Sunday, June 7, 2015

'The Heroin Merchant': The Laredo-San Antonio Heroin Wars

Lucio R. Borderland Beat from Texas Monthly, BB Archives, The Heroin Merchant

Drug rings in Texas said they were  tougher than the Mafia and they killed  to prove it
by Lucio R
Borderland Beat poster “Tinman” posted the link to this article from the Texas Monthly archives of the 70s.    If you have not heard of Fred Carrasco or The Laredo-San Antonio Heroin Wars, or even if you have, this trip down memory lane is well worth time investment.

An astonishing era of drug trafficking history that leaves a reader questioning the story,  “How could this happen?”  Yet it did.  And it rivals any other time period or story that has evolved from Mexican drug trafficking history. 

The main “character” of that time is Federico “Fred” Carrasco who was the first U.S. born drug trafficker who rose to a leadership position in Mexico’s organized crime world. His reign was well before Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villareal, and reaching a status that Valdez could only aspire to.

From BB archive post, reporter  Gerardo describes Carrasco this way:
"Born and raised in San Antonio Texas, Fred Gomez Carrasco was, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the biggest and deadliest drug lord on the Texas-Mexico border, overseeing a cocaine and heroin empire that stretched from Guadalajara to San Diego, California, and Chicago, Illinois.

It was suspected by law enforcement personnel of the day that he personally committed at least 47 murders during his criminal career.

Carrasco’s organization was also responsible for the murders of dozens of other victims, mostly other gang members, in Laredo and San Antonio, Texas, and across other cities in Texas and the U.S.

Gomez Carrasco was based in Nuevo Laredo after taking the city in a brutal war that mirrored today’s drug gang violence and lawlessness. Around 100 victims of execution style murders including more than two dozen policemen were left in the wake of the struggle that ousted the equally ruthless Reyes-Pruneda clan from regional control of drug trafficking."
The book “Fred Carrasco: The Heroin Merchant”, chronicles Carrasco to his violent end,   culminating in an 11 day standoff, while he was  incarcerated in Huntsville Texas.  Those 11 days seized  a global audience  as Carrasco held court in what would be his last stand.

His “Trojan Horse”, his prison shop made armor headgear, the hostages, negotiations, that ended in what authorities claim was “suicide”,  was a spellbinding event in of its self.  The truth will never be known in full, as prison authorities  systematically destroyed all evidence before an investigation could begin.

Striking is the last paragraph in “The Heroin Merchant” (1975), which tells us, no matter which cartel is weakened, which capo is eliminated, what advances are developed in technology, or criminal investigation,  this form of criminality has been undeterred.  Irrespective of how the so called “Drug War” is repackaged, it is at the end of the day, a colossal failure, using virtually the same weapons against a most formidable foe has resulted in the same end.  It is long past the time to be bold and take the criminality out of the equation, it may be our best shot of a means to an end;
“When a dope ring falls, another is ready to take its place.  The quick profits of the narcotics trade will always attract energetic participants who are willing to run the risk of being caught.  The risks are great, and the raids, arrests and convictions do hurt.  Faces will change and with few exceptions, narcotics businessmen do not stay in the business for long.
‘The business’, nevertheless, ....is better than ever” quote from The Heroin Merchant
Texas Monthly article by john moore and reed holland August 1973

The Laredo-San Antonio Heroin Wars

A PORTUGUESE FREIGHTER BOWS through the Gulf of Mexico for the old Spanish mercantile port of Tampico, bearing in a camouflaged hold a cargo cultivated in Turkey, refined in Morocco, destined for market in the funky bowels of Detroit. A stevedore tickets the hold of fish for delivery in Ciudad Victoria, where an adroit businessman removes stamped cellophane packages from the visceral cavities of the fish. He adds a drop of caramel coloring to the crystals (brown heroin is presumably Mexican in origin, presumably cut fewer times, hence more profitable) transfers the packages to beef carcasses, and relinquishes the shipment northward toward Monterrey.

Or maybe the brown stuff that arrives in Monterrey is truly Mexican; straight from poppy fields near Morelia, laboratories in Guadalajara, middlemen in San Luis Potosí. Or maybe the crystals are cocaine, smuggled from Peru into the Pacific port of Manzanillo. Or if the entrepreneurs are willing to settle for a smaller margin of profit, perhaps the contraband is Mazatlán marijuana that survived the token torches and foreign-relations cameras of the federales, flown in bales by small craft over the Sierra Madre Occidental range to an airfield near Durango, transferred then to Volkswagen vans bound for Torreón, Monterrey, and a different breed of distributor. But regardless of their origin, the drugs in all likelihood move northward toward Nuevo Laredo, toward impatient American consumers.

For years some members of familial clans called the Gaytans and the Reyes-Prunedas have been competing in the Nuevo Laredo area for control of the narcotics traffic. The Gaytans are a shadowy bunch reputed to have cornered a healthy slice of the marijuana market; the Reyes-Prunedas operate from a ranch in the desolate country southwest of Nuevo Laredo, a ranch that in fact is an armed camp where one may exchange almost anything of value (guns preferred) for smack, coke, reds, anything. A U.S. Customs officer grows a beard, penetrates the compound with an American dealer, and comes back rather shaken. He tells stories of machine guns, battlefield mortars, and mustachioed, cartridge-belted bandoleros who look like a lost battalion of Zapatistas.

