It’s like something out of a movie: A lawyer for a Mexican drug cartel turns U.S. informant, gets warned that there’s going to be an attempt on his life, and despite taking precautions he’s gunned down by a masked gunman at a suburban shopping center in front of his wife.
Except it’s actually real life. Now, three men who are accused of tracking him are coming up for trial. Details of the victim's life in Southlake, Texas, which is outside of Dallas, are emerging in court filings.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa, who was 43 at the time of his death in 2013, was the personal lawyer of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the former head of Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel who was captured in Mexico in 2003. Guillén was eventually extradited to the U.S. and in 2010 was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
With his principal client behind bars, Guerrero Chapa became a valued informant for various U.S. law-enforcement departments. But on May 22, 2013, a masked man stepped out of a white SUV and shot Guerrero Chapa multiple times as he sat in the passenger seat of his Range Rover while the lawyer’s wife, who was unhurt, loaded shopping bags into the trunk.
Two years earlier, according to documents filed by U.S. Attorney Joshua T. Burgess, Guerrero Chapa had received a telephone call warning him that he was being stalked “by people who wanted to kill him.”
The filing went on, “Immediately after hanging up the phone, he informed his wife … He also told her he didn’t want to go back to [their Southlake] house.”
He received other calls warning him that he “needed to be on his guard.”
The government wants to introduce Guerrero Chapa’s fear as evidence in the trial of the three men who have been accused of fingering him for the assassin.
A father and son – Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, 59, and Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Campano Jr., 32 – as well as their cousin, José Luis Cepeda-Cortes, 59, are on trial for interstate stalking resulting in death and conspiracy to commit murder for hire, according to the Morning News.
The Ledezmas were arrested on Sept. 5, 2014, trying to cross into the U.S. at McAllen, according to the FBI. Cepeda-Cortes, a Mexican national living in the U.S. legally, was arrested at his home in Edinburg, Texas.
Both father and son are Mexican citizens and ex-police officers.
After receiving the warnings, Guerrero Chapa and his wife maintained a low profile, including not using any of their cell phones.
According to prosecutors, the suspects rented an apartment in nearby Grapevine and used at least eight different cars to track Guerrero Chapa. A tracking device was found attached to his Range Rover and cameras had been placed around his home.
When they were arrested in 2014, the Ledezma’s Volkwagen Jetta had three surveillance devices in it.
The government believes the defendants are involved in the death or disappearance of nine other men in Mexico who went missing from 2011 to 2014. Some of the murdered men had tracking devices placed on their vehicles by the defendants, prosecutors said in court filings. Others were named in the defendants’ emails, records show.
On Feb. 23 of this year, Moisés Tijerina de la Garza – Guerrero Chapa’s brother-in-law – was shot to death in Monterrey, Mexico. According to court documents filed by Burgess, his contact information was found in Ledezma-Cepeda’s email.
According to the Morning News, some witnesses will testify for the defense about Guerrero Chapa’s family having been kidnapped by cartel member and released based on an agreement.
The trial will be held in Fort Worth starting on April 25.