Entries in Zetas (5)


New Zetas Cartel Leader Violent 'to the Point of Sadism'

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The new head of the Zetas drug cartel is a former Dallas resident who is labeled as a traitor by many of his own cartel soldiers and mocked as an ex-"car washer" by his enemies.  But he has risen to power thanks to a fearsome reputation for violence.

"[Miguel Angel Trevino Morales] is extremely brutal, to the point of sadism," says George Grayson, an expert on the Zetas.  "He is prepared to advance his interest through unspeakable violence." 

Grayson's recent book on the cartel, The Executioner's Men, opens with a scene in which Trevino Morales slowly beats a female police officer to death, in front of her colleagues, with a two-by-four.

Trevino Morales, also known as El 40 or the Monkey, became the uncontested head of the Mexico's most feared drug cartel when former kingpin Heriberto Lazcano was killed in a shootout with Mexican Marines on Sunday.  Lazcano had been linked to hundreds of murders, including the massacre of 72 civilians, but Trevino Morales is allegedly even more bloodthirsty.  One of his preferred methods of dealing with enemies, say authorities, is burning them alive.

Trevino Morales, 41, was born in Mexico but spent some of his formative years in Dallas, Texas, where authorities say he had a criminal record as a teenager.  He has a dozen siblings and reportedly still has family in the Dallas area.

Trevino Morales joined the Zetas soon after their formation. The Zetas began in the late 1990s as the security wing of the Gulf Cartel.  The 14 core members of the Zetas, including Lazcano, all had military backgrounds, and took ranks based on when they'd joined the group.  Lazcano was known as Z-3.  By 2004, due to the death of Z-1 and the arrest of Z-2, Lazcano had become the leader of the Zetas.

Trevino Morales, who did not have a military background, got the designation 40, with his brother taking number 42.  In 2005, Trevino Morales became the boss of the Nuevo Laredo "plaza," or drug territory.

As a newly minted underboss, Trevino Morales had traditional gangster tastes for fast cars, women and fancy guns, and reportedly liked to hunt game imported from Africa.  He also, however, developed a particular reputation for brutality in a group already renowned for violence.  His favored methods for dispatching enemies were dismembering them while still alive, or making them into a "guiso," or stew -- stuffing them in 55-gallon oil drums, adding gasoline and burning them alive.

By 2009, Trevino Morales had been named in multiple federal indictments in Texas, Washington, D.C., and New York for alleged crimes ranging from drug trafficking, kidnapping and money laundering to ordering a half dozen murders in Laredo, Texas.  The Drug Enforcement Administration offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction, and accused him of controlling more than 200 operatives and smuggling hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. weekly.

Early the next year, the Zetas finally split from the Gulf Cartel after it crossed Trevino Morales.  In January 2010, the Gulf Cartel tortured and killed one of his close friends.  Trevino Morales responded with an ultimatum demanding that the cartel give up the killer.

"Hand over the assassin of my friend," demanded Trevino Morales.  "If you don't comply, there will be war."

The order was ignored and Trevino Morales allegedly began killing members of the Gulf Cartel en masse.  The Zetas, now an independent cartel with Trevino Morales second in command, were soon battling the Gulf Cartel for control of Northern Mexico, and winning.

By 2011, however, there was a schism within the new cartel between Trevino Morales and those loyal to Lazcano.  When Zetas boss "El Mamito," Enrique Rejon Aguilar, was arrested in July, he said that he had been betrayed.  Though he did not name any names, the next month someone uploaded a slickly produced music video to YouTube that bluntly accused Trevino Morales of being a "Judas" who was disloyal to Lazcano and had betrayed Mamito and other Zetas to the authorities.

Addressed to all the members of "the Mafia," every major drug organization in Mexico by name, and to the general public, "The True Story of Z 40" uses a specially written "narcoballad" to detail the alleged offenses of Trevino Morales against his fellow Zetas, especially leader Lazcano.

One of the first images in the five-minute video is a picture of Judas whispering in the ear of Jesus.  It then shows repeated images of Trevino Morales with the words "El Judas" under his face, and displays arrest photos of all the Zetas bosses he has allegedly betrayed, who were "captured because they trusted Z 40."  Intended as a warning to Lazcano, it asks "El Lazca" why he thinks so many of his underlings have been arrested.

The video also mocks Trevino Morales as a former car washer for the Los Tejas gang, and plasters his face onto photos of police officers and a shiny-suited pop idol.

