A US court sentenced the leader of Mexico’s Juarez cartel, who allegedly admitted a role in over 1,500 murders, to life in prison Thursday on drug trafficking and racketeering charges.
Jose Antonio Acosta-Hernandez, 34 — alias “Diego,” “Dienton,” “Diez” and “Bablazo” — was extradited to the United States from Mexico on March 16.
He pleaded guilty in an El Paso, Texas court to four counts of racketeering, narcotics trafficking and money laundering, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Acosta-Hernandez also pleaded guilty to seven counts of murder and weapons charges related to the March 13, 2010 triple homicide in Juarez of US consulate employee Leslie Enriquez, her husband Arthur Redelfs and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another consulate employee.
US officials said Acosta-Hernandez admitted that he directed or participated in more than 1,500 murders since 2008 as the head of the armed wing of La Linea, a Juarez cartel.
US District Judge Kathleen Cardone sentenced Acosta-Hernandez to seven concurrent life terms, three additional consecutive life terms and 20 years in federal prison.
“As the leader of La Linea’s enforcement wing, Mr Acosta-Hernandez directed a reign of terror,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.
“Today’s guilty plea and sentence are a significant step in our effort to bring to justice those responsible for the consulate murders, and it would not have been possible without the extraordinary assistance of our law enforcement partners in Mexico.”
US Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart called Acosta-Hernandez “a cold-blooded murderer with no respect for human life or the rule of law.”
“His violent and deadly actions were put to a stop due to the combined efforts of US law enforcement, and the will of the Mexican government,” she added.
A US indictment returned on March 2 alleged that Acosta-Hernandez was an associate of the Barrio Azteca, a violent street and prison gang that began in the late 1980s and expanded into a transnational criminal organization.
The group formed an alliance with La Linea, which is part of the Juarez drug cartel, to battle the Chapo Guzman cartel and its allies for control of lucrative drug trafficking routes through Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua in northern Mexico.
Acosta-Hernandez admitted ordering a hit on January 30, 2010 on rivals sighted at a daytime birthday party at a Juarez home in which 16 people were killed. He also acknowledged many other killings, the Justice Department said.
He said the violence was aimed at protecting millions of dollars in drug trafficking profits each year, officials said.