Cartel Murder Conspirator Gets Two Life Sentences

December 7, 2016
By David Lee

FORT WORTH (CN) —A former Mexican policeman and private investigator was sentenced Tuesday to two life sentences in federal prison for stalking an alleged Gulf Cartel attorney and U.S. informant who was murdered in broad daylight at a Dallas-area shopping center.

Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda, 60, of Mexico, was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. He was convicted in May of interstate stalking and conspiracy to commit murder for hire, in the death of Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa.

Guerrero was shot dead in front of his wife as he sat in his car at Southlake Town Center in May 2013. The shooter and getaway driver remain at large. Ledezma was not accused of being the shooter.

Ledezma is the third and final defendant sentenced in the case. His cousin, Jose Luis Cepeda Cortes, 60, of Edinburg, was sentenced last week to two concurrent life sentences plus 20 years.

Cepeda acted as an interpreter in the operation to find Guerrero, helping to get rental cars and perform record searches.

Ledezma’s son, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Campano, 33, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after taking a plea deal and testifying against his co-defendants.

The defendants said the hit was ordered and bankrolled by Beltran Leyva Cartel boss Rodolfo Villarreal Hernandez, known as El Gato, as revenge for the death of his father.

U.S. Attorney John R. Parker said the sentences “reflect the horrific and heinous nature” of the crimes.

“These three men methodically hunted down their intended victim through several states, in and out of Mexico, and over several months for the sole purpose of facilitating his execution,” Parker said in a statement. “On the day of the murder, once they ensured the gunman knew the victim’s location, Ledezma Cepeda and Ledezma Campano stood callously by while the victim was shot multiple times in broad daylight, with the victim’s wife and dozens of shoppers nearby.”

From Courthouse News.

Murder-For-Hire of Cartel Attorney Leads to 2 Life Sentences

December 2, 2016
By David Lee

FORT WORTH (CN) – A South Texas man was sentenced to two life sentences in federal prison Thursday for his role in stalking a U.S. informant and alleged Gulf Cartel attorney who was gunned down at a shopping center in an affluent Dallas-area suburb.

U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means sentenced Jose Luis Cepeda Cortes, 60, of Edinburg, who was convicted in May of interstate stalking and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire in the death of Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa.

Guerrero was shot dead in front of his wife as he sat in his car at Southlake Town Center in May 2013. The shooter and getaway driver remain at large. Cepeda was not accused of being the shooter, but of traveling to Southlake “with the intent to kill” Guerrero.

Prosecutors say Cepeda served as an interpreter in the operation to locate Guerrero, helping to get rental cars and perform record searches.

Cepeda has maintained that he was simply interested in learning the trade of his cousin, private investigator Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda. Ledezma was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in August for his role.

Ledezma testified at trial that the hit on Guerrero was ordered by Beltran Leyva cartel boss Rodolfo Villarreal Hernandez, known as El Gato, as revenge for the death of Villareal’s father.

“After the defendants located Mr. Chapa, ‘El Gato’ sent two assassins from Mexico to Southlake to kill him,” prosecutors said in a statement Friday. “Ledezma-Campano met the two, whom he identified as ‘Clorox’ and ‘Captain,’ and concluded they were sent to kill Mr. Chapa.

“One of the men was, in fact, the gunman who killed the victim on May 22, 2013, and the other drove the Toyota Sequoia. On the day of the murder, Ledezma-Campano and Ledezma-Cepeda followed the victim around Southlake, and that afternoon, while the victim’s Range Rover was parked in a Walmart parking lot, Ledezma-Campano and Ledezma-Cepeda switched the tracking device on the Range Rover.”

Prosecutors told jurors that Cepeda used public records and a GPS device attached the Guerrero’s car to follow him. They said Cepeda used surveillance cameras that were placed in Guerrero’s neighborhood.

Ledezma’s son, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Campano, 33, pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. He testified against his father and Cepeda as a government witness.

From Courthouse News.

