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Barrio Azteca gang members extort drug dealers, plead guilty to racketeering

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Tattoos of a convicted Barrio Azteca member
Photo Courtesy: FBI
Two associates of the Barrio Azteca gang have pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, announced government officials.

Fabian Rodriguez, 35, aka “Shamoo,” of El Paso, Texas, and Mexican national Juan Manuel Viscaino Amaro, 41, aka “Porky,” pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norbert J. Garney to racketeering conspiracy.

According to court documents, Rodriguez and Amaro were associates of the BA, which 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. The gang has a militaristic command structure and includes captains, lieutenants, sergeants, soldiers and associates such as Rodriguez and Amaro — with the purpose of maintaining power.

According to court documents, members and associates of the BA have engaged in a host of criminal activity committed since Jan. 1, 2003, including drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering, kidnapping, and murder. The March 13, 2010, murders in Juarez of U.S. consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband Arthur Redelf and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of a U.S. Consulate employee were also committed by the BA.

The BA profits by importing heroin, cocaine, and marijuana into the United States from Mexico. Gang members allegedly charge a “street tax” or “cuota” on businesses and criminals operating on their turf.

The 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 are also allegedly reinvested into the organization to purchase drugs, guns and ammunition.

During the plea hearings, Rodriguez and Amaro admitted to working with the BA in buying and selling illegal drugs on the streets of El Paso and that the gang extorted money from drug dealers operating on the gang’s turf.

According to Rodriguez’s plea agreement, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Under Amaro’s plea agreement, if approved by U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone, he will receive a 12-year prison term. Sentencing dates for the defendants have not been scheduled.

Thirty-five members and associates of the BA gang, including Rodriguez, Amaro and 11 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 is set to begin April 6, 2012.

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