Criminal Justice News

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Defendant Charged with Alleged Participation in the Murder of Ice Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the Attempted Murder of Ice Special Agent Victor Avila Extradited from Mexico



Defendant Charged with Alleged Participation in the Murder of Ice Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the Attempted Murder of Ice Special Agent Victor Avila Extradited from Mexico

Four Others Have Already Pleaded Guilty to Charges in the Case

A Mexican national was extradited from Mexico to face charges for his alleged participation in the February 2011 murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Victor Avila in Mexico.

The charges and extradition were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr. of the District of Columbia, Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division and Director Sarah R. Saldaña of ICE.

Jose Emanuel Garcia Sota, aka Juan Manuel Maldonado Amezcua, Zafado or Safado, 34, of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, was charged on May 6, 2013, in a four-count indictment with one count of murder of an officer or employee of the United States; one count of attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States; one count of attempted murder of an internationally protected person; and one count of using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.  The indictment was unsealed today when Garcia Sota made his initial appearance before Chief U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia.  His next appearance in court is scheduled for Oct. 9, 2015.

“It has been over four and a half years since ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata valiantly lost his life and Special Agent Victor Avila suffered grave injuries when they were ambushed by gunfire while on assignment in Mexico,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “As evidenced by today’s announcement, the passage of time has not lessened our resolve to keep our promise to the family of Special Agent Zapata and to Special Agent Avila and his family, and bring to justice those responsible for this senseless and brutal attack.  And we are grateful to the Government of Mexico for its continued partnership in this case.”

“Four years ago, on a Mexican roadside, two American heroes came under attack in a violent ambush by members of Los Zetas, a dangerous criminal cartel,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen.  “Four people have already accepted responsibility for their actions, and now a fifth will be brought to an American courtroom for justice.  We will not stop in the pursuit of justice – no matter how far away and how long it takes.”

“Today's announcement is the direct result of unwavering resolve and unrelenting cooperation to bring to justice those accountable for the murder of Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of Victor Avila,” said Assistant Director Campbell.  “Although this cowardly act of violence occurred more than four years ago, this investigation remains a priority for the FBI.”

“This extradition is another step closer to the justice Special Agents Zapata and Avila deserve,” said ICE Director Saldaña.  “ICE is grateful to our partners whose tireless efforts brought about today's news.  Their dogged pursuit of justice, often in face of great danger, enables us to continue in our quest to make these criminals pay for their deeds.  While nothing can ever truly heal such a loss, we hope today's news brings Agent Zapata's family and friends a measure of peace.  His ultimate sacrifice will always be honored by the men and women of ICE.”

Four defendants previously pleaded guilty to offenses based on their roles in the murder and attempted murder of the ICE agents.  Julian Zapata Espinoza, aka Piolin, 34, pleaded guilty on May 23, 2013, to the murder of Special Agent Zapata and the attempted murder of Special Agent Avila.  Ruben Dario Venegas Rivera, aka Catracho, 27, pleaded guilty on Aug. 1, 2011, to federal charges concerning the murder of Special Agent Zapata and attempted murder of Special Agent Avila.  Jose Ismael Nava Villagran, aka Cacho, 33, pleaded guilty on Jan. 4, 2012, also to federal charges concerning the murder and attempted murder of the ICE agents.  Francisco Carbajal Flores, aka Dalmata, 40, pleaded guilty on Jan. 10, 2012, to conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity and to being an accessory after the fact to the murder and attempted murder of the ICE agents.

As part of their guilty pleas, Espinoza, Rivera and Villagran admitted to being members of a Los Zetas hit squad and to participating directly in the Feb. 15, 2011, ambush of the two special agents.  The fourth defendant, Flores, acknowledged assisting Zetas members after the attack.

An indictment is a formal charging document and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, with substantial assistance from ICE, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Marshals Service.  The investigation was also coordinated with the assistance of the Government of Mexico.

The case is being prosecuted by the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs has provided substantial assistance.

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