Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Book Review: Martin Corona, Confessions of a Cartel Killer Part 2

Confessions of a Cartel Killer: Part 2
Steve Duncan, a California Justice Department special agent, was the first handler of Martin Corona, and wrote the foreword in Corona’s book, Confessions of a Cartel Hitman. Below are three excerpts from that foreword, followed by questions proposed to Duncan, by “J” and Chivis and his answers. Gratitude to Steve for giving his time, assuring we received the information we asked for.

Excerpts from Duncan’s foreword:

First excerpt;
We got a multiple murderer; a brutal hit man who participated in many killings and murdered at least eight people himself. He often left victims near death. He destroyed families in the United States and Mexico. We got him. Martin Corona, an accomplished hit man for the extremely violent Tijuana Cartel, also known as the Arellano Felix Organization. He signed a plea agreement created by the prosecutor and me. Corona then stood before a federal judge and pled guilty to cocaine distribution.  He was sentenced to roughly twenty-five years.

Wait!  He pled guilty to cocaine distribution when he was a multiple murderer and you’re good with that? Hold on now, there’s more.     

Corona was thirty-seven years of age.  In the federal system, you do 85% of your sentence.  In this case, 20.6 years.  Corona would be released when he was fifty-eight years old.  He was sentenced in October 2001, he would not be released until 2022.

During intensive debriefings with Corona in 2001, he confided to our team that he had Hepatitis C, a virus that is chronic and can lead to an early death. We feigned sympathy but after we locked Corona back into his cell, we smiled.  We truly believed he would die in prison.  “Divine intervention,” I thought.

It was September 1999 and my cell phone rang.  As I answered, Bill Ziegler, a parole agent, cut me off and said, “Get your ass down here right now!” He explained that Martin Corona was in a vulnerable situation and it might be the time to break him.   Ziegler’s office was in Oceanside, about forty-five minute drive from San Diego.  I put everything down, grabbed my partner, California Department of Justice special agent, Javier Salaiz and headed north.

Second excerpt;

The prosecutor and I constructed a plea agreement with minimal and vague information, charging Corona with 21 USC 841 (a) (1), distribution and submitted the plea to Corona and his attorney at the next interview.  After reviewing the document, Corona’s attorney saw how vague it was and wanted to know what we had on his client.  Our response was, “You came to us, we are not putting our cards on the table.”  I now believe that Corona wanted to cooperate no matter what evidence we had.  He was tired of the life and wanted to clear his conscience.  But my ego still likes to think we bluffed him.

Third excerpt;
“Over a period of sixteen months during Corona’s cartel hitman career, in three separate incidents, one family lost a son and a son-in-law and nearly lost two daughters, who were both shot in the head.  A nine year old girl witnessed her mother get shot in the head and her aunt three times, also in the head, by Corona, in San Diego.  A month later while visiting her father and grandfather in Tijuana, she witnessed Corona break into her father’s home, who then tied her up and her grandmother, and take her father upstairs and beat him to death with a sledgehammer.

In 2001, I contacted the two daughters,  [sisters] One victim was cooperative, but lost all recall of the incident, due to severe brain damage caused by three .45 caliber bullets to the head.  At the time of the shooting she just returned from Paris France, where she spent a year modeling for Mademoiselle Magazine.   Her sister, like most victims in this case, was reluctant to cooperate and had started a new life elsewhere and did not tell her new husband about her [previous] misfortune.  The little girl was sixteen years old and the mother refused to let me interview her.  She is thirty years old today but still gets upset when I attempt talking to her.

In 2015 I contacted her to let her know Corona was released from prison.  She asked me never to contact her again.

The majority of our victims in our experience refuse to confront their offenders, trying to forget their past.

