On Monday, a federal jury in Fresno convicted two defendants for assisting in an effort to help Paulo Virgen Mendoza’s escape from California to Mexico after he allegedly killed Newman Police Corporal Ronil Singh during a traffic stop, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
Virgen Mendoza’s brother, Conrado Virgen Mendoza, 34, an illegal alien from Colima, Mexico, residing in Chowchilla; and friend, Erik Quiroz Razo, 28, an illegal alien from Michoacán, Mexico residing in Merced, were found guilty of conspiring to aid and abet Paulo Virgen Mendoza’s flight to avoid prosecution for murder. The jury acquitted other family members, Erasmo Villegas Suarez, 36, and Maria Luisa Moreno, 57, both of the Bakersfield-Lamont area. However, Villegas and Moreno have been issued notices to appear initiating deportation proceedings and Villegas faces additional federal charges relating to fraud involving identification documents. Villegas is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 21 in connection with that case, and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Paulo Virgen Mendoza’s girlfriend, Ana Leydi Cervantes Sanchez, 31, an illegal alien from Michoacán, Mexico, who was residing with Paulo in Newman, was sentenced Monday to one year and one day in prison after previously pleading guilty to conspiring to aid and abet Paulo’s flight to avoid prosecution for murder, conspiring to harbor an illegal alien, and harboring an illegal alien. Paulo Virgen Mendoza is an illegal alien from Colima, Mexico. Virgen Mendoza’s brother, Adrian Virgen Mendoza, 26, an illegal alien from Colima, Mexico, previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid and abet his brother’s flight to avoid prosecution for murder and was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison. Moreno’s husband, Bernabe Madrigal Castañeda, 60, an illegal alien of Colima, Mexico, also previously entered a guilty plea to the conspiracy and was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. Cervantes, Adrian Virgen Mendoza, and Madrigal have been issued notices to appear initiating deportation proceedings after serving their prison terms.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, in the early morning hours of Dec. 26, 2018, Paulo returned to his residence in Newman after killing Newman Police Corporal Ronil Singh during a traffic stop. In the following two days, Paulo’s friends and relatives conspired together to help him escape to Mexico. Conrado, Quiroz, Cervantes, Adrian Virgen Mendoza, and Madrigal were aware from news coverage, social media, and from cellphone alerts that Paulo was wanted for murder of an officer. Nevertheless, Conrado and Quiroz helped him to conceal his truck and drove him to various locations, and Quiroz disposed of Paulo’s loaded firearm. Cervantes provided Paulo with clothes, and Madrigal provided him with food and shelter.
As part of the conspiracy, Adrian Virgen Mendoza arranged for a smuggler to take Paulo across the border, and Adrian and Madrigal purchased a new cellphone for Paulo to use to
communicate with the smuggler. On Dec. 28, 2018 SWAT officers were deployed to Moreno and Madrigal’s residence after receiving information that Paulo was there. Paulo was then arrested for murder.
Throughout the manhunt, there were immediate and widespread media reports and various alerts indicating that Paulo was wanted for killing Corporal Singh, identifying Paulo as an illegal alien, and showing Paulo’s photograph and the truck that he was driving at the time of the shooting. None of the defendants notified the authorities of their contacts with Paulo when they learned that he was wanted. Ultimately, Conrado directed law enforcement officers to the dumpster where Quiroz had thrown the gun.
This case is the product of an investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement and Removal Operations; Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force; Southern Tri-County HIDTA; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; California Highway Patrol; California Department of Justice, the Sheriffs’ Offices for Kern, Merced, and Santa Cruz Counties; and the Police Departments for Merced, Turlock, Modesto, and Santa Cruz. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar, Laura D. Withers, and Michael G. Tierney are prosecuting the case.
Conrado Virgen Mendoza and Erik Quiroz Razo are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd on Jan. 13, 2020. They face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.