By Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

EL PASO, Texas (AP) - A federal judge in West Texas sentenced a man who prosecutors say was the former bodyguard of a Mexican drug cartel boss to 28 years in prison Wednesday on murder and drug trafficking charges.

Rigoberto Ruiz-Alatorre, who pleaded guilty in May, said nothing during the hearing.

U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo also ordered Ruiz-Alatorre to pay a $5,000 fine and agreed to include a recommendation that Ruiz-Alatorre serve his sentence in a facility close to Colorado, where prosecutors have said he was living at the time of his arrest.

Ruiz-Alatorre’s attorney, Randolph Ortega, had argued for a maximum sentence of 10 years, saying others in similar circumstances received sentences of less than 10 years.

Ruiz-Alatorre changed his plea during the trial in May as part of a deal that was not made public. He admitted to the July 2006 killing of Fermin Rodriguez-Gonzalez, a former associate, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Prosecutors said at the time that he faced a maximum of 28 years in prison.

According to prosecutors, Ruiz-Alatorre had been paid $50,000 to provide security to Gabino “El Ingeniero” Salas-Valenciano, who was believed to be the Sinaloa drug cartel’s boss in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso. Mexican authorities killed Salas-Valenciano last year.

Ruiz-Alatorre and Salas-Valenciano had become worried that the victim, who had begun trafficking on his own, could be arrested by authorities and turned into an informant, prosecutors said.

Ruiz-Alatorre was arrested in February 2012.

During opening statements in the trial, prosecutors said they intended to show that Ruiz-Alatorre was not only responsible for the murder but also of trafficking cocaine and marijuana from Mexico to the U.S. and guns to Mexico in order to arm the Sinaloa cartel in its war against local drug organizations in Juarez.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in El Paso said Wednesday that Ruiz-Alatorre is 29 years old. The office has previously reported he was in his 30s.

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