In 1995, Corona and others entered a home in Tijuana, tied up the extended family, and groundskeepers and took a married couple upstairs and stabbed them dozens of times and left them dead in separate bedrooms.  In 2001, I found several of the family members who were present during the murders.  None would cooperate because they were afraid of cartel retaliation.  One brother did explain that the arrests were made and one of the groundskeepers was still in jail for the murders.  I explained that the subjects were identified and there was little chance of retaliation.  After months of trying to convince them to cooperate, they left my calls, and home and work visits unanswered.  The groundskeeper is probably still in jail for something he had nothing to do with.
J’s Question: Agent Duncan, I would like your insight in the way sicarios are now vs then, for example we hear corridos of the "commandos”, but in Tijuana, I don’t think they exist. It's primarily gunmen who are mostly addicts, or just killers. Obsolete is the training and special weapons courses, or covert groups. The shift into hiring addicts occurred in the mid 2000'sand mostly 2008, and how the dismantling of groups like Corona's crew ended with this.

Sicarios: Now versus Then

Answer: I will agree with Jay that the gunmen have become less sophisticated in Tijuana due to the dismantling of the Arellano-Felix Organization. When friction between the AFO and Chapo, Mayo, Guero and Amado came to a head on November 8,1992 with the ambush at Christine’s Disco in Puerta Vallarta, the AFO tasked David Barron-Corona with building up their security squads and recruited heavily from Southern California Street Gangs or Surenos. Barron himself was a Sureno from the Logan Heights Calle Treinta street gang and a prison gang member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang.

Barron was so well respected by these gangs due to his violent reputation and his contact with the AFO, he had all those gangsters on the California Streets and the prison system at his disposal. He used them for murders, smuggling, drug distribution, extortion, money laundering and collections in the US and Mexico. Ramon Arellano-Felix and Barron would hold rallies with their enforcement squads and promise a million dollars and a ranch to whomever killed “Chapo". 

These payments were made in front of the enforcers to encourage them to become more efficient and
click to enlarge
effective tactically and to wet their appetites for violence. The Arellano Brothers also had a loyal following from family and friends’ in Sinaloa and Tijuana. They too became part of the booming enforcer numbers patrolling the streets of Tijuana and Mexicali. Ramon Arellano, Barron, Fabian Martinez (“Tiburon”), Lino Quintana (forgot his real name) and Ismael Higuera-Guerrero (“Mael”) instilled fear within their ranks and ruled the plaza through narco-terrorism. They were self-centered monsters who got their jollies out of brutally killing people. Because their war with Chapo and Mayo exists to date, theAFO was organized to “police their plaza.” The organization was hierarchical and operated like a police force,  keeping the enemy out of Tijuana and Mexicali while dispatching hit teams to track and eliminate anyone associated with the enemy. It was this way from 1992 to the arrest of “Fernando Sanchez-Arellano in 2014.

The members of the organization were well-trained, well-equipped and well-paid. Then money and support became sparse. The AFO was only a shadow of its former self from 2008 to 2014 after the shootout between “Teo” loyalists and “Fernandito” on April 26, 2008 and the arrest of several top lieutenants in 2008 and 2009 to include Isaac Godoy-Sanchez(“Danny”), Saul Montes De Oca Morlett (“Siego”), Gustavo Rivera-Martinez(“Pancho”), Jose Manuel Lopez-Nunez (“Balas”), Manuel Ivanovich Zambrano-Flores (“Jimmy”), Ignacio Zazueta Rodriguez (“Pete”) and Adolfo Perez-Zambrana (“Sammy”). Jorge Briseno-Lopez (“Cholo”) was murdered sometime around August 2008.

From 2008 to present the AFO lost their leadership and resources. Although “Jimmy” and “Sammy” have been released, they continue their drug distribution and violence, but in a much more low-key fashion and under the umbrella of the New Generation Cartel of Jalisco.

Tijuana today is very different from a decade ago. Drugs still flow through the plaza, but much of it stops there for the population which now has a strong appetite for drugs like their neighbor in America.

