Former Jalisco judge suspected of working for the CJNG will face trial in Mexico

 “stevectpa” for Borderland Beat; Semanario Zeta

Isidro Avelar Gutiérrez

Sara Olimpia Reyes García, magistrate of the Specialized Criminal Court of the State of Mexico, confirmed that former Jalisco judge Isidro Avelar Gutiérrez will have to face trial for his alleged ties to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). He is accused of allegedly receiving bribes from the cartel. The presiding judge made this order after agreeing that the evidence brought forward by the prosecution was sufficient for a trial.

When resolving the appeal filed by Avelar Gutiérrez against the prosecution, issued on November 18, 2019, Reyes García also ordered preventative arrest against Avelar Gutiérrez because he was considered a flight risk. Avelar Gutiérrez was detained on November 22, 2019, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, by agents of the Attorney General’s Office (FGR).

Avelar Gutiérrez has been suspended without pay since last May. The Federal Judicial Council (CJF) indicated that he was transferred to Mexico City for his legal proceedings. The CJF explained that the arrest of the judge was derived from a complaint filed on May 24, 2019 for “financial irregularities and additional income.”

On November 28, 2019, Avelar Gutiérrez was formally charged and admitted to the Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 4 (also known as “El Rincón”) a maximum-security prison in the municipality of Tepic, Nayarit. Avelar Gutiérrez was also sanctioned under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act by the  United States Treasury Department for his suspected money laundering links to the CJNG boss Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (“El Mencho”). Almost simultaneously, Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) froze Avelar Gutiérrez’s bank accounts after they noticed there was a deposit for MXN$70 million, an amount that did not coincide with the income he received by the Mexican government.

The case against Avelar Gutiérrez was opened after authorities detected cases in which judges were holding properties and other assets that did not match their income. Investigators concluded that these judges were likely receiving money from organized crime members in exchange for favorable resolutions in their trials.

Between 2010 and 2016, Avelar Gutiérrez acquired assets of more than MXN$18 million. During this time, he ordered the release of Juan Francisco Aguilar Santana (“Juan Pistolas”), one of the closet men of El Mencho. According to the investigation, Avelar Gutiérrez was in charge of the Sixth Unitary Court of the Third Circuit based in Jalisco, and attended at least 10 cases of detainees linked to the CJNG, resulting in a result in favor of many of its members.

In the case of Juan Pistolas, Avelar Gutiérrez said that the prosecution did not have enough evidences to keep him in prison and ordered his release. Juan Pistolas was arrested in June 2018 possession of multiple military-exclusive firearms, two grenade launchers and narcotics. He was a repeat offender since he was arrested in 2010 and had spent seven years in jail for drug trafficking. At the time of his arrest, Juan Pistolas was one of the assassin squad leaders of the CJNG. His men recruited people to train as sicarios, and his areas of operations were Guadalajara and Tlajomulco de Zúñiga.

On May 13, 2019, Santiago Nieto Castillo, head of the UIF, reported that MXN$50 million were seized from a federal judge as part of an anti-organized crime investigation. Although he did not identify him by his name, everything suggested that the money was owned by Avelar Gutiérrez because the UIF confirmed the judge was based in Jalisco.

However, the Juan Pistolas case was not the only one of its kind. There are others in which the same judge ruled the release of at least 10 defendants who allegedly belong to the CJNG, including Rubén Oseguera González “El Menchito”, son of El Mencho. In April 2019, Avelar Gutiérrez was transferred to a court based in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, but the CJF initiated an administrative procedure on May 17 of that same year, the day he was sanctioned in the U.S. for his ties to the CJNG.

In his 20-year career as a judge, Avelar Gutiérrez also handled the cases of Rafael Caro Quintero and Rogelio González Pizaña, former early Zetas member from the 1990s.

Mexico City-based newspaper Reforma stated that the UIF is also investigating Avelar Gutiérrez for a suspicious account he owned in HSBC where over MXN$12 million in deposits were made in November 2011. The judge said that the money was a payment he received for the sale of a property, but investigators maintain that the sale was made in August 2012, several months after the deposit.