Two members of Los Palillos gang convicted of 2007 kidnappings, murders

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A member of a violent Mexican street gang that
targeted drug dealers was convicted Wednesday of the 2007 kidnap-murders of three
men in San Diego County, while a second defendant was found guilty in two of
the slayings in which the victims' bodies were dissolved in acid.

Concluding a trial that lasted nearly three months, a jury convicted
Jose Olivera Beritan, 38, of kidnapping and three counts of first-degree murder
in the deaths of Ivan Lozano, Cesar Uribe and Marc Leon.

Co-defendant David Valencia, 42, was convicted in the abductions and
deaths of Uribe and Leon.

Lozano's body was found in the trunk of a car in Clairemont two weeks
after he was kidnapped on March 23, 2007.

The bodies of Uribe, a drug trafficker, and Leon, his associate, were
found dissolved in acid two years after they were abducted on May 3, 2007, on a
property in San Ysidro where Valencia kept horses.

Both defendants face life in prison without parole when they are
sentenced July 19.

“It was a good day today. Justice was served,” prosecutor James
Fontaine said. “It took five years for this verdict. It's the first step in
what will be a number of trials to hold other perpetrators of these crimes
responsible for their actions in our community. The families (of the victims)
can now finally, after five years, get some sort of closure.”

Prosecutors said Olivera Beritan and Valencia belong to Los Palillos, or
the Toothpicks, an Arellano Felix cartel splinter group that for years
shipped drugs through Tijuana to San Diego.

Olivera Beritan was also convicted of a Jan. 3, 2007, attempted
kidnapping at a Bonita apartment complex in which a now-imprisoned drug
trafficker was shot but managed to escape.

Both defendants were convicted of the June 8, 2007, kidnapping of a
wealthy businessman, Eduardo Gonzalez-Tostado, who was rescued from a house in
Chula Vista, leading to the arrests of the defendants.

Lead prosecutor Mark Amador said the defendants chose their victims
because their families were unlikely to report the crimes to police. Lozano,
Uribe and Leon were all held at a house on Garber Way in Paradise Hills, he

The prosecutor said Uribe's family heard from his kidnappers, who
demanded money, and two ransom drops took place. He said Valencia and Uribe
were involved in illegal drug trafficking together, but a dispute arose over a

The families of Lozano and Leon never heard from them or their kidnappers.

Next month, trial is scheduled for Nancy Mendoza Moreno, who is accused
of luring Gonzalez-Tostado to the home in Chula Vista in June 2007, where he
was held for eight days before being rescued.

Four other alleged members of Los Palillos, Edgar Frausto Lopez, Jorge
Salvador Moreno, Jorge Rojas Lopez and Juan Estrada- Gonzalez, are scheduled to
stand trial later this year. They face the death penalty if convicted.

Categories: KUSI