A Mexican drug cartel lawyer who was slain by a masked assassin in Southlake Town Square in 2013 was warned prior to the hit that he was in danger, court records said.
Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa received phone calls from “others” warning him that he was being stalked and that he “needed to be on his guard,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua T. Burgess said in court documents filed Monday.
The documents didn’t say when the calls were made.
Burgess is asking a judge to allow the information about Guerrero Chapa’s fear for his life to be admitted as evidence in the upcoming trial of three men accused of tracking and stalking him.
Guerrero Chapa, 43, was killed shortly before 7 p.m. on May 22, 2013, at the suburban shopping center. A white Toyota Sequoia pulled up behind his Range Rover and a masked gunman stepped out.
The gunman walked to the passenger side where Guerrero Chapa was sitting and shot him multiple times with a 9 mm pistol. His wife, who was loading shopping bags into the vehicle, was not hurt.
The plot to kill Guerrero Chapa began as early as March 2011, shortly before he closed on a $1.2 million house in Southlake, according to the new court filings.
Guerrero Chapa, personal lawyer to Gulf cartel boss Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, was an informant for U.S. law enforcement authorities. Cárdenas is serving a 25-year sentence in a U.S. prison.
Guerrero Chapa received calls from “others to warn him that he was in danger because he had been found by people who wanted to kill him,” Burgess said in the documents.
“Immediately after hanging up the phone, he informed his wife he was scared,” the filing said. “He also told her he didn’t want to go back to the house.”
Guerrero Chapa told his wife that the people looking for him knew where they lived. “He instructed her to stop using the cellphones they had,” the court filing said. Guerrero Chapa used four cellphones at the time.
The defendants, three Mexican men, are scheduled to go to trial April 25 in Fort Worth.
Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, and his son, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Campano Jr., 32, were arrested in September 2014 near McAllen while trying to cross into the U.S., officials said. They were former police officers in the same suburb of Monterrey, Mexico, where Guerrero Chapa and his family were from.
Ledezma-Cepeda’s cousin, Jose Luis Cepeda-Cortes, 59, a legal U.S. resident with a green card, was arrested at his Edinburg home.
They were charged with interstate stalking resulting in death and conspiracy to commit murder for hire.
Three others are charged in sealed indictments because they remain fugitives. It’s unclear what role they are believed to have played in the murder.
The killers have not been publicly identified or charged.
Another person, who is connected to drug traffickers, tried to get Guerrero Chapa deported to Mexico so he could be killed there, Burgess said in another court filing.
Luis Lauro Ramirez-Bautista was involved in the search for Guerrero Chapa and helped finance the effort, the prosecutor said.
Between November 2012 and January 2013, a drug dealer for Ramirez-Bautista met with Ledezma-Cepeda four times and gave him a total of $38,000, Burgess said.
When he was stopped at the Mexico-U.S. border in March 2011, Ramirez-Bautista told a U.S. border agent that he was looking for Guerrero Chapa.
“He had photos of [Guerrero] Chapa’s house, and he told HSI [Homeland Security Investigations] that [Guerrero] Chapa was a drug dealer,” Burgess said in the court filing. “And he told authorities that [Guerrero] Chapa should be deported to Mexico.”
Those statements were designed to “enlist the assistance of the government in returning Chapa to Mexico so that Ramirez-Bautista and others could kill him,” Burgess said.
The murder of Guerrero Chapa was a sophisticated covert operation run by assassins who used surveillance cameras and tracking devices to stalk their victim.
The suspects made several trips across the border to North Texas to stalk Guerrero Chapa while they lived in a rented Grapevine apartment, authorities said. They used at least eight rented and purchased cars. A camera set up in his neighborhood captured Guerrero Chapa driving his Range Rover, which also had a tracking device attached underneath. And cameras were also aimed at the victim’s home, officials said.
Ledezma-Cepeda and his son, Ledezma-Campano, had three surveillance tracking devices in their 2012 Volkswagen Jetta when they were arrested trying to re-enter the U.S. in 2014, court records show.
Government authorities have linked the defendants to at least nine other men who were murdered or vanished in Mexico from 2011 to 2014. Some of the murdered men had tracking devices placed on their vehicles by the defendants, prosecutors said in court filings. Others were named in the defendants’ emails, records show.
Most recently, Moises Tijerina De La Garza was shot to death in Monterrey, Mexico, on Feb. 23, court documents said.
His contact information had been found in Ledezma-Cepeda’s emails, records show. De La Garza was Guerrero Chapa’s brother-in-law,
The defense plans to call nearly 60 witnesses, including federal agents who can testify about Guerrero Chapa’s “illegal activities” while he was a U.S. informant, court records show.
Some defense witnesses will testify about how Guerrero Chapa’s family was kidnapped and later released based on an agreement with “Mexican drug trafficking organizations.