Suspects Arrested in Murder-for-Hire Plot Commissioned by Mexican Drug Cartel

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced the arrest today of three suspects in a foiled murder-for-hire plot commissioned by a Tijuana drug cartel.

Dozens of special agents from the California Department of Justice armed with a search warrant conducted the early morning raid at a residence in Palmdale, California.

Arrested there without incident at 6:50 a.m. were Jorge Ernesto Sillas-Rocha, 27, and Victor Manuel Magana Gonzalez, 24, for conspiracy and murder-for-hire. Agents also seized two AR-15 assault weapons, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and an estimated $20,000 in cash.

Agents later arrested Daniel Ceballos, 34, at a Starbuck’s coffee shop in Palmdale.

Also to be charged in the case is Juan Francisco Sillas-Rocha, 33, known as “Ruedas,” who is a lieutenant in the Tijuana cartel called the Arrellano Felix Organization, a vicious gang of drug traffickers responsible for violent murders in Mexico.

“This case sends a message to the border drug cartels trying to do business here: Justice will be swift and certain when you cross into California,” Attorney General Harris said. “I applaud our agents and law enforcement partners for their good work in uncovering and thwarting this murder-for-hire plot.”

Ruedas Sillas-Rocha was identified by investigators as soliciting individuals to assassinate victims in California who owed the cartel large sums of money. Ruedas Sillas-Rocha directed these individuals to carry out the murder of five family members in a simulated home-invasion robbery. Ruedas Sillas-Rocha was willing to pay the would-be assassins thousands of dollars for committing the murders.

Earlier this month, agents with the Department of Justice received information about a possible murder-for-hire plot targeting victims who reside in California and who have ties to the Arrellano Felix Cartel. The targeted victims were said to have owed the cartel a large sum of money, believed to be the proceeds from drug sales. Agents used sophisticated investigative techniques to track the suspects to Palmdale, northeast of Los Angeles.

The investigation also implicated Fernando Sanchez Arrellano, the boss of the Arrellano Felix Cartel, in the California murder-for-hire plot. That investigation is ongoing.

Jorge Ernesto Sillas-Rocha, Gonzalez, and Ceballos are being held in the San Diego County Jail. They will be prosecuted by the San Diego County District Attorney, who is also expected to issue a warrant for Ruedas Sillas-Rocha’s arrest.

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