One of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives suspected of killing four people including a North Whittier man, was arrested Thursday in Mexico and will be returned to Los Angeles, officials said.
Reputed Los Angeles gang member Joe Luis Saenz was taken into custody in Guadalajara following a joint operation with the Mexican government, said Bill Lewis, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office.
“Saenz will be returned from Mexico to Los Angeles this weekend under FBI escort,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a written statement.
Saenz is believed to be about 37 years old, though he has used numerous dates of birth over the years, officials said.
Saenz is suspected of the Oct. 5, 2008 fatal shooting of Oscar Torres, 37, in the 2200 block of Mardel Avenue which is in the unincorporated county area of North Whittier. A second man was shot but survived.
According to sheriff’s homicide detectives, Torres was killed because he lost $620,000 that allegedly belonged to Saenz. Torres denied owing the money.
During a traffic stop in Missouri, FBI officials said state troopers discovered the money in a secret panel of a rental car.
Authorities said they have videotape from a surveillance camera at Torres’ house that shows Saenz killing Torres and wounding a second man.
Investigators said Saenz also shot and killed two rival gang members in July 1998 to retaliate for an assault on one of his associates.
Saenz suspected Sigrieta Hernandez, his girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, was going to tell police about the slayings, investigators said. He is accused of kidnapping, raping and killing her less than two weeks later.
Saenz, who is about 37 years old, was believed to be hiding in Mexico, working as an enforcer and hit man for a Mexican drug cartel, officials said.
“Saenz has been described by gang associates and others as a major enforcer and hit-man for a Mexican drug cartel who is believed to be involved in importing cocaine into Los Angeles,” FBI officials said in a written statement upon adding him to the agency’s “Ten Most Wanted” list in October of 2009.
“In addition to the murders for which he is charged, Saenz is wanted for question for additional crimes, including kidnapping and murder. Saenz is considered a career criminal and is a known repeat offender, according to the FBI statement. “In addition, he has an extensive criminal history, including motor vehicle theft, assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism, and possession of narcotics.”
A U.S. citizen, investigators who were seeking Saenz suspected he was moving freely between the U.S. and Mexico using fraudulent identification, according to the FBI.
When place on the FBI’s most-wanted list in 2009, Saenz picture joined was placed among the ranks of Osama bin Laden, Boston crime lord James “Whitey” Bulger and other notorious criminals. There was a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest, however it was unclear Saturday if anyone would be claiming that reward.
More information was to be released Monday, officials said.
– Staff and wire reports
PHOTOS courtesy of the FBI
(Top): Undated photo of suspect Joe Saenz.
(Below): This surveillance camera image, provided by the FBI, pictures former
FBI fugitive Joe Luis Saenz, believed to be about 37 years old,
moments before allegedly fatally shooting a man in the 2200 block of
Mardel Avenue in an unincorporated county area north of Whittier on
Oct. 5, 2008. Saenz was captured in Mexico on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012.