- The Southlake Murder Conspiracy Trial Begins; Day One
- One victim in Ohio family murders was shot 9 times; police probe possible Mexican drug cartel connection
- Panic in Acapulco: Two Hours of Shootouts
Posted: 26 Apr 2016 08:21 PM PDT
FORT WORTH — The two men on trial in the contract killing of a Mexican drug cartel lawyer in Southlake didn’t pull the trigger, but prosecutors say they were the big game “hunting guides” who told the assassins when to take their shots.
That was how Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua T. Burgess described the role of two cousins who are on trial in the May 2013 slaying of Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa.
Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, a private investigator and ex-police officer from Mexico, planned the sophisticated tracking of Guerrero, Burgess said during opening statements Tuesday in a federal courtroom.
His son, Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Campano Jr., has pleaded guilty to helping his father and will testify for the government.
The father's cousin, José Luis Cepeda-Cortes, is accused of helping them by performing public records searches to find the victim at his house in Southlake. He also helped with the spy cameras, authorities said.
‘Big game hunting’
Ledezma-Cepeda and Cepeda-Cortes are both on trial.
“In the world of big game hunting, hunters need a guide,” Burgess said. “It’s the role of the guide to lead the hunter … these two defendants played the role of hunting guides.”
But their prey was human, he said.
The hit on Guerrero was ordered by Rodolfo Villarreal Hernandez, a leader of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel who went by “El Gato,” Burgess said.
The motive was revenge for the murder of his father about a decade earlier, for which he held Guerrero responsible, Burgess said.
The two cousins watched Guerrero Chapa from across a small pond at Southlake Town Square as a white SUV pulled up behind his Range Rover.
The gunman, a hood and scarf covering his face, got out and shot the victim as he sat in the passenger seat.
The shooter and getaway driver are fugitives.
Burgess told the jury that the defense will argue that Guerrero Chapa, a Gulf cartel lawyer, was involved in illegal activity.
“No one deserves to be murdered,” he said.
The plot began in June 2011, he said, around the time Guerrero Chapa purchased a $1.2 million home in Southlake under an assumed name.
“The victim was aware that people were looking for him,” Burgess said.
Ledezma-Cepeda was in constant contact with Gato in the days leading up to the murder, Burgess said. Ledezma-Cepeda even kept a GPS tracker on his own vehicle so that Gato would know his whereabouts.
He said his cousin was in charge of “command and control” for the operation, buying air fare, registering the trackers and identifying
the victim’s home.
“Without their involvement, Mr. Chapa would still be alive,” Burgess said.
No intention to kill
Wes Ball, an attorney for Ledezma-Cepeda, said his client was forced by Gato to take the job. His family lived in Monterrey, unprotected, he said.
“This is not a job offer,” Ball said. “This is a different world. Mr. Ledezma does what he is told. He has no choice.”
The cartel knows where he is at all times because of the GPS tracker on his vehicle, Ball said.
But Ball said his client never intended for anyone to be killed.
Robert Rogers, an attorney for Cepeda-Cortes, said his client knew his cousin as a former police officer and decided to help him as any family member would do.
Rogers said his client was used and manipulated by his cousin and knew nothing about a murder plot.
“He is outside the loop,” he said.
DD; With both sides having presented their opening statements, testimony should get underway tomorrow. The prosecution is expected to start testimony with expert testimony by a Blackberry employee to testify about Blackberry's messaging system, which is known for its encryption, and "records related to the use of Blackberry phones."
An employee of Blackline GPS, a company which rents satellite tracking devices, will testify about the electronic gadgets allegedly used by the defendants and placed on Guerrero's car. A person only identified as a "cooperating witness" will talk about the "language used among drug dealers."
And of course their star witness, Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Campano Jr., son of defendent Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, has pleaded guilty to helping his father and will testify for the government.
The Govt. had asked for 60 hours to present their case, but the judge granted only 35 hours.
As I said in a previous story, the defenses only strategy is to "convict" the victim., to make him into such a bad guy that the jury will vote on their emotions rather than the facts presented in this case.
The government may try to soften any impact of any evidence the defense may present to vilify the victim, Guerrero Chapa In a recent filing by the prosecution, gave notice of intent that it "may" use email and tracking device evidence to show the defendants have been involved in up to 12 other murders..
The Govt. wants to be prepared to show these defendants were not exactly choir boys who got involved in the Chapa murder by happenstance or circumstance thinking their only job as private detectives was to locate Chapa without having any knowledge of the planned murder.
According to U.S. prosecutors, the defendants were involved in the following murders both before and after the Southlake attack:
At the time of their arrests in September 2014, Ledezma-Cepeda and Ledezma-Campano were still searching for two other men, including Guerrero's brother, Armando Guerrero-Chapa, according to the court document.
According to prosecutors, the father and son Ledezmas continued participating in other cartel activities in the U.S. in the months after Guerrero's murder, helping an accused drug dealer named Casimiro Bautista flee. An indictment in October 2013 accused Bautista of running a large-scale marijuana smuggling operation.
The Ledezmas picked him up near the U.S.-Mexico border "at the time of his flight," prosecutors say.
