Eduardo “Tablas” Ravelo, the leader of the Barrio Azteca gang in Juarez, had least 50 bodyguards protecting him at all times, lived in a mansion, and often traveled across the border to discuss contract killings with his counterparts in El Paso, according to federal court documents.
Ravelo, who has been on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list since 2009, is believed to have survived the drug cartel war in Juárez and last week the FBI office in El Paso had a press conference to reinforce to the public that Ravelo may be in the area and is wanted.
A review by the El Paso Times of past federal court transcripts involving Barrio Azteca members give some insight to the workings of the gang and to Ravelo’s life.
Gustavo “Tavo” Gallardo, formerly a leader of the Barrio Aztecas in El Paso, testified in court that long before the drug cartel wars began in 2008 in Juarez, the Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel wanted to kill off the Aztecas because they were suspected of stealing millions of dollars from the cartel.
Ravelo, who was under pressure from La Linea, a group of enforcers who work for the Carrillo Fuentes cartel in Juarez, came to El Paso to ask the Barrio Aztecas in El Paso for helping in finding a gang member who was suspected in the stealing, documents state.
One such gang member was Chato Flores, who was abducted in August 2005 from El Paso and taken to Juarez, where he was to be questioned by La Linea. Flores, one of several gang members that La Linea claimed was ripping off the cartel, was killed in Juarez. Gallardo testified that he did not know in advance that Flores would be killed.
“They wanted to know where all their merchandise (was) that they were stealing,” Gallardo testified back then.
Gallardo said he met Ravelo in El Paso, when Ravelo asked for help in finding another Barrio Azteca member who was under suspicion. He testified that Ravelo was protected in Juarez by 50 bodyguards and lived in a mansion.
Gallardo said in court during a federal trial against Barrio Azteca members in 2008 that he was “tight” with Ravelo and that Ravelo was close to the leader of La Linea at the time, Juan “JL” Pablo Ledezma, who reported directly to Mexican drug kingpin Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.
U.S. officials previously indicted Carrillo Fuentes in connection with drug-trafficking and several murders in Juarez in the 1990s.
In Mexico, Ledezma is a fugitive who is wanted in connection with various alleged crimes, including drug-trafficking and other slayings.
Gallardo testified that back then the Carrillo Fuentes cartel was using enforcers from La Linea to kill Aztecas who betrayed the cartel.
He also said he knew where 50 to 100 bodies were buried in Juarez, but he was not asked to testify about where the bodies were located or when the slayings had occurred.
Gallardo further testified that he had predicted to the FBI in 2007, a year before the cartel wars in Juarez began, that there was going to be more trouble because Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman (leader of the Sinaloa cartel) was coming to Juarez to challenge the Carrillo Fuentes cartel.
At the same time, the Barrio Azteca in El Paso was in disarray because of a power struggle between David “Chicho” Meraz and Miguel Angel “Angelillo” Esqueda. Meraz was killed in Juarez in 2008.
“It was always all – all this struggling, fighting against each other,” Gallardo testified.
Aguirre testified that the feud was driven by “envy, money problems (and) power.” Each one, Meraz and Esqueda, wanted to run the gang in El Paso.
Gallardo testified that the Barrio Aztecas in El Paso and the Aztecas in Juarez are one and the same gang except with different leaders in El Paso and Juarez.
He said the gang collected approximately $100,000 per week from drug-trafficking, and that the money was turned in to cartel operatives at the Juarez Cereso prison.
Aguirre testified that there is a big difference in how the gang operates in the two cities; he testified that the Aztecas in Juarez are required to commit a murder in order to join the gang there.
Mexican authorities said that Ravelo began working for the Mexican drug cartel since the mid-1990’s, which is when the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes, brother of Vicente, took over the Juarez smuggling corridor.
The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of Ravelo.
The FBI said that one of the birth dates provided for Ravelo is Oct. 13, 1968. There is an Eduardo Ravelo with the same birth date who was charged with forgery in El Paso in 1991, according to court records, and he was also sought in connection with a bond forfeiture.