Chivis’ questions

Question: Do you have an opinion of the recent prosecutions that have resulted in sweet deals? Myself, I see too many narco bigs, the worse of the worse, mass murderers, (technically, serial killers), being handled too soft, in prosecutorial treatment. I think of the time, funding and lives lost in the investigation process, and it sometimes appears to be a slap in the face of investigators. [and taxpayers] So much so my readers say even Chapo will cut a nice deal.

(Note: I did not read the email below,  but agree with Steve completely. However, although there are great federal prosecutors, of course, but in the narrow scope of drug trafficking crimes, I am not sure that anything has changed since Steve wrote his email below….)

Answer: “Chivis” you must have read my e-mail to the law enforcement community after the plea of Benjamin Arellano. The investigators were repeatedly frustrated by prosecutors not “swinging the bat” on prosecuting many AFO members. There were many great prosecutors in the Southern District and today’s leadership at the US Attorney’s Office is probably so much better than the last decade. 

Here is my email:
“Thank you for all the messages regarding last week's plea acceptance. However, I'm sure all of those who suffered through this case, are not happy with the plea and we were not apprised of this unilateral decision by our US Attorney.

Benjamin Arellano-Felix was the head of the Tijuana Cartel and the most culpable  for their reign of terror. After the acceptance of a 25-Year Plea last week, Benjamin Arellano-Felix, the head of one of the most violent drug cartels ever and responsible for thousands of deaths will someday walk out of prison. 
Among the many AFO members before him who were apprehended, extradited  and prosecuted, he received the least amount of time. 
Why? The US Attorney’s Office wants the case to go away. Too many witnesses, evidence, heartache and ultimately their prosecutors on the case are afraid of trials. The US Attorney gutted the task force focusing on the AFO and replaced the experts with agents much less committed to the case. Our new US Attorney, Laura Duffy, for which I had asked several professional agencies to recommend, for the US Attorney position to Barbara Boxer, took a dump on many of us who, we thought, were friends and loyal teammates. 
She made decisions affecting our careers, without having the human decency to advise us first. Because I strongly believed in her, I feel very betrayed. I feel even worse for the many victims,witnesses and law enforcement officers who have been so adversely affected by these monsters. 
What we can do as a law enforcement community is to express, in the most appropriate ways, our distaste for the way this plea was handled by the US Attorney's Office and anyone who approved of this decision. Ultimately this unilateral decision made by Duffy will make our jobs more dangerous and sends a message to all victims that their lives and safety are not worth much. 
Thanks, but please, no more congratulatory messages.”
Question:  I wrote an intro for J’s review. In it I highlighted two hits, the sisters, and the cardinal. I wrote that martin shot the cardinal under direction of Barron. But now I am not so sure because Martin was in custody at the time. Can you clarify?

Also which city were the sisters shot, where were they living? Was it Imperial Beach or Chula Vista?

Answer: The sisters were from San Ysidro. They ran a money exchange on San Ysidro Boulevard. They were both attractive. The recipient (Victim #2) of 3 .45 rounds to the head was striking and still is despite her injuries.

The sisters lived in Chula Vista and took their receipts from the money exchange to licensing at the San Diego Police Department. The sisters were targeted because their brother (Victim #1) was murdered in 1994 at the request of Ramon Arellano. In 1994, Ramon ordered Barron to kill Victim #1. Victim #1 and Ramon was dating women from the same family. After the murder of the cardinal, Ramon went into hiding and could not go to the bars anymore. Victim #1 took both sisters to the clubs and Ramon got upset and ordered his murder. When Victim #1 did not show up for work, the sisters went to his home in Playas and found their dead brother stabbed dozens of times and bashed in the head with a VHS Recorder.

When police arrived they explained that Ramon was behind it. The police told Ramon.

Ramon instructed Barron to have the sisters killed. Barron instructed Corona and his brother-in-law, Marcos Quinones-Sanchez (“Pato”), to assemble a crew and to kill the sisters like their brother.

