A federal jury in Texas yesterday convicted two members of the violent street and prison gang, Barrio Azteca, on all counts related to the murders of a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband, and the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee.
Jose Guadalupe Diaz Diaz, aka Zorro, 43, of Chihuahua, Mexico, and Martin Artin Perez Marrufo, aka Popeye, 54, of Chihuahua, Mexico, were found guilty at the conclusion of a 13-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division. The jury found Diaz and Marrufo guilty of conspiracy counts for racketeering, narcotics trafficking, narcotics importation, money laundering, and murder in a foreign country; three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and three counts of murder resulting from use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to crimes of violence and drug trafficking.
Evidence presented at trial demonstrated that on March 13, 2010, Diaz and Marrufo served as gunmen on the hit teams that murdered U.S. Consulate employee Leslie Enriquez, her husband, Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee. The victims were targeted by the hit teams after departing from a child’s birthday party in Juarez because they were mistaken initially for rival gang members. Diaz shot and killed Enriquez and Redelfs. Marrufo shot and killed Ceniceros.
“The murders of Leslie Enriquez, Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros are a tragedy,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “These convictions demonstrate the Department’s commitment to combating violent transnational criminal organizations. I want to thank the Mexican Government for its cooperation including extraditing both defendants to the United States to face criminal charges.”
“Although 12 years have passed since these senseless murders, our office has only strengthened its resolve to seek justice for victims of cartel violence,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff for the Western District of Texas. “These guilty verdicts demonstrate the diligent pursuit of our prosecutors and our commitment to protecting communities from ruthless brutality.”
“These convictions represent the FBI’s commitment to take aggressive action against anyone who takes the lives of innocent American citizens,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Even the most ruthless criminals, whether here or afar, cannot evade justice, and we will continue to hold those accountable who commit brutal acts of violence.”
“Today’s convictions serve as a stark warning to all drug traffickers that we will pursue and prosecute any and all who compromise the safety and health of Americans and those who support our U.S missions abroad,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The hardworking women and men of DEA will continue to work with our domestic and global partners to rid our communities of the intimidation, violence, and drug abuse these criminal drug networks inflict.”
At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Barrio Azteca is a transnational criminal organization engaged in money-laundering, racketeering, and drug-related activities in El Paso, Texas. The gang allied with other drug gangs to battle the Sinaloa Cartel, at the time headed by Chapo Guzman, and its allies for control of the drug trafficking routes through Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The drug routes through Juarez, known as the Juarez Plaza, are important to drug trafficking organizations because it is a principal illicit drug trafficking route into the United States.
A total of 35 defendants were charged in the third superseding indictment and are alleged to have committed various criminal acts, including the 2010 Juarez Consulate murders in Juarez, Mexico, as well as racketeering, narcotics distribution and importation, retaliation against persons providing information to U.S. law enforcement, extortion, money laundering, murder, and obstruction of justice. Of the 35 defendants charged, all have been apprehended and 28 have pleaded guilty. One was convicted by trial, one committed suicide before the conclusion of his trial and three are awaiting extradition from Mexico.
Diaz was extradited from Mexico on Nov. 13, 2019 and Maruffo was extradited from Mexico on Jan. 18, 2020. The extraditions were the result of close coordination between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities, who also cooperated in the investigation and prosecution of this case.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 9. Diaz and Maruffo face a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.
Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Trial Attorney Christina Taylor of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Spitzer of the Western District of Texas are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico and the Criminal Division’s Offices of International Affairs and Enforcement Operations provided significant assistance in this case.
The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force located at the Texas Anti-Gang Center in El Paso, FBI Albuquerque Field Office, DEA Juarez and DEA El Paso investigated the case. 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. Department of State’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 provided valuable assistance.