By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times
A man described as a family friend faces charges for allegedly identifying a New Mexico bridegroom and his relatives to a cartel hit squad before they were abducted during a wedding and then tortured and killed in Juárez.
Gonzalo Delgado Chavez, 22, was allegedly paid $1,000 to identify members of the Morales family from La Mesa, N.M., to a hit squad in 2010, according to court documents.
The slayings were among the more brazen acts of violence since a drug war erupted between the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels in 2008.
Delgado, who is in custody, was indicted in September on a charge of conspiracy to kill in a foreign country. He made a routine courtroom appearance Friday in U.S. District Court in El Paso.
Bridegroom Rafael Morales Valencia, 29, his brother, Jaime Morales Valencia, 25, and their uncle, Guadalupe Morales Arreola, 51, were kidnapped by gunmen who burst in at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony at Señor de la Misericordia Catholic church.
Another man, Alonso Sotelo Corral, was fatally shot in the church parking lot as he ran away or tried to intervene during the abduction on May 7, 2010.
Three days later, the bodies of the kidnapped men were found in the bed of a pickup in Juárez. The men appeared to have been tortured.
Rafael Morales was a U.S. citizen, his brother was a legal permanent resident, and their uncle was a Mexican citizen with a visa, stated a criminal complaint filed by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
Relatives had said the victims were from La Mesa in Doña Ana County. The family is originally from the city of Namiquipa in the central part of Chihuahua, but the brothers grew up in the United States.
The father of Rafael and Jaime Morales had said the wedding took place in Juárez because that is where the bride was raised. She is a U.S. citizen.
According to the criminal complaint by the DEA, Delgado was also from Namiquipa, knew the victims and was supposed to be an usher at the wedding. Delgado is a legal U.S. resident.
The document, citing informants (unnamed cooperating defendants), alleged that Delgado was a drug smuggler for the Sinaloa cartel and was hired in El Paso by a man named Irving Enriquez to point out the victims at the wedding.
The document stated the victims were reportedly targeted because they were affiliated with the Juárez cartel.
One of the unnamed informants is described in documents as a member of the Sinaloa cartel who had been in charge of a "hit team" in Juárez and worked directly for Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo.
Torres has been identified in court cases as the reputed top boss in Juárez of the group known as the "Gente Nueva" of the Sinaloa cartel.
The documents stated that informants told the DEA that Torres ordered the kidnapping at the wedding, interrogated the men and then gave the final order to have them killed.
Other documents reveal that Delgado was arrested after being stopped March 16 at the Santa Teresa border crossing. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers allegedly found 38 kilos of marijuana hidden in a car Delgado was driving. Delgado allegedly confessed that he was to be paid $2,800 for driving the load from Juárez to El Paso. He was sentenced to a year in prison as part of a plea agreement.
Federal agents also arrested Enriquez in March after he allegedly bought a cache of firearms in a deal in the parking lot of the Love's truck stop west of Las Cruces.
A criminal complaint filed by the FBI alleged Enriquez ordered 20 automatic AK-47s, 10 9-mm pistols and 10 .308 rifles. The gun sellers turned out to be undercover agents. All 40 weapons were recovered.