Bat Marquez
Shortly before Christmas 1994, they attempted to kill the sisters; however, two of the enforcers were stopped and arrested by police a block short of the money exchange where Victim #2 and Victim #3 were working.

Two of the assassins, Jose Albert “Bat” Marquez and Steven “Nemo” Ochoa [ below right] were arrested driving a stolen vehicle with the above evidence. 

Marquez is currently serving a life term in federal prison and was extradited in 2007 on a federal indictment charging he and Gustavo Rivera-Martinez with cocaine and marijuana distribution. Ochoa’s burning, headless corpse was found years later in a Chula Vista alley.

In January 1995, the two sisters were shot as they were driving northbound
on Cypress from their money exchange.  Corona took two other enforcers, Augustin Salgado and David Castanon-Velarde, to kill the sisters. 

They blocked the alley with a Chevy Truck purchased days before by Corona, Slagado and 2 of Barron’s sisters. 

Shortly after the shooting, Castanon and Salgado were arrested in Tijuana, but gave false names. They were lying in wait to kill a police official.

Corona was directing the murder attempt, on the instructions of Barron.

Corona and the Cardinal

I asked Steve to clear up which is true, did Corona shoot and kill Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo.  As the story goes, on the orders of Barron, Corona traveled to Guadalajara airport, where El Chapo was and shot at the capo, but missed, hitting the cardinal instead.  He is widely attributed to have pull the trigger, even today while some media outlets are reviewing this book.

Answer: Corona was in US custody before the murder of the Cardinal.

If you missed J's review use this hyperlink to access the post


  1. thanks god he have hepatitis C and AIDS he will die in jail

  2. read the article, he has hep c not aids, and he was released in 2015

    1. And Hep C is treatable now

    2. They actually have a cure for it

  3. Dammm. Crazy shit.
    1 million and a ranch for chapo?
    I guess they werent so effective.
    Only killing innocents, like the limoncito massacre.

  4. This is outstanding work in the way only reporters who are knowledgeable in the subject can offer. The Q-A part is exceptional. Nice touch. Great work Chivis and J

  5. Heard the President state union address, sad he doesn't care about the security of Mexico

  6. The US is to blame. When u r soft on criminal the killing Will go on. People like Laura r to soft

  7. Bunch of filthy animals. No excuse for why they continue to breath and live on this earth.
    Moreover, the tenacity of US government to hand out light sentences due to the tiresome investigative and criminal prosecution practices with agreements.


    1. I think your meaning to say audacity and not tenacity. Anyway; it's pretty sad US police told Ramon what the girls (Victim 1&2) said to police.

    2. It was Mexican police in Tijuana

    3. U are correct @4:05
      Error on my behalf for not paying attention.
      Was overwhelmed with the horrific violence that transpired to those victims.


    4. 7:56 even the arellano felix sicarios would not shoot cardinal posadas ocampo (a family friend of the arellano's mother) by mistake 14 times, his driver 10 times and their car 140 times, with stray bullets directed to"La Chapa".
      the catholic diocese of guadalajara has investigated, and found that mexican states attorney jorge carpizo mcgregor, and the chief of the federal police rodolfo leon aragon, ("el chino leon", actually the priista mayor of Salina Cruz, oaxaca.) and their federal police agents did the job for carlos salinas de gortari who was being threatened by the cardinal for his ties to drug trafficking, mcgregor also ordered benjamin and ramon and La Chapa to be at the airport of guadalajara at the time the cardinal was to be there...
      just one more muddied truth, i believe this version,
      --to top it all, the mexican narco-government imprisoned La Chapa for the alleged murtder attempt carried out by the cafos against, some people are dumb enough to eat that almost 25 year old hairball

  8. These criminales are weak without their weapons and without sneaking up on people. They also feel strong to intimidate and extort innocent who do not know or seek violence. I would enjoy to see how these criminales would be in a hand fight with the trabajadores on our ranch that like boxing with just hands. They would cry like Z42.

