Ten Mexican nationals, linked to a violent gang, have been indicted in the murders of three people connected with the American consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the Justice Department said.
The 10 are members and associates of the Barrio Azteca gang, which operates in the U.S. and Mexico, the department said in a statement today. Seven are in custody in Mexico and authorities are searching for the other three, according to the statement.
A consular employee, her husband and the husband of a Mexican citizen who works at the consulate were shot to death in March 2010 in two incidents in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. The motive isn’t clear, said Lanny Breuer, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division.
“It could be as simple as mistaken identity,” Breuer said at a news conference in Washington. “Whatever the motivation is, the alleged brutality of the murders was really quite extraordinary.”
Twenty-five other people associated with the gang were indicted in connection with offenses including money laundering and drug trafficking, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 21 are in custody in the U.S. or Mexico, and authorities are seeking the remaining four, said Laura Sweeney, a Justice Department spokeswoman.
The grand jury indictment against the gang members was unsealed in U.S. District Court in El Paso. American authorities are seeking extradition of suspects to the U.S.
The gang began in the late 1980s in prisons and expanded into a “transnational criminal organization,” according to the statement. It is based in west Texas and Juarez, and in prisons in the U.S. and Mexico, according to the department. The gang enriches its members and associates through drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion and murder, according to the Justice Department.
Barrio Azteca is “one of the most powerful and brutal gangs operating along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Shawn Henry, executive assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said at the news conference.
To increase its power, the gang formed an alliance with the Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes drug trafficking organization in Mexico, according to the Justice Department. Barrio Azteca conducted “enforcement operations” against rivals of the trafficking operation, which provides illicit drugs to the gang at a discount, the statement said.