[ Subject Matter: Pablo Acosta Villarreal
Recommendation: Read Pablo Part 1 of this article here
Read Pablo Part 2 of this article here]
One particular night a load had gone across the river at Big Bend, the load drivers had their trailer slide off the road into a ditch. They had travelled back to Ojinaga on foot to advise Pablo of their predicament. Pablo, once he had calmed down, set off with a caravan of Sicario's in four vehicles.
With them was Armado Carrillo Fuentes, from the Guadalajara Cartel. Pedro Aviles had sent him to Ojinaga to learn how Pablo was carrying out his smuggling business. To learn his links and contacts, his methods and places to smuggle, then to ultimately take over the Ojinaga Plaza, as Pablo was earning far too much money for Pedro Aviles to ignore.
The convoy eventually arrived at the vehicle some 5 miles into USA territory, Pablo had brought the load drivers with him on the understanding that if anything as missing from the marijuana load in the trailer, they were both dead. The price to be paid for jeopardizing a load, because of carelessness.
After getting the vehicle and trailer back on the road and on the way to the buyer, Armado returned with Pablo to Ojinaga municipal airport, there were a few soldiers present, and Pablo and his men. The twin engine aircraft landed. Pablo and his men unloaded roughly 900 packages the sizes of a large leather bound book. This was the first direct delivery to Ojinaga from Colombia, carrying nearly a tonne of Cocaine.
The Miami route for cocaine direct from Columbia had been pretty much shut down, with next to little getting through compared to the Miami of old that the Colombians had turned from Holiday destination into a murder capital in much the same way as Acapulco.
The Colombians wanted their own network inside Mexico but the Guadalajara Cartel, the most powerful in Mexico at the time, had no intentions of letting the Colombians operate without going through them.
They arranged for their Colombian suppliers to meet Pablo through Armado Carrillo Fuentes. Armado was the nephew of Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo "Don Neto". They had the connections and Pablo had the apparatus in place to help them move large quantities of cocaine into the USA across the largely un patrolled sections of the border.
What they needed was, Pablo's local connections to the Army, who could protect the cocaine. Pablo was the last link in the chain, it was his job to distribute the cocaine and protect it until it was delivered to the agreed point in the USA.
Pablo knew that when he was approached by the Colombians it was with Guadalajara's blessing and as such was a deal that he couldn't turn down if the wanted to stay in charge of the Ojinaga Plaza. Pablo and the Ojinaga Plaza became a logistics hub for cocaine, with large amounts being stored at Ojinaga, and collected by different traffickers from as far away as Tijuana to Matamoros.
Pablo went to Colombia, to meet in person Carlos Lehder Rivas, one of the most powerful people from the Medellin Cartel. He made a deal with them, to simply guard their cocaine until it could be picked up by different traffickers, Pablo was paid $1000 to $1500 per kilo for simply baby sitting it.
Pablo was earning 60 million US per year, just on cocaine. Without his prodigious marijuana and heroin sales. This seems a lot of money, but relatively its not compared to people like Pablo Escobar, who at the height of his powers was earning a day what " El Zorro de Ojinaga" earned from cocaine a year.
Pablo built an underground storage facility next to the runway on one his ranches. This consisted of an underground chamber with steel storage tube in it. It had a trap door big enough for a man to pass through, and the cocaine would be passed down a chain of men and stored, the earth filled back in above it, dust on top of the earth, and no one was the wiser it was there.
A short while later, a convoy of men and soldiers arrived to escort the drugs to Ojinaga and Pablo's guarded warehouses.
|Casa Chavez where Pablo stored drugs among other places|
Pretenders to the crown
Residents of Ojinaga thought that after the reckoning between the PAO and the Arevalos, that the heat in the plaza would cool. New traffickers arriving to make deals with Pablo or determined to muscle in on the Ojinaga gold rush, were found sometimes whole, sometimes not and generally face down in the river or dug up from their shallow desert graves by stray dogs.
