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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, May 10, 2024

Phoenix Man Convicted In Quadruple Cartel Murder Case

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

A 33-year-old Phoenix man has been convicted of murdering four men in a failed attempt to take over the drug business.

Three of the men were shot to death, their bodies set on fire inside a burning car left and abandoned in a Southern California neighborhood in the middle of the day in 2015.

The body of a fourth man was found inside a car in Fontana, California, six days after he was shot to death; his killers recorded his dying moments on a cellphone.

Raul Gastellum Flores, of Phoenix, was convicted by a jury Monday of four felony counts of first-degree murder, four special circumstances of murder during the commission of a robbery, and four special circumstances of multiple murders.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19.

Two other defendants charged in connection with the murders remain wanted on warrants; a third, Rosario Adan Roman-Lopez, who allegedly orchestrated the hit, is believed to have been murdered in Mexico in retribution for the murders, and a fourth was a cooperating witness.

Rosario Roman-Lopez is accused of orchestrating the murders in retaliation for Edgar and Joel Berrelleza’s decision to cut him out of their drug dealing business run by the Sinaloa Cartel.

Roman-Lopez recruited Flores to help carry out the murders, traveling from Phoenix to Orange County with several handguns and AK-47s to steal tens of thousands of dollars from the Berrelleza brothers and to murder them if they refused to pay.

On November 9, 2015, Orange, California, police were called to a burning SUV on Oakmont Street just after 2 p.m.

Bystanders were attempting to put out the fire with a garden hose. After the firefighters extinguished the fire, officers discovered two men deceased in the back seat and a third man deceased in the front passenger seat.

All three men had been shot multiple times. Fernando Meza had his hands bound, and he had also been stabbed several times. Edgar Berrelleza had been shot in the head and the back, and Antonio Medina had been shot in the head.

Surveillance video captured the SUV on fire as the driver jumped from the vehicle before it slowly rolled to a stop. The driver got into a waiting sedan and left the burning vehicle with the three bodies inside.

Earlier that day, Flores and several accomplices went to an apartment in Orange where they intercepted Medina, Meza, and Edgar Berrelleza by holding them up at gunpoint and forcing their way into the car.

Flores and two other gunmen held the three men hostage while waiting for orders from Roman-Lopez.

Flores called Roman-Lopez, who told Flores he knew what needed to be done.

Meza and Medina were shot multiple times in the head and chest while Flores drove the SUV.

Edgar was then shot in the head and back multiple times.

After the murders, the other accomplices exited the SUV and got into another vehicle.

Flores continued to drive the stolen SUV with the three bodies inside until he reached Oakmont Street in Orange. He set the car on fire but he was still behind the wheel.

He jumped from the moving vehicle as it continued to burn with the bodies inside and escaped to the waiting sedan.

Meza was still alive when the fire was started and soot was found in his lungs.

He later died as a result of the gunshot wounds and fire.

Flores then went to an apartment in Orange where Roman-Lopez and other accomplices had kidnapped and tied up Joel Berrelleza.

Roman-Lopez and other accomplices stole safes, money, and over $60,000 worth of heroin from the apartment.

Flores and another accomplice forced Joel Berrelleza into his Pontiac, where he was shot three times as they drove and recorded his dying breaths on a cellphone.

His body was left inside his vehicle in Fontana for six days until a passerby called the police to report a man had been sleeping inside the vehicle for several days.

“These murders were calculated to inflict the maximum amount of terror not only on their victims, but also on the neighbors and first responders who had to witness the absolute horror that was unleashed on their neighborhood,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “This was someone who took absolute pleasure in carrying out these killings.”

Former FBI supervisory special agent Jim Egelston looked at the case with Arizona’s Family.

Egelston said cartel investigations can be some of the most difficult.

“The cartels are deliberately sending a very strong message not to cross the cartel, and not to testify against the cartel,” said Egelston. “It can often be very difficult to get records from Mexico either because they’re not maintained the same way we would do here, and it can be difficult to get cooperation from Mexican authorities because the cartels obviously exert a lot of influence and corruption.”

Egelston said it’s surprising the cartel would use a hitman from the U.S. “That might have been what led to his conviction,” said Egelston.

In this case, so many people were involved, which could provide more witnesses to the police, but that is a catch-22.

“The intimidation factor, people don’t want to come forward, people don’t want to be identified, witnesses are rightfully afraid of retaliation in those cases,” said Egelston.

While Flores now awaits sentencing, there are still two suspects wanted for murder in this case.

“If they went back to Mexico, were they rewarded for their role in this? Or did the cartel punish them as well? So, a lot of unknowns in this case,” said Egelston.

Arizona News  Arizona News


  1. Murder is bad Mm..kay. If you murder 4 people your going to have a bad time in jail Mm...kay! Nuff said!!

  2. Great !!! A cartel murder spree but said Cartel does not get mentioned in the news story.

  3. But, but, how, I don't... Gun advocates assured us this couldn't happen in the US because they wouldn't allow it.

    1. Exactly! All these comments saying stay away from mexico when it’s already in their backyard. Last week a cave with dead bodies was found in Northridge, CA.

    2. Thanks to Mexico lawlessness now they want to commit crimes in the US.

    3. 9:17 But how since gun advocates say the will stop it.

  4. BB needs a community improvement section where this feel-good story can be listed!

  5. What. No death penalty in Arizona.

    1. Happened in California

    2. Arizona has a death penalty

  6. TERRIBLE!!! I hope he gets life. KARMA will catch those while they are on the run. If these ruthless manaics really think they can kill, kidnap, murder people and burn up their vehicles
    to avoid fidning evidence here in the US like they do in corrupt Mexico. They are dumb too.

    1. 10:08 of course he will get life.
      What you think the court is in Mexico, where they go free when big bribes are paid.

  7. This is off the subject but has BB ever considered adding an emoji option to articles and/or a 👍 or 👎 option to comments? Just wondering.

  8. CDS should stay out of Phoenix


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