Drugs are big business in both the rich Estados Unidos and the developing Republic of Mexico. In 1970 the head of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police—by comparison, a sort of U.S. Attorney General and FBI director combined—jet-sets himself into financial disaster, turns to the most propitious means of making money, gets arrested in an American city holding 89 pounds of heroin, and slits his throat in a Texas jail. An American president responds to the drug influx by virtually strangling tourist traffic along the Texas border. The Mexican government responds to that emergency by assigning the apparently incorruptible Everado Perales Rios to command the federal police in the ungovernable northlands, but that is a perilous assignment.

At some point the competition between the Gaytans and the Reyes-Prunedas flares into open warfare. American tourists and horny youths continue to foray into a battle ground that over a three-year period claims the lives of perhaps 90 clan members, subordinates, cops and bystanders. Another shadowy figure enters the picture. Francisco Bernal Lopez circuits the globe in his leisure, a leisure supported in part by a Nuevo Laredo law practice specializing in the criminal defense of narcotics traffickers. The Mexican press contends he is more than an attorney; they call him “El Ahogado del Diablo” (the Devil’s Advocate) and “El Padrino” (the Godfather). Shortly after a Nuevo Laredo newspaper runs a story questioning Bernal’s role in the illicit industry, a machine-gunner sprays the newspaper’s pressroom with a short precautionary burst. Bernal finally breaks his silence and tells reporters on the streets of Nuevo Laredo that he is only interested in ensuring justice for his clients.

For a while the new appointee Perales plays havoc with the operations of the clans, particularly the Reyes-Prunedas. Their ranch is raided repeatedly; one raid is cancelled because the federales can’t come up with the $500 advance per station wagon demanded by Hertz Rent-A-Car. The traffickers stop shooting each other, directing their aim instead at the governmental irritants. Police Commandant Perales confides to his American counterparts that there is a price on his head, and on July 28, 1972, somebody collects: Perales is assassinated. A Mexican tabloid prints a photograph of Perales’ last facial expression, and the Nuevo Laredo traffickers brace themselves for the governmental counter attack.

The Mexican government responds to the outrage by sending 250 support troops into Nuevo Laredo, and another machine-gunner strafes a truck carrying a contingent of the soldiers. But in September, 1972 a busted Mexican dealer in Guadalajara starts talking about the assassination.

The dealer accuses members of all three corners of the Gaytan-Pruneda-Bernal triangle of conspiracy in the assassination. The Nuevo Laredo jail begins to fill up and for good measure the federales raid the Pruneda compound one last time. About 20 subordinates surrender, two young clansmen run like Robert Redford and Paul Newman into a hail of bullets, while the matriarch of the clan sits inside in stony defiance. Inside, the federales find a ton of marijuana and 179 sticks of dynamite, destined, some said, for the Nuevo Laredo jail. Bernal, the Devil’s Advocate, goes to Europe.

What is this, a movie? Could all this really happen? The Mexican press maintains it did, and their warier American counterparts tend to agree. If it did and still does, how do the drugs cross the Rio Grande? Any American youth with long hair and a work shirt can make a score on the streets of Nuevo Laredo, but chances are the Mexican dealer will alert his business partner in uniform, arrests will be made, everybody will get a cut, and the confiscated drugs will await sale to another American fool. Who moves the big shipments? Who are the American counterparts of the Prunedas? Where is the distribution point? What’s the connection, as it were? Why, clear Customs, bless your stars you’re back in Texas, and just follow the highway bluebonnets to San Antone.

On August 26, 1971, U. S. Customs officers stopped a car driven by one Luis Alberto Azcarraga Milmo on the International Bridge in Laredo. In a secret trunk compartment they found 24 pounds of heroin. The plastic-wrapped, breadbox-sized package wasn’t a record haul. Stateside street values for the package, broken into fix-sized envelopes, would probably be about $12 million, less than half the size of the $32 million, 120 pound French Connection shipment in 1962. But police weren’t interested as much in the value of the shipment as they were in the two phone numbers they found in Azcarrage Milmo’s wallet. The numbers were those of Jesus Carrasco Santoy of San Antonio. While street estimates of the value of heroin are mostly products of statistical imagination, the phone numbers were real.

Two telephone numbers aren’t exactly bulwarks of conspiratorial evidence, but the San Antonio Police Department was delighted to see anything pinned on Santoy. In an extensive investigation, San Antonio cops had identified Santoy as the “big man” of a Mexican-American drug ring known as “The Dons” who boasted they were “tougher than the Mafia and would kill to prove it.”

Jesse Santoy doesn’t look like your everyday mobster. He is balding, pot-bellied; he stutters. In the past he worked on construction gangs, drove a long-haul produce truck, and served time in a federal pen for a narcotics rap. He has a reputation for paranoia: He was often seen wearing disguises during the investigation and once boarded up the windows of his own house. Much of the time during the year-long surveillance he drove around San Antonio in a battered pickup and a faded baseball cap.

