Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A rare glimpse of Juan García Abrego: from vehicle thief to drug lord

"MX" for Borderland Beat

Note: Borderland Beat contributor "MX" recovered a November 1978 federal indictment issued against Juan García Abrego, the former leader of the Gulf Cartel. This indictment details García Abrego’s activities as a small-time vehicle thief before his rise to fame. The indictment was retrieved from print archives of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville in February 2020 and was not available online.


From the late 1980s until his arrest in 1996, the name of the legendary drug kingpin Juan García Abrego instilled fear. As the first foreigner on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, García Abrego attracted international attention for his drug crimes and was branded by authorities as the source of violence in northern Mexico and South Texas. However, little is known of his early life when he was a car thief trying to make a name for himself in Brownsville in the 1970s. In this report, Borderland Beat will share a rare glimpse of how García Abrego came of age. 
Indictment details

According to the indictment issued on 8 November 1978, sometime between 2 September and 11 October 1978, García Abrego and seventeen other individuals unlawfully transported stolen vehicles from the U.S. into Mexico. García Abrego was charged with knowingly transporting stolen vehicles using foreign commerce. In the whole scheme, six truck tractors, three truck trailers, and 44,833 lb (20,336 kg) of stainless steel coils and skids were stolen from San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Houston. All of these goods were transported to Brownsville, where most were then smuggled and sold in Mexico.

Below are the 18 individuals who were charged in the indictment:

1. Donald Baxter
2. John Kenneth Odlozelik
3. Jack E. Shipman
4. David Lee Kuehn 
5. George Rendon
6. Rogelio Salinas-Pena ("Quino" or "Tito")
7. Jesus Maria Gonzalez ("Chuey" or "Chema")
8. Fred B. Rendon, Jr.
9. Saul Salinas
10. Oscar Salinas
11. Thomas Scott Bates ("Slick")
12. Richard Cook
13. Gregg Perkins
14. Gregory Nathan Fee
15. Manuel Salinas
16. Lictor Hazael Marroquin-Garcia
17. Juan García Abrego ("La Muñeca")
18. Saul Hernandez-Rivera 

Though not mentioned in the indictment, the vehicle theft industry along the South Texas and Tamaulipas border was controlled by Casimiro Espinosa Campos ("El Cacho"), a Matamoros-based kingpin. The police stated that El Cacho’s ran his business like a barter economy; instead using money as a medium of exchange, El Cacho often used the stolen vehicles as a commodity and exchanged them for cocaine and marijuana, which were then smuggled by his organization into the U.S. Though involved in the drug trade prior to García Abrego,  El Cacho’s operations were minimal compared to his years later.. 

El Cacho’s business model was nonetheless fruitful. The son of a tortilla factory worker, El Cacho quickly became a millionaire and led a powerful faction in Matamoros. This fact is important because it shows us that El Cacho, who died in 1984 following an attack reportedly masterminded by García Abrego himself, was involved in the drug trade long before him. It is possible that García Abrego worked under El Cacho before working under his relative Juan N. Guerra, Matamoros’ former crime boss. 

Criminal friendships

The best friend of García Abrego was Lictor Hazael Marroquin-García, who was also indicted with him in 1978. "Lico", as he was commonly known in Matamoros, met García Abrego when they played baseball as kids. Though usually quiet and reserved with others, García Abrego was very close to Marroquín-García and spoke to him about personal matters. 

The indictment details how both of them worked very closely stealing vehicles. On or around 10 September 1978, U.S. authorities stated that Marroquín-García met with García Abrego and three others in Brownsville to coordinate the transfer of a stolen 1977 Kenworth Truck Tractor from Houston. Marroquín-García drove the vehicle to Matamoros, where it was later resold. On or around 11 October 1978, another 1977 Kenworth Truck Tractor and a flat-bed trailer were stolen in San Antonio. The indictment stated that Marroquín-García met with García Abrego and three others to discuss arrangements that day. In the indictment, García Abrego was also referred to by his alias "La Muñeca" (The Doll). Some say he got this nickname for his baby face and/or for being a sharp dresser. 

Unaware of the charges he faced in the U.S., Marroquín-García was arrested as he crossed the international border in October 1978. The following year, Marroquín García was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. However, his conviction included an execution of sentence suspended (ESS), which cancelled his sentence just as long as he did not violate any conditions during his probation term. He was given a five-year probation without supervision. Marroquín García was then deported back to Mexico.

