One Way Out: July homicide tied to violent New Mexico prison gang

One Way Out: July homicide tied to violent New Mexico prison gang

From the Las Vegas Optic

A car horn disrupted the quiet July evening. Then came the gunshots. Three bullets that killed Leroy “Smurf” Lucero, leaving his wife without a husband, and his four children without their father. His violent death also shifted the focus of a nearly five-year-long FBI investigation to Las Vegas.

That federal investigation, titled Operation Atonement, began in 2015 when members of the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico prison gang plotted to kill the cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Corrections Department, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court. Within two years of launching Operation Atonement, statewide, federal law enforcement agents arrested dozens of people believed to have ties to SNM.

According to the FBI, SNM operates under a “blood in, blood out” system wherein a prospective member must assault or kill someone in order to become a full member, and the only way out of the gang is through death.

Throughout the investigation, FBI agents were meticulously building a case against some of SNM’s top leaders, and to help secure convictions, federal authorities convinced several known SNM members and associates to testify against gang leaders.

During the investigation, federal authorities learned SNM members had made plans to kill FBI agents and federal prosecutors. They also planned to kill several government informants and witnesses.