Mexico City murder ties miles away to Chicago
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Court Reporters email@example.com February 8, 2013 11:40PM
Discount Mall in the Little Village area of Chicago. | Sun-Times Library
Updated: March 11, 2013 6:48AM
Step-by-chilling-step, moment-by-blood-curdling-moment, federal prosecutors in Chicago this week detailed the anatomy of an alleged organized crime murder.
It wasn’t a gang or drug killing on the South or West Sides — or even a suburban Mob slaying.
The murder of Guillermo “Montes” Jiminez-Flores happened thousands of miles away in Mexico City, but prosecutors say it was driven by the much less well understood multi-million dollar racket in fake IDs, right here on Chicago’s Southwest side.
Even as Illinois officials prepare to issue the state’s first legitimate drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants, thanks to a new law that may render the lucrative black market in fake IDs obsolete, jurors in federal court were this week walked through dramatic wiretapped conversations leading up to Montes’ murder.
“Let’s do it once and for all,” alleged hit-man Gerardo Salazar-Rodriguez told Julio Leija-Sanchez as he hid outside the victim’s home armed with a 9mm handgun, watching his wife and kids on the night of March 31, 2007.
“Well yeah, once and for all,” Leija-Sanchez replied on his cell phone in Chicago. “Why the **** just you’re there messing around; and honestly, you guys have taken too long, man.”
Along with his brother, Manuel, Leija-Sanchez controlled a fake ID ring based out of the Discount Mall on 26th Street in Little Village, multiple cooperating witnesses have testified. Montes — a one-time ally — had been marked for death for trying to set up his own rival service selling phony drivers licenses, green cards and social security cards, prosecutors say.
His bullet-riddled body was found within hours of the wiretapped conversation, slumped at the wheel of an abandoned taxi in a “very desolate place,” Mexican investigator Fernando Cruz-Montes testified through an interpreter Thursday.
Black blood from his liver was spilled across his white shirt and the car’s upholstery, the investigator said as jurors viewed grisly crime scene photos on a large screen.
Or, as prosecutors say, Salazar-Rodriguez was recorded saying after the hit, “the blood that fell was black, dude. Black, black, black. ... I shot that dude in the liver and the lungs, dude.”
Attorneys for Salazar-Rodriguez and both Leija-Sanchez brothers dispute that the voices on the wiretaps belong to their clients and have attempted to paint the Mexican authorities’ investigation as incompetent, suggesting drunk taxi passengers may have killed Montes.
But they likely face further damaging testimony when another alleged former ally of the Leija-Sanchez brothers who turned against them, Freddy “Bruno” Ramirez-Camella, takes the stand.
Bruno, too, was targeted for murder, prosecutors say. But the Leija-Sanchez brothers and Salazar-Rodriguez were unaware that he was in federal custody as they discussed killing him alongside Montes, according to transcripts released this week.
The hapless hitman allegedly even thought he’d spotted Bruno with Montes in Mexico.
“He really is here, dude — I saw him already,” Salazar-Rodriguez was recorded telling his boss back in Chicago. “All we have to do is follow them, and the first one we bump into, the hell with him.”
With multiple defendants each represented by their own lawyers, and the need to translate each question and answer back and forth between Spanish and English, the trial has been moving at a glacial pace and is expected to take at least another month.
But if things go according to plan, Salazar-Rodriguez and his codefendants will finally come face-to-face with Bruno — in the courtroom, next week.