NM prison gang was on 'mission to kill' corrections chief

An unsealed indictment revealed details of the foiled murder plot Thursday

By Colleen Heild
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A chilling new federal indictment alleges that a prison gang’s “mission to kill” New Mexico Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel last year was supposed to involve a hit man who would himself end up dead after the murder.

The new 53-page indictment unsealed Thursday lays out more details of the foiled plot and names more defendants, and now Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico members are charged in six “cold case” homicides around the state.

The alleged murder plot against Marcantel by SNM gained traction by last November when members outside prison secured guns and tried to find out where Marcantel and two other top prison officials lived.

But an SNM member supplying the weapons doubted whether one of the hit men, alleged to be Mandel Lon Parker, could ultimately be trusted.

So defendant Christopher Garcia instructed another unidentified person to give Parker a “hot shot” — a lethal dose of heroin — after Parker murdered Marcantel, the indictment charges. The weapon used to kill Marcantel was to be left with Parker upon his death, according to the indictment.

Parker and Garcia are among 12 SNM gang members named in the April 21 indictment unsealed Thursday. A number of the new defendants had been out on the streets at the time of their arrest.

The new indictment chronicles 244 “overt acts” committed by members since the gang was formed in the aftermath of the deadly prison riot in Santa Fe in 1980.

It adds nine more alleged SNM members to the list of those facing prosecution in the ongoing federal racketeering case first filed last December.

Altogether, more than 40 defendants are charged in the racketeering case, with about 20 others charged with drug and weapons offenses related to the investigation.

Now, 25 defendants are charged with crimes that could make them eligible for the federal death penalty. All are in federal custody awaiting trial and have pleaded not guilty to charges that were filed in December.

FBI, state Corrections and the Albuquerque Police Department are among the agencies involved in the investigation, which included the interception of wire communications, court records show.

Cold cases
The new indictment states that despite being imprisoned and closely scrutinized by prison officials, SNM gang leaders still manage to convey orders to gang members inside and outside prison walls.

Several of the newly solved murders involved unsolved murders of victims found on the streets of Albuquerque and elsewhere.

One of the newly solved murders was the February 2005 slaying of Shane Dix, 28, who was found shot to death inside his van in the 7600 block of Santiago SW in Albuquerque.

Garcia is alleged to have ordered Dix’s murder and left New Mexico for Las Vegas, Nev., at the time Dix was killed, thus giving himself an alibi.

Among other crimes, Garcia is also accused of committing a drive-by shooting in March 1997 that targeted a rival drug dealer. “A stray bullet from the shooting struck a two-year-old girl in the face,” the indictment says.

Defendant Garcia was believed to be living in Albuquerque at the time he and three other SNM members allegedly hatched the murder plot against Marcantel and another top prison official, Dwayne Santestevan, who oversees prison intelligence operations.

The other three defendants named in the plot were still in prison, court records show.

Garcia was back on the streets after finishing up three years federal probation for a 2006 conviction on a federal weapons charge.

Plans detailed
The new indictment tells details about the gang’s alleged plans to kill corrections officials. Accusations include:

In August 2013, the leader of SNM, Anthony Ray Baca, discussed with another gang member “the benefits of murdering a high-ranking” corrections official “to gain national recognition and respect.”

In March 2015, while incarcerated in state prison, Baca issued the orders for the “hits.”

Meanwhile, Garcia was allegedly selling cocaine and heroin on the streets. He allegedly provided law enforcement officers with information in May and June of 2015 on rival drug dealers in his area of operation.

In September of last year, Garcia discussed shooting people with a cordless nail gun instead of a firearm to avoid being caught carrying a gun.

By October, SNM leader Baca had proposed a 20-year plan to unite SNM and make it stronger.

Baca contemplated what would happen after SNM carried out its “hits” on corrections officials, predicting that “the gang would be split up into different prisons around the United States and communication with one another would be critical.” He also said the “worst thing that could happen to the gang is that they would be sent out of state.”

Baca on Oct. 24 said he wanted research done on where corrections officials lived, and that it would be easier to hit them if they lived off prison grounds.

Parker, meanwhile, had pledged his allegiance to SNM and in November “agreed to assist other members of the gang to locate and murder” Marcantel.

“In discussion of precautions that should be taken” when carrying out Marcantel’s murder, Parker allegedly “discussed the status he and other members would receive if they were successful in murdering” Marcantel.

Copyright 2016 the Albuquerque Journal

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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