Santoy in fact seems to have avoided the dirtier work of the Dons. Cast as something of a broker, he often abandoned his pickup for a Cadillac and an orbit of international jet rides that paralleled European-American drug routes. Santoy’s connections were not limited to the Dons; San Antonio police contend he dealt regularly with most of the large Texas drug rings and at least one major underworld figure, Carlos Marcello. Santoy worked on a large scale, but he was very, very careful. Nobody ever seemed to know exactly what he was up to. He never moved in the same patterns, never revealed his deals in advance, never cut the shipments in the same motel room. Even after watching Santoy for a year, the narcs had a case based on apiece of paper in Azcarraga Milmo’s hip pocket.

Prime movers in the San Antonio investigation were a 290-pound police sergeant named Bill Weilbacher—endeared on the streets of San Antonio’s west side barrio as the “Fat Man”—and his partners Harry Carpenter and Tommy Lauderdale. Weilbacher is given to silk suits and diamond rings and over the years has cultivated the biggest crop of informants in the state of Texas.

Weilbacher’s human mountain physique and tough guy scowl are the perfect complement to Carpenter’s softspoken friendliness in the old mean-guy-nice-guy interrogation technique. If a suspect could be made to talk with any combination of intimidation and cajolery, Bill Weilbacher and Harry Carpenter could get the information they were after.

Weilbacher’s felony squad had tapped enough information in San Antonio to identify Santoy as the Dons’ broker and name ten other “shotguns” and “mules.” Shotguns were the middle-echelon foremen who supervised the transactions; the mules were the lowest-ranking couriers who actually shuttled the drugs across the border. The way Weilbacher figured, when Santoy had a shipment moved across, the shotguns arranged for subsequent sales in San Antonio and watched the transactions from a distance, while the mules, many of whom were users, delivered the goods and picked up the money. The mules were thus easiest to catch, but they weren’t much good to the detectives unless they knew something and were willing to talk. A favorite police tack was to drive up to a mule’s house, sit down on the patrol car’s hood, and talk things over with the mule in full view of the neighbors, the theory being that the mules might talk just to remove police from the premises.

“Tony de la Garza was a big dummy of a mule—scared of most everything,” Harry Carpenter remembers. Tony had every right to be frightened in the summer of 1971. He had been the victim of a heroin bust earlier in the year but had beaten the rap because of unwarranted search and seizure. However, the higher-ranking Dons apparently weren’t sure exactly what had been discussed in the office of the Bexar County district attorney. On September 13, 1971 Tony’s pregnant wife survived a vicious beating and stabbing and told police her attackers were “friends” of her husband’s. Four days later, her husband’s dead body was found in Olmos Park.

Later in the fall, a Bexar County grand jury began to sniff out the possibilities of organized crime in the San Antonio area, and the odor was strong enough to catch the attention of Rep. Henry B. Gonzales. He flew from Washington with assurances of federal assistance in the investigation. “They’ve got some guys in Nuevo Laredo who think they can organize a Mafia structure there,” he told the press.

Everyone appreciated the congressman’s concern, particularly the Dons who had left San Antonio with the Narcs snapping at their heels. One of those Nuevo Laredo expatriates ventured back to San Antonio a few weeks later and allegedly remarked in drinking company that he was in the market for a hit man to take care of Gonzales. An Express News reporter heard the story and dismissed it as beery bravado and dubious hearsay, but San Antonio’s other daily, the Light, broke the story a few days later with repercussions in the national press.

The author of the alleged assassination threat was Frederico Carrasco Gomez. Physically, Carrasco is a smaller, darker Bill Weilbacher. Born in 1940, Freddie first danced in the arms of the law November 28, 1958, when police accused him of shooting a young man lured out of a San Antonio dance hall by a 15 year old girl friend, stealing a getaway car, and fleeing to Del Rio. A few pages of police records later, Carrasco wound up in a federal pen in Atlanta after a narcotics conviction. Paroled, Carrasco returned to San Antonio, and extremely ambitious, soon leapfrogged past mules and shotguns on the way to the top. Weilbacher says that by November 1971, Carrasco was the number two man, “Don Ramon.” While Jesse Santoy forayed abroad to assure future enterprises, his cousin Freddie engineered operations at home.

Part of Freddie’s wardrobe is a pair of .45s that some people would credit with as many as 20 notches apiece, but while Santoy looked like a truck driver, Carrasco was never without a Windsor knot and stylish jacket. During that time he moved about in style with his wife Rosa, a trim, mileaged beauty who is the sister of a lower-ranking, Don, Tino Leyva.

In his leisure time Freddie set up his father, a former automobile porter, with a bar in Macdona and bought two lots there for $30,000. He sank about $20,000 more into the construction of another posh club of Moorish architecture, but the club never opened. Investigators began following the organization everywhere, at times outnumbering construction workers at the club site.

Detective Carpenter says, “About the fall of ‘71 the heat got so bad around here that Freddie thought he’d better move to Nuevo Laredo.”

