A former enforcer for the Texas Mexican Mafia drew five consecutive life prison terms without parole Wednesday for his role in the killings of five people, including Balcones Heights Police Officer Julian Pesina.
Ruben “Menace” Reyes, 37, was deemed a threat to society by Senior U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra, who took the unusual step of recommending that he serve his sentence at a Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Administrative Maximum Facility houses or has housed many of the country’s most infamous criminals and terrorists. Heriberto Huerta, the San Antonio native who founded the Texas Mexican Mafia in prison in the 1980s, is serving life terms at that lockup, where inmates are isolated for most of their stay.
“I have looked for the good in this defendant and I have found very little,” Ezra said of Reyes. “Unfortunately, there is little to no hope in rehabilitation of this defendant. He has no conscience. … He poses a danger because of his propensity to murder.”
At a hearing last year, Reyes admitted killing at least 16 people as part of the gang’s efforts to control the drug market here through extortion and violence. He was charged only in connection to five killings because some evidence on the others didn’t match his admissions.
Without making a deal with prosecutors, Reyes pleaded guilty in July to 10 counts on charges that included violent crime (murder) in aid of racketeering and aiding and abetting the use of a firearm during a crime of violence.
Reyes’ lawyer, Brandon Hudson, asked Ezra to run the life sentences concurrently, but the judge turned him down.
According to court records, Reyes was the go-to guy for the gang’s “green light” hits. Among those he admitted killing was fellow gang member Ulysses Farias, 36, in October 2013 and three high-ranking members of the gang in January 2014 who had fallen out of favor.
Reyes also told investigators he passed down orders targeting Pesina, 29, who was off duty when he was shot outside his tattoo shop on May 4, 2014, while delivering payment for a street tax imposed by the gang. Pesina was under FBI investigation at the time for drug-dealing activity but was killed because he had falsely claimed membership in the gang, court records said.
Shortly after those killings, Reyes learned that his own gang wanted him dead and went to the San Antonio Police Department for protection. Over at least two days, he confessed to the SAPD and the FBI about several killings and helped investigators find the makeshift grave near Pearsall containing three victims he shot in January 2014: Texas Mexican Mafia general Carlos “Worm” Chapa, captain Mark Anthony “Lefty” Bernal, and “lieutenant of lieutenants” Johnny “Smiley” Solis.
They were killed for mishandling $60,000, court records said. Reyes was briefly given Bernal’s rank afterward before the gang put out a “green light” on his own life.
“He cooperated from the moment he came in and helped (investigators) solve a number of killings,” Hudson said. “A big victory for us was getting the death penalty off the table.”
Of the victims’ families, only Bernal’s widow, mother and father addressed the court Wednesday.
“Mark made some mistakes, but he never hurt anybody,” Bernal’s mother told the judge. “He did not deserve to die.”
She called Reyes a “soulless, heartless monster” who killed Bernal two weeks before the birth of his daughter.
“So many lives (Reyes) has taken,” she said. “He deserves the death penalty, not life in prison.”
Reyes was cooperating with the FBI but changed his mind as the Justice Department’s lengthy process in racketeering and potential death-penalty cases lagged on.
“His justification for killing some of (the victims) were that those people were ‘in the (gang) life,’ as if that were some sort of justification,” Ezra said. “There is no justification for committing cold-blooded murder. The defendant did so without remorse, with cold and precise calculation and absolutely no thought about the families of the victims, the children and the community.”
follow link to a San Antonio Express pictorial explaining the Texas Mexican Mafia scroll through the 29 photos