A former Mexican police official already facing 240 years in prison for the murder of a U.S. drug agent was sentenced to another 15 years Thursday for his role in an elaborate kidnap and torture plot that the judge said was “enough to send shivers up the spine.”
Raul Lopez-Alvarez, a former homicide investigator who was sentenced last month for his role in the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, received the additional prison term for his conviction on charges of conspiring to murder a fictional U.S. Customs agent in the same way Camarena had been killed.
Two Mexicans hired by Lopez-Alvarez to help carry out the plot, Carlos Quintero-Maldonado and Fabian Jimenez-Martinez, were sentenced to 10 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Pamela Ann Rymer imposed a sentence significantly lower than the 50 to 60 years sought by the government and also specified that Lopez-Alvarez’s term will be concurrent with the sentence he received in the Camarena case, from which he is not eligible for parole for at least 60 years.
In doing so, the judge expressed reservations about the undercover sting operation in which a DEA agent contracted with Lopez-Alvarez for the killing, saying the prosecution “pushes conspiracy theory essentially to its ultimate.”
Lopez-Alvarez, 29, was arrested last year after he bragged to an undercover agent, posing as a drug dealer, about his role in the murder of Camarena and after he accepted the agent’s solicitation to kidnap, torture and murder a U.S. Customs agent who had purportedly been giving the agent trouble.
In secretly videotaped conversations with the agent, Lopez-Alvarez discussed what implements of torture might be employed to interrogate the agent before his death and specified where and how the agent was to be kidnaped.
Lopez-Alvarez’s attorney, Elsa Leyva, said Lopez-Alvarez had simply been trying to take the agent’s money and never planned to carry out the murder.
“The agent put Mr. Lopez-Alvarez in a position where he foolishly, immaturely made a lot of outrageous statements,” Leyva said.
Defense lawyers have argued that the government constructed the undercover sting to lure Lopez-Alvarez into the United States to prosecute him in the Camarena case.
“I understand the agents were emotionally involved with the murder of agent Camarena, and I think rightly so,” said the lawyer for Quintero-Maldonado, Alan Rubin. “But in cases like this, we have to rely on law enforcement officials to control their emotions and follow the law. Otherwise, we’re all in trouble.”
Assistant U.S. Atty. Jimmy Gurule said the case warranted a harsh sentence as a message to “narco-terrorists” in Mexico and Colombia “that this type of violent conduct will not be tolerated, that this type of conduct must cease.”
Gurule also rejected the defense’s assertions that Lopez-Alvarez was duped into the plot, pointing out the defendant’s own admissions that he had been associated with torture as a Jalisco state police officer and his detailed admissions about the types of torture with which he is familiar.
“The fact is that he has a shocking, frightening indifference regarding the value of human life,” the prosecutor declared.
Rymer admitted that “by the sound of it, it is hard to imagine a more serious crime. . . .”
“Each of the defendants indisputably said enough and did enough to send shivers up the spine of anyone who took seriously what they said they could do,” Rymer said.
“However, I think it is extremely important to realize that this case is not precisely what it sounds like,” the judge said.
While all three defendants are guilty of conspiracy, she said, there was no possibility of injury to the fictional agent.