Borderland Beat-A Narco Blast From The Past
When Castor Alberto Ochoa-Soto, 53 at the time, walked across the Paso del Norte Bridge to Mexico on Feb. 11, 1995, he likely didn’t realize he was a marked man. But his old friend, Amado Carrillo-Fuentes, wanted his 22 tons of cocaine, which was stored in a Juarez warehouse.
Colombian Drug Lord Unclaimed in Juarez Morgue
by Rafael Nuñez
They asked if I didn’t mind stopping off at the morgue first, since they had to take some pictures of an unidentified body, and because one of the medical examiners had been expecting them for half an hour, he was probably getting impatient.
When we got there, the doctor greeted us at the entrance, and quickly led us past the security guard and into the morgue itself. It was then I remembered something I had been wondering about for the last three years: Whether the body of Castor Alberto Ochoa-Soto, a former high-ranking member of the Medellin Cartel whose death may have led to the fall of Amado Carrillo-Fuentes, was still there in the morgue, unclaimed, since it was discovered buried in a narco-grave back in November of 1999.
Four days earlier, in the federal courthouse in El Paso, a federal jury had declared him not guilty of bringing into the U.S. a six-ton shipment of cocaine. An immigration judge then ordered Ochoa expelled from the U.S.
His Colombian lawyers had advised him to take up the immigration judge’s offer to be deported to Colombia. They had warned him not to return to Mexico. But Ochoa’s Mexican lawyer, Antonio Tarazón-Navarro, had told him he would be safe. After all, Tarazón had been a Mexican federal attorney for many years before returning to private practice, and he knew the ropes, and had many powerful contacts in the Mexican government.
Ochoa had weighed all the advice and recommendations. And then he had made his decision: He would agree to be “voluntarily returned” to Ciudad Juárez, where he had 22 tons of cocaine stored and where he had previously brokered so many high-volume drug deals with his old friend Carrillo, who controlled the city’s drug trade.
What Ochoa couldn’t have known that Saturday morning as he walked south on the downtown international bridge was that his “old friend” had already ordered his death.
|Ochoa Brothers-At their peak worth 6B each|
By late 1987, the cocaine trade was booming in other areas of Mexico, and Ochoa had decided to center his operations in Hermosillo, Sonora. In 1989 Amado arrived to take over the family business after his older brother Cipriano Carrillo-Fuentes, the top drug capo in the region, was murdered in 1989.
By then Ochoa, settled in Hermosillo, divorced his Colombian wife – an act that had generated many problems inside the Ochoa clan back in Colombia – and married a beautiful young local named Nora Sandoval, a move that made him appear more trustworthy in the eyes of his Mexican colleagues. He had four residences in four different Mexican states, all strategically located very close to clandestine airfields where small, Cessna-type planes loaded with cocaine landed on a regular basis. His favorite property was in the southern state of Quintana Roo, where along with a large agricultural farm, he also enjoyed the benefits of a government contract, with state-government financing, in which he used his heavy equipment machinery to execute a regional reforestation project.
Ochoa was an expert in the distribution and transportation of cocaine, and had worked in that capacity for all the main Colombian drug cartels. He knew all the angles, all the connections between producers, packers, and all the intermediaries who move shipments or loads throughout Mexico. He also knew quite a bit about the distribution contacts, networks and routes in the U.S. So in all those aspects, he greatly to Amado’s understanding of how the whole business worked.
That longed-for moment might have been July 4, 1997, when Carrillo died on an operating table in a second-rate hospital in Mexico City, while he was having plastic surgery to change his face, in an attempt to evade capture by the U.S. and Mexican authorities once and for all.
The official report said that Amado had died as a result of the anesthesia — that the anesthesiologist had applied too much of it. Curiously, several nurses and other hospital personnel present during the surgery told the authorities that an “unknown doctor” had walked into the operating room several times, and then disappeared.
The other actor, Carrillo, had a different kind of send off. In fact, he may have received more attention from Ochoa’s family than did Ochoa.
In Guamuchilito, Sinaloa, the rural Mexican hamlet where Amado was born, the Jefe de Jefes’ funeral was held in mid-July of 1997.
|Amado Carrillo "Lord of the Skies"|
Below: The remains of two of the three plastic surgeons who botched Carrillo's surgery.
The Carrillo-Fuentes family had received many, many floral arrangements and funeral wreaths, but in their grief, they had let some of the village people set these next to the coffin without reading the cards to see who they came from. “The whole village was there at the funeral,” said a villager with whom I spoke on a visit to Hermosillo. They were there, he said, to honor the memory of one who, to them, had been a hero: He built outdoor cement basketball courts and several other sports playing fields; he had renovated the village church; he had personally paid for the medical treatments of many villagers, including expensive surgeries in faraway hospitals; and his family had employed and helped almost everyone in Guamuchilito.
“After the funeral, when some of us were helping the family clear away the funeral wreaths, we couldn’t help ourselves and out of curiosity started reading the cards that accompanied these wreaths. Somebody noticed that one of the cards said ‘All good things come to those that know how to wait’ and near the bottom of the card, right before an illegible signature, ‘Greetings from the Ochoa family in Colombia.’ We thought we should notify one of Amadito’s brothers or sisters about this card.
“After they read it, they asked us to point out the wreath that had come with this card. It was composed entirely of black roses. One of Amadito’s brothers, and one of his sisters, quickly picked up the wreath, set the card back on it, and then took into the house. This was the only wreath they kept. All the other ones were thrown away and eventually burned.”
About the author: Rafael Nunez is an award-winning bilingual journalist working in the Juárez/El Paso area since 1994, including a stint covering the narco-beat for El Norte.
All Photos added by Chivis