ARIZONA NEWS

Phoenix man found guilty of brutal 2015 cartel-related murders in California

May 1, 2024, 8:49 AM | Updated: 8:51 am

Raul Gastellum Flores, 33, was found guilty on April 29, 2024, of four counts of first-degree murde...

Raul Gastellum Flores, 33, was found guilty on April 29, 2024, of four counts of first-degree murder. (AP File Photo)

(AP File Photo)

PHOENIX — A Phoenix man was convicted Monday of murdering four men in California while trying to take over a drug-dealing business associated with the Sinaloa Cartel in 2015, authorities said.

Raul Gastellum Flores, 33, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Orange County. His sentencing is scheduled for July 19.

“These murders were calculated to inflict the maximum amount of terror not only on their victims, but also on the neighbors and first responders who had to witness the absolute horror that was unleashed on their neighborhood,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a press release.

“This was someone who took absolute pleasure in carrying out these killings.”

Prosecutors believe Flores was 1 of 5 conspiring to kill the Berrelleza brothers

Prosecutors believe Flores was one of five people involved in a plot to kill Edgar Berrelleza, Joel Berrelleza, Fernando Meza and Antonio Medina in Orange, California, on Nov. 9, 2015.

Authorities believe Rosario Roman-Lopez orchestrated the murders. He was killed in Mexico in retaliation.

Two other people have been charged in connection to the plot, but they remain wanted on warrants, prosecutors said. Their names were not provided.

Another person believed to be involved was a cooperating witness.

Here’s what prosecutors said Flores did in the cartel-related murders

Flores and several accomplices drove from Phoenix to Orange and took Medina, Meza and Edgar Berrelleza at gunpoint and forced them into a car.

Flores held them hostage while awaiting orders from Roman-Lopez, who eventually told him that “he knew what needed to be done,” prosecutors said.

The perpetrators shot the three hostages inside the vehicle and set it on fire.

Authorities said Meza was still alive when the fire started, despite being shot in the head and stabbed multiple times.

Flores then traveled to an apartment where accomplices, including Roman-Lopez, were holding Joel Berrelleza hostage.

They took safes, money and over $60,000 in heroin from the apartment and shot Joel Berrelleza to death after forcing him into his vehicle.

The perpetrators recorded his dying breaths after they shot him three times, prosecutors said. His dead body was found by a passerby six days later.

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Phoenix man found guilty of brutal 2015 cartel-related murders in California