  9. Caf sigue activo el flako rifa

  10. I certainly like the way BB goes a bit deeper with intelligent questions. Knowing the extent of CIA/Contra drug and gun operations, I can only expect the unexpected. Big dealers get lighter sentences, little guys get fried... Etc.
    There is fake news, but isn't mainstream coorporate news fake too? They control the headlines, "Big Drug Bust, Chapo this,that, etc" but hardly mention the deals they make, early releases, witness protection for nasty mofo's, unless its Mexico, then its all whiney ie., RCQ goes free.
    Certain forces in the US are very corrupt, they are just good at hiding it. Remember Gary Webb, they hate the light and will denigrate anyone who dares to challenge the official story. Now the US is deep into dope, and they can't stop the train.
    I am glad to know there are people still trying to do good in the face of it all, who still believe, cause i'm a bit jaded myself.

    1. Absolutely! Let's face it, North of the border, and around the globe media "Mexican drug reporting" is fake news either by reporting or by omission. Lazy journalism. I don't think it is much of a concerted effort to produce bad/hyped news. The days of the journalist that pounds the payment is gone. Now those types , like Ioan Grillo, are the exception. Most sit behind a desk, in an office or home, or wherever wifi allows one to roam, and electronically hunts the story.

      And the hype stories are so infuriating. The MS13 storyline was laughable. For many reasons. But mostly as if hunting them down and “eliminating them and deporting them, is the answer to the drugwar. There are many gangs. And since MS has been around beginning in L.A. in the 80s, many of the members now are likely American born.

      That said, it is also the fault of citizens, choosing not to learn more about the drug war, drugs, trafficking, crimes committed by cartels by our closest southern neighbor. Knowing more, demands better of the media and the gov.

      Most people think we can win the so called drug war, when in actuality that door was always closed. There will always be drugs. The best we can do is to control it….by legalization. You will still have some black market stuff, but the majority will be under control, safe, taxed etc. Like alcohol. A lesson learned the hard way.
      During prohibition CDG trafficked alcohol to the U.S. What is different now is the diversity of other means by which cartels make money. Extortion, oil theft, kidnapping, knock off software, cds etc. But those activates do not affect the U.S. for the most part. They are in-nation activities.

    2. If you're not growing you're stagnating. - Sol Prendido

    3. I'll tell you a short story. My aunts brother in law is a Canadian in the RCMP who works with US agencies fighting cartels and occasionally gets flown to El Paso. Here's the typical housewife who knows nothing about geography let alone a drug war. He lives in Manitoba and according to her is only 2 hours from Mexico. The typical person with a sense of geography knows nothing about the drug war, how can you expect the other 30% uneducated morons to have a clue.

    4. Legalization will not help. You need better government to stop impunity and restore the law. How will Legalization stop kidnappings and extorsion?

  11. It's true here in the states the media controls us
    That's why MS 13 is always a headline that's why the border wall is so popular in the news. For us living on the border we know the wall is a joke, we understand that fake news sells. The media might be sensored in Mexico, but the media is also sensors in the USA , we just don't accept it. So much for freedom of the press. These blogs are the only source for the truth. That is borderland

    1. Explains why the deep state (the national 'security' state) is so obsessed about tracking and recording everything.

    2. 6:17 THE MARAS ARE MOSTLY AMERICAN CITIZENS NOW, AND THE US imported them into the country after they did their murdering of farmers and workers and priests and nuns helped by the likes of Battallion Atlacatl of lt. col. domingo monterrosa, they were originally trained by guatemalan kaibiles and the school of the americas

    3. 12:54

      Wrong. Maras srarted in the U.S. and were exported into El Salvador were they expanded.

