Monday, April 25, 2016

A video posted to the YouTube channel WarLeaks on April 22 shows Colombian special forces conducting a raid in Chocó, Colombia, which led to the capture of the wanted narco gang leader Édgar Gutierrez Arenas...

Borderland Beat

Link to Borderland Beat

After decades at ‘supermax,’ Mexican cartel capo gets transfer

Posted: 24 Apr 2016 08:26 PM PDT

Serving life in prison just got a little easier for Gulf Cartel godfather Juan Garcia Abrego.

After nearly 20 years in the so-called federal “supermax,” where some of the nation’s most notorious inmates are kept, Garcia Abrego was recently transferred to a high-security penitentiary, according to federal records.

“It is like dying and going to heaven,” said Jack T. Donson, a consultant who retired from U.S. Bureau of Prisons. “It is definitely a positive thing” for an inmate.

Garcia Abrego, 71, who was the first cartel leader to make the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, was convicted in 1996 by a federal jury in Houston.

U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. gave him 11 life sentences in 1997 and fined him $128 million.

The high-security penitentiary is housed on the same sprawling complex in Colorado as the supermax but affords privileges and a new lifestyle that the supermax does not, according to a Bureau of Prisons handbook for inmates.

The former drug boss, who a generation ago took his cartel to the top of Mexico’s underworld, will now be able to interact with other prisoners.

He faces the possibility of a bunk bed and a cell mate, instead of what amounted to solitary confinement.

He will also be able to walk around the prison without wearing shackles and without having a guard escort, to mix with the prison’s general population, and to have access to places such as a chapel and gymnasium.

Meals will be taken at a dining hall rather than a cell.

Until the transfer, the capo once known for wearing baseball caps and Rolex watches did all his time in the prison nicknamed “supermax” for its tough security. It is home to the Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was convicted of espionage.

Garcia Abrego’s Texas lawyers and the Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the transfer.

The adjustment after so many years alone can be intense for an inmate, but Garcia Abrego should do fine, Donson said.

“This is a criminal subculture,” said Donson, who worked in the federal prison system for 23 years. “He is a high-level cartel guy; he will gravitate to whatever gang has a previously established relationship with his cartel, and my guess is he’ll be a rock star.”

Unlike many of today’s captured drug cartel leaders, Garcia Abrego was bound by old-school codes and did not pursue any deals at the time of his arrest that would have brought him leniency in exchange for sharing his secrets.

Source San Antonio Express News

Deadly deal: Osio Cardenas' Plea Deal Cuased Zeta/CDG Split and Years of Bloodshed Reaching All The Way to Southlake

Posted: 24 Apr 2016 09:01 PM PDT

Posted by DD  Republished from Dallas Morning News

By Alfredo Corchado and Kevin Krause

A plea agreement between a Mexican drug kingpin and the U.S. government helped generate a violent split between two drug cartels that led to the deaths of thousands of people in Mexico and along the Texas border, a Dallas Morning News investigation has found.

The News’ investigation of the deal between Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cárdenas Guillén and the U.S. is based on hundreds of confidential government records, interviews with U.S. and Mexico law enforcement officials, confidential informants and former members of the Gulf cartel and the Zetas, its former enforcement and paramilitary arm.   It provides a rare view of the strategy and tactics used in the drug war on both sides of the border, as well as the operations and shifting dynamics within cartels.
In July 2009, Cárdenas agreed to plead guilty in federal court to drug dealing, money launderingand attempted murder of U.S. agents. As part of the deal, which was sealed at the time, he promised to turn over $50 million. He received a relatively light prison sentence of 25 years in early 2010.

Details of the forfeiture have not been reported until now. The News’ key findings:


**A longtime attorney and confidant of Cárdenas oversaw the collection and transfer of assets. Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa also provided a wealth of intelligence to the U.S. government on behalf of Cárdenas over several years while allegedly continuing his involvement in the drug trade. Guerrero Chapa was tracked down and murdered in 2013 by a masked gunman as he shopped with his wife in the quiet Dallas suburb of Southlake, where he owned a home.

