Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Suspect on Zetas' hit list is arrested in San Antonio

Thursday, February 9, 2012 |


Antonio Peña Arguelles was nabbed at his home in the Stone Oak area. He’s suspected of laundering cash for politicos. Photo: Courtesy Photo / SA

My San Antonio News

A man arrested Wednesday in San Antonio laundered money for corrupt Mexican politicians, worked with Mexican drug traffickers and was running for his life from the Zetas cartel, court documents allege.

Federal and state authorities arrested Antonio Peña Arguelles, 56, Wednesday morning at his Stone Oak-area home.

According to a complaint filed by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Peña had been hiding out since November, when members of the Zetas killed his brother, displayed his body in Nuevo Laredo and left a threatening banner.



The banner accused Peña and his brother Alfonso of stealing from the Zetas. It went on to blame them for the death of Rodolfo Torre Cantú, a Tamaulipas gubernatorial candidate assassinated in 2010. The allegations against Peña suggest he used San Antonio as a meeting place — and later a hideout.

“This has been a lengthy investigation by the DEA, IRS and Texas attorney general's office,” said Mauricio Fernandez, head of the DEA in San Antonio. “We have been looking at this person for a while. We know he is tied to the Mexican cartels.”

But Peña's relationship with the cartels had soured, according to the complaint.
The day his brother was killed, according to the document, Peña received a threatening text message from Miguel “El 40” Treviño Morales, the Zetas' No. 2 and, like Peña, a native of Nuevo Laredo.

“Don't be an idiot and pay attention to whom you rob from and about that candidate, it was because of the business you have with (Gulf Cartel boss Jorge Eduardo) Costilla, Tomas (Yarrington Ruvalcaba, a former governor of the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas) and Osiel Cardenas (former head of the Gulf Cartel),” the text read, according to the complaint.

“Your brother also told me about the assumed names of the properties you have with Osiel and I also know that they're in Laredo, Texas, and San Antonio.”

A Mexican-born rancher who lives in Laredo and owns a house and invested in a restaurant on San Antonio's North Side, Peña was an intermediary between corrupt Mexican politicians and leaders of the Zetas drug cartel, the complaint alleges.

In 2008, after being jailed for almost two months in Mexico, Peña retreated to San Antonio. Here, he met with Yarrington, who Mexican officials acknowledged last week is under investigation there along with two other former Tamaulipas governors.

Meeting at a house Yarrington rented in San Antonio, the two discussed a financial dispute with Treviño Morales, according to the complaint.

Peña would pick up drug proceeds in Brownsville, Roma, Laredo and Las Vegas, according to the complaint. The document details bank accounts Peña opened in Texas and California that held more than $10 million as well as millions of dollars in wire transfers from a Mexican bank to a U.S. account in Peña's name.

According to depositions taken during Peña's divorce proceedings in 2009, he kept $5 million in a Swiss bank account and owned ranches in northern Mexico worth $10 million.

It was a ranch that brought Peña into contact with the Zetas and their former Gulf Cartel allies, according to the complaint. One of his ranches was south of Nuevo Laredo, straddling a federal checkpoint, and the Zetas paid him a fee to move drugs through his property, the DEA alleges.

Peña's relationship with the Zetas grew, according to the complaint, and he became the go-between for the cartels and corrupt politicians — first a Nuevo Laredo mayor and eventually the Tamaulipas governor.

He moved to the U.S., launched transportation companies here and began moving in circles with politicians and business leaders.

Phil Jordan, former director of DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center, said it can be hard to distinguish legitimate businessmen from those who launder money for Mexican drug traffickers and corrupt politicians.

“The modus operandi is they stay clear of any contacts with the dope dealers, with the cartel members, and behind the scenes they launder the money through legitimate businesses,” Jordan said. “As a result, they join the chamber of commerce, and unsuspectingly to the real businessmen start rubbing elbows and they become friends to the point where they'll even contribute to politicians on this side of the border.”

The feds allege Peña maintained a relationship with the Zetas, with tragic consequences. According to the complaint, Peña and his brother took almost $5 million from Treviño Morales “in exchange for political protection.”

The brothers simply pocketed the money, the complaint alleges, so the Zetas kidnapped Alfonso Peña in November and killed him.

But a source familiar with the incident told a more harrowing story.

The Zetas believed they'd sent a $5 million bribe to Torre Cantú, who in 2010 was running for governor of Tamaulipas, which stretches along the border from Laredo to Brownsville. But Torre Cantú never received the bribe, the source said, and refused to meet with Zetas' representatives.

Considered a shoo-in, Torre Cantú was killed in June 2010 when a convoy of gunmen attacked his motorcade. His brother Egidio stepped in to take his place on the ballot and now is governor of Tamaulipas.

More than a year later, the source said, the Zetas learned of the betrayal and blamed the Peñas. After his brother's death, Antonio Peña abandoned Laredo and again fled to San Antonio.

He faces up to 20 years in prison on the money laundering charge.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Nowak ordered him held until his Feb. 21 bail hearing.

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25 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

We can only suppose what will be made out of him! I mean - in Mexico he will be obviously killed in prison! And it`s interesting - what form his death would take?!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article, I had been wondering what was going to happen with this Peña guy.

Anonymous said...

For the D.E.A. he's better alive as an informant. I'm sure he has a lot of valuable contacts on his cell phone. Maybe he will be killed once hesgiven up all the info.

Anonymous said...

10:13 AM...He faces 20 years here in the US Bureau of Prisons. Not in Mexico. The crimes he is being prosecuted for were committed here.

Anonymous said...

