September 17, 2014

Fourteen El Paso Area Barrio Azteca Members and Associates Face Federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization Conspiracy Charge

In El Paso, Barrio Azteca (BA) members and associates, including 41-year-old heroin supplier Rigoberto Alvarado of El Paso, are in custody charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lundquist, El Paso Division.

Today, state and federal authorities arrested eight (8) El Paso residents for their roles in the RICO conspiracy. They are: 34-year-old Raul Lopez (aka Garfield); 54-year-old Manuel Minjares (aka Manny); 43-year-old Eugene Lozano (aka Gino, Polvos); 43-year-old Gabriel Aldana (aka Mookie); 35-year-old Rito Alvarez (aka Ewok); 55-year-old Jose Minjares (aka Paz); 48-year-old Ramon Sanchez (aka Magic); and, 43-year-old Jose Angel Barrios (aka Chamuco). Alvarado and five others involved in the RICO conspiracy were already in state custody prior to today. They are: 40-year-old Fernando Madrid (aka Muneco); 34-year-old Richard Espino (aka Cricket); 45-year-old Hector Bernal (aka Bouncer); 30-year-old Eddie Mendoza (aka Raskal); and, 35-year-old Barbara Rodriguez (aka Barbie). Defendants face up to life in federal prison upon conviction of the RICO conspiracy charge.

According to the RICO indictment, the Barrio Azteca, which began in the 1980’s as a violent prison gang and has expanded into a transnational criminal organization, is primarily based in West Texas; Juarez, Mexico; and throughout state and federal prisons in the U.S. and Mexico. In furtherance of the enterprise, BA members collect a street tax, also known as “cuota,” “quota,” “renta,” or “taxes.” The proceeds from the “cuota” are used to support members of the BA who are arrested, to pay for lawyers, bail bonds, fines, and any other fees associated with legal proceedings. The proceeds from the “cuota” are also used to purchase money orders, which are mailed through the United States Postal Service (USPS) to inmate accounts. The proceeds are also reinvested back into the BA enterprise activities for the purchase of assets, commodities, and other property that are related to the day-to-day function of the BA, including firearms, ammunition, and controlled substances.

The indictment alleges that since August 2010, the defendants conspired to commit racketeering acts in furtherance of criminal enterprise including murder, attempted murder, extortion, drug distribution, and money laundering. The indictment specifically alleges that on March 25, 2012, defendant Jose Angel Barrios murdered Raymundo Puga by injecting what’s referred to by BA’s as a “hotshot,” or lethal amount of heroin, which caused a heroin overdose. Other overt acts alleged in the indictment included mailing heroin to Georgia so that it could be delivered to incarcerated BA members; purchasing money orders with criminal proceeds and sending them to incarcerated BA members; heroin and cocaine sales; and, threats to individuals for not paying cuotas or theft of cuotas.

In addition to the RICO conspiracy charge, the indictment charges: Barrios with violating the VICAR statute, or Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering, for the murder of Puga; Alvarado and Aldana with conspiracy to import heroin; Alvarado, Aldana, Sanchez, and Rodriguez with conspiracy to distribute heroin; Rodriguez with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; and, Madrid, Lopez, Lozano, Alvarado, Aldana, Espino, Alvarez, Sanchez, and Mendoza with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“The FBI and together with our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate gang members engaged in organized criminal activity to ensure the continued safety of our community,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division.

“Organized crime, drug trafficking and gang activity pose an undeniable threat to the safety of all communities across the state. This extensive investigation is a great example of the successful partnership between DPS and our law enforcement colleagues in El Paso. We proudly work together around the clock to help prevent crime in this area and to take criminals off our streets,” stated Texas Department of Public Safety Commander Carey Matthews.

These charges and arrests resulted from a joint investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), together with the Texas Department of Public Safety, El Paso Police Department Gang Unit and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.