By Daniel Borund
El Paso Times
The latest indictment of reputed drug lord Joaquin "Chapo" Guzmán provides an insight into the Sinaloa drug cartel in Chihuahua as the cartel went to war.
Guzmán along with what U.S. authorities described as the "upper echelon" of the Sinaloa drug cartel were indicted by a federal grand jury in El Paso last month.
Guzmán and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada García, who are named as the co-leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, were indicted with 20 other men accused of being cartel lieutenants, regional bosses and hit men in the states of Chihuahua and Durango.
Several of the defendants are former Juárez and Chihuahua law-enforcement officers allegedly involved in drug trafficking, kidnappings and murders.
The Sinaloa cartel has been at war with the Juárez drug cartel reputedly led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes in a conflict that has spurred violence that has killed some 10,000 people in Juárez alone since 2008.
The Sinaloa cartel is based in Culiacan, Sinaloa, and has a presence throughout Mexico and the United States.
The 14-count indictment includes charges of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, murder in a foreign country, money laundering and drug and weapons charges. Some of the charges are punishable by death.
The document does not discuss the origins of the cartel war, which erupted when an alliance between the Juárez and Sinaloa cartels crumbled regarding their operations in the Chihuahua region.
The indictment stated that a person, known only by the first name of German with the aliases "Paisa" and "German Olivares," is the top lieutenant for Zambada and manages regional cartel lieutenants in Chihuahua, while based in Culiacan.
The war began because Guzmán's people did not approve of "JL" or José Luis Ledesma, a reputed Juárez cartel lieutenant who managed things for Carrillo Fuentes, according to accused drug-trafficker Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal in a filmed interview with Mexican federal police. Ledesma is rumored to be dead.
The indictment names alleged members of two major Sinaloa cartel groups in the Juárez region - the Gente Nueva and the Garduño cell.
The group named the "Gente Nueva," or the new people, broke away from the Juárez cartel and was supported with guns and money by Guzmán and Zambada, according to the indictment.
When the war began, Mario "Mayito" Nuñez Meza, a former Mexican police officer and member of the Juárez cartel, left the Juárez cartel and joined Guzmán, the indictment stated.
Nuñez Meza (aka M-10) was "assigned by Guzmán to secure Juárez, the states of Chihuahua and Durango and Culiacan for the Sinaloa cartel," the indictment stated. Nuñez Meza's brother, Amado Nuñez Meza, (aka M-11) was allegedly in charge of Durango for the Sinaloa cartel.
In the spring of 2011, the Nuñez Meza brothers left the Sinaloa cartel and formed an independent drug trafficking organization, documents stated.
Mario Nuñez Meza had overseen Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, who was tasked with running the Sinaloa cartel's enforcement operations in Juárez.
Prior to the cartel war, Marrufo had been an independent marijuana trafficker out of the town of Villa Ahumada, Chihuahua, the indictment stated. Torres Marrufo would pay a "tax" to Sergio Garduño Escobedo to move drugs through the Juárez smuggling corridor. When the war erupted, Marrufo was one of the founders of the Gente Nueva, and with Guzmán's blessing became the Sinaloa cartel's lieutenant in Juárez and then later the entire region, documents alleged.
Torres Marrufo, according to the indictment, used the logo of a jaguar on cocaine bundles to show ownership. He is also accused of ordering the Horizon City kidnapping and murder of Sergio Saucedo for a lost drug load, and the kidnapping and killing of three men, including a New Mexico bridegroom during a wedding in Juárez.
In February, Mexican federal police arrested Torres Marrufo in the city of Leon, Guanajuato.
The indictment stated that Marrufo's right-hand man was Daniel Franco López (aka Micha, Neon and Fer), who has allegedly taken leadership in Juárez for the Sinaloa cartel since Marrufo's arrest.
The indictment also stated that the Gente Nueva's plaza boss in the Valley of Juárez is Gabino Salas Valenciano, alias "El Ingeniero" (the engineer), who allegedly runs drug security, drug distribution and assassin squads in the region east of Juárez.
Other accused associates of the Gente Nueva named in the indictment are:
- Luis "Bichi" Arellano Romero, a reputed bodyguard for Torres Marrufo. He is the brother of Fernando Arellano Romero, (aka Rayo, 24, Gamma, Blue Demon), an alleged cartel hit man, who is a former member of the Chihuahua state police homicide unit.
- Mario Alberto Iglesias Villegas, an alleged sicario (hitman) also known as Dos, Delta, Parka and the Grim Reaper. He has been arrested by Mexican authorities, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
- Emigdio "Millo" Martínez Jr., a member of a longtime cocaine and marijuana trafficking family in Juárez, who worked with Torres Marrufo, the indictment stated.
- Adrián Avila Ramírez (aka Bam Bam, Tacuba, El 19), who is allegedly an assassin who oversaw cocaine shipments from Guadalajara to the United States via Juárez for Mario Nuñez Meza.
- Valentín Sáenz de la Cruz (aka El Valle or Lic), an alleged cocaine dealer in the Juárez area in custody in Mexico, the DEA said.
- Carlos "Buffalo" Flores, a reputed top lieutenant and trusted friend of Mario Nuñez Meza, who allegedly runs a hit squad and is involved in drug trafficking, documents stated.
The indictment includes several former police officers working for the Sinaloa cartel in a violent cocaine distribution cell allegedly run by Garduño, the former Chihuahua state police commander.
According to the indictment, Garduño, known as "Coma," was a station commander for the Chihuahua state police.
- "Prior to the cartel war, Garduño paid the tax on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel granting them permission from the Juárez cartel to move drugs through the Juárez plaza," the indictment stated.
- Garduño reputedly answers to German and is Zambada's top lieutenant in the Juárez territory, where he oversees security operations and warehouses where cocaine is stored before it is smuggled into the United States.
- According to the indictment, Garduño's cocaine bundles use the logo of Memin Pinguin, a Mexican cartoon character of a black boy that has been criticized as being a racial stereotype.
- Garduño's right-hand man is former Juárez police officer Arturo Lozano Mendez, who oversees the drug warehouses in Juárez, the indictment stated.
- Other indicted members of the Garduño organization are:
- Former Juárez police officers David "Christian" Sanchez Hernández, reputedly one of Garduño's largest drug distributors, and his brother, Ivan Sanchez Hernández.
- Jesús Rodrigo "Huichi" Fierro Ramírez, who is "a large scale cocaine distributor in the Garduño cell who is known for his extreme acts of violence," the indictment stated. Fierro is a former Chihuahua state police officer and used to collect "taxes" from independent drug dealers for the Juárez cartel. Fierro is the half-brother of Lozano.
- Mario de la O Lopez, a "top cocaine distributor" and cell leader, documents stated. He is a former Chihuahua state police officer.
- Arturo Shows Urquidi is allegedly a "core member" of Garduño's cell in Juárez allegedly involved in the unloading of cocaine.
- Salvador Valdez, a reputed large-scale cocaine distributor for the cell.
The Sinaloa cartel supplies a large portion of the drugs crossing the El Paso region and is believed to have cells in hundreds of U.S. cities. A $5 million reward is offered by the U.S. government for information that leads to the arrest of reputed cartel kingpin Joaquin "Chapo" Guzmán, who also faces several other federal indictments.