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Border & Immigration

Two Los Palillos Gang Members Sentenced To Multiple Life Terms

Multiple terms of life in prison without parole were handed down today for two members of a Mexican kidnap-murder crew who took part in the 2007 strangulation deaths of two men whose bodies were dissolved in acid in San Ysidro.

Jose Olivera Beritan, 38, and David Valencia, 42, were convicted in May of murder, conspiracy and kidnapping for ransom in the deaths of Cesar Uribe and Marc Leon. Beritan was also convicted in the death of Ivan Lozano, whose body was found in the trunk of a car in Clairemont two weeks after he was kidnapped on March 23, 2007.

The bodies of Uribe, a drug trafficker, and Leon, his associate, were found dissolved in acid two years after they were abducted on May 3, 2007, on property in San Ysidro where Valencia kept horses.


Deputy District Attorney Mark Amador said Valencia lured his best friend Uribe to the ranch because he knew the victim had money.

Prosecutors said Beritan and Valencia belonged to Los Palillos, or the Toothpicks, an Arellano Felix cartel splinter group that for years shipped drugs through Tijuana to San Diego, beginning in about 2003.

Amador said the defendants were greedy and just "wanted to get paid.''

These two are pure sociopaths,'' Amador told Judge John Einhorn.

Both defendants were also convicted of the June 8, 2007, kidnapping of a wealthy businessman, Eduardo Gonzalez-Tostado, who was rescued from a house in Chula Vista, leading to the arrests of the defendants.


Beritan was sentenced to five life terms without parole plus 44 years to life in prison. Valencia was given two life terms without parole plus 15 years.

Einhorn said the defendants deserved 'no breaks'' in their sentences, calling their actions "reprehensible,'' "anti-social'' and damaging to the moral fiber of San Diego.

Amador said Uribe's family heard from his kidnappers, who demanded money, and two ransom drops totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars took place. He said Valencia and Uribe were involved in illegal drug trafficking together, but a dispute arose over a debt.

"They (the victims' families) were told that Mr. Uribe and Mr. Leon were going to be released after the last payment. They were never released,'' Amador said outside court. "And in the end, the Los Palillos organization

decided to strangle them and then dissolve their bodies in acid to get rid of the evidence.''

In a separate trial, Nancy Mendoza Moreno was convicted of luring Gonzalez-Tostado to the home in Chula Vista in June 2007, where he was held for eight days before being rescued.

Seventeen people were originally indicted for the crime spree. Two alleged leaders of Los Palillos -- Jorge Rojas Lopez and Juan Estrada Gonzalez -- are scheduled to stand trial Nov. 9. They face the death penalty if


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