**A trial for two of three men allegedly involved in his killing is set for April 25. A defense attorney for one of the defendants claimed in court papers filed recently that Guerrero Chapa was the “de facto head” of the Gulf cartel who continued his “association with criminal enterprises” until his death.
The forfeited $50 million involved not only cash, but also ranches and aircraft. Much of the cash was extracted from underground bunkers in Mexico and carried across the border in the trunk of a car in 2008 and 2009.

** The Zetas thought that the transfers would win Cárdenas an early release. Cárdenas had created the Zetas from former members of an elite unit of the Mexican military. Tensions had escalated between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas after Cárdenas’ arrest, and the Zetas had developed into a full-fledged cartel by the time of his sentencing. When the group discovered that he had been providing intelligence to the U.S., they declared war against the Gulf cartel over the betrayal.

The war triggered an explosion of drug-related violence in parts of Mexico and along the Texas border, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the deal.

“The Zetas split is really the first of a series of schisms and fractures in the major cartels’ organizations that leads to the incredibly prolific violence that we see from 2008 to 2011,” said David Shirk, principal investigator at the University of San Diego’s Justice in Mexico Project. “It’s really the beginning of the cartel wars. … The last decade has been Mexico’s Vietnam, only it’s happening at home, right down the street, rather than televised from across an ocean.”

Through a spokesman, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to answer several emailed questions from The News regarding the deal and Guerrero Chapa’s involvement. The U.S. attorneys in Dallas and Houston also declined.

Estimates of the number of people killed in drug violence nationwide range from 80,000, according to the Justice in Mexico Project, to 150,000, according to the Brookings Institution, during the 2006-12 administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderón. The Mexican government has also reported that more than 26,000 people disappeared, but some independent estimates are much higher. Some of the worst violence was along the Texas border.

Innocents were regularly caught in the spreading chaos:

**In August 2010, 72 people, mostly Central American immigrants, were abducted from a bus and massacred in Tamaulipas state.
 **More than 300 residents in Coahuila state disappeared in early 2011, an incident blamed on the Zetas.
**A casino fire set by the Zetas killed 52 people, including women and elderly, in Monterrey in August 2011.

U.S. law enforcement officials are deeply divided about their role in the Cárdenas case. On the one hand, some say, the plea deal provided a vast amount of intelligence, which weakened both the Gulf cartel and the Zetas. Others express regret about the unintended effect that U.S. intervention had on ordinary Mexicans.

“We all thought we were doing the right thing, but truth is we didn’t fully anticipate the violence, and that’s on us,” said a federal agent who was not authorized to speak publicly. “We didn’t understand the dynamics on the ground ... and many people died, including innocents.”

The dead included U.S. federal agent Jaime Zapata, who was ambushed by the Zetas a year after the Cárdenas plea deal. While he and his partner, Víctor Avila, were on a covert mission in central Mexico, their armored SUV with diplomatic plates was forced off the road. Zapata, shot six times, bled to death. Avila was shot twice but survived.

Four defendants have pleaded guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder and are awaiting sentencing.

Avila and his lawyer believe that because they pleaded guilty and are possibly cooperating with the U.S., they will likely not face the maximum prison sentence.

“It is disgusting,” said Avila, who retired in 2015 after 16 years as a federal agent. “You don’t cut deals with murderers, especially with those who threatened or in this case killed a U.S. federal agent.”
Avila acknowledges the value of plea agreements, but hasn’t come to terms with their price.

“There was some positive impact in the sense that some Zetas are in jail, others killed,” Avila said. “The organizations have been disrupted or half-disrupted, the violence appears to have fallen, but at what price? So many innocents killed, and at the price of a U.S. federal agent’s life?”
Former U.S. agent Victor Avila recalls encounter with Zetas gunmen who killed his partner

Video: Angela Kocherga

The imprisoned kingpin

Cárdenas’ path to brutal drug kingpin had humble beginnings. A onetime car mechanic and policeman, he rose through the ranks of the Gulf cartel by helping the organization’s boss, Juan García Ábrego. After García Ábrego was arrested in 1996, Cárdenas eventually took control of the cartel. His ascent to power included killing a friend, which earned him the nickname “El Mata Amigos” or The Friend Killer.

