Things That Matter

It Took The FBI, Homeland Security, And the DEA To Bring This El Paso Man To Justice

“They conspired to kill Ruth Sagredo because, if she was killed, she would not be able to testify in that case,” Special Agent Thomas Salloway said.

Back in January of 2005, Samuel Velasco Gurrola of El Paso, Texas, was indicted by a grand jury, alleging he had sexually assaulted a child. If convicted, Samuel faced up to 99 years in prison. The victim had spoken of the incident with Samuel’s wife, Ruth Sagredo Escobedo, and so Ruth’s testimony looked as if it could put him away. Ruth had no sympathy for Samuel, as she had already separated from her husband. Taking justice into his own hands, Samuel hired two relatives, supposed crime boss Emmanuel Velasco Gurrola and Dalia Valencia, to help him in a murder-for-hire plot against his wife to keep her silent.

What happened next was straight out of a movie.

CREDIT: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN / MIRAMAX 

In October 2008, right before the trial was to begin, Samuel Velasco Gurrola and his murderous relatives decided to kill Ruth’s father Francisco Maria Sagredo, who lived in Juárez, Chihuahua. The plan was to lure Ruth to Mexico to attend her father’s funeral, where they could then kill Ruth, as well. At the time, Juárez was steeped in violence, and the trio hoped they could make it look like an unrelated cartel hit. When Ruth did not attend her father’s funeral, the trio turned their focus to Ruth’s sister, Cinthia Judith Sagredo Escobedo, who also happened to live in Juárez. They murdered Cinthia in front of the Posada San Nicolás hotel, where she worked. This plan worked, and two days later Ruth was killed while riding in her sister’s funeral procession. According to witnesses, two trucks pulled along side and blasted several rounds from AK-47s into Ruth’s 2004 Kia Amanti. Ruth died in the attack, along with her friend Roberto Martínez, the man who had warned her not to attend her father’s funeral.

With no witnesses left in the sexual assault trial, Samuel Velasco Gurrola was a free man. Almost.

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CREDIT: KFOX 14

Now, 41-year-old Samuel Velasco Gurrola is facing a mandatory life sentence thanks to his involvement in the murders. He’s been formally convicted of conspiracy to cause foreign travel for murder for hire and conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country. His relatives involved in the case were also convicted of similar conspiracy counts and are facing life sentences, as well. Though his cousins tried to make it look like a cartel hit, many people were able to see through their plan. Within a few weeks, Stephanie Sanchez at El Paso Times had already published a piece questioning the cartel connection, highlighting that Ruth’s lawyer, Edward Hernandez, outright denied it. Stephanie even touched on Ruth’s domestic troubles with her husband, Samuel Velasco Gurrola, a more likely suspect. Samuel’s eventual arrest came from the collaborative efforts of the D.E.A, Homeland Security, and the F.B.I.

Though she didn’t live to see justice served, Ruth would more than likely feel vindicated by the recent conviction. “She was very adamant about getting this person (Velasco) prosecuted and have him pay for what he did,” Eduardo Avalos Sr, Ruth’s first husband, told CBS.


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Authorities Suspect That Gang Violence Is Behind The Horrific Fire Bombing Of A Nightclub That Left Dozens Dead

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Authorities Suspect That Gang Violence Is Behind The Horrific Fire Bombing Of A Nightclub That Left Dozens Dead

@ajplus / twitter

In yet another deadly attack in Mexico, at least 28 people were killed Tuesday night due to a suspected arson attack at a bar in the Mexican state of Veracruz. According to the Washington Post, perpetrators locked the doors and emergency exits of the well-known “White Horse Nightclub” and then promptly set the building on fire with gasoline bombs.  

“They arrived in several vehicles, with rifles and pistols. They threatened the security guards at the door and took control of the entrance,” a witness told the AFP.

“The White Horse Nightclub”, a table-dancing bar, is a well-known gathering place in the working-class city of Coatzacoalcos where the main industry has long been oil and oil refining. The deadly inferno ravaged through the bar killing the 28 people and injured more than a dozen others. Images taken in the aftermath of the attack showed the bodies of women burned to death among a charred interior. According to Yahoo News, many of those who perished in the fire were dancers. Videos on social media showed dozens of people grouped together and embracing one another outside the burned down bar. 

“My niece starting dancing here a few months ago. She was a single mom, and she wanted to give her daughter a better life and go back to school,” Maria Vazquez, whose 22-year-old niece Sugedy perished in the bar fire, told the AFP.

Law enforcement believes that the deadly fire might have been caused by a gang dispute between rival groups. At this time, there is one main suspect that has been identified. 

Credit: @ajplus / Twitter

As of now, law enforcement is following leads that a suspect is a man who had been recently arrested but then subsequently released. Veracruz Gov. Cuitláhuac García said at a news conference that a key suspect has been identified as a man known as “La Loca” but would only call him as Ricardo “N″ due to officials no longer giving the full names of suspects. García says that the man was previously detained back in July but was then let go within 48 hours after being turned over to the state prosecutor’s office.

“The criminals went in, closed the doors, the emergency exits, and set fire to the place,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a morning news conference discussing the tragedy. “This is the most inhuman thing possible. It is regrettable that organized crime acts in this manner.”

President Lopez Obrador criticized the state attorney general, Jorge Winckler Ortíz, who was appointed by a previous, rival administration, for having released some of the suspects behind the attack who had previously been in custody this year.