U.S. had García Abrego but let him go

García Abrego continued to cross between Mexico and the U.S. for several years, and even owned a house in Brownsville’s country club, while heading the criminal syndicate that would later be known as the Gulf Cartel. In 1984, García Abrego was arrested in Brownsville for the vehicle theft charges. To U.S. authorities, García Abrego was a small-time thief; in Matamoros, however, García Abrego was on the rise. El Cacho was dead and he was working to consolidate the drug empire left behind. 

But García Abrego was let go at the urging of prosecutors like U.S. Attorney Robert Guerra. The night of his arrest, he paid a US$5,000 bond and left prison. He later appeared in court, where he pledged he was a legitimate businessman, owned land in Mexico and lived quietly in Brownsville as a U.S. citizen. His lawyer worked a deal that if he kept himself out of trouble for a year, his charges would be dismissed. U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa allowed García Abrego to travel to Mexico for business purposes and later dropped his charges. However, his drug career fast-tracked after this incident; two weeks later, he attempted to bribe FBI agent Claude de la O with US$100,000. Ironically, García Abrego was nowhere to be found. U.S. authorities were unable to get a hold of him for more than a decade. Ironically, his FBI wanted poster did not include his criminal background in the U.S. since his 1978 auto theft charges were dismissed. 

In an interview about a decade later, U.S. Attorney Guerra explained his reasoning for García Abrego’s release. "You're asking, 'Why did we let Jack the Ripper go?' " Guerra said. "Well, we didn't know he was Jack the Ripper at the time." He explained the prosecutors in Brownsville were heavily case-loaded and did not pay attention to García Abrego. 

Other indicted individuals

Though some of the 18 individuals indicted faced time in jail, several were killed or never arrested. Among those on the list who stand out is Saul Hernandez-Rivera, a reputed drug trafficker who was killed outside a bar in Matamoros in 1987 along with corrupt policeman Tomás Morlet Borquez. Hernandez-Rivera’s relatives, in an unrelated case that shocked the world in 1989, were convicted of the kidnapping and gruesome cult murder of American student Mark Kilroy in Matamoros.

In 1985, García Abrego’s best friend Marroquín-García died of cirrhosis in Matamoros. Marroquín García's mother stated that García Abrego was deeply saddened by his death and cried "inconsolably" at one of his ranches. García Abrego sent flowers to Marroquín García's grave every year on his death date and on Day of the Dead up until his arrest in 1996. In an interview that year, Marroquín-García’s mother said she recalled García Abrego as a "good boy"

Some who knew the two speculate on what would have been of Marroquín-García had he not died. Perhaps he would have become a top enforcer in García Abrego’s growing drug empire. We will never know. 

Sources and footnotes:





More on Garcia Abrego, Check out this documentary,  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8844410/

43 comments:

  1. who are the people in the picture? juan garcia and juan guerra are recognizable but I don't know about the rest.

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    1. From left to right:

      1. Juan Nepomuceno Guerra Cárdenas: Needs no introduction. Founder of what would later be called the Gulf Cartel.

      2. Sócrates Amado Campos Lemus: Former high-ranking PGR official and head of the 68 student movement when he was younger.

      3. Juan Garcia Abrego (standing): Former leader of the Gulf Cartel.

      4. Roberto Castillo Gamboa: Tamaulipas lawyer, childhood friend of Juan Garcia Abrego. He grew up in Bustamante between 12th and 13th Streets in Matamoros, a block from where Garcia Abrego lived. Internet findings will confuse him with Oscar Malherbe de Leon, but this is incorrect.

      5. Líctor Hazael Marroquín García: The best friend of Juan García Abrego.

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    2. I know the one on the far left is Juan Guerra Nepomunicino. El Padrino of the Gulf Cartel. Mr Nepomunicino started by bootlegging alcohol during Prohibition era. Was well respected by his peers, Italians, Colombians and many more in the global underworld.

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    3. The people in the photo from left to right...

      - Juan Nepomuceno Guerra
      - Sócrates Campos Lemus (former AG of Mexico)
      - Juan García Ábrego
      - Roberto Castillo Gamboa (lawyer)

      This is actually the only known photograph of Juan Nepomuceno Guerra, founder of the CDG.