In May 1999, Cárdenas threatened to kill a Cameron County sheriff’s deputy working undercover. That same year, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and an FBI agent who crossed into Mexico to talk to an informant were threatened at gunpoint by Cárdenas and his gang.

Cárdenas wanted them to hand over the informant. They reminded Cárdenas that the last time a U.S agent was killed in Mexico — DEA agent Enrique Camarena in 1985 — the U.S. government pursued the case until most of those involved were arrested or killed. Cárdenas relented but warned the agents not to return.

After the standoff, he hid at Guerrero Chapa’s private ranch in Nuevo León, according to a former top Cárdenas lieutenant. But the U.S. pressure was relentless.

In 2003, Cárdenas was arrested by the Mexican military in Matamoros, his hometown. At the time, the U.S. government considered Cárdenas one of the most notorious and violent drug traffickers in the world. His criminal organization was responsible for what U.S. agents have called bloodbaths along the Mexican border in which thousands were killed.

From a Mexican prison, Cárdenas ran his drug empire largely through Guerrero Chapa. He also provided limited operational secrets to the U.S. government about Gulf cartel members and rival cartel figures. The scope of those secrets would widen.

In 2007, just weeks after Calderón was sworn into office as president, Cárdenas was extradited to the United States, a move hailed as a sign of exemplary binational cooperation.

Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, head of the Gulf cartel, was extradited to the U.S. in 2007. He considered fighting drug and conspiracy charges, but his attorneys advised him to cooperate — and he did, agreeing to turn over $50 million and giving agents the names of numerous smugglers. (Office of the Attorney General of Mexico)
Initially, Cárdenas considered fighting the U.S. drug and conspiracy charges, according to two former associates. But his legal team reminded him that the last Mexican capo to do so, his predecessor, García Ábrego, lost the court battle and was imprisoned for 11 consecutive life terms and forced to turn over millions in illegal proceeds. The best strategy was to cooperate, they counseled.

Two of the four Cárdenas attorneys, Roberto J. Yzaguirre and Chip Lewis, declined to comment for this story. The other two, Crispin Quintanilla and Michael Ramsey, did not return calls seeking comment.

Once in U.S. custody, Cárdenas began cooperating more freely with U.S. agents, a senior U.S. official said. He gave up operational details, including the names of smugglers who oversaw the movement of drugs from Colombia to Mexico and into South Texas, Houston, Dallas and Atlanta.

An informant’s value

Guerrero Chapa hailed from the town of China in Nuevo León, but little is known about his early life. He came to the attention of U.S. agents around 2000, according to federal investigative documents obtained by The News.

By 2001, U.S. intelligence reports described Guerrero Chapa as a “key individual” in the Gulf cartel and cited an informant who speculated that his recent trips to Mexico City were to bribe government officials there. The reports refer to Guerrero Chapa as being “intimately involved in drug trafficking with the Gulf cartel.”

The earliest mention of Guerrero Chapa as an apparent U.S. informant — in the documents obtained by The News — was in 2008, the year after his boss was extradited to the U.S.

It’s unlikely that Guerrero Chapa became a snitch behind Cárdenas’ back, the former Gulf cartel lieutenant said. Rather, cooperating with U.S. authorities was likely part of Cárdenas’ strategy to plant a trusted ally inside to gain the latest intelligence.

Since 2008, U.S. policy had revolved around the Mérida Initiative, a $2.3 billion plan created under the George W. Bush administration. Its purpose was to help Mexico confront threats to its national security, in part through promoting judicial reform and providing military equipment and intelligence support.

An army of Mexican informants emerged, with secret access to some of that country’s most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations.

Few were as valuable as Guerrero Chapa, an influential deal maker who had contacts within the Gulf cartel as well as the Mexican military and media.

“Guerrero Chapa is one of the most key individuals in the Gulf Drug Cartel who has contact with the highest-level of drug traffickers in Mexico,” according to a 2001 confidential government document obtained by The News.

Documents obtained by The News show that Guerrero Chapa:

**Aided the Mexican military with plans to capture cartel figures.

**Helped negotiate hostage releases and truces between rival cartels.
**Mediated disputes among gangsters, including “cocaine payment issues” and a fight over more than 500 acres of beachfront property in Tampico.