Freddie operated in Nuevo Laredo from a home that looked like a shack on the outside and a Playboy retreat on the inside. In the words of the San Antonio police report, he “moved back and forth across the border like a taxpayer.” However, Freddie’s darker nature had begun to surface. San Antonio police believe Pete Guzman, the number-three Don and the organization’s contract killer, murdered Tony de la Garza under Carrasco’s orders, along with two lower-ranking Dons. But even the higher ranking Dons were not above Freddie’s suspicion. Weilbacher says Carrasco had decided “he wanted to kill everybody in the country, and Santoy wanted out.”

In San Antonio conspiracy charges arising from the arrest of Azcarraga Milmo on the Nuevo Laredo bridge were still pending against Santoy. Internal Revenue agents had expressed an interest in $70,000 he had accrued during the first six months of 1972, and he was under almost constant surveillance: A Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs official estimated his agency expended 10,000 man hours on Santoy during the year-long investigation. On April 18, police found a red Mustang near Ft. Sam Houston with its engine still warm, three bullet holes in the driver’s window, a bloody shoe in the floorboard, and a bloody Santoy fingerprint on the windshield. The San Antonio papers naturally surmised Jesse had gone to his reward, but a week later he checked out of a San Antonio motel in apparently good health. Santoy told one officer that the ambush was a ruse designed to get him off the hook, and told another the attack was terribly genuine, that the blood had come from his broken nose. In either case, it is probably safe to say Jesse wanted out.

As the result of a separate investigation, a federal grand jury in Houston indicted Santoy of conspiracy with Houston and Lafayette, Louisiana, men to sell heroin and requested his arrest.

On August 9, agents of the BNDD served the warrant on Castroville Road, near the San Antonio Airport and found in Santoy’s car forty pounds of lactose—the milk sugar used to cut heroin. In a development that may or may not be related, San Antonio users started dropping like October flies. In less than a week five users violated themselves expecting the purple rush of heroin and got a fatal jolt instead. A normal fix contains about 15% heroin; they were getting 75% pure stuff.

Out on $150,000 bond, Santoy checked into a San Antonio osteopathic clinic complaining of chest pains the first week in November and got his trial postponed. A month later, Santoy conferred with his attorney, told him they would meet in court the next day, and vanished. Santoy was subsequently indicted for the Azcarraga Milmo conspiracy and a judge set his bond at $500,000, but Santoy must have been smiling at his trackers like an upper-handed fox. When last seen Jesse was in Spain, reportedly moving in the company of his old buddy Azcarraga Milmo, who had shot his way out of the Webb County jail with the aid of an ambivalent trusty.

While Santoy tripped through questionable ambushes and pulmonary pains in the United States, the heat on Carrasco had increased on the Mexican side of the river. Most members of Carrasco’s San Antonio gang were busted or dead by early 1972, but along with his top lieutenant, Pete Guzman, Carrasco put together another Nuevo Laredo organization. However, Carrasco was an interloper south of the Rio Grande, and everybody seems to agree he had to affect some sort of accommodation with the powerful Gayton-Pruneda-Bernal detente in order to operate in Nuevo Laredo. Additionally, Carrasco’s gang apparently got caught in a crossfire between the federales and the native Nuevo Laredo traffickers. Carrasco’s gang was probably involved in a February 1972 shootout in Nuevo Laredo that claimed the life of a federale, and a month later another gun battle in Monterrey resulted in the capture of two of Carrasco’s subordinates. There is also some indication that a Pruneda subordinate was “accidentally” shot in one of the battles.

At the beginning of summer 1972 the Mexican government dispatched the dedicated federal police chief, Everado Perales to clean up the area, and in six weeks he kicked a sizeable dent in the trade, intercepting record shipments of the contraband powder. But on July 28 an ambitious hit man collected a Mexican Mafia marksmanship medal by placing four submachine gun rounds in a tight pattern in Perales’ left temple. From a moving car. In broad daylight.

The Mexican government shuttled troops into the area, and Rep. Gonzales flew home with the historically reminiscent suggestion that the State Department pressure the Mexican government into allowing American “hit-squads” of American federal agents to pursue the traffickers across the border. Shades of General Pershing, the Seventh Cavalry, and Pancho Villa.

Nuevo Laredo had clearly become habitable only for grandmother whores and the horniest of drunks, and Carrasco apparently took his gang south to the Mexican interior. Wilson McKinney, a scholarly reporter working the federal beat for the Express-News, translated reports of Freddie’s movements in the Mexican press.

Most of the pieces in the puzzle of Freddie’s whereabouts came from press accounts of alleged confessions from gang members. The individual crimes and amounts of drugs Freddie supposedly dealt in are only allegations, but Freddie nevertheless emerges as the top man in a large scale trafficking organization.

While in the southlands another San Antonio Don apparently fell from Carrasco’s favor. Long-time gang member Pete Guzman, who was wanted for the Olmos Park murder of de la Garza the mule, had advanced to the rank of number-three because he had the readiest trigger finger of the bunch, but he began to brag that Carrasco was merely his lieutenant. The boast probably indicates a rift between the two, for Pete Guzman very shortly stole a passport and returned to San Antonio. Guzman returned to San Luis Potosí during the spring, and in a fit of badly miscalculated machismo shot a bartender for tolerating the presence of a Mexican homosexual in his establishment. Pete got out on bond, but his high profile had apparently become a liability. Someone rewarded Pete with 45 bullets, clothed his body in trousers, slippers and bathrobe, and laid him to rest in a ditch.

