Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Paybacks to informants and cooperators are the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico prison gang code, and now the threat is also aimed at law enforcement and federal prosecutors, according to a new federal search warrant affidavit.
For example, shakedowns of inmate cells in New Mexico prisons have turned up “confidential discovery documents” from the recent federal trials and prosecution of more than 90 SNM members and associates on racketeering and other charges.
When questioned about the confidential document, one inmate smiled and said he found that the material “makes for interesting reading,” the affidavit stated. But a confidential informant told the FBI that the inmate has been collecting discovery material from the government’s racketeering trials against SNM “to advise SNM who the informants were.”
SNM typically requires documentation before “hits” are ordered for disloyalty.
Just this month, in a recorded conversation, one convicted SNM defendant, Daniel Sanchez, “discussed getting trial transcripts from his attorney” and passing them along for another SNM to review. The transcripts pertained to another SNM member “being no good.” Sanchez is appealing his life prison sentence imposed in May after being convicted of committing murder as a violent crime in aid of racketeering.
“The assertion that SNM will kill informants, suspected informants or those who betray the gang, is not grounded in theory or assumption. Rather, I am aware the SNM has killed such persons, who they regard as traitors,” FBI lead case agent Bryan Acee wrote in the search warrant affidavit unsealed Thursday.
During pretrial discovery, SNM defendants were provided electronic tablets to review documents and help in their own defense. The tablets were considered a way to keep actual paper documentation from being disseminated.
An FBI affidavit says some defendants with tablets have been sharing information with others to identify cooperators for retaliation. They have had access to transcripts, letters sent to the court and other documents on the court’s PACER website, which they can view through attorney accounts.
One inmate boasted he was able to review the thousands of pages of discovery laying out the government’s RICO case by using the electronic tablets.
Sanchez, for example, sought and received court permission to retain his tablet device and “written legal materials” because he is appealing his conviction.
In early 2018, SNM member Christopher Chavez wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge James O. Browning, who presided over the three SNM criminal racketeering trials, stating he wanted to renounce SNM and would agree to be debriefed.
The letter was uploaded onto the electronic court file, where it was visible to all other SNM racketeering defendants through their attorneys, the affidavit stated.
In February of this year, Chavez was attacked by three other SNM members being held at the Otero County Detention Center in southern New Mexico. The affidavit didn’t say what injuries he suffered.
Meanwhile, evidence emerged in recent weeks showing SNM members have teamed up with other dangerous gangs such as Mexican Mafia and the California-based Sureños in the federal prison system.
“The influx of new SNM members into the federal system will likely give rise to the SNM’s footprint within the federal prisons,” the FBI affidavit stated.
Communication between the state and federal SNM members “has increased dramatically, which is not surprising given the large numbers of SNM members headed to the (Bureau of Prisons),” the affidavit stated.
New Mexico SNM member Samuel “Rabbs” Silva is now believed to be “one of the higher ranking members of the SNM” within the federal prison system, according to the affidavit.
Silva was convicted in 2016 for carjacking and using a firearm during a violent crime and sentenced to federal prison, where he killed his cellmate. The hit, the affidavit stated, “had been sanctioned by the Mexican Mafia and resulted in a favorable light for the SNM.”
New rules enforced by the SNM in the federal system include: only SNM members leaving federal prison or in federal prison can call the shots, such as putting out a hit. SNM members must have a witness with them anytime they speak with prison staff. And they must “smash on sight” suspected law enforcement informants and sex offenders.
Another new rule adopted as part of the SNM reorganization: “Get RICO discovery out to carnales (SNM members) to see who the rats are.”
The renewed FBI investigation of SNM was aided by at least 16 confidential informants.
Those include a “citizen informant” who had never worked before with law enforcement agents, and who had turned down their overtures to assist in the past, the affidavit stated.
The informant “only came forward to prevent violent crime” and began providing information after speaking with other SNM members and learning “several government witnesses were being targeted for execution.”
One SNM member sentenced to life in federal prison said he wanted to kill Acee “or anyone on the prosecution team to make sure he remained good when he entered the feds (Bureau of Prisons).”