But Pablo had become a target, and everyone wanted to control the "Gold Mine" that Pablo had built. This had kept the violence in Ojinaga, and the residents had been scared for a while. Pablo with his new supply of cocaine on tap, had his younger brother Pedro cook up crack for him. He now had an inexhaustible supply and smoked crack from the time he woke until he eventually had to sleep.
A hit man tried to kill Pablo at the start of 1986 close to an intersection near the hotel Ojinaga, the hit man approached the vehicle and fired 6 shots at Pablo from a range of about 10 feet and missed him with all 6 shots. The killer ran, and Pablo and his younger brother Pedro chased the man down through the streets of Ojinaga, they caught him by the train station and swiftly dispatched him with a burst from an assault rifle.
This was a sign of things to come and shortly after on Jan 20th, a meeting was taking place at Armado Carrillo Fuentes home in Ojinaga, Pablo, Armado, Ismael Espudo and some others were discussing upcoming cocaine arrivals, when a truck barrelled into the road and opened fire on Armado's house and the men guarding it.
The assailants were initially beaten back by Pablo's men's superior shooting skills, and it started 24 hours of terror for the residents of Ojinaga, as the assailants attacked again and again. After the attack on Armado's house, Pablo and his men were patrolling Ojinaga.
A dozen men in two vehicle had set up an ambush for Pablo. Pablo was travelling with Pedro and a Cuban named "El Charly". They stopped at a traffic signal on the Camargo - Chihuahua highway, and the ambush was sprung.
The attackers were waiting on both side of the intersection, and as most of us are familiar with now, the intersection ambush, a favourite of Sicario's, would have worked but for one piece of luck for Pablo, and one piece of bad luck for two farmers in pickup that happened to be driving through that intersection at the very time.
The attackers opened fire on Pablo's vehicle, ten men firing automatic weapons, the farmers pickup ran straight through their line of sight to Pablo's vehicle and the received the full brunt of that opening salvo. Both farmers will killed instantly suffering multiple gunshot wounds as the assault rifles supersonic rounds ripped through the thin skin of their vehicle.
Pablo was using the speaker on his vehicle radio to call for reinforcements, as Pablo, Pedro and El Charly", engaged the attackers with their own weapons. Pablo's men started arriving almost instantaneously and joined in the shootout at the intersection.
The attackers were typical of the Sicario's we see today, young men, seduced by the money, guns and drugs and women. Pablo's men were battle hardened killers, frontier men, former farmers, campesinos, excellent shots with rifles and handguns alike.
While the attackers were shooting high, with full auto bursts, Pablo and his men were returning fire with single aimed shots, and despite being well outnumbered, were killing the Sicario's at a prodigious rate. Very quickly the attackers were down to three men hiding behind the vehicle they had arrived in.
Pablo took the initiative and went on the offensive, he jumped back into his pickup with Pedro and El Charly, and hammered the accelerator to the floor, all three of them screaming insults at their erstwhile attackers, as they hit the reservation in centre of the intersection and got "air".
As the vehicle made contact with the road again, and was just a few metres from the Sicario's car, the Sicario's bolted from behind the vehicle and were cut down by shots fired by Pedro and El Charly. Battles raged in different parts of Ojinaga as the survivors from the attackers were hunted down for the next two hours, and could be heard in Presidio.
Pablo was determined to catch them all, he set up a road block near Sanborn's restaurant, and with his men displaying Police credentials at the roadblock, stopped and searched every vehicle passing. Anyone found with an assault type weapon without a good reason, i.e. they worked for Pablo or his associates, were taken into the desert for interrogation and summary execution. Unofficially another 13 people were killed after being taken from this roadblock.
Whomever the attackers were, they suffered a massacre. Pablo was convinced it was Lupe Arevalo, who had been shot in the liver by the butcher of Ojinaga, in the incident that started the Arevalo wars.
