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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The first witness to testify in the trial of four members of a New Mexico prison gang was an FBI agent who used confidential informants to build a racketeering investigation against them.

FBI Special Agent Bryan Acee testified in a federal courtroom in Las Cruces Wednesday, describing how an inmate informer was provided a cellphone that the alleged ringleader of the Sindicato Nuevo Mexico prison gang used to call members outside the prison, the Albuquerque Journal reported .

Acee found informants and gained access to gang members’ cases by accompanying parole officers. He looked for violations that could convince the members to cooperate in the investigation, resulting in several informant wearing wires for the government, the agent said.

One informant was Eric Duran, a gang member at a prison in northern New Mexico who was in a cell next to purported gang leader Anthony Ray Baca. Acee equipped Duran with a cellphone and a recording device.

Duran would dial the phone and hold it up to the cell vent so Baca could make calls, Acee said.

The agent told the court that the recordings of the calls helped build the criminal case that involves drug deals, firearms trafficking, carjacking, armed robbery and intimidation of witnesses.

Marc Lowry, Baca’s attorney, told jurors during opening arguments that his client was no longer a gang leader. He said Baca had fallen out of favor with the gang when he was sent to a prison out of state.

The trial is expected to last four weeks.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal,