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Texas Jury Convicts Mexican Cartel Hit Man

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stock photo of an empty jury box from a courtroom (credit: Michael Kelley/Getty Images)

stock photo of an empty jury box from a courtroom (credit: Michael Kelley/Getty Images)

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McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A federal jury on Wednesday convicted an alleged hit man for a Mexican drug cartel on racketeering, conspiracy and weapons charges, about two years after a jury at his earlier trial deadlocked on similar counts.

Gerardo Castillo Chavez, also known as “Cachetes,” or Cheeks, was the first of 34 defendants named in the 51-page indictment to go on trial. Many others have pleaded guilty. A judge declared a mistrial in his first trial.

Prosecutors alleged Castillo was part of a larger drug-trafficking conspiracy run by the Gulf drug cartel and the Zetas terror squad.

Court records show the conspiracy’s primary objective was moving cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into Laredo and on to Dallas.

Between 2001 and 2008, the organization, known collectively as “La Compania,” or the company, moved hundreds of drug loads into theUnited States. Cash proceeds from drug sales and guns followed the route back toMexico. The cartel employed a network of safe houses for its drug loads and gunmen on both sides of the border.

Prosecutors presented testimony from law enforcement officers and convicted members of the Zetas over the first five days of the trial. On Tuesday, defense attorney Roberto Balli presented a transcript of testimony Castillo’s sister gave in his first trial. The jury began deliberating early Tuesday afternoon and resumed Wednesday morning.

Balli maintained in both of Castillo’s trials that the government had the wrong man. Balli told jurors federal agents were looking for a man named Armando Garcia, the name in the original indictment, when they arrested Castillo in Houston in 2009.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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