FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A Mexican cartel leader spent $1 million on an operation to hunt down and kill a man who was fatally shot at an upscale suburban Dallas shopping center in 2013, a man charged with stalking the victim testified Thursday.
Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Campano, 32, testified in federal court that he, his father and his father's cousin tracked the man on the orders of Beltran Leyva cartel member Rodolfo Villareal Hernandez, also known as El Gato.
The victim, Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa, was also a cartel boss, according to court documents filed by Ledezma-Campano's lawyers in the case.
A recent filing says Chapa became the interim head of the Gulf Cartel — one of Mexico's most violent drug-trafficking rings — following the arrest of predecessor Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, who was extradited to the U.S. in 2007 and later sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors allowed Ledezma-Campano to plead guilty to interstate stalking resulting in death in exchange for testifying against his father, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, and the cousin, Jose Luis Cepeda-Cortes.
Ledezma-Campano said in court, "I was involved in this crime, the murder of a person," The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
All three men were indicted on interstate stalking and conspiracy to commit murder for hire charges in the 2013 shooting death of Chapa in Southlake. Law enforcement officials say the men used video cameras and a GPS device to track Chapa before he was killed in a shopping center parking lot. The shooter who killed Chapa and the getaway driver are considered fugitives, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Ledezma-Campano said he and his father became involved in a group called "Grupo Rudo," which was associated with the Beltran Leyva cartel, and that his father enlisted his help with the technical aspects of the surveillance of Chapa.
Ledezma-Campano testified that his father was hired by El Gato to find Chapa. Earlier witnesses said El Gato wanted to kill Chapa because he thought he was responsible for the death of his father, according to the Star-Telegram.
He testified that El Gato spent $1 million on the operation and then rewarded Ledezma-Cepeda with a BMW and a hunting trip. He also said the killing was celebrated with a big party.
Cepeda-Cortes' attorney on Thursday said his client was coerced by Ledezma-Cepeda into helping investigate Chapa out of fear for his family's safety.