Guerrero Chapa also proved valuable intelligence to U.S. authorities seeking to infiltrate Mexico’s most powerful cartel. He gave up the whereabouts of certain cartel figures. He provided names of corrupt Mexican politicians as well as names, phone numbers and assets of various cartel lieutenants.

After Cárdenas made his plea deal with the U.S. government, Guerrero Chapa was tasked with his biggest job. At the direction of his U.S. handlers and Cárdenas, he set to out collect millions from the Zetas and the Gulf cartel in 2008 and 2009, according to federal government documents.

Documents show that Guerrero Chapa repeatedly leaned on high-ranking Zetas and Gulf cartel members to contribute money for the forfeiture. Some of the funds came from Cárdenas’ private stash.

While in power, Cárdenas had feared that the U.S. government could take his money, so he mostly avoided U.S. banks, stashing the money beneath private homes and at ranches.

Guerrero Chapa gathered the money for the transfers from at least nine underground bunkers at homes in Tamaulipas and Nuevo León.

Many of the cash exchanges occurred near the International Bridge that connects Reynosa to McAllen. Guerrero Chapa would drive north to the Mexican border town, his car loaded with suitcases stuffed with cash. U.S. law enforcement agents would take the money, sometimes barely checking it, and quickly return to the U.S., according to people familiar with the transactions.

Many of the cash exchanges for the Osiel Cárdenas Guillén forfeiture occurred near the International Bridge that spans the Rio Grande and connects McAllen (at bottom) to Reynosa (at top). Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa, the Gulf cartel lawyer, handed over suitcases of money to U.S. law enforcement agents. (Nathan Lambrecht/Special Contributor)

Ranches and aircraft also were sold to raise money for the U.S. forfeiture, documents show.
Guerrero Chapa coordinated the surrender of three Bell helicopters and one Cessna airplane to U.S. authorities, according to DEA documents. The aircraft were flown to Canada and stored in a hangar north of Vancouver, according to documents obtained by The News.

While cooperating with the U.S. government, Cárdenas continued communicating with Gulf cartel and Zetas leaders through Guerrero Chapa, even promising to name one of them his successor, according to a former U.S. agent and a current U.S. agent knowledgeable about cartel intelligence matters.

For Zetas, doubts emerge

Even before the plea deal and the forfeiture, the Zetas leaders had developed doubts about Guerrero Chapa and his boss.

The Zetas had begun running their own drug loads. And mutual distrust and infighting had strained relations between the two organizations.

At one 2009 meeting, the Zetas’ top leader, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, took Guerrero Chapa aside to tell him he “had his suspicions that he was being set up” by Cárdenas, according to a DEA report as well as a former Gulf cartel leader who worked as one of Cárdenas’ financial administrators.
Lazcano Lazcano said he had a contact inside the DEA who told him that Cárdenas was “negotiating with the U.S. government by providing information on him,” the report said. Guerrero Chapa told Lazcano Lazcano he was “way off base.”

Lazcano Lazcano warned Guerrero Chapa that if he were ever captured, “then an internal war would begin between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, which the Gulf Cartel could not win,” according to a DEA report.
Jorge Eduardo “El Coss” Costilla Sánchez Former head of the Gulf cartel who took over control of the organization along with Cárdenas’ brother, Antonio, when Cárdenas was captured in 2003. The Mexican marines arrested Costilla Sánchez in 2012. He was extradited to the U.S. in September 2015 to face trial on dozens of charges related to the importation of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. 
Lazcano Lazcano also told him that the Zetas leader’s near-arrest by the Mexican military in San Luis 
Potosí shortly after speaking with the new Gulf cartel leader, Jorge Eduardo “El Coss” Costilla Sánchez, was “very suspicious,” the DEA report says.

Lazcano Lazcano said he hid in “the brush” for three days and later confirmed through his DEA contact that the U.S. government was tracking his phone, according to the report.