Rival groups have also disparaged Trevino Morales as a car washer.  In March, Joaquin Guzman, AKA El Chapo or Shorty, the head of Mexico's other dominant drug organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, sent his men into Trevino Morales' territory to murder and dismember Zetas soldiers.  He issued a public challenge to Trevino Morales on huge banners above the body parts of his victims.

One banner, accompanied by seven severed heads, accused Trevino Morales of failing to use his own head, and of being Lazcano's jockstrap. 

"You will always be a car washer to me," said the banner, which was signed "El Chapo."

Another mocked Trevino Morales as a shoeshine boy, car washer and traitor who killed innocent people.

In the summer of 2012, Trevino Morales' brother Jose, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in the U.S. for moneylaundering after allegedly channeling the Zetas' drug money through a successful horseracing operation.  Not long after his arrest, the split within the Zetas apparently cost 14 lives.  The survivor of a mass execution in San Luis Potosi state in mid-August said that the victims and the killers were Zetas.  Authorities believe the massacre was revenge by Trevino Morales on "El Taliban," a leader opposed to EL 40's ascent.

By the end of August, U.S. officials began saying that Trevino Morales seemed to have merged as the winner in the Zetas' civil war, and had officially taken operational control of the Zetas in Mexico from Lazcano.

High-ranking Zetas then began to fall.  El Taliban was arrested in late September, "The Squirrel" just last Saturday. Lazcano, who was attending a baseball game with two other men, died in a firefight on Sunday.

Grayson speculates that Trevino Morales may have shared information with U.S. authorities to get better treatment for his brother Jose, who is in U.S. custody.

Trevino Morales must now direct the Zetas against the combined strength of the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel and other players, who have united to drive the Zetas from their "plazas."  Grayson says that with Lazcano's death, El Chapo Guzman of the Sinaloa cartel will be aided in his primary goal of taking control of Nuevo Laredo, El 40's home base.  Guzman has already dispatched what Grayson calls "shock troops" to help the Gulf Cartel fight the Zetas.

El Chapo's troops will be facing younger, less experienced, and less disciplined Zetas plaza bosses than in the past, says Grayson.  But he also notes that the Zetas new leader, in addition to being more violent than his predecessor, may be more cautious and wily as well.

"El 40," says Grayson, "would never have been at a baseball game."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'El Loco' Arrested After 49 Beheaded Bodies Found

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/GettyImages(MEXICO CITY) -- Authorities have arrested an alleged Zetas drug cartel leader nicknamed "El Loco," AKA the Fool or the Crazy One, on charges that he dumped 49 headless bodies on a highway outside Monterrey, Mexico.

When the Mexican Army came to arrest Daniel Elizondo Jesus Ramirez, say authorities, he attempted to elude capture by shooting at troops and throwing a fragmentation grenade. Zetas commanders nicknamed The Shrimp and The Speaker have also been linked to the body dump, but officials have not yet apprehended them.

The mutilated bodies of 43 men and six women were found near Cadereyta, Mexico on May 13. Though the condition of the bodies made it difficult to identify any of them, some physical features and tattoos indicated that they may have been migrants from southern Mexico and Central America.

A graphic seven-minute video posted on the web last week allegedly showed gunmen dumping the bodies, and then flourishing a "narcobanner" "signed" by El Loco and two other alleged Zetas commanders.

The banner warned that the same fate would befall members of rival cartels, the police and the military. The video is still available on-line, though a version that was posted on YouTube has been removed. The first version that appeared on YouTube was posted by someone who claimed to be a Zeta.

After the bodies were discovered in Cadereyta, the Zetas posted new "narcobanners" throughout Northern Mexico condemning the murders, but Mexican officials claimed they had only done so to create confusion about responsibility for the deaths.

The Zetas, who dominate much of eastern and northern Mexico, are battling the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa cartel for dominance in Nuevo Leon and other Mexican states. Founded by former members of the Mexican military, the Zetas have a reputation for violence.

During a press conference in Mexico City, Brig. General Edgar Ruiz Villegas Melendez alleged that "El Loco" had been told to dump the bodies in the town square of Cadereyta but instead chose to dump them on a nearby highway. Villegas claimed that Ramirez, who was arrested Sunday, had confessed to dumping the corpses and said he'd done so on the orders of Zeta leaders.

