Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trial Watch: El Piolin Pleads Guilty to Murder of Jaime Zapata and more cartel trial information

Borderland Beat
A commander of the Zetas drug cartel pleaded guilty Thursday, May 23, 2013 to the murder of ICE Special Agent Jaime J. Zapata and the attempted murder of fellow agent Victor Avila.

Julian Zapata Espinoza, 32, also known as “El Piolin” entered the plea in a Washington, D.C., federal court before Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth less than two weeks before he was to stand trial on the charges of murder and attempted murder in the shooting of the federal agents.

Zapata, 32, a Brownsville native who worked for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was killed Feb. 15, 2011, near San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in an attack by members of the Zetas drug cartel.

Avila was wounded in the attack.

Authorities said Zapata struggled with his assailants as they tried to drag him out of his vehicle. Zapata was shot at least three times with the bullets flying through the car window that accidentally had been cracked open. Authorities said 83 spent casings from AK-47 bullets were found at the scene.

Agent Zapata’s family attended Thursday’s court proceedings along with attorney Trey Martinez of Brownsville, who said the Zapata family was “pleased” with the court proceedings that had occurred, but added this is just the beginning. The family has a $75 million lawsuit pending against the federal government and others.
“The Zapata and Avila families are pleased with this guilty plea and the steps taken to bring those responsible for this crime to justice. They are grateful to all those who have stood by them and have been instrumental in this process,” Martinez said in statement.

In his April 2013 statement to federal authorities, Espinoza Zapata admitted that he and other “estacas” or “hit squads” armed with AK-47s, AR-15s and handguns, surrounded the armored vehicle in which Jaime Zapata and Avila were riding in San Luis Potosi. El Piolin stated he fired several shots in the air trying to get the agents to exit the vehicle. When they refused to do so, the “estacas” fired weapons at the vehicle, Espinoza Zapata said.
Zapata Espinoza said he and the others did not know that Agent Zapata and Avila were U.S. citizens and federal agents until after the ambush. He was arrested Feb. 23, 2011, at his residence in Mexico.

The purpose of “stopping the armored vehicle was to steal it,” Espinoza Zapata said.
In an initial statement to Mexican authorities, Zapata Espinoza said that agent Zapata’s death was a case of mistaken identity. He and others believed the Suburban in which Zapata and Avila were riding belonged to a rival drug cartel.

In his April statement to U.S. authorities, Zapata Espinoza said Zeta members had a “standing order from the Zetas leadership to steal vehicles deemed valuable to the cartel.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., Thursday stated that three others also entered guilty pleas in connection with the killing and wounding of the agents. Ruben Dario Venegas Rivera, 25, also known as “Catracho,” and Jose Ismael Nava Villagran, 30, also known as “Cacho,” pleaded guilty on Aug. 1, 2011, and Jan. 4, 2012, respectively, to one count each to federal charges concerning the murder and attempted murder of agents Zapata and Avila.

In addition, Francisco Carbajal Flores, 38, also known as “Dalmata,” entered a guilty plea to a charge of “conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity and to being an accessory after the fact to the murder and attempted murder of the agents.”

The defendants’ guilty pleas had been sealed until Thursday’s court proceedings.
Authorities said as part of the guilty pleas Zapata Espinoza, Venegas Rivera and Nava Villagran admitted to being members of the Zetas hit squad and participating directly in the ambush on the agents. 

Carbajal Flores admitted to assisting Zeta members in the attack.

All four men face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. No sentencing date has been scheduled.

The case was investigated by the FBI, ICE, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Adminstration, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Marshals Service.

More cartel related trial news: Vincente Zambada's Trial Posponed Again, 
Eduardo Arellano Félix pleads guilty in U.S Court ....Gets 15 

From the level of anticipation in the courtroom, it seemed the audience would set the start date for defendant Vicente Zambada Niebla's this instant. Disappointed with still "no date in sight" because the it was postponed again today at the request of prosecutors and defense. so the Judge Ruben Castillo ruled that both parties will meet face to face again until next July 23.

Neither lawyers nor prosecutors, nor the Department of Justice of the United States, revealed the reasons by which the hearing was postponed (for the umpteenth time). They appeared only interested with the court's decision which was obeyed by the defense and the prosecution.