Man Gets 20 Years for Role in Cartel Killing

August 18, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) – A Mexican citizen was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for helping stalk a U.S. informant and alleged Gulf Cartel attorney who was killed in broad daylight in an affluent Dallas-area suburb.
U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means sentenced Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Campano, 32, who pleaded guilty in March to one count of interstate stalking in exchange for testifyingagainst his father, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda, 59, of Mexico, and cousin Jose Luis Cepeda Cortes, 59, of Edinburg, Texas.
None of the defendants were accused of being the gunman, but of traveling from Mexico to Southlake “with the intent to kill” Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa.
Guerrero was shot dead in May 22, 2013 as he sat in his car at Southlake Town Center. A white vehicle pulled up behind Guerrero, an unknown shooter got out and fired through Guerrero’s window while ignoring Guerrero’s wife, who was not hurt. The shooter and getaway driver remain at large.
Ledezma’s father and cousin were convicted in May of interstate stalking and conspiracy for murder-for-hire, and they are awaiting sentencing.
During their trial, Ledezma told jurors the hit was ordered by Beltran Leyva cartel boss Rodolfo Villarreal Hernandez, known as El Gato, as revenge for the death of his father.
Through tears, Ledezma testified that El Gata spent $1 million tracking Guerrero. Prosecutors said Cepeda used public records and a GPS device attached the Guerrero’s car to follow him. They also said Cepeda used surveillance cameras that were placed in Guerrero’s neighborhood.
Ledezma said he pleaded guilty in exchange for protection for his family. He told the jury he was testifying because “it’s the right thing to do” under “my morals and values that my mother taught me.”
He testified that Guerrero was one of many targets El Gato ordered his father, a private investigator, to track. He said El Gato’s targets usually get kidnapped and tortured “if they are lucky.”
Ledezma said that when he tried to back away from the plot to find Guerrero, El Gato’s men shot at him in Mexico and ran him over with a car, leaving him seriously injured and in a hospital.
When El Gato learned of the successful hit, he said his father can now “rest in peace” and celebrated with a beer bash and gave away a BMW and hunting trip, Ledezma testified.

From Courthouse News.

Cartel Killing Case Goes to Federal Jury

May 13, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) – A Texas federal jury Thursday began deliberating the fate of two cousins charged with stalking a U.S. informant and alleged Gulf Cartel attorney before he was murdered in broad daylight as he shopped in an affluent Dallas suburb.
Private investigator Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda, 59, of Mexico, and Jose Luis Cepeda Cortes, 60, of Edinburg, are charged with interstate stalking and conspiracy for murder-for-hire in the death of Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa.
Guerrero was shot dead in May 2013 as he sat in his car at Southlake Town Center. The shooter and getaway driver remain at large. Neither defendant is accused of being the shooter, but of traveling from Mexico to Southlake “with the intent to kill” Guerrero.
Ledezma has testified that Beltran Leyva Cartel boss Rodolfo Villarreal “El Gato” Hernandez forced him to stalk Guerrero, to revenge the death of his father. El Gato spent more than $1 million stalking Guerrero with GPS and video recording devices and public records searches, according to trial testimony.
Ledezma also testified that he misled his cousin into helping him by saying Guerrero was a wanted criminal in Mexico.
Ledezma’s attorney, Wes Ball with Ball & Hase in Arlington, pounded away at his client’s duress defense during closing arguments. He reminded jurors of expert witness testimony that Ledezma lived in fear for himself and his family in Mexico and had no choice but to carry out El Gato’s orders.
He used Guerrero’s “embarrassing” death as a federal informant to illustrate the danger Ledezma will continue to face as a free man or as a federal prisoner.
“Where was all the protection for him?” Ball asked. “If El Gato was willing to kill a U.S. informant, what chance does a private investigator who handles cheating spouse cases have?”
Comparing the Beltran Leyva Cartel to ISIS, Ball said both groups publicize their brutality to spread fear and increase their power.
Ball reminded jurors that Ledezma’s family in Mexico did not travel to Texas to testify in his defense after receiving a threat from an unknown person last week. He criticized federal prosecutors for going after the “expendable” defendants instead of going after the actual shooter or El Gato.
Cepeda’s attorney, Robert Rogers of Dallas, reiterated that Cepeda was simply interested in learning his cousin’s trade. He is accused of helping Ledezma as an interpreter, of getting rental cars and performing record searches.
Rogers rebutted testimony by Ledezma’s son, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Campano, 32, who said Cepeda knew what was going on. Rogers said the son received a “sweetheart deal” by entering a plea bargain with prosecutors and testifying against the defendants.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Joshua Burgess called Ball’s closing argument “absolute hogwash,” as it could theoretically allow Ledezma to “keep killing under perpetual duress” without punishment.
Calling Ledezma “a terminator,” Burgess dismissed his duress defense, citing testimony that he had tracked several other people before, who then disappeared.
Burgess also derided Cepeda’s defense, saying he did not pull out of the plot when he learned who Guerrero was, but demanded more money. He asked why Cepeda used fake names when he was helping his cousin.

