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Defendant Charged with Alleged Participation in the Murder of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the Attempted Murder of ICE Special Agent Victor Avila is Extradited from Mexico to the United States

U.S. Department of Justice December 21, 2011
  • Office of Public Affairs (202) 514-2007/TDD (202)514-1888

WASHINGTON—Julian Zapata Espinoza, also known as “Piolin,” has been extradited from Mexico to the United States to face charges for his alleged participation in the murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Victor Avila on Feb. 15, 2011, in Mexico.

The charges and extradition were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. for the District of Columbia; Kevin Perkins, Assistant Director for the FBI Criminal Investigative Division; and ICE Director John Morton.

On April 19, 2011, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a four-count indictment against Zapata Espinoza, charging him with one count of murder of an officer or employee of the United States, for the murder of ICE Special Agent Zapata; one count of attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States and one count of attempted murder of an internationally protected person, both for the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Avila; and one count of using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.

“Julian Zapata Espinoza (“Piolin”) allegedly participated in the murder of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Victor Avila,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The indictment unsealed today, and the successful extradition of Piolin to the United States, reflect the Justice Department’s vigorous and determined efforts to seek justice for Agents Zapata and Avila. We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners in Mexico to hold violent criminals accountable.”

“This prosecution exemplifies our unwavering effort to prosecute those who committed this heinous offense against U.S. law enforcement agents,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “We will not rest until those responsible for the murder of Agent Zapata and the wounding of Agent Avila are brought to justice.”

“The extradition of Julian Zapata Espinoza to face charges in the U.S. is a significant development in the ongoing investigation into the murder of Special Agent Jaime Zapata and attack on Special Agent Victor Avila,” said Kevin Perkins, Assistant Director for the FBI Criminal Investigative Division. “This extradition would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of all involved in this case. The FBI, DHS and the Department of Justice will continue its pursuit of justice for the Zapata family.”

“The extradition and charges filed against Zapata Espinoza is an important step in bringing Jaime and Victor’s alleged shooters to justice,” said ICE Director Morton. “All of us at ICE are encouraged by today’s action and appreciate the unwavering work and support of all our law enforcement partners in this case. Our hearts and prayers continue to go out to Jaime’s family and his close colleagues within the ICE community. ICE will continue to see that Jaime and Victor’s work is done by continuing our efforts with all involved in working on this case.”

The indictment was unsealed today, when Zapata Espinoza made his initial appearance before U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the District of Columbia. Zapata Espinoza was ordered detained without bail. His next appearance in court is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2012.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, with substantial assistance from ICE, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Marshals Service. The investigation was also coordinated with the assistance of the Government of Mexico.

The case is being prosecuted by the Organized Crime and Gang Section and the Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The Office of International Affairs of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division provided substantial assistance.

An indictment is a formal charging document and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.