Miacatlan, Mexico: Teenage Assassin Edgar “El Ponchis” Sentenced To Three Years Jail

27 Jul

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2010 file photo, a journalist interviews Edgar "El Ponchis" Jimenez Lugo while under the custody of Mexican army soldiers in the city of Cuernavaca, Mexico.  A Mexican judge on Tuesday sentenced  the 14-year-old U.S. citizen to three years in prison for organized crime, homicide, kidnapping, and drug and weapons possession. Authorities say the teenager confessed to working for the Beltran Leyva brothers' cartel and to killing four people whose beheaded bodies were hung from a bridge in the tourist town of Cuernavaca. (AP Photo/Antonio Sierra, File) 

FILE – In this Dec. 3, 2010 file photo, a journalist interviews Edgar “El Ponchis” …

MIACATLAN, Mexico (AP) — A Mexican judge on Tuesday sentenced a 14-year-old U.S. citizen to three years in prison for organized crime, homicide, kidnapping, and drug and weapons possession.

A judge gave Edgar Jimenez Lugo the maximum sentenced allowed for a minor in the central state of Morelos, said state prosecutor Jose Manuel Serrano Falmerol. Jimenez was tried in a state court because Mexico does not have a justice system to try minors at the federal level.

Authorities say the teenager confessed to working for the South Pacific drug cartel, led by reputed drug lord Hector Beltran Leyva, and to killing four people whose beheaded bodies were hung from a bridge in the tourist city of Cuernavaca.

Jimenez, known as “El Ponchis,” was born in San Diego, California. He and a sister were arrested in December as they tried to board a plane to Tijuana, where they planned to cross the border and reunite with their mother in San Diego.

The teenager has been in a juvenile detention center in Morelos since his arrest and will serve his time there, Serrano said.

The two siblings allegedly worked for Julio “El Negro” Padilla, a reputed drug trafficker who authorities say has been fighting for control of the drug trade in Morelos. Morelos was formerly under the control of the Beltran Leyva gang, which broke up after alleged leader Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed in a shootout with Mexican marines a year ago.

The battle among remnants of the gang has caused an unprecedented spike in violence in Morelos and in neighboring Guerrero state, where the resort city of Acapulco is located.

Stories of a hit boy, maybe as young as 12, spread after a YouTube video appeared in November with teens mugging for the camera next to corpses and guns. One boy on the video alleged that “El Ponchis” was his accomplice.

A relative has said Jimenez was nicknamed “Ponchis” by his family because he was a pudgy child.

When he was handed over to federal prosecutors, the boy calmly said in front of cameras that he participated in four killings while drugged and under threat.

NEWS UPDATE:

Edgar Jimenez Lugo, known as "El Ponchis", is presented to the media in Cuernavaca

Edgar Jimenez Lugo, known as “El Ponchis”, is presented to the media in Cuernava …

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A court in Mexico on Tuesday sentenced a 14-year-old U.S. citizen and drug gang hitman to three years in a juvenile prison for murder, kidnapping and trafficking cocaine.

Edgar Jimenez, known as “El Ponchis,” worked for the South Pacific drug cartel in Morelos state outside Mexico City until his capture by Mexican soldiers in December, when he attempted to travel to the United States.

The attorney general’s office in Morelos said a local juvenile court had found the minor guilty of four crimes including killing four people whose mutilated bodies were found hanging from a bridge not far from Mexico City last August.

An army statement in December said Jimenez had admitted killing at least seven people under the influence of drugs provided by the cartel’s leader.

Minors have increasingly been drawn into the Mexican government’s conflict with drug gangs, which has claimed around 40,000 lives in 4 1/2 years.

Mexicans have become used to hearing about death in recent years, but Jimenez’s youth and the brutal nature of his crimes caused shock when the reports surfaced last year.

It is not clear what his nickname refers to.

(Reporting by Elinor Comlay; editing by Todd Eastham)

NEWS UPDATE: ADDITION:

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Thousands of federal police officers sent to help patrol the border city of Ciudad Juarez will start leaving in September, the violence-wracked city’s mayor said Tuesday.

Mayor Hector Murguia told the press in a statement that the decision to withdraw 5,000 federal agents was made by federal officials who say the city is under control. Federal police took over the city in April 2010 after soldiers were withdrawn amid abuse of power accusations.

Murguia said security will be turned over to local police officers. The city has gone through extensive efforts to get rid of officers working for drug cartels.

The Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels have been fighting for control of the city, which neighbors El Paso, Texas.

More than 6,000 people have been killed since 2008 but homicides began declining this year. The mayor hopes those improving fortunes will help rehabilitate the city’s image.

NEWS UPDATE:

State policemen take cover behind a patrol vehicle during a police operation to regain control of a jail in Ciudad Juarez

State policemen take cover behind a patrol vehicle during a police operation to regain …

 

CIUDAD JUAREZ (Reuters) – Seventeen people were killed in a prison gunfight in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s most violent city, authorities said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office said three inmates entered cellblocks where there were 13 other prisoners late on Monday, and a fight began. Sixteen men and one woman were killed in the ensuing violence.

