Ariel Gandulla pleads guilty to kidnapping, will testify against Alexis Vila in murder trial

According to the Miami Herald MMA fighter Ariel Gandulla, 51, pled guilty to the 2011 kidnapping of Camilo Salazar in a Miami court last week and received a 36-month sentence. Gandulla’s plea and sentence are part of a deal that is contingent on Gandulla testifying against individuals charged with Salazar’s murder. Gand…

By: Tim Bissell | 4 years
Ariel Gandulla pleads guilty to kidnapping, will testify against Alexis Vila in murder trial
Video Thumbnail: Ex-MMA fighter Ariel Gandulla pleads guilty in murder case (YouTube/Miami Herald)

According to the Miami Herald MMA fighter Ariel Gandulla, 51, pled guilty to the 2011 kidnapping of Camilo Salazar in a Miami court last week and received a 36-month sentence. Gandulla’s plea and sentence are part of a deal that is contingent on Gandulla testifying against individuals charged with Salazar’s murder.

Gandulla was originally charged with second-degree murder in this case, alongside fellow fighter Alexis Vila-Perdomo (a former Bellator tournament finalist and Olympic wrestler), boxing coach and promoter Roberto Isaac, and supermarket magnate Manuel Marin.

When those charges came down, in April 2018, prosecutors in Miami-Dade county claimed Marin, who owns the Presidente line of grocery stores, hired Gandulla, Vila-Perdomo and Isaac to kidnap and kill Salazar, whom he believed was having an affair with his wife.

Salazar’s body was discovered on a dirt road by the Everglades. He had been badly beaten, his throat was slit and his genitals were lit on fire. Authorities used cell phone records, and fingerprints on Salazar’s car, to piece together their version of events.

Vila-Perdomo, who once served a prison term for driving his car into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and Isaac were arrested early last year. Marin was arrested in Spain, where he had been living since Salazar’s death. Gandulla was living in Vancouver, B.C., Canada when he was charged with homicide, but it was unclear if he would ever be brought to trial in the United States.

Ariel Gandulla was in legal and geographic limbo

Ariel Gandulla and Alexis Vila Perdomo are both Cuban exiles. Gandulla never received U.S. citizenship before moving to Canada in 2011. In Canada he sought permanent residency status, but that seemed unlikely given Gandulla reportedly had charges of battery on law enforcement and cocaine possession on his record. Court documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun stated that the court was also aware of allegations that Gandulla was once involved with the Latin Kings street gang. Gandulla moved to Canada before he could be tried for those battery and drug charges.

The United States Department of Homeland Security were resistant to the idea of having Gandulla arrested and extradited to Florida to face trial for the murder of Salazar because they feared what may happen if they failed to convict him. Because of the United States’ strained political relationship with Cuba, U.S. authorities believed they would be unsuccessful if they tried to deport Gandulla back to his homeland. This meant it was possible that Gandulla could become free to settle, or possibly seek asylum, in the United States.

Gandulla’s state of diplomatic limbo ended after state prosecutors, Miami-Dade homicide investigators and a court-appointed defense attorney traveled to Vancouver to meet with Gandulla to figure out a deal. It’s unclear what will happen to Gandulla after he serves his prison sentence and whether he will remain in Florida to face other criminal charges.

Ariel Gandulla once appeared for WEC

Ariel Gandulla began his MMA career in 2005. In 2007 he appeared twice for the WEC promotion. Days after Salazar’s body was discovered on June 1st, 2011, Gandulla fought on the Florida regional circuit. He fought one more time in Florida, before moving to Canada. Gandulla fought three times in Canada. His last fight was in 2015.

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015, but has been watching since the early 2000s. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

Tim is currently a social worker in training.

Email me at [email protected]. Nice messages will get a response.

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