  12. Dear reader, you know who you are. He/she who continues to send us something we can’t use…because it would be illegal along with unethical. We do not want any part of it. Thanks but no thanks

    1. @Chivis: probably a bait intended to fuck up BB.

    2. This is why I follow BB. Integrity combined with well researched reporting. Thanks for the great work.

    3. I am not sure of the motive, but we would have lost respect. Buggs is a stickler for keeping integrity, and we have much discussions behind the scenes. In this case the commenter kept trying, then yesterday resorted to name calling, and today he/she is but a distant memory. I think he just wanted us to have it but no mal intent, but who knows.

      and no, to the reader who sent in the question, not a snuff film, nor an execution vid. I can't say, so no more guesses.

    4. Chiva if it was grifa you would be all over it, 'pa las riumas', i wonder who is trying to entice you and with what, but es okay, we love you all the same, aand i promise we ain' dying from the curiosity, atentamente El Chamuco.

  13. El cholo is still alive

  14. My personal opinion of Laura Duffy:

    About a decade or so ago in the news (don't recall the source) she stated the Arellano-Felix organization no longer existed as an organized cartel.On that EXACT SAME DAY the Los Angeles Times quoted a local law enforcement official, a boots on the ground guy, saying the AFO was STILL an active,viable, and dangerous cartel. The local official made that statement because a young man had been killed while driving a Bentley in Los Angeles and it later turned he was an AFO operator.

    Laura Duffy is either a careerist or a naive person out of touch with the realities of the drug trade. I belive it's the former. She likes to pat herself on the back insinuating she single handedly brought down the AFO (she didn't) and jock for position to further her career. Nothing wrong with getting ahead in a career but when she makes false statements in order to do so she becomes part of the problem in the "war against" drugs.


    1. I believe Duffy gave that statement in a press release for Luz Verde in 2010, which was directed at the FSO, Fernando Sanchez Arellano organization, truly CAF was done after 2008, which it was in fall 2008 when the kid was executed in the Bentley. So, not that there aren't issues with Duffy, but as far as that goes, she was accurate to label it the FSO, there is no more CAF.

    2. I second that notion. well said, I can't count the times I have listen to her or read of what she said and was left shaking my head.

    3. Thanks J for responding.


    4. @J you must have very credible inside intel to expose such a statement that there is no more "CAF" besides what the government mentions. Can you please elaborate on such statement?

    5. No more caf... lol... remember a mafia is meant to be a secret society... out of sight out of mind...

    6. I did a rudimentary search and found an LA Times article from September 27, 2010 in which Duffy said CAF as "we" know it doesn't exist. She does not specify who "we" refers to. Perhaps she refers to those who for *their* convenience changed the name from "CAF" to "SFO" to give the appearance of dismantling CAF. I did make an error do to sloppy memory about the date of the shooting involving the Bentley. That happened in 2009 and California law enforcement official,Oralndo Lopez, said CAF was still active on both sides of the border.


  15. Steve, Chivis and J, thank you for the outstanding post.

  16. Thanks to both of you for excellent questions and for digging deep for answers surrounding the killing of Cardinal Posadas.

    It is also interesting to hear what LE personnel think of the sweetheart deals vicious killers and top leaders of these criminal organizations are receiving. It's very disturbing.

    1. lookyhere, kid, the most and the worst vicious criminals are the Hank Rohn brothers, their compas the Camil garzas, the gran familia priista, and carlos salinas de gortari, the real murderer of cardinal posadas ocampo and th godfather of la Bestia de Atenco y Ayotzinapa and hero of a thousand crimes against humanity, EPN.

  17. Laura Duffy must have been paid off by the boys.

    1. 10:28 i definitely hope so, but the impressive one is a Sally Yates, formerly of the FBI, google her, she got herself some expensive ass, they call him lt gen mike flynn the russian puppet who used to run the NSA, for 20 days...

  18. Informed, intelligent, questions and answers. Good read, much appreciated.


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