By Adriana M. Chávez
El Paso Times
Police officers escort Jos Antonio Torres Marrufo during his presentation to the media Feb. 4 in Mexico City. According to authorities, Marrufo is the suspected leader of Gente Nueva, an armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel, mainly based in Juárez.
A Sinaloa drug cartel lieutenant was allegedly responsible for ordering the kidnapping, torture and murders of those viewed as the cartel's enemies, according to a 15-count superceding indictment recently filed in federal court.
José Antonio Torres Marrufo, 33, also known as "Tonin," "El Jaguar," "El Catorce" (14) and "El Marrufo" faces charges tied to drug trafficking, murder, racketeering, money laundering and kidnapping. Court documents show the murder charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison or death, while several of the drug charges carry life sentences.
Marrufo was arrested in February in Leon, Guanajuato, and has yet to be extradited.
According to the indictment, Torres Marrufo oversaw enforcement activities for the Sinaloa cartel since late 2007 or early 2008, but by the fall of 2008, cartel leaders expanded his role to include overseeing all drug-trafficking activities in the region around Juárez.
He also directed members of the cartel's Gente Nueva (New People) organization, which officials in Mexico say he helped found, and the Artistas Asesinos (Murder Artists) gang, also known as Los Doble A's (the double A's) and the Mexicles.
Marrufo allegedly directed both groups to gather intelligence on competing drug-trafficking organizations, including the Juárez cartel and its enforcement arm La Línea, and carry out executions against those he deemed were disloyal to the Sinaloa cartel and any competitors.
Federal prosecutors allege Marrufo ordered the kidnapping and murder of Horizon City resident Sergio Saucedo, identified as S.S. in the indictment, in September 2009. Marrufo apparently ordered the hit because Saucedo lost about 670 pounds of marijuana belonging to the Sinaloa cartel during a drug seizure by law-enforcement agents in Sierra Blanca.
After Saucedo was kidnapped, he was taken to Juárez, where Marrufo interrogated him, then ordered his murder, prosecutors allege.
On Sept. 8, 2009, Saucedo's beaten and mutilated body was found on a Juárez street. His hands had been severed above the wrists and placed on his chest "to serve as a warning to those who might attempt to steal from the Cartel," Marrufo's indictment states.
Last year, two men -- Rafael Vega and Cesar Obregon Reyes -- were convicted in Saucedo's murder and sentenced to life in prison in federal court. Both have maintained their innocence.
A third man, Omar Obregon Ortiz, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges and sentenced to 100 months in prison.
Marrufo's indictment also states he ordered the kidnapping and subsequent murders of three New Mexico men -- brothers Rafael and Jaime Morales Valencia and their uncle Guadalupe Morales Arreola -- in May 2010 outside of Rafael Valencia's wedding in Juárez.
A fourth man, Alonso Sotel Corral, was murdered during the kidnapping.
The indictment states the murders were ordered "because of an obligation to the Cartel." Court records show Gonzalo Delgado Chavez, described as a "family friend" of Rafael Valencia, was allegedly paid $1,000 to identify members of the Morales family to a hit squad.
"After the individual identified the groom, the three were tortured and murdered on Torres Marrufo's instructions. Their bodies were found by Juárez police a few days later in the bed of an abandoned pickup truck," Marrufo's indictment states.
Mexican law-enforcement officials have said Marrufo is the suspected mastermind of the bloody massacre at a drug rehabilitation center, Casa Aliviane, on Sept. 2, 2009. Seventeen people were killed during the shootings, which made international news because of the way victims were lined up and shot to death.
Marrufo is also thought to be responsible for coordinating shipments of Columbian cocaine and Mexican marijuana through the international bridges connecting Juárez and El Paso, and through miles of open desert in the the Valley of Juárez.
He's also accused of transporting and transferring large amounts of money from the U.S. into Mexico, and of possessing firearms "in furtherance of the drug trafficking crimes."
A previous indictment detailed how Marrufo was allegedly involved in smuggling more than 60 high-powered rifles, including a .50-caliber rifle. According to the Los Angeles Times, some of the firearms seized in El Paso and Juárez and apparently linked to Marrufo were linked to the controversial Fast and Furious program implemented by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The paper also reported that during the Juárez raid, police found the entrance to a secret room behind the mirrored walls of a basement gym in his home. The room contained an anti-aircraft machine gun, a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher.