WASHINGTON—Two Barrio Azteca (BA) gang members and one BA associate pleaded guilty this week for their participation in a racketeering conspiracy and money laundering, 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 Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigative Division Kevin Perkins, and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Today, Yolanda Barba Chavira, 42, aka “Yoli,” of El Paso, Texas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone of the Western District of Texas to money laundering conspiracy. Yesterday, her co-defendants, Adam Garcia, 34, aka “Bad Boy,” of El Paso, and Carlos Perez, 38, aka “Bandit,” of El Paso, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norbert Garney in the Western District of Texas to racketeering conspiracy.
According to court documents, the Barrio Azteca gang began 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.
According to court documents, members and associates of the BA have engaged in a host of criminal activity committed since January 1, 2003, 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 a 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 also are allegedly reinvested into the organization to purchase drugs, guns, and ammunition.
According to information presented in court, Chavira was an associate of the Barrio Azteca in El Paso. Chavira admitted that on a regular basis BA members gave her extortion money that they had collected. In turn, she used that money to purchase money orders and would send those money orders to BA leaders in jail. During her plea hearing, she admitted that she had reason to believe that the BA was laundering more than $120,000 of extortion fees.
During their plea hearings, Garcia and Perez admitted that they were BA members and participated in gang affairs in many places, including the El Paso area and New Mexico. They admitted that they helped distribute controlled substances like marijuana, cocaine and heroin. They also admitted that they participated in the collection of extortion fees from drug dealers operating on BA turf, and that this money was sent to jailed BA leaders.
As part of his plea agreement, Perez agreed not to contest the forfeiture an SKS 7.62×39 rifle, a 995 Hi Point rifle, and 143 rounds of ammunition that were recovered after the execution of a federal search warrant at his residence on March 9, 2011.
Thirty-five members and associates of the BA gang, including Chavira, Garcia, Perez, and 19 others who have pleaded guilty, 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. Trial against defendant Ramon Renteria, aka “Spook,” is set to begin May 18, 2012 before Judge Cardone.
Two of the BA members who previously pleaded guilty were sentenced last week by Judge Cardone in accordance with their plea agreements. On February 23, 2012, Jorge Diaz, aka “Payaso,” was sentenced to 20 years in prison and to pay a $5,000 fine. On February 24, 2012, Santiago Lucero, aka “Sonny,” was sentenced to 12 years in prison and to pay a $1,000 fine.
Chavira faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 24, 2012. If U.S. District Judge Cardone accepts plea agreements of Garcia and Perez, each defendant will be sentenced to 20 years 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 the U.S. Attorney’s Office 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 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 and Albuquerque Field Office (Las Cruces Resident Agency). Special assistance was provided by the DEA; 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, New Mexico Police Department; Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility; and Otero County Prison Facility New Mexico.