On his last night of freedom, Gabriel Cardona, 22, chatting with a fellow member of a hitman squad on his cell phone in Texas about how he'd sliced open two American teenagers with a broken bottle. The conversation was intercepted by federal agents, the Houston Chronicle reports.
The conversation would become a key piece of evidence in a federal case that could land Cardona, who is already serving 80 years in prison for five murders, with a potential life sentence. The San Antonio native pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to kill and kidnap in a foreign country. The case is part of a 47-count indictment that has led to the arrests of 14 defendants employed by the Gulf Cartel, a dominant and ruthless drug syndicate. A U.S. law enforcement source said the Zetas – the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel – have retained control of the Laredo smuggling business even since the disruption of Cardona's hitman cell by employing enforcers with prison gangs. While cartel-related violence has increased elsewhere along the Texas-Mexico border, Laredo has seen few drug-related homicides in the past two years, in large part because the Zetas are maintaining control of the area.