MEXICO CITY — A gang leader was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for his role in ordering the 2010 murders of three people associated with the United States Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, killings that rattled both sides of the border as drug violence engulfed the city.
The gang leader, Arturo Gallegos Castrellón, 35, was a lieutenant in the cross-border gang known as both Barrio Azteca and Los Aztecas. According to American officials, he ordered hundreds of killings as cartels battled over control of Ciudad Juárez. He was arrested eight months after the consulate killings and was extradited to the United States in 2012. A federal jury in El Paso convicted him of murder, drug trafficking and money laundering in February.
His trial in United States District Court recalled those dark days in Ciudad Juárez, when there seemed to be no end to the killings and no explanation for them.
Mr. Gallegos “led the teams of assassins” who “ruthlessly murdered nearly 1,600 others as part of a cartel conflict over a drug trafficking route from Mexico into the United States,” said the acting assistant attorney general David A. O’Neil in a statement.
But some of the most notorious killings he ordered, including the consulate ones, appeared to be cases of mistaken identity.
Lesley A. Enriquez, 35, a worker at the consulate in Ciudad Juárez, who was pregnant, and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, 34, an officer at the El Paso County Jail, were killed in March 2010 when gunmen fired on their white S.U.V. as they left a birthday party to drive to their home in El Paso. Their 7-month-old daughter, who was in the back seat, was unharmed.
Gunmen also killed Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, 37, the husband of another consular worker, as he left the same party in another white S.U.V.
Witnesses at the trial testified that Mr. Gallegos had ordered the murders because the S.U.V.s were similar to ones used by a rival drug gang.
The violence in Ciudad Juárez has dropped sharply over the past few years, as gang battles have moved into other parts of Mexico.
Judge Kathleen Cardone, who sentenced Mr. Gallegos, also ordered him to pay almost $1 million in restitution to the families of the three victims.
More than 20 other people have also been convicted in an investigation that grew out of the case, federal prosecutors said.