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SNM’s cardinal rule: ‘You do not rat’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico prison gang leader, Gerald “Styx” Archuleta testified recently that he could only remember the names of “everybody that I got killed. Not necessarily the ones who got hurt.”

The three-time murderer turned-government cooperator realized some years back that he needed to leave New Mexico to get away from the gang’s influence, he testified in U.S. District Court.

“I was tired of the life I was living. I wanted something different for myself and my son, other than the rest of my life in prison. I had already served at least 25 years in prison for the SNM. My son came to prison and started calling himself ‘Little Styx,’ and I wanted something different for him. I knew I was the only one that could change the direction he was heading.”

So Archuleta moved to Tennessee on parole from New Mexico in 2011. He got a job in construction but still relied on shipments of suboxone from SNM friends to feed his drug addiction.

He testified that he was “basically retired” from the SNM. Then, in December 2015, he was swept up in the massive federal racketeering case targeting Syndicato as a violent criminal enterprise operating both inside and outside prison walls.

Archuleta, now 51, took only a month to turn on his fellow SNM brothers. Archuleta pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to seriously assault a former SNM friend who began an affair with his wife some 12 years earlier when Archuleta was in prison.

As part of his plea deal, which implicated SNM’s current leader in that conspiracy, Archuleta testified for the government in three jury trials earlier this year. A dozen defendants were charged with committing murder to further SNM’s criminal racketeering enterprise. Of those, three were acquitted.

Archuleta was sentenced Aug. 17 in a proceeding without public notice. Terms of his sentence are sealed.

While on the witness stand, Archuleta testified that he was 19 when he strangled his first wife, who was pregnant with another man’s child. He told the FBI he left her body in a closet. He was ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

By 2007, Archuleta’s violent past was so notorious that then-Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White used him as a “poster boy” for a tougher three-strikes law in New Mexico.

News reports later claimed Archuleta put a “hit” on White to retaliate.

But Archuleta denied that in testifying this year. He didn’t mind that reputation, he added, because it enhanced his standing in the gang known for its hostility toward law enforcement.

Archuleta’s testimony provided a rare glimpse into the somewhat secretive culture of the “S,” as he explained the tenets of the organization that has traded in violence and drugs for more than 30 years.

Asked about SNM’s cardinal rule, Archuleta responded, “You do not rat.”

“What does ratting mean,” asked then-assistant U.S. attorney Matthew Beck.

“What I’m doing today,” an impassive Archuleta said.

“What’s the penalty for being a rat?” Beck asked.

“Execution,” Archuleta said.

FBI lead case agent Bryan Acee testified that investigators had no luck building other cases against him. So Archuleta was facing only up to three years in prison under his plea agreement in the Syndicato racketeering case.

“So that’s a pretty good deal?” asked defense attorney Marcia Morrissey of California on cross-examination during the final trial in July.

“That’s if they don’t kill me, yeah,” Archuleta replied.

“Aren’t you being paranoid?” Morrissey asked. “How many SNM are left? Aren’t they mostly in prison?”

His reply: “They’re everywhere.”