Ex-gang members help break grip of massive prison gang

By :Colleen Heild / Journal Investigative Reporter| Posted : Monday, September 11th, 2017

Colleen Heild / Journal Investigative Reporter

Lupe Urquizo, shown here in a New Mexico Corrections Department photo, is the latest alleged Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico gang member to be charged in a massive federal racketeering investigation led by the FBI. Photo courtesy of NM Corrections Department. Fri Sep 08 12:30:43 -0600 2017 1504895442 FILENAME: 748526.jpg

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO- Loyalty is prized within the notorious Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico prison gang. But it only goes so far, as revealed in a new criminal complaint filed in the massive New Mexico federal racketeering prosecution.

More than 30 former members and leaders of SNM have been secretly cooperating with law enforcement to help break the decades-old grip of the alleged murderous New Mexico prison gang, according to an FBI arrest warrant affidavit filed Aug. 31.

More than 20 members inside the gang are described as “confidential human sources,” according to the affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Bryan Acee, the lead investigator in the case.

The affidavit relates to the arrest of Lupe Urquizo, aka “Marijuano,” who is accused of assaulting inmates, correctional officers, committing arson, and acting as a messenger within the prison system to help communicate planned hits on other inmates.

He is the latest suspect charged.

Over the past two years, about 114 suspected members and associates of the gang have been arrested. More than 80 have been charged with federal crimes, Acee’s affidavit states.

The majority of those have pleaded guilty, the affidavit stated. Court records show that less than 15 defendants are awaiting trial, which has been delayed until next July.

The prosecution contends that SNM is a violent and powerful racketeering enterprise that extends beyond prison walls.

But at least one defense attorney has claimed that some people have been threatened by law enforcement agents with “inclusion” in the racketeering prosecution if they didn’t agree to cooperate and give statements.

“There is a great risk that these coercive police tactics will produce involuntary statements,” stated a motion filed in February by attorney Amy Sirignano, who represents defendant Christopher Garcia.

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By: Colleen Heild / Journal Investigative Reporter
Published: September 11, 2017

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