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San Diego Trial Begins for Alleged Drug Gang Leaders

Aired 3/26/13 on KPBS News.

The defendants are alleged members of a splinter group of Tijuana's Arellano-Felix cartel.

— Lawyers delivered opening statements today in the trial of two alleged Mexican drug gang leaders accused of up to nine murders in San Diego.

Jorge Rojas Lopez and Juan Francisco Estrada Gonzalez are being tried for murders that occurred between 2004 and 2007. Some of the victims’ bodies were dissolved in acid.

The defendants are alleged leaders of Los Palillos, described as a mini cartel made up of defectors from Tijuana’s much larger Arellano-Felix Cartel.

Prosecutors say Los Palillos, which means "The Toothpicks," used a network of houses in Chula Vista and San Diego to smuggle drugs, hold kidnapping victims ransom and murder them.

The two defendants now on trial are already serving life sentences for earlier convictions including kidnapping.

Their trial in San Diego Superior Court is expected to last up to a year.

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