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

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

El Tomate reveals the Sinaloa Cartel's methods of Operation

This article explains the significance of the arrest of "El Tomate" in Tijuana on January 4th of this year, and it also shows that the CDS has changed its tactics to fix past operational mistakes.


Jesús Israel de la Cruz López “El Tomate” was not a formal member of the Sinaloa cartel.

He never actually interviewed with the leaders of that cartel. However, he did work for one of their representatives in Los Mochis.

In November of 2010, he was promoted to a higher rank by his boss in that town, a man identified only as “El Fantasma," who answered directly to Alfredo Arteaga “El Aquiles”.

According to “El Tomate”, three men were summoned from Los Mochis, René Arteaga “La Rana”, “El Chore” and “El Fantasma." All three of them along with Cruz López, had worked for a cell led by Teodoro García Simental, (a) "El Teo" in Rosarito and Tijuana. They had been looking for a place withing the national structure of organized crime.

"El Tomate," a man who stands accused of collaborating and planning the murder of several police officers during the wave of violence that struck tijuana in 2008, says that the leader of the Sinaloa cartel sent a plane to Baja California so they could have a meeting with “La Rana”, “El Chore” and “El Fantasma." Cruz López on the other hand, was to travel by car in a clandestine fashion: by hiding in the back of a furnished trailer.

The first three met with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada in a city in the state of Sinaloa. The powerful capo made an arrangement that gave each one of them their own cells to operate independent of each other. They would dedicate themselves to the transit of illegal drugs for the cartel of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

“El Tomate” never made it to the meeting with Zambada, in fact he never made it out of Los Mochis. His trailer was detained by other members of the Sinaloa cartel and they told him they knew everything about his criminal history -his credentials- the executions, the fact that he used to be a cop, that he was a trafficker for "El Teo," but despite all these impressive accomplishments, to them he was still a fledgling recruit who has yet to pass the test of loyalty. They gave him a few packages of marijuana and told him to take the drugs to the border and make sure the packages made their way to the appropriate contacts On the U.S. side.

“El Tomate” could consider himself a prospect but not a full member of the Sinaloa cartel.


On January 4th of 2011, he was arrested by elements of the Mexican army, under the direction of General Gilberto Landeros Briseño.

They were called to help investigate after Tijuana police arrested Isaac de la Cruz López, the brother of “El Tomate”.

Isaac was arrested after surveillance led local police to him, they knew he was coming from Guadalajara, and that his brother was working as an operative for his criminal employers in that area.

Isaac's car was located after he illegally parked his car in San Antonio de los Buenos, the police quickly identified him as the brother of“El Tomate”.

The was no struggle, in fact in order to protect himself from further "police interrogation" he gave investigators the names and addressed of places they would most likely find his brother. The authorities then contacted the army after securing an arrest warrant for the former homicide detective. they found "El Tomate " in a house located on Lázaro Cárdenas ave, located in the Francisco Villa district.

How the Cells of the Sinaloa Cartel Work.

If he was successful with the relatively small packages of marijuana, “El Tomate” would have demonstrated the competence to become part of the organization, the side that was led by “El Mayo” Zambada. There would also have been a probation period and once he had passed that as well, he would have become a boss of a cell in Tijuana.

Cruz López told his the authorities that his previous boss “El Fantasma” told him about his encounter with Ismael Zambada. According to him, the strategy of the CDS in Tijuana, Baja California was to recruit leaders of independent cells who would perform most of the duties required of them in regards to smuggling drugs and maintaining order for “El Chapo” and “El Mayo." Although their representatives in the area are Alfredo Arteaga “El Aquiles” and René Arteaga “La Rana”, they are not technically considered leaders of the Sinaloa cartel in Tijuana.

Guzmán and Zambada prefer to have many cells leaders instead of allowing one person to have a majority of the power in a single territory, explained “El Tomate.” The intelligence service thus have a hard tiime building a case against the power structure of the CDS, this is the result of lessons learned after the split with the Beltrán Leyva family, the one that occurred with Ignacio Coronel, and the final splinter that became shards of the BLO, Édgar Valdez Villarreal “La Barbie." Those who ascending in the ranks of the CDS soon became their enemies with mafias of their own.

According to Zeta Tijuana, this is the new business plan of the CDS. the creation of independent cells that operate in the same territories occupied by the Tijuana cartel, also known as the CAF/AFO (after the current leader of the Arellano Félix organization, Fernando Sánchez Arellano “El Ingeniero.")

Jesús Israel de la Cruz López also led authorities to safehouses that belonged to the CDS, this led to the arrest of several people. Authorities found several weapons and drugs at the residences.

Among those arrested and drugs confiscated: 356 kilos of marijuana and a small airplane that belonged to the CDS.

In Rosarito, “El Tomate” led authorities to a house with three people living in it; Eduardo Aguirre Villegas, Fernando López and Miguel Ángel Leyva Laureano, who were found to be in possession of two and a half kilos of crystal meth.