Pablo was convinced that the inexperienced attackers could not have been from a dedicated hardcore crew, of the type that we recognise today such as, Los Antax, Los Linces and the like. The amateur nature of their shooting and lack of aggression as the firefight progressed, made up Pablo's mind but he was going to spend as much time as it took to get to the bottom of it.
He spent the next week kidnapping anyone who saw the incident, his paranoia fuelled by copious amounts of whisky and crack,
Authorities arrived to investigate and the official death toll was just the two farmers who had been unlucky enough to drive across the intersection when the Sicario's opened fire. Pablo later went and visited the widow and mother of the dead men. He set up a trust fund for her, but she never forgave him.
After smoking crack, Pablo's second deadly attraction was Mimi Web Miller, and she was certainly not your typical frontier resident. She was educated and had a degree from a Southern University in art history. She had bought a ranch on the Mexican side of Big Bend called Rancho Milagro.
|Recent photo of Mimi Webb Miller|
Her boyfriend was a heroin addict who bought his supply from Pablo, and Pablo regularly attended their ranch. Her boyfriend claimed his addiction had started when he was packaging heroin for shipment that was forced under his fingernails and absorbed into his body.
She dumped her worthless boyfriend but retained her relationship with Pablo. She was attracted to the border smuggler type and the business. Not to indulge in it herself, but to be involved Buchona style.
Mimi only looked for and saw the best of Pablo, like the smugglers themselves she refused to acknowledge the damage that heroin and cocaine and later meth would do to American cities.
Mimi soon started dating another guy, David Regela, who was a USA borders customs agent designated to penetrate the Pablo Acosta Organization. Mimi introduced the two and Pablo instantly recognized him as the man who had several of his family members imprisoned. Mimi in her naive way thought that the two could work together if they could overcome their differences.
Mimi convinced Pablo to meet some reporters, so they could write an article on the side of Pablo that only she saw. The reporters seemed to be convinced by her and so after several aborted meetings, Pablo met the reporters at a local Police Commandante's office.
Pablo smoking a crack cigarette and drinking a glass of whiskey, said the following;
"The law has no charge against me, I never fought with the law or with honest people. What I do is wrong, but I do it to remedy many things, like education for young people who lack resources. I put on benefit horse races ( a local from Ojinaga says that the Arevalo war started due to Lili Arevalo beating Pablo in a horse race, though he doesn't say it was a benefit), and cockfights."
"Its for them, the Government never gives them anything, I buy them sports equipment. The same governors and mayors in the USA are in the Mafia. If they wanted to stop the drugs, they could do it in a day. Look at me, you don't think the USA could control me if they wanted to? how can they say I am smarter than them?"
When the article came out it lead with the picture at the top of part 2 of this article. Pablo with Eva Fernandez, a local blind woman that had been forced to turn to begging on the dusty streets of Ojinaga. According to the article, Pablo was arranging a cornea transplant for the woman.
"Sure what i do is wrong, but for every bad thing I do, I do six hundred good things."
One can speculate here that Pablo was as naive as Mimi if he thought that appearing in newspapers was a good thing. The recent capture of El Chapo after courting the publicity of a film, shows that history was deemed to repeat itself. The law enforcement authorities on both sides of the border took this as a taunt.To the people in the chain above Pablo, his courting of the press was unacceptable. Especially if he thought " yes I smuggle drugs and kill people, but give soccer balls to kids", constituted an effective public relations campaign.
Pablo's judgement was failing him, probably due to the fact that every waking minute he was drinking whisky and smoking crack. He had lost his ability to run his organization, the two hours a day that he was lucid, just after waking up around midday each day, was not enough time to fulfil the obligations of his agreements and the press releases were the last straw for those above him that did not want to court publicity.
Pablo was also spending far too much time with Mimi Webb Millers boyfriend David Regela. Since the attack outside the market at Ojinaga, which Pablo blamed on Lupe Arevalo, Pablo had been working with David and an undercover agent at the DEA called "Gene the Bean". Gene had been introduced to Lupe, buying more and more amounts of heroin, until he won Lupe's trust. The idea being that he would ask Lupe to deliver a kilo of heroin in person to the USA and Lupe would be arrested on route to Gene the Bean.
