Suspect Arrested in Slayings of US Consulate Employees

August 1, 2011

Mexican authorities have arrested a former federal police officer accused of ordering 1,500 killings during a campaign of terrorism along the U.S.-Mexico border and masterminding the attack last year that killed a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another Consulate worker in Ciudad Juarez.

Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, charged with 34 other Barrio Azteca gang members and associates of murder, racketeering, drug offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice, was captured Friday in the northern city of Chihuahua, Mexican federal police announced Sunday.

The arrest was hailed by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who sent 5,000 federal police to Ciudad Juarez in April 2010 to rein in bloodshed in one of the world’s most violent cities – located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

“It is the biggest strike in the Ciudad Juarez operation. Congratulations,” he wrote on his Twitter feed in Spanish.

Mexican police conducted their customary “perp walk” Sunday for reporters and their cameras in Mexico. Mr. Acosta was described as a short man with a cleft chin and thick eyebrows, who was limping while police took him into the room. The officers were masked, as also is customary.

Mr. Acosta, 33, nicknamed “El Diego,” also was among 10 Mexican nationals indicted in March by a federal grand jury in the western district of Texas in the March 13 killings in 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.

U.S. prosecutors want to try Mr. Acosta in that case, and Mexican authorities said they expect to receive an extradition request from the U.S. government.

Enriquez, 25, who worked at the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, and her husband, Redelfs, 30, were U.S. citizens. They were killed when Mexican drug gang members fired shots at their sport utility vehicle as they left a birthday party.

Redelfs was a 10-year veteran of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Enriquez was four months pregnant with the couple’s second child. Their 7-month-old daughter was found unharmed in the back seat.

That same day, Salcido, 37, a Mexican citizen whose wife also was an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, was killed when cartel members shot at his car at a separate location, also wounding his two young children. They had attended the same birthday party.

Ramon Pequeno, head of the Mexican Federal Police anti-drug unit, identified Mr. Acosta as the boss of La Linea, a gang of hit men and corrupt police officers who act as enforcers for the Juarez drug cartel.

Mr. Acosta was one of Mexico’s most-wanted criminals, with officials offering a reward of $1.3 million for his arrest.

Mr. Pequeno, who said Mr. Acosta’s arrest involved collaboration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, accused Mr. Acosta of being connected to some of Juarez’s most notorious violence over the past two years, including the 2010 killing of a state prosecutor, a car bombing outside a police station and a massacre at a house party that killed 15 people – most of whom had no ties to organized crime.

U.S. law enforcement officials said the Barrio Azteca gang began in the late 1980s as a violent prison gang and expanded into a transnational criminal organization based primarily in West Texas.

The gang also operates in the border town of Juarez and throughout state and federal prisons in the United States and Mexico. They said the gang’s specialties include drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, intimidation, violence, threats of violence and murder.

Also named in the indictment were Eduardo Ravelo, Luis Mendez, Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, Jose Guadalupe Diaz Diaz, Martin Perez Marrufo, Luis Humberto Hernandez Celis, Miguel Angel Nevarez and Enrique Guajardo Lopez. They are charged with conspiracy to kill people in a foreign country, murder and murder in aid of racketeering.

The U.S. government has filed provisional warrants with Mexico for their arrests.Ravelo is one of the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted fugitives, and the FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading directly to his arrest.

In addition to the consulate slayings, the indictment claims that in December 2006, a gang member fatally shot Jose Luis Oviedo in El Paso. In 2007, gang members are said to have kidnapped a man in El Paso and took him across the U.S.-Mexico border to Juarez. In March 2008, the gang is said to have ordered the slaying of gang member David Merez, who was killed that same month in Juarez.

The indictment also says that the gang caused two people to be fatally shot in Socorro, Texas, on July 2, 2009. In August 2010, the indictment says, gang members kidnapped the wife and parents of a gang member who they thought was cooperating with U.S. law enforcement and also killed the member’s stepdaughter.

This article was written by Jerry Seper and published by the Washington Times on July 31, 2011.

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Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

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