“At the conclusion of the meeting, however, Lazcano Lazcano did agree to turn over $10 million to Guerrero Chapa, in eight days, to assist,” the report said.
Secret sentencing

In 2010, a federal judge in Houston sentenced Cárdenas to 25 years in prison, far fewer than other drug kingpins got for comparable crimes. In all, 12 of the 17 counts were dismissed as part of the agreement.

On the day of his sentencing, Cárdenas appeared unusually meek, according to law enforcement officials at the hearing. The sentencing took place behind locked doors and before U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle.

Only Cárdenas’ wife and daughter and a handful of federal agents were present, along with four lawyers.

Judges often seal documents in drug and terrorism cases to protect informants and ongoing investigations. But closing a sentencing hearing for security reasons is highly unusual. The government argued that it was necessary due to the possibility of an attack on the courthouse if it were known that Cárdenas was there.

Tagle ruled that failing to close the hearing to the public would “result in a substantial probability that the lives and safety of persons will be placed in danger and that ongoing investigations will be jeopardized.”
Jesus Enrique Reton Aguilar AKA "Mamito". Former Zetas leader and bodyguard of Cárdenas. Rejón Aguilar was arrested in 2011 in Mexico City and extradited to the U.S. in 2012 for prosecution in federal court in Washington, D.C. The case remains active. 

A high-ranking original member of the Zetas, Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar, would later testify in a different case that the Zetas were loyal to Cárdenas until February 2010, when the plea deal was revealed at his sentencing.

Aguilar, a former Mexican police officer, said the $50 million the Zetas provided was “for him [Cárdenas] to use in the United States to lower his sentence.”

The Zetas hadn’t imagined Cárdenas would also provide information that would help the U.S. government disrupt their business operations.

Asset forfeiture is not supposed to influence a defendant’s punishment. But when details of Cardenas’ forfeiture were discussed in court during Aguilar’s case, a federal judge questioned whether there was such a link.

U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein, the judge in the Aguilar case, asked about the Cárdenas forfeiture and Aguilar’s claim that the money was sent to help reduce Cardenas’ sentence, according to court records.

“Are we going to let that stay just the way it is on the record?” she asked.
Rothstein asked the prosecutor if he knew that to be true. He said he did not.
“It leaves a certain implication that one would like to have cleared up,” Rothstein said. “I hope that wasn’t the case.”

On paper, the forfeiture was $50 million. But Cárdenas actually forked over tens of millions more, a large chunk of his total net worth, estimated at $1.1 billion, according to a former Gulf cartel lieutenant.
Cárdenas, locked up in Colorado, will be 68 when his prison term ends in 2035.

Plea deals defended

After the sentencing, the Zetas formally split from the Gulf cartel, a move that sparked one of the bloodiest periods in Mexico’s drug violence. Among the casualties: migrants from Mexico and Latin America. In 2010, Mexican authorities discovered the bodies of 72 migrants killed by the Zetas, who apparently suspected them of being recruits for the Gulf cartel.

Months later, the Zetas intercepted several more buses with migrants on board and kidnapped some, turning some into hitmen and executing 193 at a ranch near San Fernando.

Weeks after the casino fire in Monterrey killed 52 in August 2011, authorities discovered 49 decapitated bodies along a highway.

Relatives and friends grieved for one of 72 people, mostly Central American migrants, whom the Zetas abducted from a bus and massacred in 2010 in Tamaulipas state. (File Photo/The Associated Press)
A fire set by the Zetas in August 2011 at Casino Royale in Monterrey, Mexico, killed 52 people. Weeks later, 49 decapitated bodies were found along a highway. (File Photo/Agence France-Presse)
“You have internal fights; you have power grabs between organizations and within organizations,” said Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the U.S. “The consequence is violence and more violence because new leadership seeks to assert itself, and it is fighting for control of those organizations.”

Some U.S. officials defend the U.S. approach to battling cartels and deny that it heightened bloodshed. They blame Mexico’s corruption and weak rule of law and say that the mayhem would have been even worse if the U.S. hadn’t assisted its armed forces.

They also defend plea deals, asset forfeitures and informants as a necessary evil in dismantling cartels and investigating organized crime in general.

