A longtime member of a notorious prison gang was given a life sentence on Thursday for his crimes, including the 2008 murder of his cousin whose naked body was found in a northern New Mexico river.
Jody Rufino “Mono” Martinez, 42, a soldier with Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico, was sentenced on charges of racketeering, being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and murder in the death of 34-year-old David Romero. Martinez was convicted on those charges by a federal jury in March but was acquitted of witness tampering.
Nicholas Hart, Martinez’s attorney, said his client denies the allegations and will be appealing the conviction and sentence.
“Our hope is that the four men who admitted under oath to committing this murder, including three that have never been charged and who are on the street today, are brought to justice by the Government,” he said.
The sentence comes as a result of a lengthy investigation into SNM that, according to federal authorities, led to the arrest of at least 150 members and associates and solved at least 10 homicides, including Romero’s death.
Martinez, of Truchas, had been in SNM since 1998 and committed numerous violent crimes on behalf of the gang, authorities said. Martinez and two others strangled Romero with a jumper cable after he refused to smuggle heroin to an SNM member in jail and kept the drugs.
Afterward, two accomplices dumped Romero’s body off a bridge over the Santa Cruz River in Chimayó and burned his clothes and other evidence. Federal prosecutors relied on the statements of former gang members and accomplices who took part in the attack.
The felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition conviction stems from a 2018 incident in which Martinez shot a man in Santa Fe County – leaving a bullet lodged in his groin – as retaliation for disrespecting the gang.
The investigation was a collaboration between the FBI, New Mexico State Police, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and the New Mexico Corrections Department.
The prosecution of Martinez was led by assistant U.S. attorneys from the Las Cruces Branch Office as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program “in a coordinated effort to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.”