El Loco is also a suspect in the kidnapping, murder and dismembering of two women last year, one of them the girlfriend of an Army lieutenant. He was mistakenly reported killed during an operation to apprehend the alleged kidnapers. He sent a taunting message to the Mexican media that said, "I'm still alive ... El Loco of the Zetas."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nuevo Laredo: 23 Bodies Found on U.S. Border, Decapitated, Tortured

Hemera/Thinkstock (NUEVO LAREDO, Texas) -- The bodies of 23 people killed under horrific conditions have been found in the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo on the U.S. border, the BBC reports.  

Nine bodies showing signs of torture were discovered hanging from a bridge, and 14 decapitated bodies were found in a vehicle hours later. Ice boxes that were dumped outside of the mayor's office contained the victim's heads, according to the BBC.

A message found with the hanged bodies said they were members of the Gulf cartel who had been murdered by their rivals, the notorious Zetas. Police believed the bodies were gang members but could not confirm who was guilty of the killings.

Mexican drug cartels have been fighting over smuggling routes along the U.S.-Mexico border for years. About 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006, says the BBC.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Lebanese Drug Lord Charged in US: Links to Zetas and Hezbollah

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A Lebanese drug kingpin who allegedly has connections to the Zeta drug cartel and Hezbollah has been charged with drug dealing and money laundering, the Justice Department and DEA announced Tuesday.

Ayman Joumaa, a.k.a “Junior,” and his associates allegedly shipped an estimated 85,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States and laundered more than $850 million in drug money coming out of Mexico from the Zeta cartel through front companies and The Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB).

In a federal indictment that was unsealed Monday, Joumaa was charged with cocaine distribution and money laundering.

In January, the Treasury Department designated Joumaa a major narcotics trafficker, alleging that he used cash exchange houses in Lebanon that had accounts with the Lebanese Canadian Bank.  A month later the LCB was designated by the Treasury as a “Primary Money Laundering Concern”

According to U.S. officials, Hezbollah has obtained financing from Joumaa and his associates. U.S. officials say some officers with the Lebanese Canadian Bank and subsidiaries have connections with Hezbollah.

The case shows the reach of Hezbollah’s financial support network. U.S. officials have long known about the group operating in South America’s tri-border area in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, where the group runs drugs and large scale counterfeiting networks, according to U.S. officials. In recent years there has been more recent concern about the group establishing a footprint in Central America.

“The defendant’s coordination of money laundering activities occurred in the United States, Lebanon, Benin, Panama, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere,” the indictment alleged.

“According to information from sources, his alleged drug and money laundering activities facilitated numerous global drug trafficking organizations, including the criminal activities of the Los Zetas Mexican drug cartel,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement.

The indictment alleges that Joumaa and his co-conspirators coordinated cocaine shipments from Colombia and Latin America to sell to the Zeta cartel and launder the drug proceeds, charging fees between eight percent and 14 percent for laundering the funds.

“During the course of the conspiracy, the defendant typically picked up between $2 [million] and $4 million at a time in Mexico City,” the indictment said of bulk shipments of U.S. currency that Joumaa and his associates would receive from the drug sales.

“Money fuels the drug trade, and Mr. Joumaa is alleged to be at the center of it all,” U.S. Attorney  Neil MacBride said. “Working with those producing the vast majority of the world’s cocaine to get their drugs safely into the hands of Mexican cartels, and then moving hundreds of millions in proceeds all around the world so the money can’t be traced back to them in Colombia.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Americans Advised Not to Travel to Mexican Border Town for July 4

Lifesize/Agri Press(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Americans are being advised against travelling to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico over the Fourth of July weekend, as authorities warn that a Mexican drug cartel plans on committing criminal acts against visiting Americans over the weekend.

“We urge U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Nuevo Laredo this weekend if it can be avoided,” Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw said in a statement.

Both the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Webb County Sheriff’s Office say they have received credible intelligence that members of the Zetas Cartel are planning on committing crimes against Americans travelling to Nuevo Laredo.

“According to the information we have received, the Zetas are planning a possible surge in criminal activity, such as robberies, extortions, car-jackings and vehicle theft, specifically against U.S. citizens,” said McCraw.

Officials say there is also a possibility of crimes being committed against U.S. nationals in suburbs that surround Nuevo Laredo.

Authorities in Texas say there isn’t any indication that cartel-related criminal activities will occur within that state, but in the event that it does, they are fully prepared to respond.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio