Mexican Drug Cartel Hitman Faces Murder Charges - NBC Southern California

Mexican Drug Cartel Hitman Faces Murder Charges

A suspected gang member who was among the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" was arrested in Mexico



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    Jose Luis Saenz

    One of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives wanted in connection with at least four Los Angeles area slayings dating to 1998 was arrested in Mexico while he was believed to have been working as a hitman for a drug cartel, the FBI said.

    Jose Luis Saenz, a high school dropout and former reputed East L.A. gang member, was arrested in Guadalajara, Mexico on Thursday. He arrived at Los Angeles International Airport under guard about 7 p.m. Friday.
    As he was being put into a car, Saenz said he was “not guilty for life.”
    Details about his arrest are expected to be released during a press conference planned by the FBI on Monday.
    Saenz is suspected of four homicides in Los Angeles County dating to 1998.
    Saenz, along with a then 14-year-old friend, is suspected in the July 25, 1998 ambush and execution of rival gang members, Josue Hernandez and Leonardo Ponce. The shootings were payback for an earlier beating of Saenz's friend, according to the LAPD.
    The friend, Juan Pena, was arrested and convicted of the murders and sent to the California Youth Authority. From his deathbed, the friend, Juan Pena, who suffered from leukemia, fingered Saenz as the triggerman, according to, citing the LAPD detective investigating the case.
    Eleven days after the double killing, Saenz allegedly abducted and raped his ex-girlfriend Sigrieta Hernandez, the mother of his child, at his grandmother's house before fatally shooting Hernandez to prevent her from reporting him to the police for the 1998 killings, the LAPD said at the time.
    At the time the LAPD added Saenz to its “Ten Most Wanted” suspects list, authorities released a statement saying he should be considered armed and dangerous.
    “He has vowed to kill any police officer who attempts to arrest him, and has proven he will kill whoever he deems a potential threat against him,” the LAPD said.
    Saenz allegedly shot to death a fourth person in October 2008 in Los Angeles County. Authorities say they have surveillance video outside a home that allegedly shows Saenz shooting Oscar Torres in Whittier.
    That shooting was believed to have stemmed from a $600,000 drug debt, the FBI said.
    The FBI added Saenz to its “Ten Most Wanted” list in 2009. At the time, the FBI was offering up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest.
    FBI agents have turned Saenz over to the custody of the LAPD, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
    The FBI anticipates the federal fugitive charge will be dismissed and that Saenz will be in state court on the murder charges this week.
    Eimiller declined to discuss specifics on Saturday about Saenz's arrest.
    Saenz is an LA high school dropout and a one-time member of the Cuatro Flats gang with a string of nicknames including including Toro, Smiley, and Peanut. He was believed to have been working as a hitman for a Mexican drug cartel and was known to have traveled frequently between the United States and Mexico, the FBI said.
    He had multiple tattoos, including the word "Natalie" and "Cuatro" on his left arm, "Flats" on his right arm, and "In Memory Serelone Flew" on his back, that he may have had removed with a laser, the FBI said.

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