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Barrio Azteca Gang Associate Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Participating in Racketeering Conspiracy

SEP 29 (EL PASO) – A Barrio Azteca (BA) gang associate was sentenced today to 240 months in prison for his participation in a racketeering conspiracy and drug trafficking offenses.

Luis Humberto Hernandez Celis, aka Pac, 32, of El Paso, was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone of the Western District of Texas for racketeering conspiracy; conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances; and conspiracy to import heroin, cocaine and marijuana. 

According to court documents and information presented in court throughout this case, the BA gang began operating in the late 1980s as a violent prison gang and has expanded into a transnational criminal organization based in West Texas; Juarez, Mexico; and throughout state and federal prisons in the United States and Mexico.  The gang relies on a militaristic command structure that includes “captains,” “lieutenants,” “sergeants” and “soldiers” to maintain power and enrich members and associates through drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, intimidation, violence, threats of violence and murder. 

According to court documents, since Jan. 1, 2003, members and associates of the BA have engaged in a host of criminal activity, including the March 13, 2010, murders in Juarez of U.S. consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband Arthur Redelfs and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of a U.S. consulate employee.

According to admissions made in connection with Hernandez Celis’s plea agreement, BA generates profits by importing heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico.  Hernandez Celis admitted that gang members and associates also allegedly charge a “street tax” or “cuota” on businesses and criminals operating on their turf.  These profits are used to support gang members in prison by funneling money into prison commissary accounts of gang leaders and to pay for defense lawyers or fines, and are allegedly reinvested into the organization to purchase drugs, guns and ammunition.

Beginning in or around 2009, Hernandez Celis was an associate of the BA, during which time he used violence or threats of violence to advance BA criminal activities, including stealing cars, managing drug distribution points and collecting cuotas for a BA leader in Juarez, he admitted.   

Thirty-five members and associates of the BA gang, including Hernandez Celis, were charged in a third superseding indictment unsealed in March 2011 with various counts of racketeering, murder, drug offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice.  Of the 35 defendants charged, 33 have been apprehended, of whom 25 have pleaded guilty, one has been convicted at trial and one committed suicide while imprisoned during his trial.  Hernandez Celis was among three defendants, including Ricardo Valles De La Rosa, aka Chino, and Alberto Nunez Payan, aka Fresa, recently extradited from Mexico.  Trial is currently scheduled for Feb. 6, 2017.  Three other defendants are pending extradition from Mexico.  U.S. and Mexican law enforcement are actively seeking to apprehend the two remaining fugitives in this case: Luis Mendez and Eduardo Ravelo, an FBI Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitive.         

The case was investigated by DEA El Paso, DEA Juarez, FBI’s El Paso Field Office and Albuquerque Field Office.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Federal Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Diplomatic Security Service; Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Department of Criminal Justice; El Paso Police Department; El Paso County Sheriff’s Office; El Paso Independent School District Police Department; Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission; New Mexico State Police; Dona Ana County, New Mexico, Sheriff’s Office; Las Cruces, New Mexico, Police Department; Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility; and Otero County Prison Facility New Mexico provided special assistance.           

The DEA El Paso Division encourages parents, and their children to visit the following interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.

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