“This was a settling of scores inside the penitentiary,” a spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office in the state of Chihuahua, Carlos Gonzalez, told Milenio television.

The city on the border with Texas has been racked by a brutal turf war between the local Juarez cartel, and the powerful Sinaloa cartel, headed by Mexico’s most wanted drug boss, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman.

Drug battles often continue behind bars.

More than 40,000 people have died in drug-related killing since Mexican President Felipe Calderon sent in the army to crush the cartels shortly after taking office in late 2006. Roughly a quarter of the deaths have been in Ciudad Juarez.

Despite the violence, the city’s mayor, Hector Murguia, said the federal police would start being withdrawn from Ciudad Juarez in September. Federal police have been in charge of security in the city since early 2010.

Later, municipal police chief Julian Leyzaola, said federal police officers opened fire on his vehicle when he arrived to investigate the prison fight.

“I suddenly heard bursts of fire toward my vehicle,” Leyzaola told reporters. “There was a group of 10 to 15 of them and they were all shooting at me.”

The state’s ministry of public security, which is in charge of federal police, did not immediately respond for comment.

Security has been a serious problem in prisons in Mexico, which are prone to outbreaks of violence and escapes.

Earlier this month, 59 inmates broke out of prison and a further seven were killed in Nuevo Laredo, a northeastern city also near the Texas border.

(Writing by Dave Graham; editing by Todd Eastham

NEWS UPDATE:

A police cordon is seen at a crime scene where two men were gunned down by unknown assailants on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez

A police cordon is seen at a crime scene where two men were gunned down by unknown …

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – At least 122 firearms from a botched U.S. undercover operation have been found at crime scenes in Mexico or intercepted en route to drug cartels there, a Republican congressional report issued on Tuesday said.

Mexican authorities found AK-47 assault rifles, powerful .50 caliber rifles and other weapons as early as November 2009 that were later linked to the U.S. sting operation to trace weapons crossing the border to Mexico, the report said.

Guns from the program, dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious,” were also found at the scene of the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in the border state of Arizona last December. It is unclear if they were the weapons responsible for his death.

U.S. authorities set up the undercover operation in 2009 to try to track guns bought in Phoenix on behalf of Mexican drug cartels, but many of the weapons were never traced after they left the hands of the initial buyer.

The sting has become an embarrassment for the Obama administration and its Justice Department, rather than a victory in stemming the illegal flow of weapons to Mexico.

It has also hurt ties with Mexico, which has been battling the cartels in a war in which tens of thousands have died.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and federal prosecutors had hoped the sting would help them track gun buyers reselling weapons to cartels. But U.S. ATF agents did not see many of the purchases or follow many of the guns after the initial purchaser re-sold them.

At least 122 firearms bought by suspected gun traffickers were found at Mexican crime scenes or caught going to the cartels in 48 separate instances, according to the report done for the House of Representatives Oversight Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee senior Republican Charles Grassley.

Of the 2,000 weapons sold to the suspected gun traffickers, just over half remain unaccounted for, the report added. The ATF was unaware of most of the gun sales when they occurred, according to the Justice Department, which oversees it.

“Given the vast amount of ‘Operation Fast and Furious’ weapons possibly still in the hands of cartel members, law enforcement officials should expect more seizures and recoveries at crime scenes,” the congressional report said.

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is also conducting its own investigation of the sting.

The department said it could only confirm 96 guns recovered in Mexico that were tied to suspects being tracked in the operation, but it said that ATF did not have complete information on how many were recovered at crime scenes there.

Some 274 weapons were recovered in the United States and, so far, about a dozen were found at crime scenes, according to details given to Grassley and obtained by Reuters.

LAWMAKERS SLAM FAILURE TO FOLLOW UP

During a nearly five-hour hearing, members of the House oversight panel grilled ATF officials who ran the operation and slammed them for allowing weapons to go across the border without being fully tracked, a charge they denied.

“It seems like you knowingly allowed these weapons to get out of your control, knowingly, to someone you knew was trafficking into Mexico,” said Republican Darrell Issa, the House panel’s chairman. “You saw the results, you allowed it continue and now you’re telling us we don’t let guns walk.”

ATF officials acknowledged making mistakes but the head of the Phoenix office at the time, William Newell, insisted the sting did not let weapons freely go to Mexico and the goal was to take down the network supplying the drug cartels.

“It is my opinion that we did not let guns walk,” he said.

“You’re entitled to your opinion, not to your facts,” Issa quickly retorted.

ATF officials said that arresting initial gun buyers, known as straw buyers, would do little to take out the network. Authorities tried to track the guns but Newell acknowledged that “not in every instance” were they able to do so.

“If we pick off these one or two straw purchasers, they get replaced in a day, and we have even more guns going into Mexico,” said Bill McMahon, head of the ATF’s operations in the western United States at the time of the operation.

In a closed-door interview with the House panel, the acting ATF deputy director William Hoover said he sought to shut down the sting operation as early as March 2010 but acknowledged that he should have made more efforts to do so.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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