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HPL gang members sentenced for roles in murders

By Jessica Priest
May 20, 2013 at 12:20 a.m.
Updated May 21, 2013 at 12:21 a.m.


Status of co-defendants for Perez's cases:

For the Sept. 25, 2006, case, in which HPL members conspired to murder Paul Benavides, also known as "Pow Wow":

•  A jury found Robert Saldana, also known as "Wedo," 28, of Victoria, guilty of engaging in organized criminal activity on Jan. 30, 2012. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Feb. 2, 2012.

• Jeffery Soto, also known as "Jeff," 26, of Victoria, pleaded guilty to engaging in organized criminal activity and was sentenced to 10 years probation and 300 hours of community service on Feb. 21, 2012.

•  Robert Lindstrom, also known as "Stutter," 26, of Victoria, was convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity and was sentenced on Feb. 2, 2012, to 40 years in prison.

•  Claro Lopez, no information available.

For the Jan. 19, 2006, case, in which HPL members murdered John Gilbert Licon, also known as "Harry" or "Henry":

•  Joe Brian Martinez, also known as "Turtle," 33, of Victoria, pleaded guilty to murder on Nov. 18, 2011, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

•  A jury found Timothy Mendoza, also known as "Timo," 40, of Victoria, guilty of murder and engaging in organized criminal activity. He was sentenced to life in prison. His appeal failed.

Source: The Victoria County District Clerk's Office

Two Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos gang members were in court last week to confess to their roles in various Victoria murders and attempted murders that spanned 10 years.

A judge sentenced Mario Canchola, also known as "Mijo," 27, of Victoria, to three 18-year prison sentences for murder, attempted murder and engaging in organized criminal activity Friday.

He was among a group of people who were ordered by a high-ranking HPL member, who had illegally obtained a cellphone while in a Beaumont prison, to kill Paul Benavides, also known as "Pow Wow," but something went wrong, Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler said Monday.

Canchola instead fatally shot Joshua Gonzales in the head and injured Anthony Melcher on June 12, 2004, according an indictment and earlier reports.

Canchola's sentences will run concurrently.

The state dismissed murder charges against his half-brother, Marcus Perez, also known as "Marque" in the Janauary 2006 death of John Gilbert Licon.

The state originally charged the 34-year-old Victoria man - along with a few others - with repeatedly stabbing Licon in the head, neck and upper body with a sharp object on Jan. 19, 2006.

Tyler said those charges were dismissed because it became clear later in the investigations that Perez was not as involved in the stabbing as his co-defendants.

"He had passed on the message," Tyler said. "He did not actually do the stabbing."

The same thing happened in another case, where Perez was accused of conspiring to murder Eric Cavazos on Sept. 9, 2008. His co-defendant in that case, Hilario Figirova Jr., also known as "Dirty Pennies," 30, of San Antonio, pleaded guilty in April as part of an agreement with the state to two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity. Figirova was given a 30-year prison sentence.

A judge instead sentenced Perez to 10 years in prison for engaging in organized criminal activity for the September 2006 attack on Benavides and 18 years in prison for engaging in organized criminal activity for his role in the death of Licon.

Perez ultimately helped bring about the conviction of anywhere from 15 to 20 HPL members and drug dealers by testifying for the state.

"Without his cooperation, we would not have gotten that done," Tyler said.

Tyler said if either of the men hadn't obeyed the high-ranking HPL's orders, they too would've had to watch their back.

"It doesn't really come down to a ballot situation," he said.

Both Perez's attorney, Micah Hatley, and Canchola's attorney, Timothy J. McCoy, were contacted late Monday afternoon and could not be reached.

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