FBI’s unwavering commitment to track down individuals who continue to commit senseless and unconscionable acts of violence against the citizens of our community in furtherance of their criminal enterprise,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Morgan. “Today’s action stands as a shining example of effective coordination and collaboration with the law enforcement community within El Paso, as well as the Government of Mexico, to ensure the border will not act as an obstacle to justice being served.”
A total of 35 BA members and associates based in the United States and Mexico were charged in the third superseding indictment for allegedly committing various 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. Of the 35 defendants, 10 Mexican nationals, including Gallegos Castrellon, were charged with the March 13, 2010, 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 a U.S. Consulate employee.
Of the 35 defendants charged, 33 have been apprehended, including April Cardoza, who was found in Juarez, Mexico, last week. Twenty-four of those defendants have pleaded guilty, one defendant committed suicide while imprisoned during his trial and six others 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, an FBI Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitive.
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.
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, Gallegos Castrellon allegedly participated in BA activities, including narcotics trafficking and acts of violence by BA members, both in Mexico and the United States. Gallegos Castrellon allegedly participated in the March 2010 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 a U.S. Consulate employee.
If convicted, Gallegos Castrellon faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Gallegos Castrellon’s extradition is the result of close coordination between U.S. law enforcement and the government of Mexico in the investigation and prosecution of this case. The cooperation and assistance of the government of Mexico was essential to achieving the successful extradition.
Yesterday, three of Gallegos Castrellon’s co-defendants were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone of the Western District Court of Texas to 20 years, 30 years and life in prison. The sentencings mark the closure of the case against the U.S.-based defendants charged in the superseding indictment. Twenty-one of 22 U.S.-based defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced, including another BA Lieutenant Roberto Angel Cardona, who was also sentenced to life by Judge Cardone on Feb. 14, 2012. The remaining U.S.-based defendant, Ramon Renteria, aka “Spooky,” took his own life while in prison during his trial. Witnesses testified that Renteria was a BA Captain, the highest rank of the Barrio Azteca, and the only U.S.-based Captain not currently serving a life sentence in prison.
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 George Leal 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; 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.