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    4. The guy on the far right is Líctor Hazael Marroquín García.

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    5. 8:35 one of the leaders of the massacred students in Tlatelolco for MEXICO 68 OLYMPIAD, Socrates Amado Campos Lemus could not be mexico's AG and be in this photo, check again?

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  2. I remember hearing that he was a Satanist. Seems trivial but I wonder if anyone else has heard of this as well?

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    1. From what I know, the "Satanist" label against some drug traffickers in Matamoros occurred after the 1989 murder of Mark Kilroy. It's mostly a media misrepresentation since the so-called Matamoros "Narcosatánicos" practiced a distorted version of Palo Mayombe and Santería.

      Juan García Abrego was nonetheless very superstitious. From a timeline perspective, he definitely crossed paths with notorious cult leader Adolfo Constanzo. I think another guy worth studying here too Saúl Hernández Rivera (also mentioned in the indictment), who's relatives were involved with the cult.

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    2. That rumor started when the Cuban "narco-satanico" was in that same area peddling drugs and killing whites boys. He was protected by Satan. He was Adolfo Constanzo.

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    3. No he practiced santeria

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    4. You have to be hardcore and crazy if you don’t fear satan.

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    5. Is the cuban satanico, the cuban gay guy in narcos mexico season 2 who they ask permission to move bud thru tj? The girl negotiated with him and they shot him as she walked out? Who was that guy and where can i read more about him? Falcone was his name i believe

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    6. Alberto Sicilia Falcon is his name. He was arrested in Mexico. Not sure if he was ever released or is still alive.

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    7. @MM: According to Ioan Grillo's book (2011, pg. 48), Alberto Sicilia Falcón "rotted" (died) in prison in Mexico after he was re-arrested in 1976.

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    8. Alberto sicilia falcon has been credited for teaching El Chapo about tunnels and jail breaks, but the interesting thing is the name of "poet" javier sicilia falcon whose son was murdered during the FECALATO "by kidnappers", the.worst 9f which.have been police expert in "antikidnapping death squads of genarco garcia luna and his compadre luis cardenas palomino, chief of the federal police and comandante lorena who carried out the kidnapping and murder of niño Marti with her own death squad.
      This javier sicilia falcon has been one rabid ANTI-AMLO agitator, but he did not agitate against FECAL'S DEATH SQUADS THAT KILLED HIS OWN SON.
      then there is that drug dealing cuban Falcon in Puerto Rico.

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    9. MX, it was actually Sauls ranch, Santa Elena, where some of his family did the Kilrory thing.

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  3. Thanks, MX. Your research and work is very much appreciated. You definitely have a future in journalism if you decided to do so professionally.

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    1. Thank you! At Borderland Beat we do this for our readers and it's always nice to hear their appreciation. Cheers.

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  4. I new Juan not a bad guy. He had control of the gulf Cartel, no problems like today. Never hurt or kidnapping innocent people. Wish was he was here today Tamps would be save

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    1. Juan is remembered fondly by many who knew him, but several of his former co-workers (like Oscar López Olivares) spoke negatively of him and say he was cold-blooded. I think Juan's problem was his association with N. Guerra, who influenced him greatly in a negative way. Guerra was reportedly responsible for masterminding the notorious 1984 clinic massacre in Matamoros that pushed Juan to the top of the cartel. Guerra manipulated Juan if you ask me.

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    2. If you're a hardcore criminal, killer, ain't no half stepping. Nepomuceño era su tío, el que le dió el poder y tenía más visión por su experiencia. El Chacho y otros eran una amenaza a su dominio en esas tierras.
      Respeto mucho tu trabajo MX, se que primero lo pones en el foro y ahí está la gente más truchas. Un misterio es como, de donde, agarro fuerza OCG y para que los viejos lo aceptarán cómo el jefe. Será coincidencia o muy común el apellido de esto dos personajes? Saludos

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    3. Not saying he was a Saint, and I am not, by no means, but things were in better order.

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    4. But oscar Lopez is witness protection Right?

