Skip to comments.[South Texas:]Zeta kidnapper sentenced to life in prison
Posted on 04/23/2010 10:01:00 PM PDT by SwinneySwitch
McALLEN A man federal prosecutors describe as an active leader in a Zeta kidnapping ring was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2008 abduction of a Weslaco drug dealer.
Luis Alberto Comandante Cua Cua Avila Hernandez apologized to 29-year-old Daniel Ramirez Jr.s family during a sentencing hearing Tuesday while never admitting culpability in his disappearance.
I am not a bad person, he said in Spanish. I apologize profusely.
A federal jury convicted Avila, 27, in January of one count each of conspiracy and kidnapping. From August to October 2008, he and at least four other accomplices ran a Zeta cell that took orders directly from the then head of the drug cartels Reynosa operations Jaime El Hummer González Durán.
The Zetas, a paramilitary organization founded by former members of the Mexican special forces, have historically served as the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel. But in recent years, their operations have grown more independent to the point that they are now warring with their former bosses for control of Tamaulipas valuable smuggling routes.
Throughout fall 2008, though, González was seeking to expand his influence north of the border by taxing drug smugglers operating in Hidalgo County. Those who refused were targeted for abduction by Avila and his accomplices, witnesses testified at Avilas trial.
Of the five kidnapping victims state and federal authorities have linked to the group, most paid a ransom and were subsequently released. But Ramirezs case ended differently.
His father contacted authorities hours after gunmen took his son from the convenience store where he worked, north of Weslaco, and later recorded phone conversations he had with the kidnappers.
During one of those calls, the younger Ramirez told his father not to worry because he had agreed to work with the Zetas. The older man warned his son not to say such things because FBI agents were listening in on the call.
That admission meant Ramirez had to be killed, testified Gerardo Espinoza Zamora, another member of the cell who took the stand at Avilas trial earlier this year. Zeta rules required that a kidnapping victim be killed once his family got law enforcement involved, he said.
Espinoza told jurors that the group killed Ramirez and cooked his body on a ranch in rural Mexico. Authorities never found his remains.
While Avila only admitted to loaning his ranch to the kidnappers and conducting surveillance for the group, federal prosecutors maintain his role was much larger.
This is the person who was responsible for deciding who was going to get kidnapped from eastern McAllen to Weslaco, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Wells said Tuesday. This wasnt just someone who was doing surveillance.
In all, federal authorities have charged 11 men in connection with the kidnapping ring. Four of them have entered guilty pleas. Avila is the only co-defendant so far to have taken his case to trial.
But in exercising his right to have his case heard by a jury, he may end up with a more severe sentence than those who played a larger role in the overall conspiracy.
Those who pleaded guilty early on and testified at Avilas trial are likely to receive some form of clemency as a result of their plea agreements with prosecutors, said his attorney Jose Luis Ramos.
González, the Zeta lieutenant, who gave Avilas group its orders, received a 16-year sentence on organized crime and weapons charges in a Mexican court last week.
And Osiel Cárdenas Guillén the former head of the Gulf Cartel and founder of the Zetas only received 25 years of imprisonment as part of a plea agreement, despite leading two drug cartels responsible for moving thousands of tons of narcotics into the United States and killing hundreds in their struggle for dominance.
If you give life to (Avila), what do you give to the others? Ramos said. They were actively, hands-on involved in the kidnappings.
Avila himself maintained Tuesday that he had loaned the use of his Mission ranch to the kidnappers, not knowing what they were planning, and was only coincidentally at the scene of the abduction to buy tools and get gas from Ramirezs convenience store.
Whats more, his attorney said, without a body no credible evidence existed that Ramirez had ever been killed.
What if he just didnt come back? Ramos asked.
But for Ramirezs sister, Janie, who came to court Tuesday bearing photos of her now fatherless nephews, two years of silence from her brother has answered that question.
For me and my family, my life will never be the same, she said, addressing Avila shortly before deputy U.S. marshals took him away in handcuffs. I hope that every morning that you wake up in that cold cell you remember my brother.
I will never, ever, ever, ever forgive you for what youve done.
In addition to his life sentence, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane ordered Avila to pay $40,000 in restitution to the Ramirez family. Two other members of the kidnapping ring are set to be sentenced this afternoon.
Death Sentence....life is BS
Still waiting for that border violence to spill over into the US..../sarc
Just shoot the bastard.
Zeta has been known to kidnap illegal immigrants off the streets of major American cities and enslave them as servants in the drug trade. They are moved around to other communities away from family and friends, and kept isolated. Those that do not escape are conveniently disposed of when no longer useful. Truly pathetic. And, another set of costs (lives, law enforcement, courts, morgue, prison) from the open border policy.
Supporting the POS for life is punishing taxpayers. This POS should be taken to the nearest cottonwood tree.
All gang members should be sent to Gitmo, they are ‘domestic terrorists.’