As Pablo's world was falling apart, Pablo's hatred of Lupe Arevalo intensified, and he became convinced that the lack of arrest of Lupe was because Gene the Bean didn't want to arrest Lupe.
David Regela tried to convince Pablo that, Gene was on the level and it was only Lupe's reticence to visit the USA under any circumstances that was holding back an arrest.
Pablo was having none of it, and asked David Regela to use Gene to kill Lupe, David said that it was not in his job description, but busting Lupe with a kilogram or more of heroin was certainly in his job description.
Pablo, fuelled on crack and whisky decided it would be a good thing to call Gene the Bean and tell him what he thought of him. " I've killed motherfuckers like you for less."
Gene the Bean had managed 30 years working undercover for the DEA and decided to reply in kind
" you motherfucking wetback Mexican bastard, we are from the same country and I'm going to show you what I can do to your kind."
"Come down here and we'll see how much of a badass you are," Pablo replied.
Pablo was now pissing off his contacts that were protecting him on both sides of the border, Armado Carrillo Fuentes could see it coming and was poised to take control.
The death of a legend
To facilitate the take-down of Pablo Acosta Villarreal, a jurisdictional change was made giving the Juarez Federal Police authority over Ojinaga. This put Pablo firmly in the cross-hairs of one Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, he had received order to arrest Pablo dead or alive.
Calderoni immediately sent 14 men to Ojinaga but Pablo had received warning, and he, Emanuel Espudo, and Armado Carrillo Fuentes had fled to Torreon with Armado's brother Cipriano. Pedro, Pablo's nephew had joined them, but as a heroin addict who didn't have a connection in Torreon, needed to get his fix, and left Torreon in the middle of the night and drove 400 miles overnight to Ojinaga.
When he arrived he called Pablo, Pablo was furious and told him to leave immediately as Calderonis men would kill him if they caught him. Pedro said he would as soon as he taken care of a few things.
While waiting for his heroin dealer to turn up at Sanborn's restaurant, Calderoni had been advised of his presence in Ojinaga and had sent men to arrest him. He saw them coming and managed to escape in a vehicle. Then Calderoni received another call to say that Pedro had been seen driving to Ojinaga main road.
Calderoni's men caught up with Pedro, as they pulled him over, he went for a weapon in the vehicle but Calderoni's federal police dragged him out of the vehicle and set to giving him a real beating.
He was taken to the Federal Police Headquarters and interrogated for a day.
He spent the whole day getting tortured while, according to those present, did nothing other than scream insults at them telling them how the Pablo Acosta Organization would kill them all. The interrogating agents didn't know what to do. They had no information from him.
Calderoni ordered them to transport Pedro to Chihuahua city Federal Police HQ. There are two versions of what happened next, according to the MexFeds, Pedro died of heart attack while being transferred to Chihuahua.
Another version comes from another trafficker held at the same time as Pedro at Chihuahua, he said that Pedro was alive when he came to the Fed HQ. And that subsequently he admitted to killing Lili and Fermin Arevalo, his family said that when they got his body from the police, his rips were broken and his head stoved in on one side in the shape of a rifle butt.
Pedro, before he died also gave up the location of Pablo and Armado, but Pablo had been tipped off as soon as Pedro had been picked up and had fled into the desert of Chihuahua. Calderoni had been thwarted again.
When Pablo had a bribe turned down by the MexFeds of Calderoni, and an offer to give himself up to USA authorities was not accepted without him serving prison time, he knew the end was nigh, and started recruiting young Sicario's for a final showdown with Calderoni. Pablo knew, that his support was strongest in the Sierra Ponce, just as El Chapos was at La Tuna. Where most of the locals were benefactors of his generosity.
