July 28 (UPI) -- A Washington, D.C., jury convicted two suspected members of Mexico's Los Zetas drug cartel of killing a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent and injuring another.
The jury found Jose Emanuel Garcia Sota, 35, -- also known as "Zafado" -- and Jesus Ivan Quezada Piña, 29 -- also known as "Loco" -- guilty of four counts each on Thursday. The counts include murder, attempted murder and firearms violations.
So far, seven Los Zetas cartel members have been convicted in the ambush that killed ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata and injured Special Agent Victor Avila on Feb. 15, 2011, U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips said.
"Drug cartels bring death and destruction across our Southern border and sell drugs that take lives all across America," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "The work our ICE officers do every day to keep these criminals out of our country and secure our border is heroic and makes all of us safer. Today's conviction of two cartel members in the horrific murder of ICE agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico is the next step in the Department of Justice's ongoing efforts to dismantle the cartels and bring them to justice."
Prosecutors said Garcia Sota and Quezada Piña were members of the cartel's hit squads, or "estacas," and on the day of the shooting were trying to steal vehicles for the organization. The group targeted the armored Chevrolet Suburban driven by Zapata and Avila, who were traveling to Mexico City.
The cartel members fired into the vehicle using handguns and semiautomatic weapons, including AK-47 and AR-15 type assault rifles. Investigators said they found about 90 shell casings at the scene.
Five other Mexican nationals have pleaded guilty to charges related to the case: Ruben Dario Venegas Rivera, aka Catracho, 29; Jose Ismael Nava Villagran, aka Cacho, 35; Julian Zapata Espinoza, aka Piolin, 36; and Alfredo Gaston Mendoza Hernandez, aka Camaron, 34, pleaded guilty to federal murder and attempted murder charges between August 2011 and October 2016. The fifth, Francisco Carbajal Flores, aka Dalmata, 42, pleaded guilty in January 2012 to conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity and to being an accessory after the fact to the murder and attempted murder of the ICE agents.
The five are awaiting sentencing. Garcia Sota and Quezada Piña are scheduled for a court hearing Aug 29 to determine a sentencing date.