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    5. @Anon 12:08 AM: Lo que se dice en Matamoros es que el pedo entre El Cacho y Juan N. Guerra empezó cuando Guerra puso a su sobrino Jesús Roberto Guerra Velasco como alcalde de Matamoros (asumió el puesto en el 84). Este cabrón era sobrino de Guerra y una de sus promesas de campaña era que dejaran de robar carros en Matamoros. Ese era el negocio principal de El Cacho. Se dice que Guerra quería que su sobrino también llegara a ser gobernador. Hay un reporte de la DFS que dice que El Cacho se alió Rafael Chao López y otros cabrones que no aprobaba Guerra y que por eso le dieron cuello. "García" es un apellido muy común y me dijeron que no hay relación familiar entre Juan y Líctor. Saludos compa.

      @Anon 12:17 AM: He was in witness protection but came back to Mexico years later. He wrote an autobiography and was active on social media for a while but hasn't posted since 2014. I think he may have died.

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    6. 7:47 don juan n Guerra's saw the truck shit comming and he chose to step aside, garcia abrego chose to stay and fight too long.
      But the replacements like el mata amigos were not better and about the table scraps left by the likes of former governor, federal congressman and federal senator who has never been touched by the law, manuel cavazos lerma, who helped legislate the demise of PEMEX along with accused drug trafficking and accused money launderer Manlio Fabio Beltrones, "la fabis" la secretaria, don beltrone, who assisted former army captain and DFS founder Fernando Gutierrez barrios in all his crimes of state even before he came to likc carlos salinas de gortari's ass...
      Don Beltrone paid for getting his record cleaned on the US with "legislation" to fuck up PEMEX, for EPN's "Reforma Energetica" along with cavazos lerma.

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    7. @MX me refería al apellido Cárdenas y como hasta el día de hoy los toman en cuenta en Matamoros a pesar de que OCG soltó toda la sopa y eso afecto a la compañía. Saludos Compa MX, ahí le mando una chela🍻.

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    8. Did not know that, Lerma is bad. A wonderful country like Mexico and guys rude it. Unless the military gets in there is no hope, I've given up.

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    9. 5:03 the mexican military have been corrupting the mexican government since Don Francisco I Madero became presidente and chose to disband the villistas and the zapatistas who won the revolution for him.amd for Mexico and to keep officially the mexican army as the government army even as it was.full of porfirista military...defense secretary General Vctoriano Huerta was and Indian from Oaxaca, got brainwashed by US Ambassador with wisky and their grifa into betraying Madero and replacing him, general Manuel mondragon y Kalb also authorized the cuarteazo.and murders, mondragon y Kalb is also the grandpas of admiral manuel mondragon y kalb (alias "el karateka" of according to El Negro Durazo) who participated in the sudden kidnapping and disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapos for EPN.

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    10. Rafael Chao Lopez, "el chino chao" was from Mexicali, they were sure infiltrating Tamaulipas, he was also a gofer for RCQ and don Neto for tips amd table scraps even as a federal, then after Kiki Camarena got murdered he forgot the friendship.

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  5. JGA cried inconsolably and send flowers every year. Sounds like J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde from the FBI.

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    1. Lmao or the Shah and his Swiss friend...

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  6. Several Salinas in there. Was this a clan in the old school CDG?

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    1. Good observation. Líctor's father was named Ovidio Marroquín Salinas, so maybe they were cousins?

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    2. They were very close

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  7. I hadn’t heard anyone mention the crazy story of the abduction and murder of Mark Kilroy in 30 years when it was in the news. Crazy.

    For those that don’t know about it there is actual an in-depth Wikipedia article on it here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Mark_Kilroy

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    1. BB already did an article about it.

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    2. we sure did...i can't remember the name it was a great article

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    3. found it! it was translated by El Profe

      Matamoros Rancho Diablo: Narcosatanico, Black Magic and Organized Crime

      http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2017/09/matamaros-rancho-diablo-narcosatanico.html

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    4. I wrote the Wikipedia article for Mark Kilroy. There's lots of good sources about him all over the web, but I still need to read some "library-use only" archives at UT Austin, where he studied. Sources about this case are in the references section of his Wikipedia page.

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  8. this man got something like 7 life sentences and never snitched
    he did like 20 years at Florence
    dont make them like that anymore
    he didnt kidnapp or extort either

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    1. Only if they were all like that. Some people might not like this but"my respects to that man". If more like him were driving these things it wouldn't be how it is today.

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  9. Kilroy was not Juan's fault. I agree Juan didn't kidnap innocent people

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  10. There were more bodies but the feds wanted to wrap up the story and keep tourists coming.

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