Two members of the Los Zetas hit squads, Garcia Sota and Quezada Piña, were sentenced Nov. 6 to life in federal prison for the Feb. 15, 2011 murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime J. Zapata and the attempted murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Victor Avila.
“Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila were in Mexico to protect and serve our country when they were ambushed by these ruthless criminals, who will now spend the rest of their lives in a prison cell,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco.
“This case serves as a reminder, that if you harm a U.S. agent, the U.S. government will pursue you to the ends of the earth to ensure that you are brought to justice,” Blanco said.
The defendants, whose full names were: Jose Emanuel Garcia Sota, aka Juan Manuel Maldonado Amezcua, aka “Zafado,” 36, of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and Jesus Ivan Quezada Piña, aka “Loco,” 29, of Matamoros, Mexico, were extradited from Mexico.
Soto and Piña were convicted July 27.
Sota and Piña were found guilty of four federal offenses: murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an internationally protected person; and using, carrying and brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.
The government presented testimony from 22 witnesses, including Avila.
According to the government’s presentation, Sota and Piña set out to steal cars in support of their cartel’s operations, when they came upon the up-armored Chevrolet Suburban with diplomatic plates driven by Zapata and Avila, who were on official business on their way to Mexico City.
In the ambush set by Sota and Piña, the two hitmen fired upon the Suburban with handguns and long guns, including an AR-15 and an AK-47, killing Zapata and wounding Avila, the government said. Roughly 90 shell casings were found at the scene of the attack.
“Special Agents Zapata and Avila dedicated themselves to federal law enforcement,” said District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu.
“While working on behalf of our country, they were ruthlessly gunned down in a carjacking attempt by members of hit squads for the Los Zetas drug cartel,” she said.
“We have never forgotten what happened to these two American heroes in that ambush on a Mexican highway more than six years ago.”