“Sure you can criticize the approach; it’s not without its shortcomings,” said Tony Garza, U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 2002 to 2009. “But don’t you think if there was a perfect way of taking these groups out, it would have been tried? As long as Mexico’s rule of law is weak, that cycle is going to repeat itself.”

Arturo Fontes, a former FBI agent who had a key role in carrying out U.S. anti-drug strategy in the Laredo area, put it this way: “These organizations, Zetas and the Gulf cartel, would have taken several years to disrupt, but when a cartel is divided, fighting against each other, that helps the governments come in and pick up the scraps. … Our strategy was simple: divide and conquer.”

But some experts question whether a plea agreement for such a notorious drug kingpin is good policy.
“A reduced sentence for someone like Osiel [Cárdenas], who contributed to the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of people, may not be worth it,” said Eric Olson, a specialist on organized crime at the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson Center.

Olson said U.S. prosecutors don’t take into account the rights of victims in other countries. A U.S. prosecutor, for example, might agree to a reduced sentence for a drug trafficker involved in the deaths of many Mexicans to get information about a drug ring in Dallas, Olson said.
“Is this fair to the Mexican victims? Probably not, but the system isn’t set up to take that into account,” he said.

Mexico’s strategy, with backing from the U.S., has been to target the cartels by killing or arresting the top leaders, an approach that experts say has contributed to the climate of lawlessness and violence. This same approach, sometimes referred to as the kingpin strategy, brought down the mafia in the U.S. in the 1960s and drug cartels in Colombia in the 1990s, experts say. But it comes with a price.

“The flaw in the kingpin strategy is that at the end of the day you’re only creating vacuums, and when that happens, all and any vacuums inevitably get filled,” said Sarukhan, the former Mexican ambassador.
Garza, the former U.S. ambassador, conceded that the approach could be messy.

“Look, every time you take out a kingpin you create a void, a moment when succession and control of the ‘plaza’ are in play,” he said. “And that means there will be blood, and often lots of it, but what’s the alternative? Casting your lot with the kingpins?”

Today, violence in some parts of Mexico has ebbed, though cities like Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo remain largely under the control of the Zetas and remnants of the Gulf cartel.
Defeating the cartels, however, has proved elusive. Regions of Mexico remain gripped by fear and violence, as the number of criminal groups has skyrocketed from about five major cartels in the mid-2000s to an estimated 80 smaller criminal groups today, according to Mexico’s attorney general’s office. And the killings continue, with dozens reported in recent weeks along the Tamaulipas-Texas border.

Even in regions where the violence has ebbed, new threats have emerged. The conflict today isn’t just about illicit drugs, but also extortion rackets, kidnappings, migrant smuggling and piracy. Criminal groups now routinely tap gasoline pipelines and intercept fuel trucks, siphoning off millions of dollars in stolen gasoline each year.

A hit in Southlake

Guerrero Chapa allegedly was allowed to move large quantities of drugs from Mexico to the U.S. while under the watchful eye of his U.S. handlers — all while keeping a low profile at his new home in Southlake, according to confidential court documents.

A 2011 DEA report summarized information from a confidential source about Guerrero Chapa’s alleged drug activities.

“An individual identified as Juan Guerrero Chapa assists ... with the transportation of cocaine from Mexico to the United States,” the report said. “Also, Guerrero Chapa works with a group of individuals identified as Los Barretas,” based in Reynosa, who smuggle “large quantities of marijuana and cocaine” to the U.S.

Around that time, Guerrero Chapa purchased a $1.2 million Southlake mansion under an alias. The sellers were paid in cash.

Shortly before 7 p.m. on May 22, 2013, Guerrero Chapa and his wife were finishing a shopping trip at Southlake’s Town Square. As she put their bags in their Range Rover, a white Toyota Sequoia pulled up behind them. A masked gunman stepped out, walked over to the passenger side of their SUV where Guerrero Chapa sat, and shot him multiple times with a 9 mm pistol.

Body of Chapa laying across front seat.  Apparently tried to escape his assassin.

A cellphone video taken by a passer-by moments after the attack captures the horror. Guerrero Chapa’s wife screams in disbelief as her husband lies across the front seats in an apparent attempt to escape the gunfire.