Pablo went back to Santa Elena, and with eyes on movement of his men from the USA side of the river, it was decided that Pablo was there and an operation should be launched to take him down.
Calderoni and the FBI decided to attack Pablo with Mex Feds from where he expected it the least. Calderoni would cross onto the USA side of the border, and be escorted by the FBI to big bend, where he and his men would mount helicopters along with the FBI's helicopters.
They attacked Pablo from the USA side of the river, where he had posted no scouts. The Mex Feds almost gave the game away when flying towards the river at big bend, asked permission to low fly and shoot some bighorn sheep.
The Mex Feds had been issued with Cat 3 Kevlar jackets, only good at defeating knives and handgun rounds. The FBI had ballistic vests with two twenty five pound metal plates front and back, with a high neck collar, as they formed up to initiate the raid, the FBI handed over their vests, as Calderoni had agreed that cat 3 jackets would offer little protection against the assault rifles used by the PAO.
The FBI would stop just short of the river on the USA side and wait in case Pablo tried to escape north across the river when the attack was launched.
Pablo's men were hanging around a fire, they were drinking beers and Pablo had gone inside his Adobe house when the helicopters arrived, banking at sharp angles over the village rooftops to bleed off their speed before they landed.
Pablo's men around the fire instantly scattered, a man ran out of Pablo's house with a machine gun and opened up on one of the helicopters which was hovering low and unloading armed men onto the roof's of nearby adobe houses. Pablo ran outside and recognised the informant who had given away his location, he was leaning out of the helicopter door pointing out to the police Pablo's house.
Pablo shouted "traitor" at the top of his voice and ran inside his house with the man with the gun. At this point some of Pablo's men nearby tried to counter attack arriving in pickups, but one of the Helicopters engaged them with their door mounted guns and drove them back.
The men originally caught out in the open had dropped their weapons and fled with civilians, but the second helicopter fired into the ground in front of them and forced them back into the village, where they were rounded up. Miraculously, the village had been captured without a single casualty, the speed and aggression of the attack and the element of surprise had reaped its rewards.
Calderoni and his men surround Pablo's house, Calderoni called out on a megaphone for Pablo to surrender identifying himself to Pablo. Pablo had two men inside the adobe house with him, he had loaded fresh magazines into each of the half dozen or so assault rifles, stockpiled extra magazines under all the windows and beside the doors of his house.
Pablo strapped on a ballistic vest with some difficulty due to his expanding waistline. He had been set up, who would have thought Mexican forces would come from the USA side of the river. Pablo gave his two bodyguards the option of surrendering, both decided not to abandon Pablo.
As Calderoni identified himself on the megaphone, Pablo and his men opened fire on the Mex Feds outside, all of Calderonis men returned fire while Calderoni and two other men ran up to the door of Pablo's house. One of the kicked the door open and saw Pablo aiming at him from a back room. Pablo opened fire first and hit the agent with two burst, three rounds hitting his armor plate in his borrowed ballistic vest, and one tore into his upper arm and the bullet impacts knocked him backwards out of the doorway.
As the agent went down he managed to fire a dozen rounds back at Pablo, before Calderoni and the other agent pulled him out of the line of fire to a neighbouring house. Calderoni called for a chopper on his radio, and one landed and took the injured agent to the USA side where he was transferred to a local hospital.
Two agent had circled round behind Pablo's house and kicked in the kitchen door, Fidel Acosta stood there alone, dropped his weapon and threw up his hands, he was yanked out of the house and put face down in the dirt with the rest of the captives who had run for the river when the choppers arrived.
Calderoni ordered his men to ceasefire, the silence was suddenly deafening. The front of Pablo's house had taken the brunt of the damage. The plaster walls hanging off their frames in lumps and on the ground, the window shutter had been blasted away by the volume of fire coming from Calderonis men.
Calderoni picked up his megaphone again, " come out Pablo you dont stand a chance, with your hands up," Pablo and his nephew answered Calderoni with two heavy bursts of automatic fire.
