Gulf drug cartel member convicted of violent kidnapping of U.S. citizens and killing in Mexico.
San Antonio Headlines Examiner
A violent kidnapping scheme involving what could be North America’s largest crime syndicate and Texas drug dealers resulted in a conviction in a federal jury trial on January 22, 2010.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) in September 2008 learned the powerful Gulf Cartel syndicate was violently kidnapping known drug dealers to demand they join the syndicate to sell their narcotics.
“After a two-day trial and one and a half hours of deliberation, a federal jury has convicted a Gulf Cartel associate of kidnapping a Weslaco, Texas, resident and having him transported into Mexico,” announced U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson today. "The guilty verdicts, returned in federal court in McAllen, convicted Luis Alberto Avila-Hernandez Avila, also known as Cua Cua, 28, an illegal alien residing in Weslaco, of conspiracy to kidnap and kidnapping.”
DPS and FBI initiated investigations that revealed at least four people were “kidnapped, threatened, assaulted, drugged and transported into Mexico to meet with Cartel members.”
Investigators learned that one 30-year-old unnamed U.S. citizen was kidnapped and suspected of having been murdered. This led to the indictment against Avila and eight others.
Four of the eight have pleaded guilty to kidnapping and are pending sentencing. Four others remain fugitives and arrest warrants remain outstanding.
During Avila’s trial, which began on Jan. 19, 2010, several of his co-conspirators testified that Avila had participated in several kidnappings in Hidalgo County.
Avila was responsible for all kidnappings in the McAllen to Weslaco area according to testimony. One U.S. citizen was “taken by Avila at gun point and transported to three different locations in the Weslaco and Mission, Texas, area before being transported and delivered to Reynosa, Mexico.”
This victim’s family paid $40,000 after one fugitive co-defendant demanded $100,000 for his release, but was murdered after the fugitive co-defendant suspected law enforcement had been called in to investigate.
”In October 2008, a search warrant was executed at the Mission residence where agents discovered numerous firearms, including a modified .223 semi-assault weapon and a pistol with numerous magazines, ammunition and paint ball equipment,” according to a statement from the Justice Department. “One co-conspirator testified that the paint ball equipment was used to practice simulated kidnapping schemes in order to prepare for the actual kidnapping they intended to commit.”
Avila faces up to life imprisonment and up to $4 million in fines for each count of conviction.
According to the “National Drug Threat Assessment,” a 2009 Justice Department assessment, Mexico's and Columbia’s major cartels have members in at least 230 U.S. cities laundering up to $39 billion in wholesale profits annually.
The Gulf Cartel is considered the largest the most powerful of at least four major Mexican cartels.
There have been a growing number of crime bosses, accountants, soldiers and henchmen arrested in recent year, with many fugitives facing indictments.