New Mexico gang member convicted of murder, racketeering

National

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal court jury has convicted a self-admitted member of a New Mexico prison gang of ordering and participating in the 2008 killing of a man who allegedly disrespected the gang and was left dead, naked and facedown in an icy river.

Jody Rufino Martinez, 41, faces life in prison after the jury on Tuesday found him guilty of racketeering and murder in the death of David Romero, 34, to advance his own standing in the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico gang, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Martinez, also known as Mono, pleaded not guilty in the case. The initial investigation by New Mexico State Police had gone stale until revived by the FBI in 2019 as part of a wider focus on drug distribution and other violent crimes in northern New Mexico.

When the FBI took over the case, three who allegedly participated with Martinez in the killing of Romero gave new statements implicating him as having ordered the attack and destroying evidence.

Martinez’s defense attorney Nicholas Hart said that according to the government, “Mr. Martinez is guilty by association.”

Hart argued the accomplice testimony was false, concocted and riddled with inconsistencies. He also said two of the members who admitted participating in the slaying have not been charged.

Martinez still faces three counts of assaulting a federal corrections officer, most recently on March 2, as he was about to be transported to his federal trial. He was acquitted of witness tampering in the Romero case.

Martinez is now the 10th member of the gang to be convicted at trial under the federal Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering law. The prosecution stemmed from an ongoing six-year investigation by the FBI to dismantle the criminal enterprise.

Up to 150 Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico gang members and their associates have been arrested. Most have been convicted of crimes that range from racketeering to murder to witness intimidation, authorities said. At least 10 homicides have been solved.

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