2 more arrested in gang probe

January 12, 2008 8:45:45 AM PST
Two more men were arrested Friday in a four-year investigation of a violent Texas gang, giving federal prosecutors now seven indicted suspects in their case that allegedly links the Barrio Azteca to a powerful Mexican drug cartel. Eric "Flaco" Saucedo, 28, and Arturo Enriquez, 30, face various racketeering charges in an 11-count indictment partially unsealed this week. Saucedo is also charged with one count of murder, and he gently wept as he was read the charges against him in court Friday.

According to the heavily redacted, 63-page indictment, Saucedo worked with the Barrio Azteca gang since at least January 2003. He is accused of being the hit man in a December 2006 killing.

According to the indictment, Saucedo participated in the killing for the "purpose of gaining entrance to and maintaining and increasing position in the Barrio Azteca" gang.

Federal investigators said Thursday that Barrio Azteca, a violent street gang that started in Texas prisons, has partnered with Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel in Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso.

Investigators said Barrio Azteca provided security for the cartel and in turn received discounts on drugs including marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.

Saucedo, who was sequestered from the other men during Friday's court hearing, is also accused of crimes that include dealing marijuana, cocaine and heroin, as well as extorting money from street dealers and others. He and the five alleged gang members arrested Thursday all made their first appearance in federal court Friday.

Eugene "Gino" Mona, 50; Said "Shorty" Francisco Herrera, 28; Jose "Spider" Martin Garcia, 38; Johnny "Conejo" Michelletti, 37; and Danny Tarin, 28, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norbert Garney together and were read the charges against them.

None of the men, who face various charges related to the racketeering investigation, entered a plea. They were not accompanied by lawyers.

Sib Abraham, a well-known El Paso lawyer hired by Tarin, said before the brief afternoon hearing that Tarin has no affiliation with the Barrio Azteca gang. Abraham said his client customizes cars for a living.

"He has never been a member of the Barrio Aztecas, never wanted to be a member and never will be a member," Abraham said.

Abraham said he did not know enough about the charges to respond to any specific allegations.

All six men, who are being held without bail, are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. Saucedo's hearing was scheduled an hour after the other five men.

Mona, Herrera, Garcia, Michelletti and Tarin face up to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges. Saucedo could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder charge. A court date has not been set for Enriquez. Jail records do not show if he has a lawyer.

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