Three Mexican citizens were arrested more than a year later and charged with interstate stalking resulting in death and aiding and abetting in the murder.

Jesús Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda and his son, Jesús Gerardo Ledezma Campano Jr., 32, were arrested in McAllen, officials said. Ledezma Cepeda’s cousin, José Luis Cepeda Cortes, 59, a legal U.S. resident with a green card, was arrested at his Edinburg home. Ledezma Cepeda and Cepeda Cortes are scheduled to go to trial April 25 in Fort Worth.

The men made several trips across the border to North Texas to stalk Guerrero Chapa while staying in a rented Grapevine apartment, officials said. They used at least eight rented and purchased cars. A camera set up in Guerrero Chapa’s neighborhood captured him driving his Range Rover, which also had a tracking device attached underneath. And cameras were aimed at his home.
The killers have not been apprehended or publicly identified. 

Editor’s note
The News reviewed hundreds of confidential law enforcement records in the reporting of this story. We also interviewed former and current U.S. and Mexican law enforcement and government officials. In addition, we spoke with confidential informants and former members of the Gulf cartel and Zetas, including two high-level associates of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén.

Michoacán: 3 Former Autodefensas Executed

Posted: 24 Apr 2016 03:01 PM PDT

By: Julio César Aguirre/Quadratín; Red 113 Michoacán | Translated by Valor for Borderland Beat

Apatzingán, Michoacán, April 23, 2016— Three men traveling onboard a truck and who were about to pull out of a gas station in Cuatro Caminos were massacred by a group of heavily armed men.  The dead were allegedly former autodefensas of the city of Apatzingán, according to reports from the authorities at the scene.  Two of the men died on site while the other one died on the way to the hospital.  The former autodefensas were armed with AK-47’s.

It was learned that around 6:00 hours, a Chevrolet Silverado, with California license plates, was pulling out of the gas station Mafer, located at kilometer 153 in the Siglo XXI Freeway, however only managed to move a few meters before being intercepted by the armed group.  The armed group sprayed them with bullets at close range.

Members of the federal police arrived at the scene and cordoned off the area.  Minutes later, personnel from the Regional Prosecutor’s Office of Apatzingán arrived, who conducted the removal of the bodies and collected dozens of spent shell casings of different calibers.

Even though the corporation recently stopped existing, local people said that the deceased claimed to be members of the Fuerza Rural and that is how they identified themselves with the population, however, RED 113 inquired about the subject to sources of the Ministry of Public Security and they denied that the deceased were discharged from the corporation or ever had belonged to it; they were former autodefensas, they said.

Sources:QuadratinRed 113

The Man Who Runs The Sinaloa Cartel... With Or Without ‘El Chapo’

Posted: 24 Apr 2016 09:20 AM PDT

He was born in the countryside of the Mexican state of Sinaloa, entered the drug trade as a teenager and presides over what many believe is the hemisphere’s largest drug trafficking operation. But unlike recently recaptured drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, he isn’t a household name.

Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García, the man many believe to have the most control over the Sinaloa cartel, has spent five decades in the drug trade. While El Chapo is widely described as the cartel’s leader, that notion obscures the fact that Sinaloa operates more like a federation with multiple leaders who form something analogous to a board of directors.

Within that group, Zambada, 68, has likely risen to become the most powerful player. Unlike Guzmán, “El Mayo” Zambada hasn’t been sidelined by yearslong stints in prison.

Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada likely plays the strongest leading role in the Sinaloa cartel. 

When Guzmán was first jailed from 1993 to 2001, it was Zambada who oversaw the Sinaloa cartel’s continued expansion. It was Zambada who sent a private helicopter to whisk Guzmán to safety not too long after he slipped out of Puente Grande in a laundry basket, according to journalist Malcolm Beith’s 2010 book The Last Narco. And it was Zambada who facilitated Guzmán’s rise once again after his first escape.

Former head of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration international operations Mike Vigil, who spent 13 years working in Mexico, described Zambada as one of the most elusive drug lords whom Mexico has targeted.

“‘El Mayo’ Zambada” is one of the oldest capos still surviving in Mexico,” Vigil told The WorldPost. “He’s extremely highly respected by the drug trafficking community there. He has actually expanded the Sinaloa drug cartel operations since the time that ‘El Chapo’ was in jail.”

