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Mexican Cartel Enforcer Faces Nine Murder Charges

A self-identified debt collector and alleged contract killer for Mexican drug cartels who told investigators last year he killed dozens of people across the United States was charged Tuesday with nine counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in California, prosecutors said.

Jose Martinez, 51, faces charges for six Tulare County, Calif., murders and three other killings in that state, Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz said. He is currently in custody in Alabama awaiting trial for a 2013 homicide in Lawrence County, according to Fultz.

Investigators confirmed last year that Martinez, a U.S. citizen, is also responsible for a 2006 double-homicide in Marion County, Fla., for which he faces murder charges, according to the Huntsville Times newspaper.

He told investigators in June 2013 that he committed more than 30 killings as an enforcer for multiple Mexican drug kingpins, according to Lawrence County Sheriff's Captain Tim McWhorter.

"He basically told us, 'I'm the guy that pays you a visit when you don't pay the cartel,'" McWhorter told NBC News last year. "He had a reputation in the drug world as the guy who would get the job done. If he was assigned to get money, he'd get money. If he was assigned to kill, he'd kill."

Martinez was captured by U.S. Border Patrol agents last year near Yuma, Ariz., after trying to cross the border from Mexico without proper identification. Officials quickly learned of his trail of bloodshed and had him extradited to Alabama, where investigators from all relevant states converged last June to interview him.

He will be eligible for the death penalty because of the special circumstances of the charges, the Tulare County District Attorney's Office said in a statement Tuesday. The special circumstance allegations include lying in wait, kidnapping and murder for financial gain, the statement said.