“Freddie says he didn’t kill Pete,” Weilbacher says, “but I don’t believe him.”

A Mexican national named Benito Juarez Melendez claims to have taken Guzman’s place as Carrasco’s top lieutenant, but he may have been just another mule. Like all new initiates into the gang, he had to take the blood oath of sincerity and silence. According to Melendez, Freddie received shipments of heroin and cocaine in Guadalajara, cut the drugs, and relinquished them to Melendez, who ran them to the frontier.

Carrasco was again living regally, but on September 20, 1972, federales broke into gang residences and found 213 pounds of heroin, an amount twice that involved in the fabled 1962 French Connection, but inflation had hit the street too: The Guadalajara haul was valued at $100 million.

At first the federales didn’t know exactly whom they had, but then they found a copy of the secret San Antonio police report. A routine cast, a trophy catch. A Guadalajara newspaper headlined the story, “Now After the Vile Birds of the Narcotics Traffic.”

The federales packed Carrasco, eleven subordinates, and the tribal women off to jail. One of the subordinates said he was an honest agriculturist and functionary in local Indian government, another claimed he was in international cosmetics, two more said they were “simple peasants, country folk.” But the federales would have none of that; they had that confidential report, courtesy of Xerox and a security leak. Carrasco protested the retention of his wife by first trying to jump out a window, then holding a sliver of glass against his throat at a suicidal angle for five hours. The federales released Rosa, but her husband’s troubles were just beginning.

Who should show up at that point but the author of the report, the Fat Man himself. What Bill Weilbacher was doing in Guadalajara is still a subject of spirited speculation, but there he was. The Mexicans were apparently in the throes of translating the report and all they knew was that Weilbacher’s name was on the report, so they threw his ample behind in jail. A slightly incredulous Fred Carrasco told Weilbacher, “I never thought I’d be glad to see you.”

Freddie congratulated Weilbacher on the accuracy of the report, and he also communicated fears he would never leave the Guadalajara jail alive. There was some substance to his fears. Freddie’s half-brother, Robert Zamorra Gomez, was one of those arrested, and Weilbacher says he saw Zamorra escorted beltless into a cell. Three days later, Zamorra was found strangled with his own belt. Hanged himself.

On September 26 Freddie appeared in court with his lawyers, and with tears in his eyes said the federales had stripped him, beat him, tortured him with electric cattle prods, and stuffed his head into a bucket filled with human urine and excrement. Moreover, he accused three federales of murdering his half-brother. The magistrates listened, and sent him back to jail.

The federales released reports to the press that Freddie made a full statement, but Weilbacher contends he confessed nothing. However, Benito Melendez, the new addition to the gang, apparently forgot his oath and sang like a canary. According to published accounts, Melendez confessed that the gang had been involved in major trafficking, but he denied that the Dons had anything to do with the Perales assassination. Melendez supposedly fingered Pedro Gaytan as an “intellectual author” of the plot and laid the blame for the actual deed on the globe-trotting attorney, Francisco Bernal, Pruneda Clansman, Fermin Reyes Martinez, and two other trigger-men.

Carrasco subsequently made his way out of the Guadalajara jail, and when safe on Texas soil, he mailed letters naming the three federales he said murdered his half-brother. But the affair had cut his international roving grounds in half. Shortly after the Melendez confession the federales arrested Martinez, and Bernal skipped the country. Regardless of the validity of the Melendez confession, Freddie Carrasco was in trouble on both sides of the border and, more critically, on both sides of the law because one of his gang had hung the assassination of Perales on the Nuevo Laredo traffickers.

Freddie moved around in South Texas with three bodyguards, reportedly lingering in Macdona long enough to attend a family conclave, drinking beer in a south San Antonio cantina, surfacing in Bandera, Del Rio. San Antonio cops, South Texas sheriff’s deputies, and Texas Rangers banqueted in Uvalde to prepare themselves for the final confrontation with Freddie Carrasco. Officers throughout the southwest were looking for him, but in May Freddie was still at large. Weilbacher explained, “He’s got a lot of money and only two or three people know where he’s at. Everybody’s afraid of him.”

Twelve of Carrasco’s San Antonio runners reportedly had a right to be. Police theorize that when Carrasco got jailed in Guadalajara his San Antonio operators apparently wrote the boss off and pocketed his share of the take. According to the police theory, Carrasco returned to Texas to find he had missed out on some deals with profit running to six figures, and he allegedly drafted an execution list bearing the names of 12 of his remaining subordinates.

On March 10 Gilbert Escobedo, 33, the money-man of the organization, sat at the bar in a San Antonio “ice house” nursing Schlitz beer. A barmaid says a man matching Carrasco’s description came in so well-dressed and courteous that she suspected he was a vice officer. She says the man sat at a booth, ordered a beer, chatted with her briefly, then said he needed to talk to the man on the barstool. The man resembling Carrasco walked to the bar, pulled two pistols, shot Escobedo enough times to be sure, then calmly turned toward the door. A brave witness tried to apprehend the gunman, and got clipped over his ear with a gun butt for his trouble.