"That's all we were told: just that the hearing will be postponed at the a request of both sides," said Randall Sanborn, spokesman for the DOJ in the Northern District of Illinois.

Zambada Niebla was extradited on February 18, 2010, and has since participated in several hearings in Chicago Federal Court, but always without setting a date yet for the start of trial, which would be the beginning of a legal tug of war.

In response to the allegations, prosecutors said Zambada Niebla, along with other leaders of the cartel, would have tried to attack the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, or another public building in the nation's capital.
After those first attacks, Judge Castillo said that "due to the seriousness of the case," it would have to be postponed. And for the past two years the case has been postponed .

Tomas Arevalo Veazquez Renteria and Alfredo Hernandez, two of the defendants who were prosecuted with Vicentillo will be tried in separate trials, raising doubts and strengthening the possibility that Zambada Niebla's trial will be sequestered.

Zambada Niebla was arrested in Mexico City on March 19, 2009.

The Mexican drug lord Eduardo Arellano Félix, alias "El Doctor", will plead guilty to several charges Friday morning in federal court in San Diego, California, federal sources reported Thursday. The last of the Arellano Félix brothers prosecution will present its statement after  reaching an agreement with federal prosecutors to reduce his sentence, revealed, Debra Hartman, the prosecution spokeswoman . "El Doctor", 65, was extradited from Mexico on August 31, 2012 without having completed his sentence in Mexico, to stand trial in California on drug conspiracy and money laundering. Arellano Félix, the former leader of the Arellano Felix organization is the last of the brothers to be tried, after Francisco Javier, alias "El Tigrillo", who was sentenced to life imprisonment, Francisco Rafael was repatriated to Mexico and Ramon was killed in a clash in Sinaloa.

According to federal court records in San Diego, "El Doctor" and two lieutenants of the Arellano Felix cartel are responsible for smuggling thousands of tons of cocaine from Colombia to the United States.

Promptly at 10 am, Judge Larry Alan Burns began the trial hearing against Eduardo Arellano Felix, El Doctor, for the alleged crimes of money laundering and transportation of proceeds of drug trafficking.

In the Southern District of California federal court, room 14 was not large enough for everyone to hear the plea of the last Arellano Felix brother arrested and tried in the United States.

Before Judge Burns, El Doctor accepted responsibility for the charges against him, after reaching a preliminary agreement with American justice. The negotiation thought to benefit  Arellano Felix since he would receive a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and be cleared of two charges together which represented a sentence of 20 years in prison: conspiracy for drug trafficking and conspiracy.

The judge also said that if he accepted his guilt he would in fact lose any right to reclaim assets of up to $50 million from the profits of the organization.

After Arellano Felix agreed to accept the charges, Judge Burns cited a new hearing on August 19 but not before warning him that the first charge would receive a sentence of five years  and the second 10 years.

Interestingly, Judge Burns is the same who sentenced Benjamin and Francisco Javier Arellano Felix. Both serving sentences in the United States.

Arellano Felix was assisted at the hearing by the public defender, Brian P. Funk.

Still Awaiting Sentencing Date  for Jose Trevino Morales and accomplices
There still is no sentencing date set in the conspiracy to launder Los Zeta's cartel money trial from Judge Sam Sparks @United States Western District Court of Texas
for Jose Treviño Morales, Francisco Cessa Colorado, Estebio Maldonado Huitron and Fernando Solis Garcia awaiting sentencing in custody.

Borderland Beat Trial coverageWeek 1, Week 2, Week 3, Verdict Watch

Sources:Brownsvilleherald,, proceso
Riodoce, Riodoce, Washington Post


  1. [The family has a $75 million lawsuit pending against the federal government and others.]

    Anybody know why there's this additional lawsuit?

  2. Eduardo copped a plea for 15 years then I think Jose Trevino Morales even without copping a plea should get about four!

