Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

The Fall of the Azteca Clown

Monday, December 14, 2009 |

Man who says he had role in 200 gang killings arrested.


El Paso Times

A reputed Azteca gang lieutenant allegedly involved in 200 murders was arrested along with other gang members early Thursday at a Mexican army checkpoint on a Juárez street, military officials said.

Antonio Mendoza Ledezma, known as "Sugus" or "El Payaso" (the clown), told authorities he committed about 140 murders and ordered the deaths of about 60 other people in the past seven years, officials with Joint Operation Chihuahua said.

If the admission is true, it would make the short and portly Mendoza not only one of the most prolific murderers in Mexico's deadliest city but also one of the worst killers in world history.

The world's deadliest serial killer is Thug Behram of India, who is said to have murdered 931 people in the 1800s, according to several Web sites about serial killers.

Another serial killer, Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski, was a contract killer reputed to have murdered more than 200 men for the Italian Mafia.

The Aztecas are reputedly allied with the Juárez drug cartel, which is battling the Sinaloa cartel in a war that has claimed more than 4,000 lives in Juárez since January 2008.

Mendoza is accused of leading a crew involved in street-level drug dealing in downtown Juárez, officials said.

The crew also targeted enemies such as the Mexicles and Artistas Asesinos (Artist Assassins) gangs, the Sinaloa cartel and independent drug dealers, known as chapulines (grasshoppers).

Military officials alleged that Mendoza's crew was responsible for killing five Mexicles in an attack last June on a drug rehabilitation center and for the 11 people slain at the Fasterday bar, before the place was set on fire.

At 5:30 a.m. Thursday, Mendoza and three other alleged Aztecas were arrested when their car was stopped at a street checkpoint in the Chaveña area south of downtown Juárez, officials said.

In the car, soldiers found three handguns, an AK-47 and 155 pounds of marijuana.

Also arrested were:

Armando Cañas Hernandez, accused in two murders.
Andres "El Endy" Yañez Vargas, accused in four slayings.
Adrian Rigoberto "Turi Boy" Avila Irigoyen, who is accused in 64 murders after leaving prison earlier this year.

Avila had been arrested in November 2008 on firearm and drug possession charges but was released after three months in prison, military officials said.

At another checkpoint Thursday morning, soldiers arrested Victor Hugo Cano Escobedo, who is also allegedly an Azteca working for Mendoza. Cano is accused in 28 slayings and five kidnappings.

The Aztecas in Mexico are a brother organization to the El Paso-based Barrio Azteca prison gang, which has members in several U.S. cities and has been the focus of FBI organized crime investigations.

The men arrested on Thursday allegedly told Mexican investigators they took direct orders from the Azteca gang boss, who was identified only as "El Kiri" and who lives in Las Vegas.

"We do not believe that is the case," said Special Agent Andrea Simmons, a spokeswoman for the FBI in El Paso. She said the FBI was not aware whether the men arrested in Juárez held any significant leadership rank in the gang.

The Azteca arrests occurred as checkpoints and stops of suspicious vehicles are being increased in Juárez in an effort to find weapons and curb an upswing in killings.

Chihuahua state police reported 13 homicides on Tuesday, 17 on Wednesday and 10 as of Thursday evening, including a city police officer. Jesus Alberto Soto Soria, 31, was shot and killed when gunmen ambushed his patrol vehicle.

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