EL PASO (CN) – The head enforcer of the Juarez drug cartel was sentenced to life in federal prison after admitting his role in 1,500 murders since 2008, including the triple homicide of a U.S. consulate employee and two consulate workers’ family members, prosecutors said.
Jose Antonio Acosta-Hernandez, 34, of Chihuahua, pleaded guilty Thursday in El Paso Federal Court to four counts of racketeering, narcotics trafficking and money laundering and seven counts of murder and weapons charges.
The murder and weapons charges relate to the March 2010 shooting deaths in Ciudad Juarez of U.S. consulate employee Leslie Enriquez, her husband Arthur Redelfs and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another U.S. consulate employee.
He was sentenced to seven concurrent life terms, three additional consecutive life terms and 20 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone.
Acosta-Hernandez was an associate of the Barrio Azteca, a violent street and prison gang and international criminal organization, according to the indictment.
According to information presented in court, the Barrio Azteca formed an alliance with La Linea, a wing of the Juarez drug cartel, to fight the Chapo Guzman Cartel and its allies for control of drug routes through Juarez and Chihuahua.
Prosecutors say the drug routes through Juarez, known as the Juarez Plaza, are a primary drug trafficking conduit into the United States.
Acosta-Hernandez admitted that in 2008 he became the leader of La Linea’s armed enforcement wing and was the “plaza boss” in Chihuahua and Juarez. In this role, he led violent attacks against the alliance’s enemies and participated or directed over 1,500 murders.
“For example, Acosta-Hernandez admitted that on Jan. 30, 2010, he ordered hit-men in his organization to kill members of the opposition that were sighted at a daytime birthday party at a home in Juarez,” prosecutors said in the statement. “As part of this incident, 16 individuals were killed and 10 individuals were wounded at three different residences in Juarez. On July 15, 2010, Acosta-Hernandez directed a car bombing in Juarez that ultimately killed four people.”
According to the plea agreement, Acosta-Hernandez knew that the cartel “earned millions of dollars in drug trafficking profits each year” and that the profits were reinvested to buy more drugs to send to the United States and to buy weapons, ammunition, or supplies to continue the war against its enemies.
More than 10,000 people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez since 2008, many of them young women who apparently had nothing to do with drug trafficking. The reign of terror has spread virtually nationwide, as drug cartels, state and federal Mexican police and the Mexican army fight for control of the drug traffic.