  3. You can see the difference between Zetas and Zambadas
    Good update

  4. Good day Havana. Thanks for all the updates! What a way to start the day, I'm glad these evil greedy bastards are getting sentenced but EL DOCTOR'S sentence has got me really f-ing angry.That plea deal is insane. Sure,they get the 50 million but the guy walks on drug and murder charges???? WTF happened? Why not 50 million and life without parole for at least RICO? In Texas, if I did any one of these things, my butt,would rot in a super-max...even if I gave up 50 million.If this is supposed to be some sort of deterrent against drug trafficking,money laundering or murder...WRONG WAY TO DO IT. Peace,Texas Grandma.

  5. I wouldn't be surprised if they give him only 10-15 years in exchange for information on other Zetas that they will proceed to not go after.

  6. Does anyone know why there isn't a sentencing date yet for Jose Trevino? Are they just working on it and can't anticipate how long it will take yet?

  7. Way too little of a sentence!
    Great job Havana!!!
    El Lobo

  8. Zapata and his cell didnt have to kill them,hope they get the maximum.

    1. You're an idiot...first of all they weren't DEA agents they were ICE agents...second the SUV was marked with diplomatic plates...and third I doubt they deserved to die just because they were riding in an "unmarked vehicle"

    2. Youre an idiot!!! No one deserves to get gunned down cause a group of low life bottom feeders wanted their vehicle

    3. Did you read the article..el piolin even fired warning shots to get those idiot ice agents or dea agents to stop and once they didnt it went from a routine investigation,to kill them because they are rivals.This was s mistaken incident,it wasnt a targeted incident.It not about jacking cars,Zetas have hundreds of those,its about identifying the misterious pasangers and when they refuse to stop that means you are a rival,its that simple.

  9. Welcome to the United States Of America assholes, now you will be able to live in our country forever without a green card. No need to work, we will pay for your food and we will provide you with a cell to live your life away. Please don't cry, we will evel pay to send your body in a box back to México when you finish your prison sentence by year 3075. Just for now is only: Welcome to the federal prison system and please don't eat to much.

    1. You do realize eduardo is only getting 15 years max.. that means he's out by around 2028 thats if they dont count time hes already done, so you sir sound like a shit head.
      15 years for all those crime? Haha thats whay happens when u have boat loads of money

    2. The US wardens should just cremate the dead-lifers bodies if relatives can't pay in 3075. It isn't like they don't have time to save up a little every week. Honestly for a country that is considered smart (by whom-not always sure), the US does some stupid, ass-backwards decison making.

  10. I just don't feel bad when a DEA agent is killed. How many millions of lives have they destroyed sending people away for a stupid joint? i know Chivis that you don't like drugs. But in the lesser of two supposed evils, I choose the poor/nuevo riche violent drug trafficker over the suppressive totalitarian police. The government is delaying to get Vicente Zambada out on a technicality (right to a speedy trial) since they are still milking info from Sinaloa. Sinaloa has been cold as of late.

    1. Its not the drugs or the selling of them that bothers me its the violence that goes with it.why cant they just sell their dope without all the beheadings and kidnappings and such.its just insane and i dont know of a DEA agent who cut someones head off

  11. One thing that I always wondered about was who were vicente zambadas bodyguards? Any info on any of them? Also, when chapo was arrested was he with anyone else? If anyone knows anything about either of these it'd be interesting to know anout them

  12. I am a little shocked by that wimpy sentence! He must have really let out some load squeals. Fine, fine follow through Havana

  13. This is a really good mexican cartel high profile criminal trial update. It was smart of you to put Jaime Zapata first even if others probably would have maybe gone with Eduardo Arellano Felix and grabbed more attention. But your way was more respectful. This was a good call Havana and a job well done.

  14. so why didnt they steal the truck. hmmmmmm i smell a cover up....on both sides of the border.

  15. Arriba CAF, CDS, CDG, Zetas, etc. They might have build a narco empire, but most of the Arrellano Felix brothers now find themselves Federal U.S. custody serving long sentences or dead. Vincentillo awaits trail for drug trafficking, money laundering, and perhaps terrorism. Zetas/ CDGs are receiving heavy sentences all over the place for crimes related to drug trafficking. The moral of the story is that there is only two places that narco trafficking can lead towards: prison or the grave. Only a few cartel learders, and the corrupt politicians that protect them, get to enjoy the fruits of that labor.

  16. dumb comandant, he should of learn not to mess with dea,u.s.

