A 23-year-old man was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in El Paso to nearly 22 years in federal prison for his role in the kidnappings and murders of a New Mexico bridegroom and his relatives by a drug cartel hit squad during a wedding in Juarez.
The wedding abduction in 2010 was one of the more shocking acts of violence during a war between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels.
District Judge David Briones sentenced Gonzalo Delgado Chavez to 21 years and 10 months in federal prison. Delgado was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and will be under supervision for five years after he is released from prison.
Delgado pleaded guilty in federal court in October to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder on foreign soil in the deaths of bridegroom Rafael Morales Valencia, 29; his brother, Jaime Morales Valencia, 25; and their uncle, Guadalupe Morales Arreola, 51.
Rafael Morales was a U.S. citizen from La Mesa, N.M., whose family is originally from the city of Namiquipa in the central part of Chihuahua. The brothers grew up in the United States.
Family members had said the wedding took place in Juarez because that is where the bride was raised.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
On May 7, 2010, Sinaloa cartel gunmen kidnapped the three men and fatally shot another man in the parking lot after bursting into the wedding ceremony at Senor de la Misericordia Catholic
Three days later, the bodies of the men were found in the bed of a truck. The men appeared to have been tortured.
According to a criminal complaint, Delgado, who is also from Namiquipa and was allegedly a smuggler for the Sinaloa cartel, was a family friend and was paid $1,000 to identify members of the Morales family to the hit squad.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said that Delgado was hired by Irvin Enriquez, whose father had been murdered by La Linea (the Juarez cartel) because he was associated with the rival Sinaloa cartel.
"Based on the false belief that the victims were part of La Linea and that Guadalupe Morales-Arreola worked for the person responsible for his father's death, Enriquez solicited the assistance of Jose Antonio Torres-Marrufo and his purported team of assassins to exact revenge," stated a news release by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
On Feb. 28, Enriquez, 25, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in El Paso to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty in November to a charge of conspiracy to kill in a foreign country.
Mexican authorities arrested Torres, a reputed Sinaloa cartel lieutenant known as "El Marrufo," "El 14" and "El Jaguar," last year in Leon, Guanajuato.
Torres is among several reputed Sinaloa cartel bosses indicted on multiple charges by the U.S. government.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6102. Follow him on Twitter @BorundaDaniel
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