On April 8, Roy Lopez Castano and Agapito Ruiz, the mules who had taken Tony de la Garza’s place in the organization, sat in a car on FM 1518 in southeast Bexar County. Ruiz had recently been served with a federal grand jury subpoena, and the police were looking for Castano. Ruiz’ legs were folded beneath him in a posture of amenable conversation when he was shot in the back of the head. Castano was shot in the back of the neck, apparently ran nearly half a mile, then took a fatal slug in the chest. The San Antonio police announced that Carrasco was wanted for questioning.

On Mother’s Day a man matching Carrasco’s description appeared at the information desk in crowded Mission County Park in San Antonio and paged Joe Garcez. A slender young man by that name promptly vaulted a fence and ran for his life, or so it appeared to the startled picnickers. Garcez and his glowering young friends Valentine Salinas and David Garcia had been arrested holding 300 grams of heroin and $13,000 in cash shortly before Carrasco’s bust in Guadalajara. They got out of jail, however, and Garcez and Garcia continued to deal with a ruthlessness that convinced Weilbacher’s lieutenant, Harry Carpenter, that they were bound for the top.

Garcez and Garcia luxuriously renovated a 1930 Ford with their dividends, and they were driving the coupe in south Bexar County the night of June 6 when another car pulled alongside and a 9mm Luger slug shattered the driver’s window and lodged in the brain of Garcia. The coupe overturned, scattering soft-drink bottles and horror comic books, then Garcez apparently got out and tried to run. Police found him the next morning a few feet away, three 9 mm slugs in his back. Agapito Ruiz and Roy Castano also died from 9 mm bullet wounds, and their bodies were found at a site about a mile away from the overturned Ford. Police surmised there might be a connection.

Of the 12 names on Carrasco’s alleged list, five are now dead, two are comparatively safe in state prison, and the rest, as a Bexar County lieutenant put it, are running and hiding.

At this point, San Antonio radio stations, television stations, and newspapers start appealing to secretive informants. Officers are warned they shouldn’t try to take Freddie on alone. “Bad hombre” becomes the watch-word of law-and-order coffee breaks throughout South Texas. The FBI tries to promote Freddie to the Ten Most Wanted list. But Freddie makes no attempt to flee the state, moving around with apparent realization that he has an early date with the Texas soil. He reportedly swears he is not going alone; a state narc contends Carrasco called Weilbacher and told him his number was nearly up too. The fat man dismisses the suggestion with a flip of the french cuff. “Those bastards will have to stand in line to get me,” he says. “But what I am afraid of is that some highway patrolman is going to pull him over and he’s going to come out shooting.”

We asked Weilbacher for a more intimate reading of the man he has hunted for two years. “I think he’s crazy—and I don’t mean he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He wants to be some kind of folk hero, the kind of guy they sing about in beer joints.”

Freddie Carrasco has very likely been accused of more crimes than he had time to commit, but the whole affair is an indication of just how pervasive drug trafficking has become in San Antonio. Gruesome as the figure of Freddie Carrasco is, he is at worst only one link in a huge international chain, and even the San Antonio cops concede the extinction of one gang can’t stem the flow of drugs into the city. The mules will continue to make the transfers, and Carrasco’s ethnic brothers and sisters will continue to take the rap. Chamber of Commerce poets call San Antonio one of America’s four unique cities, and they’re right. But before long, unless something is done, the novelists and screenwriters are going to start looking past San Antonio’s beauty, tradition, and sloe-eyed mystery to the distinctive guns and needles of America’s potential black-market drug capital.


39 comments:

  1. Ok so after reading all....it sounds like the ZZZ organization was called something else back on the 1970s....different names, same idea make money...well.. super interesting...

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  2. Outstanding Lucio!

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  3. my mind is numb . nothing will ever get better. we are all doomed to more suffering death and destruction.

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  4. Great article. I'm from the Sa area so I am very familiar with the story and even know some of the Ol school people who we're involved.. Thanks Tinman for find this article!

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  5. Thanks for posting Lucio. A very interesting story.

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  6. A very insightful article. Thanks for posting.

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  7. everything changes but remains the same. maybe it is time for a serious consideration of legalization and control.

    look forward to the next post on this.

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  8. "Irrespective of how the so called “Drug War” is repackaged, it is at the end of the day, a colossal failure, using virtually the same weapons against a most formidable foe has resulted in the same end. It is long past the time to be bold and take the criminality out of the equation, it may be our best shot of a means to an end;"
    could not agree with you more lucio

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  9. I worked in SA in the 70's. My job was at frio city road and zarzamora. I remember all the killings. I knew the Priest Joe O'Brien who was wounded on Fred's escape. He said Fred was his alter boy at mass. He said was Fred was a smart guy.; he did say Fred was a tough hombre. They were the old school mob did not kill innocent people. Just like Don Juan Garcia Golfo Boss In Tamps. Tamps. was save when he was Boss. I am not defending these guys. Great article.