HE SHOULD GET DROP NEXT TO DA GALLO OF METRO 3 AND FATE TAKE CARE OF HIM

Anonymous said...

esta muy bueno el articulo, pero y al egidio torre, que le va a pasar es obvio que sabia lo que sucedia alrededor de su hermano,, mas claro ni el agua, el pri esta metido asta el tope en el narcotrafico y nadie lo detiene,,,

Anonymous said...

Y daniel peña treviño apa?

Anonymous said...

Todo lo que sube tiene que bajar, hasta que caiste pinche lacra! Ya debias muchas.

Anonymous said...

Antonio Pena aka Tony Pena and his brother Alfonso Poton Pena years ago were doing what el 40 is doing now along with Juan aka El Johnny Dozal and his brother Martin aka El Negro Dozal. On the other side he has been snitching to the DEA about everyone who sells a dime bag of weed or an 8 ball of coke on the streets of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo. Also Juan Dozal aka El Johnny Dozal is a well known snitch for the federales in Mexico. Well I think is payback time for these assholes. All of them can go to HELL. God bless the American Justice System.

Anonymous said...

He deserves to be murked,no if and or buts about it.Stealing money and snitching?Fuckin rat,he's in that world,and there is nothing worse than dealing with someone you have doubts about,whether it be for millions or hundreds,you all take chances to make money,you all keep your mouth shut,and if your caught,tough titty.Your man enough to take the money,be man enough to take the sentence when caught.Do not start dragging people you have known for years with you,just because you are a weak spineless little pussy.I hope they catch up with him .

Anonymous said...

Wow in that message the zssss actually said the truth "ayi bibe en estados unidos protegen los mejores lavadores de dinero I'm quotin their slang"!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

457

And Mexico has los mejores murderers, extortionists, kidnappers, drug gangs, etc

Truth

Anonymous said...

February 9, 2012 11:16 PM And U.S. has the best hypocrites, best criminals, fraud, identity theft, gangs and best black markets in the world.

Anonymous said...

11:16

no they don't. Mexico does. half of your country is run by drug gangs per your own government.

compare crime statistics of both countries and you'll see crime in the US has gone down to historic lows while Mexico is on the verge of becoming a failed state.

why are thousands of Mexicans risking death in the desert or at the hands of the cartels to reach the US?

Truth

Anonymous said...

Mexico a failed state? What about Nixon's Watergate.Clinton sold half the oil reserves. George W Bush when governor of Texas was a good friend of Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba, then governor of Tamaulipas, Yarrington was called back then Z Chief.Before you call Mexico a failed state you should do some research about the Dark Side Of American Politics and read "State Of Denail, Bush at War" part I,II and III by Bob Woodward, then post a comment if you really think that Mexico is a failed state.

Anonymous said...

Sorry it is: State Of Denial. Bush At War.

Anonymous said...

Of course, this explains why over 4 months 15 buses go misssing and 500 people are murdered and there is no investigation.
Sick and corrupt from the top down.
Mexicans love their culture and Mexicans deserve their culture.

Anonymous said...

Well guess wat who needs the drugs the cartels are bringing over ur people idiot how are u gonna reform all these drug addicts u can't so that's why there is corruption and the u.s government is the most corrupt of all moron fast and furious and countless other operations bps cops ice agents dea fbi cia all have been corrupted at one point so yeah get ur facts straight!!!!

Anonymous said...

How many of these u.s. trash talkers actually live in mexico?..Not a single cabron i bet,insipte of all our problems here "IT IS" the best country,the more judicious and the least corrupt. Dont beleive all the crap you read in book,reports,etc,theyre designed to create fame and notoriety for the authors.

Anonymous said...

Guess who imports pre-cursor chemicals into its own ports?Guess who is now the worlds 2nd biggest producer of opium?Guess who is developing its own huge drug intake market?So baby,your sad argument is getting old,your gonna have to think of a new one.Am i right or wrong about these facts?The USA aint got shit on your ass,its your problem baby,you man enough to deal with it,you always tellin us how hard you are.Funny shit.

Anonymous said...

In Mexico as in the US there is corruption at all government levels, also drug addicts and drug traffickers. Corruption has been everywhere since the first form of government was established,, and there is no way to get rid of it. Stop blaming each other and let's try to give our sons and daughters the best education we can, so they have a better chance to succed in life that we had. Education is the only thing no one can take away.

Anonymous said...

Tons of empty businesses in the stone oak and northside areas that are somehow still open, quiet neighbors (internationals) living next door to you with a different car every day. it's sad to think we have terrorists in our own beautiful neighborhoods here in san antonio. I keep my doors locked and windows up at all times when driving, I see all these fair skinned hispanic men and women who I know may not have anything to do with the cartels, but then again their flashy cars, and no proof of a real job gives me enough reason to not trust ANY hispanic person unless I know them already, sad but true.

Anonymous said...

@10:56 PM Right as rain!

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most lame debates no country is perfect. The guy defending the U.S. so much... haven't you ever watched the Michael Moore documentaries!? Every country haves their ups and downs. I love both the US and Mexico!

eddie lewis said...

I have lived and caught cases in Austin, Houston and most recently San Antonio. My point being is I'm an American Hispanic who gets picked out the crowd all the time while my friendly quiet Mexican neighbor always makes it. They get sympathy cause there Mexican and have a house full of kids. I'm tired of it. I also notice all the empty businesses especially off of culebra and 36th area that have been there for years, since I was a kidd visiting grandma up unto this very day. Selling quince dresses my ass. I also do my homework on these types of places and have even stakin a few places out. I will eventually get tired of these Mexicans (my own people) taking our legit jobs and illegitimate ones that I will one day grab my best friend Ak47 & my HK and start ransacking and killing everyone in these places.. I'm tired of all the bullshit going on, give us a piece of the pie or were just going to start to take it. Enough said..

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