Audio transcription under scrutiny in Sinaloa cartel trial


Arturo Shows Urquidi. / Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – An audio transcription played in the trial of two high-profile Sinaloa cartel members was scrutinized in court Wednesday.

Attorneys for Arturo Shows Urquidi and Mario Iglesias Villegas brought an acoustics expert into testimony during the trial on Wednesday.

Defense attorneys for Urquidi and Iglesias first asked the court to allow for an expert witness when they found an error in the transcription had initially been found by its authors.

U.S. agents told the jury the transcription had gone under various iterations, each time with delicate handling of what was said to individuals who would listen and identify the people speaking in the recording. Agents had former members of a hit squad review the audio to point out individuals.

The expert told the jury he used scientific processes to review the audio between members of a Sinaloa cartel hit squad in the middle of a kidnapping at a wedding in Juárez in 2010.

They identified people by numbers and alphanumeric symbols like X, which would then be followed by a number.

The expert found six instances where the audio’s transcription said one individual was talking but it proved to belong to someone else, according to his presentation.

Prosecutors played the audio during a hearing last week. It has various individuals of a hit squad talking in coded language.

Two members of the hit squad testified that the day of the kidnapping at El Señor de la Misericordia Catholic church in Juárez, or the Lord of Mercy Catholic Church, three individuals were kidnapped and one person was killed at the church.

They had kidnapped Rafael Morales-Valencia, a U.S. citizen; his brother and best man, Jaime Morales-Valencia, a legal permanent resident; and their uncle Guadalupe Morales-Arreola.

Arturo Shows Urquidi and Mario Alberto Iglesias Villegas, who are cartel members, are on trial this week in U.S. federal court in El Paso. The two are accused of being involved in the Sinaloa cartels operations in Juárez in connection to murders, kidnappings, and drug trafficking.

And, Iglesias is accused of playing a role in the kidnapping in 2010.

The trials are part of a large indictment by a federal grand jury that included Sinaloa cartel leaders Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Ismael “Mayo” Zambada Garcia. On April 24, 2012, the leaders and 22 other members of the cartel were charged with criminal activities ranging from trafficking drugs to conspiracy to kill in a foreign country.

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