Barrio Azteca “hitmen” face sentencing on May 9; killings happened at height of drug war between Juarez, Sinaloa cartels
EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A federal jury has convicted two members of the Barrio Azteca gang on felony charges related to the murders of a U.S. Consulate employee in Juarez, Mexico, her husband, and the husband of another consulate employee.
Jurors in El Paso on Thursday found Jose Guadalupe Diaz Diaz and Martin Perez Marrufo guilty of conspiracy counts for racketeering, narcotics trafficking, narcotics importation, money laundering, and murder in a foreign country.
The two men from Chihuahua, Mexico, were also found guilty of three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and three counts of murder resulting from the use and carrying of a firearm in relation to crimes of violence and drug trafficking.
Charges stem from the March 13, 2010, murders of Leslie Enriquez, Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros.
“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 Ashley C. Hoff, U.S. Attorney 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.”
Diaz was extradited from Mexico in 2019 and Marrufo in 2020. Sentencing is scheduled for May 9. Diaz and Marrufo face a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.
Prosecutors presented evidence during the 13-day trial in U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone’s court pointing to Diaz and Marrufo as the gunmen on a “hit team” assigned by Barrio Azteca to take out consulate worker Enriquez and her companions after departing a child’s birthday party in Juarez. Prosecutors said the gang mistakenly identified them as rival gang members. Diaz, 43 and known as “Zorro,” shot and killed Enriquez and Redelfs, while Marrufo, 54, a.k.a. “Popeye,” killed Ceniceros, prosecutors said.
“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,” said Kenneth A. Polite Jr., assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Barrio Azteca at the time lent its muscle to the Juarez cartel in a fight with the Sinaloa cartel for control drug trafficking routes to the United States. Initial reports said the cartel may have been under the impression that consulate employees provided U.S. visas to rival gang members, but the Justice Department said the employees were not involved in any wrongdoing.
Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, aka “Benny” and “Tury,” a lieutenant for Barrio Azteca, was convicted in 2014 or ordering the murders and sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors said Gallegos was in charge of cartel assassins responsible for up to 1,600 drug-related murders in Juarez in the mid-2000s and early 2010s.
“His gang of killers terrorized and victimized men and women on both sides of the border, but thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners he will now spend the rest of his life in prison for his crimes.” said then-Acting Assistant Attorney General O’Neil.
A total of 35 individuals have been charged in connection to the case and/or Barrio Azteca activities. All have been apprehended and 28 have pleaded guilty, the Justice Department said.