While Pablo may have become sloppy due to drugs, when he was in a firefight the adrenaline took over, and he turned into the usual version of disneys tasmanian devil. Running from window to door to window, firing and moving, shouting taunts to the Mex Feds, he hated Calderoni and was venting his fury at the Mex Feds. It must have seemed to them that there were a lot more people inside than there actually were. Mex Feds dived for cover as Pablo who was an excellent shot, indeed it has been said he was as good with a rifle as Don Alejo.
The local Police had turned up to assist after rounding up all known associates of Pablo's to stop them coming to his aid. They joined in firing with the Mex Feds at Pablo's house. Pablo and one other guy held off twenty plus men for another hour, until it was dark. Calderoni ordered another ceasefire and again demanded that Pablo give up.
Pablo replied in his usual fashion " go fuck your mother Calderoni, you are not going to take me alive, if you want me come in and get me motherfucker."
Calderoni then started firing tear gas canisters into the house, Pablo still didnt come out, so Calderonis men tried ramming the front of the house with a commandeered pickup to make a breach, but the thick mud walls resisted all attempts.
They got some gasoline and threw it onto the dry branch roof of Pablo's house and set fire to it. After a few minutes a huge fusillade of rounds came from the house as the ammunition stored there was cooking off in the heat.
Jesus Acosta shouted, "I'm coming out," he walked out with his hands raised and was immediately jumped on by Calderoni's men who dragged him away from the burning house. An agent looked in and saw Pablo propped up on a bed, assault rifle in one hand, pistol in the other, eyes open staring ahead.
Calderoni had a look, saw that Pablo was dead and ordered his men to drag his body out before it was burnt. Pablo still had a death grip on his .45 and an agent pried it from his hand and gave it to Calderoni. Calderoni called out on the megaphone to the FBI across the river.
"Pablo's dead, its over I think he killed himself". Pablo had a single bullet entry wound int he back of his skull.
|Pablo Acosta dead outside his house in Santa Elena|
Calderoni later defected to the USA, providing detailed information on Mexican Government involvement in drug trafficking.
|Calderoni and the combined Mex Fed/ FBI taskforce|
Pablo was buried on April 28th 1987 south of Ojinaga his funeral was attended by many with Norteno bands playing tributes to him. Several corridos were sung and these two are typical examples.
The czar of traffickers is dead
Truly the Mafia King
He always won respect
In the villages and towns around
Everywhere else he went
Even the bravest shook with fear.
and this one
Gone is Pablito, friend of the poor,
Killed by the Government
In a world that shows no mercy
For people like that,
And the gringos,
Laughing on their side of the river,
Prayed for Pablito to die
Yet he had done no more
Than give them what they wanted.
The Church that held the ceremony initially refused to host the ceremony, until they were reminded of the following by Pablo's uncle; that only God could pass judgement on Pablo, and that the priest was certainly not God.
Pablo joined the ranks of the non dead capo's , like the recent Capos Lazcano Lazcano , and El Mas Loco who people have insisted they have seen alive since their deaths.
On a last word from the author, OBFW, Pablo has gone down in Mexican folklore, but he harmed far far more people than he ever helped. I don't include Pablo's sale of Marijuana here, as I suspect soon all of the USA will legalize it for medicinal use. I mean the heroin and cocaine that addicted so many people, those addicts committing crimes to feed their habit, leaves a exponentially large trail of victims.
If you wish to read further about Pablo, many people have mentioned the excellent book
Drug Lord: A true story by Terrence E Poppa and Charles Bowden
The River Has Never Divided Us by Jefferson Morganthaler ( 150 years of Ojinaga smuggling history)
Both books are available on Google and Amazon
There are a thousand websites with articles about Pablo, so I would encourage any readers to search for Pablo articles, there are too many good ones to mention. You tube also has a huge amount of Corridos dedicated to Pablo should one choose to search for them.