A Barrio Azteca gang leader was sentenced to life in prison without parole Tuesday for his participation in a racketeering conspiracy, authorities announced.
Roberto Angel Cardona (aka "Little Angelillo") of El Paso, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in the Western District of Texas. Cardona pleaded guilty on Aug. 2.
"This sentence reflects the severity of Roberto Cardona's crimes as a leader of the brutal Barrio Azteca gang, as well as his individual acts of violence and drug trafficking," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer in a statement. "On both sides of the border, Barrio Azteca gang members use violence, intimidation and fear to further their illegal activities. Lengthy prison sentences are an appropriate consequence and should cause would-be gang members to think twice about participating in such destructive activities."
Cardona was a leader in the Barrio Azteca gang. Specifically, he was the El Paso leader until he was arrested on drug charges on April 30, 2010. He also participated in the gang's trafficking of narcotics, including heroin and cocaine, and collected extortion funds that were sent to the commissary accounts of fellow members in prison. One witness testified that Cardona ordered beatings of fellow members and personally assaulted a drug dealer who wouldn't pay extortion money. Witnesses testified that members used weapons in the course of violence and regularly carried guns at meetings.
At sentencing, a witness testified about personally attending a meeting where Cardona ordered extortions, assaults, and kidnappings. The witness testified that Cardona contacted him to kidnap someone in El Paso and delivering him to Juarez. Cardona arranged for the witness and others to meet with the victim, assault him, drug him, bind him and transport him to Juarez. The court also found that Cardona's offense involved more than 30 kilograms of heroin and 150 kilograms of cocaine. Cardona directly imported large quantities of these drugs and sold them to retail drug dealers.
Thirty-five members and associates of Barrio Azteca, including Cardona and 18 others who have pleaded guilty, were charged in a third superseding indictment 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.
The gang began in the late 1980s as a violent prison gang and has expanded into a transnational criminal organization. Barrio Azteca is primarily based in West Texas; Juarez, Mexico; and throughout state and federal prisons in the U.S. and Mexico.
Documented criminal activity committed since Jan. 1, 2003 includes 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.