Three alleged members of Mexican cartel plead not guilty to “murder for hire” charges
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Three alleged members of the Arellano Felix drug cartel pleaded not guilty Tuesday to conspiracy charges stemming from a foiled murder-for-hire plan commissioned by the Tijuana cartel to kill two people. Danny Cepallo, 34, Victor Manuel Magana Gonzalez, 24, and Jorge Ernesto Sillas-Rocha, 27, were all ordered held on $1 million bail.
Deputy District Attorney Mark Amador told Judge David Szumowski that the plot to kill the targeted victims — a man and a woman — was thwarted by law enforcement.
The two owed the cartel a large sum of money, believed to be the proceeds from drug sales, according to authorities.
Sillas, 27, and Gonzalez, 24, were arrested last Thursday at a home in Palmdale. Agents also seized two AR-15 assault weapons, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and an estimated $20,000 in cash.
Cepallo, also known as Danny Ceballos, was arrested later at a Starbuck's coffee shop in Palmdale.
Amador told the judge that the alleged crime represented another example of cross-border violence. Meetings and planning for the alleged plot to kill the victims took place in San Diego County, according to the prosecutor.
Amador alleged the defendants conspired with the drug cartel “to do cartel business.”
He said all of the defendants had ties to Mexico, but did not have prior criminal records.
According to the criminal complaint, Sillas contacted a confidential informant over the phone on Feb. 5 and ordered him to make the murders happen the following day and kill everyone except a disabled girl.
Between Feb. 6 and Feb. 8, according to the complaint, the confidential informant told Gonzalez that the intended victims had not been seen at their California residence all week.
Later, Sillas and the confidential informant discussed finding the intended victims and Sillas said he would send someone to the residence to locate the intended victims, according to the complaint.
According to authorities, the investigation also implicated Fernando Sanchez Arellano, the head of the Arellano Felix Cartel. That investigation is continuing, authorities said.