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  10. You are right 4:18. capos like Juan Nepomuceno Guerra, and his nephew Juan Garica were of the old school way of taking care of business, no involvement of innocents. That would be the determinable difference of yesterday and today. which is why the populous turned a blind eye to organized crime and how it was allowed to reach the uncontrollable monster it is today.

    so in one sense it was a harmless activity for those not in the life, as it did not transcend the boundaries that would directly affect the population. But in a real sense, a more notable sense, that is how it became the untamable horror that we see today.

    A narrative about legalization, something rejected for 40 years, is where we are. Like alcohol and its journey, shrink the black market and take control.

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    1. @5:18PM
      Read their history well for they did involve innocents.

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  11. Then came los Gonzales-bath ...then los tejas came to Nvo Laredo with the financial help of cartel Chao .then el chacho Garcia who got killed by the zetas golfo alliance back in the day.I remember those days when ucking zetas were killing off all of los tejas and chachos.most chachos and tejas leaders fled to Laredo or San Antonio to avoid death. Ahhh mi nuevo Laredo siempre va ver hombres de huevos.

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    1. Hell ya they have already proven it over and over can't fuck with the people from nuevo laredo

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    2. Oyes incauto sabias que los Tejas y los Chachos eran puros de Nuevo Laredo casi, y Los Golfos eran puros de Matamoros y Reynosa pero las ordenes directas venían de Matamoros entrar a Nuevo Laredo y matar todos los Chachos.Los del Golfo junto con los Z(los primeros eran puros del Sur casi) fueron los que vinieron hacer desmadre a Nuevo Laredo luego el lava carros de los Tejas me refiero al Z40 fue el que sé les voltio a los Tejas poniendolos a todos casi por eso agarro un puesto grande ahí con los Z lo hicieron comandante primero y lo mandaron para Veracruz ya que en Monterrey no pudo el CDG y Z ahí estaba fuerte los 600s(Sinaloa, Beltranes, CDJ cuando era la Federación).Gracias al Botas Blancas el los dejo tomar la plaza de la Silla despues que el y su gente se separo del Chapo y comenzo la guerra! Que no recuerdas al Chalelo de Nuevo Laredo capturado en Monterrey junto con un grupo de Z esos weyes nomas eran buenos para matar transitos, ministeriales cuando no estaban horas de trabajo los mataban y también a narco menuditas! Porque nunca pudieron contra la Federación en Monterrey si no fuera por separación de los Beltranes en la Federación no fueran entrado las Golfas ni Zorras a Monterrey porque un tiempo ahí estaba el Rey!


      Gallito Regio

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    3. Solo un idiota se admira de la gente criminal. Los hombres de huevos son los que se ganan su dinero limpio. No como estas lacras.

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    4. Mira gallito regio lo que dije fue que los chachos y tejas tenian apoyo due los 600 pinche Wei......y uno de los primeros de los goflos aki fue el karis y tijerina.el z40 por si no lo sabias nunka fue de los tejas pendejon.a z40 lo reclutdo el karis para ayurdarle conose el mapa d nuevo Laredo .y asi se fueron siendo los Z eres un pendejo mijo como me vas a decir Ami que no se.apoko no sabias que LA barbie quiso garra chingos de morros de Laredo Texas para pelear contra los zetas in Nvo Laredo apoko no sabias que el 40 recluto a chingos de werkos de Laredo Texas para pelear tambien.estas historians t las puedo contar toda LA noche asi que no trates de querer apendejame

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    5. 5:17 finally somebody that actually knows the history of el 40

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    6. A si es Los Chacos y Tejas tenían apoyo del cartel del año y la gente de la Federación alias los 600s.Y Karis ni era de Nuevo Laredo wey para empezar y el 40 nunca fue Z hasta despues primero era L junto con su carnal el Omar y El Taliban y el carnal del Taliban y también.Pero el 40 era bien culo todos en los Ls lo sabían hasta el Taliban era mas de agallas que ese mata amarrados.

      Y La Barbie estaba bien parado ahí en Nuevo Laredo junto con la gente del Tejas y El Borrado y también tenia un chingo de raza en Laredo, Tx con los de La Eme para ser mas exactos!

      El pedo aquí no fue que gano las Golfas ni Zorraz uvo una junta en Tamaulipas donde estuvo todos los jefes de la Federación juntos con los del Golfo y Z y hicieron un trato en parar la guerra y si sé calmo un rato y luego otra vez empezo.Si no, las Golfas ni Zorraz se fueran podido meter a Monterrey si no fuera por el Botas Blancas el era el terror de las Golfas y Zorraz ya que los Beltranes tenían las mismas tácticas de combate y tortura como los Zetaz y Golfaz si no ya vez quien fue el que empezo con los videos macabros fue el señor Mata Zetaz me refiero a La Barbie!

      Gallito Regio

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    7. Gallito puto !

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  12. and this is why I gravitate to your posts Lucio. thank you

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    1. I second that. I remember Gerardo's posts, quality and different. Same with yours. This type of post is fascinating and eye opening. Doubtful if many of the basement narcos will read this, or are even capable, but I for one am very appreciative of the effort.

