(MCALLEN, Texas) – Three members of the Texas Syndicate prison gang convicted by a jury of racketeering and committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering (VCAR) have been sentenced to life imprisonment, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge J. Dewey Webb announced today.
Jose Armando Garcia, 36, aka “Mando” or “Mandio,” of Mission, Texas; along with Juan Pablo Hinojosa, 37, aka “Gordo,” and Raul Galindo, 36, aka “Lucky,” both of Weslaco, Texas, were each sentenced to life imprisonment without parole late Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, by Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa.
All three men were convicted in August 2010 following a jury trial. Garcia was convicted of conspiracy to violate the racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) act and VCAR. Hinojosa was convicted of conspiracy to violate RICO and two counts of VCAR, while Galindo was convicted of one count of VCAR and one count of witness tampering.
Trial testimony showed that beginning in 2004, ATF special agents learned that several murders in the Rio Grande Valley had been reported committed by the Texas Syndicate prison gang members including the 2004 murders of Crisantos Moran and Miguel Elizondo for allegedly violating Texas Syndicate rules.
ATF agents, along with investigators with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s office, who assisted in the investigation, initiated an investigation which ultimately identified the specific Texas Syndicate gang members that were involved in each murder and lead to the charges against these three defendants and others.
Through testimony including that of several co-conspirators the jury learned of the events leading to three murders. One co-defendant testified that the Texas Syndicate ordered Moran to kill a rival gang member who lived near Penitas, Texas. The testifying co-defendant and Garcia agreed to accompany Moran to commit the murder. However, Moran later told Garcia and the testifying co-defendant that he did not carry out the order. Instead, according to the co-defendant’s testimony, he and Garcia shot and killed Moran for failing to carry out the order. The jury also learned that Garcia had pleaded guilty in state court to murdering Moran.
Hinojosa murdered Elizondo. Another co-defendant testified that he was the “sillon” in the Rio Grande Valley and had ordered Hinojosa to kill Elizondo and provided Hinojosa a firearm to commit the murder. Yet another co-defendant testified Hinojosa recruited and directed him to kill Elizondo’s wife after Hinojosa shot and killed Elizondo. Mrs. Elizondo, the victim’s wife, testified that on May 19, 2010, Hinojosa approached Miguel Elizondo at their residence in San Juan, Texas. A short time later, she heard a gunshot near the area that her husband and Hinojosa had been standing. The recruited co-defendant ran towards her and attempted to shoot her; however, the firearm failed to discharge and she managed to escape from the residence.
In June 2007, members of the Texas Syndicate obtained a copy of a sealed court document from an employee of a McAllen area law firm which represented Marcelino Rodriguez in a federal case. A former Texas Syndicate member testified at trial that he read the document and provided a copy to other Texas Syndicate members.
Later, a Texas Syndicate leader who was incarcerated at the Darrington Unit approved the murder of Rodriguez. A Texas Syndicate prospect testified that both he and Cristobal Hernandez were recruited by Galindo to commit the murder. Galindo shot Rodriguez in the back of the head while the recruited prospects set the vehicle on fire with gasoline.
The testifying co-defendants and Hernandez have all pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges and are pending sentencing in late February. They, too, face substantial prison terms at their respective hearings for their roles in the violent racketeering activity of the Texas Syndicate and are have will continue to be held in federal custody without bond.
Assistant United States Attorneys Robert Wells Jr. and Juan Villescas are prosecuting the case.