From Courthouse News.

Dead Man, Guilty or Not, Expert Says in Cartel Trial

May 11, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) – The family of a Mexican private investigator charged with conspiring to murder an alleged Gulf Cartel attorney is too scared come to the United States to testify, his attorney told a federal jury Tuesday.
Wes Ball, with Ball & Hase in Arlington, said the family of his client, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda, 59, was called in Mexico by an unknown person last week and told, “We are coming for you.”
That revelation came as the defense rested Tuesday, cutting short a trial that was expected to last several more weeks.
Ledezma and his cousin, Jose Luis Cepeda Cortes, 60, of Edinburg, are charged with interstate stalking and conspiracy for murder-for-hire by following attorney and U.S. informant Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa.
Guerrero was shot dead in May 2013 in broad daylight as he sat in his car at the Southlake Town Center mall in the affluent Dallas suburb of Southlake.
A white vehicle pulled up behind Guerrero, a shooter got out and fired through Guerrero’s window while ignoring Guerrero’s wife, who was not hurt. The shooter and getaway driver remain at large.
Neither defendant is accused of being the gunman, but of traveling from Mexico to Southlake “with the intent to kill” Guerrero.
Ledezma has testified that Beltran Leyva Cartel boss Rodolfo Villarreal “El Gato” Hernandez forced him to stalk Guerrero. He said El Gato blamed Guerrero for his father’s death, and was obsessed with revenge. Ledezma testified that he misled his cousin into helping him by saying Guerrero was a wanted criminal in Mexico.
Defense expert witness Gary Fleming echoed those sentiments Tuesday, testifying that North Americans are unable to understand how dangerous it is in Mexico, where police corruption is widespread.
Fleming, a documentary filmmaker, testified that he spoke with cartel members for a film, and that they agreed to speak about their work because they want to be publicized and feared.
Calling Ledezma a “walking dead man,” Fleming speculated that he will be killed whether he is convicted or not.
“If he goes to prison, they will kill him because it’s easier there,” Fleming said. “This guy has no chance.”
On cross-examination, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Joshua Burgess told the jury that Fleming is being paid for testifying and for his role as a defense investigator. Prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to keep Fleming from being designated an expert witness.
Several of Cepeda’s relatives testified on his behalf Tuesday, including his sister Rosa Madrigal, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security employee. She said she was suspended from work after her brother’s arrest, for suspicion of telling him secret agency information, but was cleared and reinstated.

From Courthouse News.

