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Man linked to Mexican cartel gets 21-year sentence

December 6, 2013

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A man whose brother is believed to be a Mexican drug cartel hit man was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted murder in what authorities said was a plot to kill a California mother and son who owed a drug debt.

Jorge Sillas, 30, apologized in court. His attorney, Paul Pfingst, said his client was influenced by his older brother and noted his clean criminal history.

Sillas, a U.S. citizen, was working on the orders of the Arellano Felix cartel, one of Mexico’s oldest drug trafficking organizations, according to prosecutors. U.S. and Mexican authorities say his brother, Juan Sillas, was one of Tijuana’s most violent hit men when he was arrested in 2011.

Juan Sillas has not been charged in the murder-for-hire case, but the criminal complaint said he offered to pay $50,000 for the killings. U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite him from Mexico in an unrelated case.

Jorge Sillas, who spent most of his life in Mexico’s Sinaloa state, and two other defendants planned to kill the mother and son said to owe money for drugs, according to prosecutors. The plot was foiled when authorities raided Jorge Sillas’ home in 2011, seizing two AR-15 rifles, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and about $20,000 in cash.

Jorge Sillas and Victor Gonzalez pleaded guilty to attempted murder and gang allegations. Gonzalez, 32, was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison.

A third defendant, Danny Cepallo, 36, was sentenced in June to five years in state prison.

The elder Sillas — known as “Ruedas,” or “Wheels” in English — was paraded before reporters at a Mexico City news conference after his arrest. Juan Sillas is presumed responsible for the 2010 kidnapping of a niece of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who leads the Sinaloa cartel along with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the most wanted men in the world.

U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite Juan Sillas to face charges in North Dakota involving the 2005 killing of a man who was shot nine times in front of two small children over a soured drug deal.

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