[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/13/art.mexico.cardona.jpg caption="Gabriel Cardona, of Laredo, Texas."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/13/art.mexico.cardonas.jpg caption="Gabriel Cardona's tattooed back."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/13/art.mexico.retas.jpg caption="Rosalio Reta, of Laredo, Texas."]
Gabriel Cardona and Rosalio Reta should have been enrolled in classes at their Laredo, Texas high school - but these two teenagers were living a very different life from going to gym, math or history classes.
These two American high school dropouts were contract killers — on the payroll of drug cartels in Mexico. Investigators say they were paid $500 a week, just to sit around and wait for orders from Mexico to kill. Depending on the target they could bring in anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000. They would drive around in a $70,000 Mercedes Benz, flash cash, guns and live with little fear of any consequences for their actions.
Their crimes were heinous. They admitted to burning bodies in barrels and joked about cutting another victim in the stomach, taking his blood and toasting to their patron saint of death. They wore tattoos of the grim reaper – tattooed their eyelids and face and lived together in houses bought by the cartels. They would leave bodies in blood stained streets, cars riddled with bullets. All signatures of cartel killings, only these were happening on the United States side of the border.
When investigators caught up with Cardona and Reta, they say what they learned was chilling. The cartels have cells of contract killers –not only in Laredo, but in many other cities in the United States.
During hours of police interviews and recorded phone conversations, these two killers laugh about their crimes. Reta says he felt like Superman after his first killing. Cardona spoke of killing cells that exist in Dallas and Houston.
Cardona, now 21, is serving a life sentence for his crimes. And Reta, now 19, was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but he is scheduled for another court appearance soon.
A chilling wake up call that Mexican drug cartels don’t stop at the border; they are present where drugs are sold or distributed.
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