      I just looked for the book. Impossible to purchase, but looks like it may be available on ebook

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  13. What about ponchito Trevino and felipe el coyote espinoza before all them it was ponchito Trevino coyote cousin Trevino died in la Loma serving a sentence after killing a federal agent by the river banks before prnedas gaytanes Carrasco ponchito Trevino was the boss of nuevo laredo

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  14. It is Fred Gomez Carrasco and the book "Fred Gomez Carrasco; The Heroin Merchant" has been out of print for 35 years. I had it and lost it with time. I saw one online for $350. Fred was every bit the gangster explained in this article. and the detective Weilbacher was just as bad. I am 60 now and I have been clean for almost 27 years. From age 17 to 21 we went to San Antonio a lot. In those days all there really was as far as drugs go was weed, speed, LSD and heroin. Core really hadn't started yet. We would go there to score. Grams were from $28 to $40 and an ounce was $400. These prices were 1/3 the usual price and the purity was 3 times what we were use to. What this article doesn't mention was that the heroin was white heroin not brown Mexican which was what we where use to. At that time the Guadalajara Cartel had connected with a Asian source and Fred was there front man and he was spreading it from LA to Chicago but San Antonio and Houston were owned by him. There were more junkies lining the river walk and hanging out in downtown SA then you could ever imagine. And he was dealing coke the same way at the same price and even sold mixtures too. His product was in clear plastic packages sealed on the edges by machine to keep it pure and not pinched by middle men. He was huge and the detective was one bad cop. After Fred, the business moved to El Paso, read "Dirty Dealing" about Lee and Jimmy Chagra and how they hire Woody Harrelson's dad Charles to kill a Federal Judge in San Antonio, Hanging John.

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    1. Great post man,interesting,stay down dude

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  15. Fred was convicted and sentenced to 8 years in TDC on a weak case but he plead guilty to keep his wife from doing time. Fred was for real old school gangster.

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  16. After killing kennedy, the mob really had it all in lyndon b johnson's texas, no wonder...
    And mafiosos Marcello and the Trafficantes were the it mobsters until their masters got to the white house, all of them republicans, including clinton and obama, but not navy nuclear submarine technicIan Jimmy Carter, a man that SERVED HIS COUNTRY IN THE MILITARY, unlike the others except for poppy bush who fell into the sea to become a "WWII hero" and presidential pardoner of the drug trafficking rogue agents of his presidential era.

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    1. What has this anti US crap got to do with Lucios/Tinmans story?
      Is this the troll of BB

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    2. 7:09 you need to grow up, no american president is america, they just represent the US while they try to steal all they can from the people for their friends and for themselves...

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  17. Free drugs and treatment for addicts would solve the drug trafficking problems...
    --legalization is the goal of drug traffickers bent on making their money without risking jail or prison terms or loss of their I'll gotten gains...
    --As if big drug money laundering banks will alow any of that nonsense and to have to report sales and pay taxes...

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  18. I'm from macdona The bar still there just closed down. Drugs still affect macdona

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  19. Sounds like this is where the Director of the movie "No Country for Old Men" got his storyline from. Not exactly the same chain of events but the cut throat business like attitude is the same in the movie. There is a lot history of drug trafficking in the Rio Grande Valley and this article sheds some light on how things use to be.

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  20. Pablo Acosta did the same thing shortly after Fred but from Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico through Presidio, Texas from later 70s into the 80s. He shipped to the same areas as Fred and he was probably bigger then Fred. He sold it all, Coke, Heroin and Marijuana. He wasn't as violent as Fred but he too was very deadly but had a gentlemen side. Ojinaga became the most powerful plaza on the Texas border. "The Life and Death of a Mexican Drug Lord" by Terrence Poppa who had to go into witness protection for 2 years after the book. Pablo gave an in person interview to Terrence before the Federales killed him. Amado Carrillo trained under Pablo then had him killed. Pablo is listed as ont of the original founders of the Juarez Cartel.

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  21. Just like it happens in Mexico but before it happened in Mexico... oh, forgot this is an excerpt from a work of fiction, this never happens in the USA.

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  22. I have also read the book about Pablo Acosta its a must read im looking around to buy the book about Fred.

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  23. Highly recommanded also is El Extraditado, Benjamin Arellano story.

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  24. What a fascinating historical account of the Heroin Wars in South Texas during the early 1970's. However the devastation of addiction on each individual life is also a reality that continues. Fortunately, heroin recovery in San Antonio is available to those who seek a reputable treatment center for addictions.

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  25. Replies
    1. One of my 10 all time best. It is a very expensive find, usually 1000-2000. A library check out may be better.

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  26. I was a Deputy with Bexar Co. S.D. when Fred was caught-- I went thru surgery with Him and collected Evidence, then Guarded Him while in the Hospital and later at the County Jail. He was Always Polite and knew more about Me than I did-- lol.. knew many of the PPl who Visited Him, but never had any problem with Him. Was so Glad to get off that Duty! He was a Strange Man in many ways.. Always wanted info on Rosie..

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