An alleged leader of the Juarez Drug Cartel in Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico, pleaded guilty last Thursday in El Paso, Texas, and was sentenced to life in prison for his participation in drug-trafficking and numerous acts of violence in connection with the Barrio Azteca gang.

Jose Antonio Acosta-Hernandez, 34, aka “Diego,” “Dienton,” “Diez” and “Bablazo,” of Chihuahua, was extradited to the United States from Mexico on March 16, 2012. On April 5th, he pleaded guilty to four counts of racketeering, narcotics trafficking and money laundering. Acosta-Hernandez also pleaded guilty to seven counts of murder and weapons charges, which specifically related to the March 13, 2010, triple homicide in Juarez of U.S. Consulate employee Leslie Enriquez, her husband Arthur Redelfs and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee. Immediately after the guilty plea hearing, Acosta-Hernandez was sentenced to seven concurrent life terms, three additional consecutive life terms and 20 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone of the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division.

The conviction comes after the issuance of a third superseding indictment, returned on March 2, 2011, alleging that Acosta-Hernandez was an associate of the Barrio Azteca (BA), a violent street and prison gang with ties to the Juarez Drug Cartel. The drug routes through Juarez, known as the Juarez Plaza, are used frequently due to the close proximity to the United States.

Many are unaware that El Paso and Juarez are practically on top of one another, and the area is patrolled constantly by U.S. border agents. With the rise of the Juarez Drug Cartel, the border has become an integral focal point for the U.S. government in their efforts to prevent the importation of drugs into the United States.

It is unclear the motivation behind Acosta-Hernandez’s guilty plea. Many of the counts against him were brought simply because he was determined to be a leader in the cartel and therefore liable for the actions of other cartel members. Because Acosta-Hernandez was extradited to the U.S., he will avoid the dangerous prison conditions in Mexico and may actually live out his life sentence in prison.

A total of 35 individuals were charged in the third superseding indictment and are alleged to have committed various criminal acts, including racketeering, narcotics distribution and importation, retaliation against persons providing information to U.S. law enforcement, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice and murder, including the 2010 Juarez consulate murders.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or

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