Posted: May 16, 2014 5:41 PM
Updated: May 16, 2014 5:41 PM
EL PASO, Texas (AP) The bodyguard of a now-dead Mexican drug cartel boss pleaded guilty Friday in a West Texas federal court to murder and drug trafficking charges.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Rigoberto Ruiz-Alatorre entered the plea on the third day of his trial in El Paso.
Ruiz-Alatorre admitted to murdering Fermin Rodriguez-Gonzalez in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in July 2006, a former associate who had decided to start his own trafficking enterprise. Prosecutors say Ruiz-Alatorre feared that Rodriguez-Gonzalez, a resident of Roswell, New Mexico, would be caught and start cooperating with authorities.
During opening statements, prosecutor John Johnston said they had evidence and witnesses to convince the jury that Ruiz-Alatorre had shot Rodriguez-Gonzalez in the head.
Johnston also said Ruiz-Alatorre had been paid $50,000 to provide security for Gabino "El Ingeniero" Salas-Valenciano, a man believed to have run the Sinaloa drug cartel's operations across the border from El Paso County until Mexican authorities killed him last year.
A statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office says Ruiz-Alatorre faces up to 28 years in federal prison. A call to his attorney's office was not returned.
The defendant was arrested Feb. 16, 2012, when Drug Enforcement Administration agents learned he had gone to El Paso for a drug deal.
Until Friday, Ruiz-Alatorre had maintained his innocence, saying he did not know of Salas-Valenciano's drug trafficking activities.
Ruiz-Alatorre is to remain under federal custody until his sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 3.