Born in the Sinaloa hamlet of El Alamo, Zambada began life as a farmer, in a state blanketed with illicit poppy and marijuana fields. Early in his criminal career, he also worked as a hitman in Ciudad Juárez, according to Beith. He rose to the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel when he was in his 40s.

Part of the reason people know less about Zambada is that he keeps a low profile. In one unusual exception, he arranged an interview in 2010 with Julio Scherer García, the former director of Mexican magazine Proceso.

A 2003 billboard posted in Southern Arizona offers a reward for information leading to the arrest of Zambada.

He described living in constant fear of getting caught. Zambada said that at least four times the military had gotten close enough to nab him.

“I fled to the hills,” Zambada said. “I know the foliage, the streams, the rocks, everything. They’ll only catch me if I slow down and get sloppy, like El Chapo.” 

Though Zambada had sought out Scherer, the drug lord declined to answer questions about his first-born son, Vicente. Known by his diminutive nickname, “Vicentillo” Zambada was arrested in Mexico in 2009 and extradited to the United States the next year on drug trafficking charges. His case caused an uproar when his lawyer contended that Vicentillo Zambada couldn’t be charged with drug trafficking because he was simultaneously working as an informant for the DEA.

The DEA and Department of Justice both denied extending him immunity and the case was resolved in 2013, when Vicentillo Zambada accepted a plea deal and ceded more than $1 billion worth of assets.

“I’m not going to talk about my boy,” Zambada told Scherer in 2010. “I cry for him.”

Mexican authorities present Vicente Zambada, “El Mayo” Zambada’s son, to the press after his arrest in 2009. He was extradited to the United States, where he is in prison.

Though he doesn’t command the same international brand recognition as “El Chapo,” Zambada has long attracted the attention of U.S. law enforcement. President George W. Bush added him to the list of sanctioned foreign nationals under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act in 2002. He faces indictment in several jurisdictions across the United States for charges including drug trafficking, money laundering and homicide.

That fact that the Sinaloa cartel retains such a prominent leader causes many analysts to think the organization will continue to thrive despite Guzmán’s arrest. The recapture also isn’t likely to provoke the splintering and in-fighting associated with the decapitation of smaller cartels.

“Most of the time violence does increase after the government arrests or kills the leader of a criminal group,” Brian Phillips, a professor who researches organized crime and violence in Mexico, told HuffPost. “With Sinaloa [cartel] it’s a little different because it’s a very established group and there’s a second leader, ‘El Mayo’ Zambada, running the show. So you’re more likely to see continuity and stability.”

Despite his vaunted position, Zambada appears to view himself as a replaceable element in a vast machine. Echoing words El Chapo said in a video recording sent to Rolling Stone, Zambada told Scherer in 2010 that the day he died or was captured, the traffic would continue without him.

“The problem of drug trafficking involves millions [of people],” Zambada said. “How do you control that? As for the drug lords, whether they’re locked up, killed or extradited, their replacements are already there lurking.”

Source The Huffington Post

Watch Colombian Special Forces Capture A Narco Gang Leader

Posted: 24 Apr 2016 09:03 AM PDT

A video posted to the YouTube channel WarLeaks on April 22 shows Colombian special forces conducting a raid in Chocó, Colombia, which led to the capture of the wanted narco gang leader Édgar Gutierrez Arenas.

The footage, shot by helmet cam, shows special forces troops moving through jungle terrain to apprehend Arenas, the leader of the Úsuga Narco gang. The video lasts just over 90 seconds, but in that short time it offers an inside look into the particular, and dangerous, missions that special forces engage in.

The video opens with a firefight, and then cuts to a point-of-view run along dirt paths as the special forces soldiers break contact and move toward their quarry.

Throughout it all a Black Hawk helicopter hovers nearby in a support position, presumably spotting for the ground troops as they converge on Arenas before taking him into custody. Arenas emerges from the thick underbrush shirtless and in jeans, and is immediately grabbed by the necklace around his neck and pulled along by the special forces soldiers.

Watch below.