Bautista was rearrested and in January agreed to a plea agreement, admitting he had transported more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana from Mexico, through the Rio Grande Valley, and to regional distributors in Tennessee and Florida in hidden compartments in semi-trucks and campers.
Bautista, also known as "Vecino" or "Sasquatch," agreed to forfeit $1.5 million. He has not yet been sentenced.
DEFENSE TO ASK ABOUT VICTIM'S "ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES" WHILE U.S. INFORMANT
Attorneys for one defendant, Cepeda-Cortes, filed a list of potential witnesses 57 names long. They include 19 FBI agents, 11 DEA agents and assorted other investigators and experts.
The defendant's attorney said the witnesses would testify about the information Guerrero provided to federal agents about Mexican drug cartels that led to the U.S. seizure of cartels' "assets."
The attorney said the information "ultimately resulted in the kidnapping and release of [Guerrero's] family based on the agreement that those organizations would no longer be targeted by [Guerrero]."
It did not specify when the kidnapping happened or whether it occurred in Southlake or somewhere else.
The attorneys also said their witnesses "will testify regarding the investigation into the illegal activities of [Guerrero] while [Guerrero]was a [U.S.] informant" and "the means used specifically by his drug operation to avoid interference from law enforcement."
Government Motion to Use Evidence
Posted: 26 Apr 2016 06:08 PM PDT
All but one of the eight family members slain on isolated Ohio farms last week died from multiple gunshot wounds, and one victim was shot nine times, according to autopsy results released Tuesday.
The gruesome findings emerged as investigators reportedly examined a potential Mexican drug cartel connection for the executions on properties used for marijuana growing operations.
Local station 10TV, citing anonymous law enforcement sources, said authorities are examining whether a cartel turf war or family feud sparked the slaughter of eight members of the Rhoden family.
The victims — seven adults and a 16-year-old — had gunshot wounds to their heads, torsos and other parts of their bodies, according to autopsy results. With one exception, each victim suffered at least two gunshot wounds, and one was shot nine times. Some bodies also were bruised from apparent beatings.
The autopsy results did not identify any of the victims.
Police have not made any arrests or identified any suspects for the massacre, which authorities called “pre-planned executions.”
Mounting evidence shows a massive drug ring, and possibly other illegal activities, operating out of the family’s isolated farms near Piketon.
Three of the four crimes scenes held several hundred marijuana plants, prosecutors said.
"It wasn't just somebody sitting pots in the window," Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk told the Columbus Dispatch.
Authorities also said there was evidence of cockfighting found on the farms, though it’s unclear if that has any connection to the killings.
The eight victims were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Gary Rhoden, 38; Kenneth Rhoden, 44; Dana Rhoden, 37; Clarence Rhoden, 20; Hannah Gilley, 20; and Hanna Rhoden, 19.
Two children, and an infant sleeping with one victim, were unharmed and are now under the care of extended family member.
In 2012, authorities seized more than 1,200 marijuana plants, with suspected ties to a Mexican drug cartel, in Waverly, a town about five miles away from the Rhoden farms.
Posted: 25 Apr 2016 08:47 PM PDT
By: Ezequiel Flores Contreras | Translated by Valor for Borderland Beat
At least two armed attacks were reported on Sunday night in a similar manner against a hotel where federal agents stay and towards the offices of the federal police (PF). They unleashed a wave of shootouts in different parts of the port of Acapulco that caused panic and terror amongst citizens.
The shootouts lasted for more than two hours along the main tourist route, along Avenida Costera Miguel Alemán (Coastal Avenue Miguel Alemán), where dozens of people were trapped in shopping centers, stores, and restaurants.
However, the federal police, through its official Twitter account, downplayed the events when they informed at 23:10 hours: “In #Acapulco an incident left an alleged suspect dead. Situation under control and without danger to citizens”.
Nevertheless, official reports indicate that around 21:53 hours, an armed attack occurred against Hotel Alba Suites, located in the division Las Playas in the traditional area of the port where the federal police is staying.
Then, the uniformed repelled the attack, taking down an alleged suspect and beginning a chase that lasted throughout several streets.
In a similar manner, another armed group attacked the offices of the federal police base located in a building marked with the numbers 125 along the coastal avenue in the golden area of Acapulco.
In both attacks, only one agent was reported with minor injuries and one alleged suspect dead, official reports indicate.
The shootouts generated by the persecution against the gunmen were reported along the coast which closed traffic at various points, in neighborhoods such as Bocamar, La Laja and Progreso, all located in the heart of the urban area of Acapulco.
The attacks against the federal police and the shootouts registered last night, occur after the arrest of the alleged leader of a faction of the Cártel Independiente de Acapulco (CIDA) (Independent Cartel of Acapulco), Fredy Del Valle Berdel, aka “El Burro”, who was captured Saturday in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur.
So far, no state and municipal authorities have set a position on this events that show the failure of the security strategy to try to reverse the effects of drug violence in the main tourist destination of the state.
In contrast, the PRI governor Héctor Astudillo, who had first asked reporters to take a pact of silence in regards to drug violence, and then stated that the closing of shops in Acapulco is due to them providing bad service, announced that he would be present this morning at the Tianguis Turístico Internacional (International Tourism Expo) that was held at Guadalajara, Jalisco.