El Paso Man Pleads Guilty to his Role in a Criminal Enterprise
In El Paso, 41-year-old Samuel Velasco Gurrola pleaded guilty to his role in the Velasco Criminal Enterprise (VCE) announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez.
On Friday, November 18, 2016, appearing before United States District Judge David Briones, Gurrola pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. As a result, Gurrola faces up to life in federal prison.
By pleading guilty Gurrola admitted that he conspired to possess with intent to distribute 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana; that he conspired to commit a kidnapping in a foreign country; and that while in the course of committing theft of property, and with intent to obtain and maintain control of the property, Gurrola threatened and placed a victim in fear of imminent bodily injury and death by exhibiting a firearm.
According to court records, VCE is responsible for large-volume drug trafficking, money laundering, international and cross-border kidnappings, extortion, robbery, and car theft, among other offenses. VCE operates across the United States in places such as Las Vegas, NV, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, California, and Texas. VCE also operates in Mexico and has its base of operations in El Paso.
Court records also reveal VCE is responsible for the international and multi-state distribution of marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Narcotics would be transported from Mexico into El Paso, and also into Deming and Lordsburg, NM, by VCE and then distributed to places like Dallas, TX, Las Vegas, NV, and North and South Carolina. VCE also is involved in laundering drug proceeds internationally and also nationally, through banks and other institutions. VCE is responsible for committing multiple kidnappings per month which were planned in El Paso, and then carried out in Juarez, Mexico, from the years of at least 2008 through 2013.
Prior to this plea, on October 17, 2016, jurors convicted Gurrola on another case of three counts of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and four counts of conspiracy to cause foreign travel for murder for hire. According to evidence presented during a trial in 2008, Velasco Gurrola was married to Ruth Sagredo Escobedo. At the time, Velasco Gurrola was under indictment in El Paso County for aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child. Velasco Gurrola wished to prevent Sagredo from testifying against him at the aggravated sexual assault trial.
Testimony during the 2016 trial revealed that Samuel Velasco Gurrola arranged to have Sagredo’s father and sister killed in an attempt to lure Sagredo to Mexico. On October 3, 2008, Francisco Maria Sagredo Villarreal, Gurrola’s father-in-law, was murdered in his house in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. On November 20, 2008, Francisco’s daughter, Cinthia Sagredo Escobedo, was murdered in Ciudad Juarez. Two days later, while traveling to her sister Cinthia’s funeral, Ruth Sagredo Escobedo was ambushed and murdered.
Gurrola’s sentencing in both cases is set for March 24, 2017. Gurrola has remained in federal custody since his arrest in February, 2015.
This investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the El Paso Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.