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Top 10 fugitive went to extremes to evade capture in Mexico

FBI

The FBI's listing for Jose Luis Saenz after his capture last week in Mexico.

An alleged drug cartel hit man on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list was living a relatively normal life when he was arrested last week in Mexico, the FBI said Monday.

Toni Guinyard, Jonathan Lloyd and Janet Kwak of NBC 4 of Los Angeles and R. Stickney of NBC 7 of San Diego contributed to this report. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.

The man, Jose Luis Saenz, who is 36 or 37 (the FBI listed four possible birthdates), went to great lengths to build that life, agents said Monday after his arraignment in Los Angeles in connection with four brutal murders in California from 1998 to 2008.

When he was taken into custody Thursday at his apartment in Guadalajara — partly as a result of a $100,000 reward, the FBI said — Saenz identified himself as "Giovanni Torres," just one of 21 aliases the FBI said he was known to have used.


Saenz had also put on significant weight and had undergone procedures to remove identifying tattoos on his arms, it said. He had even tried to alter his fingerprints.

Saenz is accused of three murders in Los Angeles in 1998: the killings of two alleged rival gang members and the kidnap, rape and slaying of his estranged girlfriend two weeks later.

Investigators said Saenz killed Sigrieta Hernandez, his girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, because he believed she was going to tell police about the gang slayings.

Saenz was added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list in 2009, after he was linked with a fourth homicide in Whittier, Calif., in October 2008. 

The victim in that case, identified as Oscar Torres, was killed over a drug debt, authorities said. A security camera videotaped a man believed to be Saenz in the act of killing Torres, wounding another person and leaving the scene in a stretch limousine. 

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The FBI said Saenz was believed to be highly dangerous because he had "reportedly made previous statements indicating plans to kill a police officer upon his arrest."

In Mexico, Saenz was working as a hit man for a drug cartel in Guadalajara, "living as an average citizen in an apartment above a beauty salon," FBI agent Scott Garriola said.

"We were dogged in our determination to find him, but when you have that many aliases and you have that much money and connections and you move around that much, it makes it a little more difficult," Garriola said.

He was flown Friday night to Los Angeles, where he told reporters he was "not guilty for life."

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