Bandido scheduled for sentencing today in 2002 racketeering murder
A former Bandidos member who participated in the killing of another man 16 years ago is scheduled to be sentenced today for racketeering murder.
Frederick “Fast Fred” Cortez, 50, was charged in a racketeering case that took down the top leaders of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club. It wasn’t until federal authorities squeezed the Bandidos that Cortez admitted he helped shoot Robert Lara at a rest stop south of San Antonio in January 2002.
Lara was killed because he was suspected of slaying a Bandido in late 2001, according to testimony during the three-month trial of the Bandidos’ former national vice president John Xavier Portillo and ex-president Jeffrey Fay Pike. Pike and Portillo were sentenced last week to life in prison without parole for leading the racketeering conspiracy.
One of the government’s key eyewitnesses, former Bandidos member Richard Steven Merla, testified that a woman working with the Bandidos drove Lara in January 2002 to a dark picnic area along Interstate 37 south of San Antonio, where Merla dragged Lara out of the car. Merla and Cortez then emptied their pistols into him to retaliate for the killing of Javier Negrete, who was secretary of the Bandidos’ Southwest San Antonio chapter.
Negrete was killed in late 2001 when someone in a sport utility vehicle fired shots at him outside Tiffany’s Billiards in San Antonio, Merla testified. Cortez, then a prospect trying to become a member, returned fire, hitting the SUV, Merla said, and was later made a full-patch member. After the Bandidos investigated, Portillo, then the chapter’s president, announced at a meeting that Lara had slain Negrete and a plan was hatched to kill Lara, Merla testified.
Merla said that the day of the Lara killing, he, Cortez and four other Bandidos — including Portillo — went in three separate cars to the picnic area after the woman working with the Bandidos had called Portillo to let him know that she had Lara in the car with her.
Merla said that after he and Cortez killed Lara, Portillo told everyone that no one was to speak of the killing again. Later, he and Cortez were given “Expect No Mercy” patches, which are dispensed for a noted act for the club, Merla said.
Merla is serving 40 years in Texas state prison for the 2004 murder of boxer Robert “Pikin” Quiroga and 40 years concurrently for Lara’s slaying.
Cortez, who worked for Portillo in his home air-conditioning business, did not testify at the trial.
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @gmaninfedland