Arizona man convicted of California cartel-related murders: DA

A man with Arizona ties has been convicted in California for his role in multiple murders.

In a statement, officials with the District Attorney's Office in California's Orange County announced that 33-year-old Raul Gastellum Flores of Phoenix was convicted by a jury on April 29 of four counts of first-degree murder, four "special circumstances of murder during the commission of a robbery," and four "special circumstances of multiple murders."

According to the website for the law offices of Cron, Israels & Stark in Los Angeles, special circumstances murder involves aggravating factors that escalate the severity of the come to more severe penalties.

Flores was accused of killing four men in a failed attempt to take over a drug business. The four were identified as Fernando Meza, Edgar Berrelleza, Antonio Medina, and Joel Berrelleza, Edgar's brother.

Officials say of the four victims, Meza, Medina, and Berrelleza were found inside a burnt SUV in the city of Orange on the afternoon of Nov. 9, 2015. The men were shot multiple times, and Meza was also found to have been stabbed several times.


(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron)

Berrelleza's brother, meanwhile, was kidnapped at an apartment in Orange before his death.

"Flores and another accomplice forced Joel Berrelleza into his Pontiac, where he was shot three times as they drove and recorded his dying breaths on a cell phone," read a portion of the DA's statement. "[Joel Berrelleza's] body was left inside his vehicle in Fontana for six days until a passerby called police to report a man had been sleeping inside the vehicle for several days."

Prosecutors say Flores was recruited by a man named Rosario Adan Roman-Lopez to help carry out the murders, and that Flores traveled from Phoenix to Orange County "with several handguns and Ak-47s to steal tens of thousands of dollars from the Berrelleza brothers, and to murder them if they refused to pay." Roman-Lopez is believed to have been murdered in Mexico in retribution for the murders.

"[Flores] faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 19, 2024," read a portion of the statement.

(This story was reported on from Phoenix.)