U.S. investigators said Ravelo, who was born in Mexico but had U.S. legal permanent residency (a green card), survived the drug cartel wars and may be hiding somewhere in Mexico. The FBI said he might have had plastic surgery to alter his appearance.
In a statement, FBI officials said that the Barrio Azteca is a violent street and prison gang that began in the late 1980s and expanded into a transnational criminal organization.
The gang began with Texas prisoners from El Paso and Juarez who wanted to protect themselves against other prison gangs, according to gang experts.
Numerous prisoners in the United States who were from Mexico were deported after finishing their sentences, and later joined the Barrio Aztecas or other gangs that worked with the drug cartels.
Over the past decade, the Barrio Aztecas formed an alliance in Mexico with “La Linea,” which is part of the Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel. U.S. officials said the purpose of the alliance was to fight the Sinaloa cartel and its allies for control of the Juarez drug trafficking routes.
During the cartel wars, more than 11,000 people were killed in Juarez over a five-year period that began in 2008, most of them foot soldiers of the rival cartels.
Barrio Azteca members are known to operate in West Texas, New Mexico and in Chihuahua.
Ramon Montijo, an expert on gangs and drug cartels, said the cartels were smart to use the prison and street gangs to further their enterprises.
“The gangs do all the dirty work, and the guys at the top of the cartels profit,” Montijo said. “It was a very smart move on the part of the cartels.”… Source El Paso Times
The Azteca Snitches….by Chivis Martinez
The Azteca gang is one of the most feared and violent gangs in the United States.
In 1986 the violent gang, “Barrio Azteca,” was initiated in the Texas prison system. 5 inmates seeking a defense against prison violence organized a prison gang among prisoners from El Paso. By the 90’s the gang membership had spread to other prisons and to the streets of El Paso, its home base, as Barrio Azteca gang originators and other members completed their prison sentences and were released back on to the streets.
Barrio Aztecas progressed into trans-border drug trafficking and the violence that is fused with the trade. It established a counterpart organization across the international bridge into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Today there are over 5000 Aztecas in Juarez and 3000+ in the United States.
An in-depth knowledge of the interworking’s of the organization was thought not known until 2008 when a federal RICO indictment resulted in the conviction of six alleged members and associates.
It was the testimony and other evidence in the trial that exposed the gang’s operational structure and mechanisms, much of it provided by a snitch, Johnny “Conejo”[“Rabbit”] Michelletti, who as it turned out had been snitching for several years. He testified in open court about Barrio Azteca’s organization and criminal acts.
Michelletti, who admitted in testimony, that he had been working for the FBI revealed in court that he had been working with the FBI for three years. Another Barrio Azteca, Gustavo “Tavo”Gallardo, turned on his gang and decided to cooperate and testify at trial.
During his testimony Michelletti said he was originally a member of an El Paso gang called “Los Fatherless,” but was sent to prison for assaulting a police officer. It was during his incarceration that a fellow inmate approached Michelletti about the inmate sponsoring Michelletti’s membership in the Barrio Aztecas.
Michelletti explained the sponsor is your “padrino”, and one must prove worthy of membership by committing a violent act.
Another ex-Azteca Gerardo Hernandez testified that recruits to the gang, are sponsored and have their names sent throughout the gang system. An investigation is conducted to determine whether the prospect has ever cooperated with law enforcement, or any other baggage unacceptable to the gang.
Once in, the lowly, new recruits are responsible for collecting “quotas” which are passed up the chain of command, he points out that “stores” that purchase from Barrio Aztecas don’t pay tax or get a reduced rate, and the money is deposited in commissary accounts.
In other testimony a former Barrio Azteca Edward Ruiz testified that for 4 years he operated an address where the incarcerated Azteca Manuel Cardoza could send undetected letters to other gang members outside prison. Ruiz had some of the letters in his possession which he relinquished to the FBI.