4 arrested before trial of New Mexico prison gang member

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal authorities have arrested four people, suspected of making threats against a judge and other officials, hours before testimony in the racketeering and murder trial of a Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico prison gang member began this week in Albuquerque federal court.

FBI agent Bryan Acee testified on Wednesday in the trial of Jody Rufino Martinez, a 41-year-old self-admitted “solider” for the gang, that he was linked to two threats to kill FBI agents and prosecutors, including threats that have since surfaced, the Albuquerque Journal reported Friday.

Martinez is being held at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, west of Albuquerque. He faces a potential life sentence if convicted of racketeering conspiracy and other charges.

Martinez was also charged in the death of David Romero, 34, whose body was discovered dumped off a bridge in 2008. Martinez has pleaded not guilty. The trial is expected to continue for weeks.

Defense attorney Carter Harrison asked about recent threats during cross examination.

“Just this morning at 5 a.m. we were serving search warrants,” Acee said, adding that most of the threats are believed to be connected to “new players” linked to the gang.

Acee said the threats involved an unidentified judge. No one has been harmed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Castellano said there was an “ongoing investigation.”

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said he had no details about who was arrested Wednesday or their charges.

About 150 Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico members and associates have been arrested with the majority convicted of crimes that range from racketeering to murder to witness intimidation, authorities said.