EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A federal jury convicted a high-level Mexican gang member on Friday of participating in the 2010 slaying of a U.S. consulate employee in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, 35, was found guilty of three counts of murder for ordering the killing of U.S. consulate worker Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton; her husband, Arthur Redfels; and Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another consulate employee in Ciudad Juarez in March 2010. He was also convicted on eight other counts, including money laundering, racketeering and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
The jury reached its verdict in just over three hours of deliberation.
Prosecutor John Gibson said Gallegos faces up to life in prison for each count but the money laundering charges, which carry up to 20 years. Gallegos is scheduled to be sentenced April 24.
"I'm glad it's over," Reuben Redfels, Arthur Redfels' brother, told The Associated Press after the verdict.
The prosecution presented more than a dozen witnesses, including federal agents and former Barrio Azteca gang members who said Gallegos gave the order to shoot Enriquez, Redfels and Salcido.
The former gang members who testified said the killing was a mistake by gang members who thought they were targeting rival gang members that drove a car similar to Salcidos' white Honda Pilot. Redfels and Enriquez were targeted because they were seen leaving the same children's party in Ciudad Juarez.
The defense did not present any witnesses, nor did it give an opening statement. During the closing arguments, the defense focused on attacking the credibility of the witnesses, saying they had been offered sentence reductions, received legal status in the U.S., or had relatives be given legal status. Some witnesses have been paid thousands of dollars by the government.
Defense attorney Randolph Ortega also said the statement Gallegos gave to FBI agents in Mexico City after his arrest in Ciudad Juarez was given under intimidation by Mexican law enforcement agents.
In that statement, Gallegos admitted to being the liaison between the Barrio Azteca gang and the La Linea gang, the enforcing branch of the Juarez Cartel. He also admitted to putting a "lookout" on a white Honda Pilot and that the order to shoot that car came from La Linea leader Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, a man known as "El Diego."
Ortega said they plan to appeal the ruling.
The indictment names 35 defendants. Twenty-five people have pleaded guilty, and one committed suicide in jail. Gallegos was extradited from Mexico two years ago.