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2nd drug gang leader gets 12 life terms

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SAN DIEGO — A leader of the Mexican drug trafficking gang “Los Palillos” who participated in multiple murders and kidnappings in San Diego County between 2004 and 2007 was sentenced Wednesday to a dozen consecutive life terms in state prison.

Jorge Rojas Lopez, 35, known as Boss No. 1, was convicted of four murders and other counts following a 15-month trial.

In a complicated sentencing structure, Lopez was also given 107 years to life, consecutively, and 55 years and six months, also consecutively, by Judge David Rubin.

The judge called the numbers involved in the prison term “astronomical.”

Co-defendant Juan Francisco Estrada Gonzalez, also 35, was convicted of multiple counts of murder and kidnapping and was sentenced Tuesday to nine life terms in prison without parole.

Deputy District Attorney Mark Amador said a total of nine people were murdered by the Los Palillos gang over a three-year period, including two men who were strangled and whose bodies were dissolved in acid.

Estrada Gonzalez and Rojas Lopez were facing the death penalty, but jurors deadlocked after a penalty phase on punishment. The defendants ultimately pleaded guilty to unresolved counts in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.

Before trial, Estrada Gonzalez and Rojas Lopez were already serving a life term without parole for a separate kidnapping.

The defendants are among 18 defendants indicted for San Diego County crimes committed by members of Los Palillos — Spanish for “toothpicks.”

Amador said members of Los Palillos fled Mexico and set up operations in San Diego and Kansas City after the Arellano Felix drug family killed Rojas Lopez’s brother in 2002.