  17. As for Jose Trevino Morale's sentencing, I check the judge's docket every day to see if his schedule has been changed and updated.

    Thanks Lobo, I appreciate a kind word now and again. I try.

    El Piolin will get the maximum. They wanted him to get the death penalty but Mexico refused. Dealth penalty then no El Piolin.

    And Texas Grandma thank for your comment as always you nailed it, "if I did any one of these things, my butt, would rot in a super-max...even if I gave up 50 million.If this is supposed to be some sort of deterrent against drug trafficking,money laundering or murder...WRONG WAY TO DO IT.

    Isn't that true!

  18. Enjoyed reading this BB. I need no more than this . It is plenty of information to give me an understanding of these criminal procedures invoving 4 important players in 4 different Mexican cartels in 4 major American courtrooms in 4 different American cities. This is actually an important observation. Shows The US is trying like hell! Astute Borderland Beat!

  19. Killed in the line of duty,and every motherfucker gonna get sued ?
    Compensation culture runnin wild and free.Its sad,but no one forced Zapata and Avila to sign up for DEA?It can be a dangerous job,and its part of the job,live with it,or dont do it.

  20. Was the Z-Cartel so broke they had to 'jack' cars???

    Also, good on the sentencing reports.

    1. All cartels jack cars,specially when there is tension or threats by rival cartels to invade or move in on a plaza,maybe CDG at that time was attempting an incursion so the well positioned checkpoints by the Zetas usually at the entrance received the order to investigate any luxury or misterious investigate usually means take that car,interrogate them and see what rival cartel they work for. When you continue and decide your going to not listen to the group of sicarios .than the investigative phase is over,they now believe your a rival thats why they unloaded their weapons at the vehicle.This comandante was just going by the books he did what he was assigned to do.

  21. Judge Sam Sparks calendar is packed and not a Trevino in sight, not the wife, not the daughter and not jose appears on the calendar thru June 25.

  22. well Zapata is bein portrayed as a loss because of a fail operation. and a murder commited by the Zetas. but they never mention he was in fact killed because he was one of the agents smuggling weapons into mexico and giving them to a enemy cartel. just like kike Cabrera a old dea agent who was killed in mexico for working with another cartel. not as a agent but using his sources to get a better work done. just like the cia agents shot at in 3 Marias, they were shot at because they gave training to the opposite cartel and guess what the rivals found out.
    im not making this up. do a theral research and there are MUCH INFORMATION MISSING.

    1. There might exist an ulterior motive for Jaime Zapata's murder, however, he wasn't an ATF agent. The ATF agents job is to enforce federal gun, alcohol, tobacco, and explosive laws/regulations. Hence the name of the agency. ICE concern themselves with illegal immigration and human trafficking. That's not to say something shady did'nt occur. The 4 ATF agents killed during the raid of the Davidian compound in Waco were ex -Clinton bodyguards while he was governor of Arkansas. Clinton had this affinity for the ladies and was even accused of rape; however, a lot of his accusers quietly died off.

  23. Seriously dude: how is it possible for most of us to do that type of thorough resesrch. We just wouldn't be privy to that kind of information. I speak saying again most of us are not military, ICE, Border Patrol or any law enforcement. We look to people who can open our eyes to different possibilities and tell how it is. Everyone please share what you think and know. It helps.

  24. Yes, you're making that up because you haven't check the right info, first of all Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena and PGR pilot Alfredo Zavala Avelar were killed by Rafael Caro Quintero after a huge federal operation destroyed all the marijuana plantation at El Búfalo Ranch in Chihuahua, the investigation was been carried out by Kiki Camarena and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo gave the order to kill Kiki Camarena and Alfredo Zavala Avelar. Please do your homework before posting.

  25. the real killers are still out terrorizing people, these scumbags were volunteered. what about all the other roadside carjackings/killings? those crimes are never solved, but this case dealt w U.S. officials. Mexico acted quickly to shut the U.S. up. So where are the rest of the culprits?

  26. Y arriva El Niño! Si señor

  27. In my point of view I love America but it should stop getting involve in other country's like always


Comments are moderated, refer to policy for more information.
Envía fotos, vídeos, notas, enlaces o información
Todo 100% Anónimo;