US judge orders Mexican cartel to pay billions for murders

BISMARCK, North Dakota — A Mexican drug cartel accused of the horrific murder of nine women and children from a Mormon-derived community must pay the families $1.5 billion, a federal judge in North Dakota has ruled.

Family members of the victims have filed a lawsuit accusing the Juarez Cartel of carrying out the November 2019 attack in Mexico in retaliation for their public criticism and protests against the cartel. Cartel members fired hundreds of rounds at vehicles and then set them on fire. Mexican authorities said in 2020 that the mastermind of the attack was one of 17 people arrested.

US Magistrate Judge Clare Hochhalter’s reward will automatically be tripled under the federal anti-terrorism law, bringing the amount to $4.6 billion. The government can freeze the assets of terrorist organizations, but it is unclear whether the US Treasury Department holds cartel assets.

The Bismarck Tribune reported that the cartel did not respond to a published summons or be represented at a trial in North Dakota in March.

Surviving family members include two widowers of slain women who worked in North Dakota at the time the lawsuit was filed. Their attorney said various family members lived in the state and worked in the oil industry while traveling to and from Mexico.

“We went to a United States courtroom in North Dakota to seek recognition and justice for the trauma inflicted on our family and we received it,” said David Langford, the husband of one of the victims.

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