Guilty plea in plot to kill official

BY COLLEEN HEILD

JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

One of the primary defendants charged in a foiled plot to murder two top New Mexico corrections officials pleaded guilty Thursday in U. S. Magistrate Court in Las Cruces to providing the gun to be used in the deadly attacks and ordering the murder of the shooter after the killings.

Christopher Garcia, 42, of Albuquerque, is to receive 30 years in federal prison under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. He had faced a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted at trial.

Garcia, in the agreement, admitted being a member of the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico prison gang for more than 20 years. He pleaded guilty to violent crimes in aid of racketeering conspiracy to murder, felon in possession of a firearm, and racketeering conspiracy.

Garcia said in the 13-page plea agreement that he had a history of trafficking drugs, some supplied to SNM members in state prisons.

He was out of prison in 2015 when he was recruited in the SNM plot to kill then-Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel and another top official in the department.

The plea deal says Garia admitted providing a gun to a another SNM gang member to be used on the mission to kill Marcantel. But Garcia didn't trust one of the two men recruited in the plot, so he instructed that the killer be given a lethal dose of heroin, after Marcantel was killed. The murder weapon used in Marcantel's murder was to be left with the person given the lethal dose. The FBI ultimately thwarted the plot as part of an investigation that has led to nearly 90 arrests of SNM members or associates, court records say.

Garcia also admitted to paying someone in 2005 to kill a rival gang member who had previously shot him.