Private Eye Says Cartel Forced Him to Do It

May 9, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) – A Mexican private investigator on trial for conspiring to murder an alleged Gulf Cartel attorney testified Friday that he was forced to track several people out of fear for his life and that he hid the purpose of his work from his co-defendant cousin.
In his second day on the stand, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda, 59, testified that his life was “hijacked” by Beltran Leyva Cartel boss Rodolfo Villarreal “El Gato” Hernandez, who ordered the hit on lawyer and U.S. informant Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa.
Guerrero was shot dead in May 2013 in broad daylight as he sat in his car at the Southlake Town Center mall in the affluent Dallas suburb of Southlake.
A white vehicle pulled up behind Guerrero, a shooter got out and fired through Guerrero’s window while ignoring Guerrero’s wife, who was not hurt. The shooter and getaway driver remain at large.
Neither Ledezma nor co-defendant Jose Luis Cepeda Cortes, 60, is accused of being the gunman. They are charged with interstate stalking and conspiracy for murder-for-hire: traveling from Mexico to Southlake “with the intent to kill” Chapa.
Ledezma’s son, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Campano, 32, testified last week that El Gato spent $1 million tracking Guerrero and threw a beer bash and gave away a BMW and a hunting trip to celebrate the killing.
Through an interpreter, Ledezma Cepeda testified that he misled his cousin into helping him by saying Guerrero was a wanted man in Mexico, that he stole money from a bank. He said El Gato was “obsessed” with getting revenge on Guerrero for the death of his father.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Burgess said he did not believe the testimony, telling Ledezma Cepeda on cross-examination that he has “every reason to lie” on the stand.
“You are used to lying to get what you want as a private investigator, true?” he asked.
When asked about other people that El Gato had him follow, who disappeared, Ledezma repeated that he was El Gato’s “tool,” and that he was afraid he would be killed if he did not follow orders.
Ledezma Cepeda testified on Thursday that his cousin merely wanted to learn about private investigations, and that he was helpful because he spoke English and could act as an interpreter.
Guerrero’s widow testified last week that her husband lived in fear for two years after being warned twice that rivals had found him in Texas and were going to kill him.
The widow, Julia Tijerina de la Garza, said her family was living in nearby Grapevine when her husband received the first phone call, in 2011. They immediately abandoned their home, and lived with Guerrero’s sister in Grapevine until they moved to Southlake.

From Courthouse News.

Cartel Victim Was Warned, Widow Testifies

May 5, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) — An alleged Gulf Cartel attorney and U.S. informant who was murdered at a Texas shopping center lived in fear for two years after being warned twice that rivals had found him and were going to kill him, his widow testified Wednesday.
Julia Tijerina de la Garza wiped away tears as she testified that her husband, Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa, was shot dead in May 2013 while getting ice cream and shopping with her at Southlake Town Center in the affluent Dallas suburb of Southlake.
Tijerina was not hurt in the shooting. The gunman and getaway driver of a white SUV remain at large.
Through an interpreter, Tijerina testified in the trial of cousins Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda, 59, and Jose Luis Cepeda Cortes, 59, who are accused of interstate stalking in a murder-for-hire conspiracy.
Ledezma’s son, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma Campano, 32, testified last week that Beltran Leyva Cartel boss Rodolfo Villarreal Hernandez, known as El Gato, ordered the hit on Guerrero because he blamed him for the death of his father.
Neither man is accused of being the gunman, but of traveling from Mexico to Southlake “with the intent to kill” Chapa.
Tijerina said her family was living in neighboring Grapevine when her husband received a phone call in early 2011 from an unknown person who people had found him and wanted to kill him. She said they immediately left the home and never returned, spending time with Guerrero’s sister in Grapevine before moving to Southlake.
Her husband received a second phone call two years later, resulting in sporadic stays in nearby hotels, the widow testified. On the day he was killed, she said, she put a shopping bag in the back of their car, noticed a white car pull up behind them and heard an unidentified noise. She screamed when she saw her husband in the driver’s seat with blood coming out of his mouth.
Ledezma testified that El Gato spent $1 million to track Guerrero through public records and GPS devices. He said that Guerrero’s sister retaliated against El Gato by sending him a video of a beheaded relative.

From Courthouse News.