A man whose brother is believed to be a prolific cartel hit man faces sentencing Friday after pleading guilty to attempted murder in what authorities say was a plot to kill a couple in Southern California who owed a drug debt, a case that highlights the reach of Mexican traffickers.
Jorge Sillas was working on the orders of the Arellano Felix cartel, one of Mexico's oldest and once one of its most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to prosecutors.
They say his older brother, Juan Sillas, was one of Tijuana's most violent hit men when he was arrested in 2011.
Juan Sillas has not been charged in the murder-for-hire case, but the criminal complaint said he offered to pay $50,000 for the killings. U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite him from Mexico in an unrelated case.
Jorge Sillas, a U.S. citizen, and two other defendants planned to kill a couple said to owe money for drugs, according to prosecutors. The plot was foiled when authorities raided the home of Jorge Sillas in Palmdale in February 2011, seizing two AR-15 rifles, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and about $20,000 in cash.
Sillas and Victor Gonzalez pleaded guilty to attempted murder and were scheduled to be sentenced in San Diego Superior Court. A third defendant, Danny Cepallo, was sentenced in June to five years in state prison.
The elder Sillas -- known as "Ruedas," or "Wheels" in English -- is suspected by authorities of being responsible for many killings in Tijuana.
U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite him to face charges in North Dakota involving the 2005 killing of a man who was shot nine times in front of two small children over a soured drug deal.
Juan Sillas boasted that he was responsible for killing 20 to 30 people a month, said West Fargo, N.D., police Detective Brad Berg. All but two of 66 defendants in the North Dakota case have been convicted.