August 07, 2010 12:20 AM
THE BROWNSVILLE HERALD
A man alleged to have been a member of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel and later of the Zetas criminal organization appeared in U.S. federal court Friday and – when he saw his mother, wife and sister in the room – broke down sobbing, his big frame shaking visibly.
Wearing khaki pants, a wrinkled blue shirt and shackles on his wrists, Luis Alberto Blanco Flores, known as “El Pelochas,” appeared at a preliminary hearing as a follow-up to his arrest on July 23 for illegal entry to the United States.
At the hearing, an agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement testified that Blanco has told authorities that he previously was a high-ranking member of the Gulf Cartel and played a significant role in narcotics distribution. The agent stated that Blanco has been cooperating with U.S. authorities since his arrest.
Friday’s hearing was held in the court of U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan, who asked the agent to reconfirm his information because the court didn’t want to hear testimony based rumors, innuendoes or newspaper articles.
Blanco, 30, was arrested in Brownsville two weeks ago in an operation that involved U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol and Brownsville Police.
According to court documents, he is charged with re-entering the United States illegally after having been previously deported on Sept. 16, 2003.
A Mexican law enforcement official said Blanco previously had been part of the Gulf Cartel but more recently was affiliated with the Zetas organization, working under Arturo Castillo, known as “El Apache.”
Castillo was arrested in Brownsville a day after Blanco in the same interagency operation and also is charged with illegal entry to the U.S. Both men are in the custody of U.S. Marshals, and both will face extradition to Mexico after their cases here are resolved, ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said.
During Friday’s hearing, Blanco and his attorney approached the bench to ask that he be removed from solitary confinement and allowed to join the general jail population.
“My client is going crazy,” attorney Rick Canales told the judge. “He is being treated like a caged dog, being locked in a little tight room.”
At that point, Blanco – wearing earphones so that he could listen to a Spanish translation of the proceedings – broke down again, sobbing as his family members cried and embraced each other. The judge responded that any decision about solitary confinement rests with the U.S. Marshals, not with the court.
A lawyer from the U.S. Attorney’s office asked that Blanco’s bail, currently set at $25,000, be increased, noting that federal authorities have information that Blanco had been a high-ranking member of the Gulf Cartel working under Alberto Castillo, known as “Beto Fabe.” Blanco is not only being held in lieu of bail but also on an immigration detainer.
Beto Fabe, brother of Arturo Castillo, was killed in May. According to a source with firsthand knowledge of criminal activity in Mexico, who for security reasons asked not to be identified, Beto Fabe was the head of the Gulf Cartel in Matamoros but cooperated with the Zetas by letting his brother operate there.
According to the source, after Beto Fabe was killed under orders of Gulf Cartel bosses, his brother and a group of hitmen – including Blanco – began openly attacking Gulf Cartel and police assets.
Arturo Castillo is believed to have ordered a recent attack at the Matamoros Municipal Police station which resulted in the murder of seven officers, authorities have said.
A few days after Castillo’s arrest in Brownsville, 15 bodies with signs of torture were dropped along a Matamoros highway. Each of the bodies reportedly had a large “Z” painted on its back, and sources have said the men were part of Castillo’s group.
At around the same time, the Mexican navy announced that it had arrested 12 Zetas at a motel in San Fernando, all of whom were also part of Castillo’s group. Authorities have said those 12 were among the 14 men killed early Friday in violence at the Matamoros State Prison.
15 alleged Zetas executed Thursday, July 29
Image of several Zetas in a group of 12 executed Monday, July 12
The images above are of the victims of 2 mass executions, both occurring on highways outside of Matamoros, Tamaulipas. These men and women were allegedly members of a Los Zetas cell known as "Grupo Apache" and led by Arturo Castillo, alias "El Apache" and were executed by Gulf Cartel rivals.
Arturo Castillo is also under arrest in Brownsville, Texas. He was detained in the same operation that resulted in the arrest of Luis Alberto Blanco Flores.
Blanco Flores was also a member of this cell that was involved in attacks on police forces and rival Gulf Cartel gangsters.
In further news coming out of Tamaulipas, a unit of Mexico's elite Marine force clashed with a band of Zetas possibly associated with the "Grupo Apache". The Brownsville Herald also covered this story.
Shootout kills 4 in San Fernando
August 07, 2010 12:20 AM
THE BROWNSVILLE HERALD
Four Zetas were killed in a fierce firefight and a cache of weapons was seized, Mexican armed forces reported Friday.
According to a press release from the Mexican Navy, the shootout took place Thursday at approximately 6 p.m. in the city of San Fernando, some 80 miles south of Brownsville along the main highway corridor in Tamaulipas.
Mexican marines were patrolling the area around the city when they came under fire from Zeta members traveling in SUVs, the release said. The marines fought back, killing four Zetas and forcing the rest to flee, according to the statement. The marines didn’t report any casualties.
The marines reported that they seized three SUVs, one of them armored, more than 223,000 pesos (about $17,700), one pound of cocaine, one rocket launcher, six R-15 assault rifles, one AK-47 assault rifle and two .223 assault rifles. The military also seized 10 bulletproof vests and more than 2,600 rounds of ammunition, according to the release.
Link to the SEMAR press release for the San Fernando operation. (Spanish)
Images of weapons seized by Marines in San Fernando