Veracruz has become a central battleground area in the long Mexican drug war that started back in 2006. The area is also considered a hotbed of violence where Mexico’s rival drug cartels have been known to engage in illegal activities. Tuesday’s deadly attack is similar to one that happened back in April on another bar in Veracruz in the city of Minatitlan that killed 13 people.

Tuesday’s attack was one of the worst mass killings since President Lopez Obrador took office in December pledging to help Mexico by battling corruption and inequality in the country. This comes as homicides have reached record highs this year already. 

Credit: @XHNEWS / Twitter

President Lopez Obrador has frequently called for the end of the senseless violence that has plagued the country for the last 15 years. But so far, the number of murders has only continued to rise after hitting record levels in 2018.

Tuesday’s deadly attack adds to the record year of violence in Mexico, which has already registered 14,603 homicides from January through June. The Mexican government under President Obrador has faced challenges in stopping the senseless violence that has taken the lives of thousands of innocent people caught between a deadly drug war. 

“The fact that 2019 is on pace to be the most violent year does not come out of nowhere. We have seen how violence has been progressively increasing,” said Francisco Rivas, director-general of the National Citizen Observatory, a research group, told the Washington Post. “The president says we are improving, but we are worse than ever before.”

No arrests have been announced so far in the investigation. The Veracruz public security secretary and the prosecutor’s office are still looking into more leads at this time. 

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Peña Nieto Has Been Accused Of Taking A $100 Million Bribe From El Chapo Before Taking Office

Things That Matter

Peña Nieto Has Been Accused Of Taking A $100 Million Bribe From El Chapo Before Taking Office

Presidencia de la República Mexicana / Flickr / CBS News / YouTube

In the latest chapter in the trail of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a witness said the drug kingpin paid a $100 million bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The shocking testimony came from Guzman’s former “right-hand man” Alex Cifuentes who claims the payment took place two months before Peña Nieto became the president of Mexico in 2012. According to the New York Times, Cifuentes worked closely with El Chapo from 2007 to 2013.

Alex Cifuentes, who worked closely with El Chapo, told a Brooklyn court that the former Mexican president had originally asked for $250 million.

The allegations of corruption against the Mexican government are nothing new as Peña Nieto left office last year with a string of scandals that left him and his administration with low-approval ratings. While Peña Nieto has yet to deny these claims, a spokesman for Peña Nieto called the bribery story “false and defamatory”.

“You gave a story that Mr. Guzman paid a bribe to Mr. Peña Nieto of $100 million,” Guzman’s lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman asked Cifuentes during cross-examination in Brooklyn federal court, referring to his prior discussions with US authorities. “That’s right,” Cifuentes responded.

Cifuentes previously said Guzman had paid Peña Nieto with a $250 million bribe, however during his testimony, he told the court that Nieto had requested $250 million, but accepted El Chapo’s counter offer of $100 million.

During his testimony Tuesday, Cifuentes said the bribe was made so El Chapo wouldn’t have to worry about getting caught with this drug business.

In court, Lichtman said that in prior meetings in April 2016 and November 2017, Cifuentes told U.S. prosecutors that Peña Nieto had reached out to Guzman in 2012. Cifuentes says Peña Nieto, who was elected that year, told Guzman if he gave him the money, he wouldn’t have to worry about his drug business.

“The message was that Mr. Guzman didn’t have to stay in hiding?” Lichtman asked about the terms of the bribe. “Yes. That very thing is what Joaquin said to me,” Cifuentes said in his response.

It was during Peña Nieto’s term that Guzman was captured by Mexican authorities in 2014 only for him to escape before being caught again in 2016. He was then extradited to the US to face charges of drug trafficking and murder.

Peña Nieto might not be the only Mexican president who was working with the drug cartels.

Lichtman said Cifuentes told prosecutors in 2016 that Guzman’s rival drug gang, the Beltran-Leyva cartel, was paying former Mexican President Felipe Calderon for military protection against him. As of now, Cifuentes doesn’t recall saying that. According to Rolling Stone, Cifuentes did claim though that Guzman was working with the Mexican authorities in some capacity. Guzman would send suitcases filled with cocaine from Argentina to Mexican federal police, who would then sell the drugs themselves.

“I was working with my wife, Angie San Clemente, and working with the Mexican Federal Police with Señor Guzmán’s authorization,” Cifuentes said. “And you claimed the police would then sell the drugs, correct?” Lichtman asked. “You said the police were the customers of the drug dealers?”

“Yes,” Cifuentes responded.

If El Chapo is convicted he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Peña Nieto’s former chief of staff, Francisco Guzman, denied the allegations on Tuesday evening on Twitter.

“The statements of the Colombian drug trafficker in New York are false, defamatory and absurd. The government @EPN was the one who located, arrested and extradited Joaquín Guzmán Loera. Since the beginning of the administration, it was a priority objective of the security cabinet.”

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s new president, ran a campaign on the platform of anti-corruption and won in a landslide last year. The trial so far has exposed many scandals and allegations of bribes in Mexico and Columbia that include police commanders and government officials. This probably won’t be the last we hear of this and this could spell serious trouble for Peña Nieto if the claims are true.

READ: El Chapo’s “Trial Of The Century” Started Last Month And Here’s Everything You Should Know About It

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