A white Toyota Sequoia pulled up behind a Range Rover at an upscale shopping mall near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport at 6:47 p.m. on May 22. 2013. A man exited the bulky SUV and walked towards the passenger side of the Range Rover. He fired several times at his target with a 9mm pistol and the Sequoia took off.
The episode lasted six seconds.
On Monday, nearly three years after Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa was murdered while shopping for shoes with his wife, two men are set to stand trial in Fort Worth on charges related to his death in a case that could shed light on the activities of the Mexican drug cartels. and structure both south and north of the border.
Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the former head of the Gulf cartel, will be called to testify as a defense witness according to a court document. He was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in 2010 for crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering and threats of murder, and lost $ 50 million in illegal earnings. He was captured in 2003 and extradited in 2007 to the United States, where he is serving his sentence in a federal supermax prison in Colorado.
Cárdenas’ plea deal with U.S. prosecutors sparked a war between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas, its former execution wing, unleashing waves of violence in Mexico and along the border that left thousands dead.
The deal also made Guerrero Chapa an even more prominent figure in the Gulf cartel, a recent Dallas Morning News survey revealed.
Guerrero Chapa was originally Cárdenas’ lawyer, but after his boss’s arrest he became de facto the leader of the Gulf cartel, lawyers for one of the defendants in the upcoming trial allege in court documents .
“Chapa ran a large criminal enterprise whose activities included murder, drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, bribery, money laundering and torture,” they claim, claiming that this meant he had a “large number of enemies”.
But all this time, Guerrero Chapo was living in the United States on a visa and was an informant for the United States government. Cárdenas is expected to give details of Guerrero Chapa’s role in cartel activities.
Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, then 58, and his son, Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Campano, then 30, were arrested in September 2014 at a border checkpoint on the Rio Grande. The other defendant, José Luis Cepeda-Cortés, a legal resident of the United States, then 58, was held in a nearby house. Charges against the three relatives include interstate stalking that resulted in death – a charge that suggests authorities believe they facilitated the murder but were not the direct killers. A lawyer for Ledezma-Cepeda did not respond to a request for comment.
Ledezma-Campano, a former policeman from Monterrey, Mexico, pleaded guilty last month in a secret hearing and will testify against her father and her father’s cousin, local NBC news reported. The U.S. Attorney’s District Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Court records last month claim Guerrero Chapa, who was 43 at the time of his death, believed he was in danger. He received phone calls warning him that he “had to be on his guard” and told his wife he feared for his life, telling her that the men who were hunting him knew where he lived and that the couple should. stop using their cell phones. Defense attorneys dispute this, claiming that since the autopsy report showed cocaine in Guerrero Chapa’s system, he had not cut off contact with the criminals to protect himself.
The bloody and sudden end to life of Guerrero Chapa, dejected as he sat in the passenger seat of his vehicle while his wife loaded their groceries, was the culmination of a long and painstaking surveillance operation.
The accused made trips from Mexico to northern Texas more than two years before the murder to follow Guerrero Chapa meticulously, according to the partially redacted criminal complaint.
He says they rented houses and exchanged information about her family and residence via email, changed vehicles frequently so that Guerrero Chapa did not become suspicious, and installed a camera to record her car when she was there. left his million dollar home in Southlake, 20 miles from downtown Fort Worth.
Investigators found a tracking device on the chassis of the Range Rover – one of six devices they said were linked to the same account.
“We always knew there were operations in the United States,” said Nathan P Jones, a Mexican studies researcher at Rice University’s Baker Institute and author of a book on Mexican drug networks. “They operated in a much more low-key fashion, which is why you don’t see the overwhelming levels of violence that you do in places in Mexico. For the most part, it’s pretty limited, and you’d expect it to work the way you see it here: if there are any significant disputes, you’d expect quiet hired killers to follow their targets. for an extended period.
“The only thing that would be unexpected for me is why did they kill this guy in public?” My question would be: Did something happen that they were suddenly rushed, because if they are so professional why did they do it in a place with surveillance cameras? “
Two years earlier, the plan was apparently to bring Guerrero Chapa back to Mexico, where it would be easier to silence him and evade justice. A man with links to drugs, Lus Lauro Ramírez-Bautista, was also looking for Guerrero Chapa and gave Ledezma-Cepeda $ 38,000, according to court documents. The prosecution claims he had photos of Guerrero Chapa’s house when he was arrested at the border in March 2011 and told authorities that Guerrero Chapa was a drug dealer who should be deported to Mexico.
“The statements made by Ramírez-Bautista as he crossed the border were aimed at securing government assistance to send Chapa back to Mexico so that Ramírez-Bautista and others could kill him,” US lawyer Joshua said. Burgess in a legal act.
Cárdenas’ conviction in Houston in 2010 came in the middle intense security and considerable secrecy.
For this trial, Federal District Judge Terry Means rejected the prosecution’s requests to seal the jury’s instructions, but agreed to seal the government’s exhibits list, keeping it secret.
While the prosecution will likely attempt to link the defendants to other murders to underline their dangerousness, while highlighting Guerrero Chapa’s seniority, the defense should investigate his dealings with US authorities while he was an active figure. cartel – unless government lawyers can persuade the judge to limit the scope of the testimony and keep sensitive information out of the public record.