Five suspected Los Zetas cartel members, including a man who allegedly served as the criminal organization’s paymaster in about 20 cities in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, were arrested by marines, the Navy Secretariat said Thursday.
Marines received a tip about the “suspicious movements of armed people” in the Hacienda Las Palmas section of the city of Escobedo, the secretariat said.
An armed man got out of a vehicle parked outside a house, spotted the marines and tried to hide in the dwelling.
The marines went after the subject and arrested several individuals, the secretariat said.
Juan Carlos Morales Magallanes, suspected of being a Los Zetas financial operator, Karla Viridiana Santos Mar, Monica Maribel Parra Mendoza, Jose Refugio Lopez Reyna and Luis Enrique de la Garza Lopez were detained by the marines.
The 26-year-old Morales Magallanes is an accountant who “was in charge of preparing and disbursing the criminal organization’s payroll, mainly in the metropolitan area of Monterrey,” the capital of Nuevo Leon and Mexico’s largest industrial city, the secretariat said.
Morales Magallanes was in charge of the payroll for Zetas members in the cities of Cienega de Flores, China, Santiago, Monterrey, Villa Garcia, General Escobedo, Allende, Marin, Apodaca and Montemorelos, among others, the secretariat said, citing military intelligence reports.
The 28-year-old Santos Mar was apparently responsible for renting buildings for the cartel, acquiring vehicles, paying for services and working on the payrolls for Nuevo Leon.
Marines seized a handgun, two rifles, three fragmentation grenades, nine ammunition clips, 249 rounds of ammunition, a silencer, 249 doses of cocaine, two vehicles, 2.06 million pesos (about $152,600) and $2,000 in cash.
The suspects were handed over to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.
Los Zetas, considered Mexico’s most violent drug cartel, mainly operates in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and San Luis Potosi states.
Los Zetas has been battling an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels, known as the Nueva Federacion, for control of the Monterrey metropolitan area and smuggling routes into the United States.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.