“El Tomate” has told authorites that most of the people who once worked for Teodoro García Simental “El Teo” now work (in one form or another) directly for the CDS. Because he was considered the potential head of a cell in Baja California, he had knowledge of these safe houses and the way the cartel of “El Chapo” Guzmán operated in Tijuana.

According to Cruz López the only two people who maintain direct contact with “El Chapo” or “El Mayo”, in Baja California (on behalf of the faction formally known as “Los Teos”) are “El Aquiles” and “La Rana”.

According to "El Tomate," the rest of the cells are led by the people whose names are as follow:

* Juan Valencia Cruz “El Pelo”.
* José Luis Mendoza Uriarte “El Güero”.
* Paúl Salomón Sauceda “EL Paúl”.
* José Juan Trejo Gutiérrez “El Chapito”.
* Jesús Rangel Peña “El Enano”.
* Francisco Javier Íñiguez Farías “El Perro”.
* Víctor Dariel García Ontiveros “El Abuelo”.
* Noé Benjamín Domínguez Martínez “El Choco”.
* “El Chore”.
* “El Fantasma”.

This version reveals that the CDS uses the cell method rather that the organized crime method and they implemented this strategy in Tijuana by integrating the scattered cells of “Los Teos.” They maintained unity and cohesion among the various groups by keeping the war against their enemies going. Enemies such as Juan Francisco Sillas Rocha “El Sillas”, José Soto “El Tigre” and Eduardo Guajardo Hernández “El Güicho. These foes tried to steal a large shipment of drugs from “El Aquiles”, but the operation ending in failure, with the Tijuana police making the largest marijuan bust in the nations history: over 136 tons.

Story of the Tijuana sicario war that led to the historic marijuana bust was covered here on Borderland Beat:

Homicide: the charge against “El Tomate”

Despite being involved with over a dozen homicides and being the suspected leader of a narcotics distribution ring, at the moment of his arrest, there was only one arrest warrant that had been issued for "El Tomate." Warrant number 709/09 was issued issued for 1rst degree murder.

On March 13th, 2009 Filiberto David León Ceja was found murdered at 6630 Las Plazas avenue, located in a neighborhood with the same name.

Paperwork was not filed until November 11th and the warrant was not actually issued until December 15th, 2009.

At his declaration Isaac Cruz admitted to being his brother's accomplice in murder and drug dealing. He gave details that indicated that when the former police officer "El Tomate," had returned from Guadalajara around mid December, a rival group had threatened to kill him if he came back. It was this reason that “El Tomate” began recruiting to form a cell and take on his aggressors.

Among the details given by Isaac Cruz, this particular rival group was murdered during a home invasion on December 30th 2009 that happened on Gardenias avenue in the neighborhood of Conjunto Habitacional Bugambilias, several youths were taken to a nearby baseball field and executed.

One of the victims was a sworn enemy of Cruz, who was killed inside the home. The authorities found a large caliber rifle that belonged to the victim, although it hadn't been used in any previous homicides. However according to Isaac Cruz, the firearms that were used by the assailants (presumed operators working for "El Tomate") in a variety of other crimes. So far, investigators have been able to trace the confiscated weapons to the following cases:

418/08/201, Murder that occurred 11/13/09 in Plaza Patria.

7630/09/206, used to fire rounds into a house in Cañón de Sáinz
on 11/5/09.

250/09/201, homicide in Infonavit latinos on 6/21/09.

349/10/206, rounds fired into a house in colonia Medina
Mediterráneoon 1/2710.

565/10/201, homicide that occurred on 11/24/10 Ruta Matamoros.

The state attorney general has confirmed those facts and the following allegations.

The Police Are Intimidated

According to information and statements from several police departments, Israel de la Cruz had for several years threatened and intimidated police officers (specifically those that worked on SWAT teams and other elite anti-drug units), to prevent them from doing their work .

In light of the recent capture of “El Tomate,” which occurred late in the evening of this past January 4th, there was a rumor that began to circulate around the department of a threat that promised the murder of several municipal police officers, due to occur later in the week had been heard over the police radio.

ZETA spoke with captain Gustavo Huerta, SSP of Tijuana, who assured us that there had been no threats over the police frequency, but he was aware of the suspect's tendency to intimidate his officers. Although at this time, Huerta said the department would implement security measures normally used during times of crisis.

huerta went further to explain that the reason for the tight security was more due to the recent arrests of corrupt officers Israel López and Pedro Rosales (who formed part of the security detail for Julián Leyzaola, former SSP of Tijuana. Rosales was arraigned for corruption in January of 2010, but the charges were inexplicably dropped soon after) and a former undercover officer, Efraín Rosales Valenzuela, all of whom were captured during a military operation.



  1. Yeah, thats what I thought, the dude basically got told by Sinaloa he wasn't good enough to be a cell leader. What a scumbag. Goes from the police, to Teo, to Sinaloa, to prison.

    What isn't clear to me yet, is the fighting in Tijuana, is between Aquiles, Sillas, Tigre, Huicho, who by proxy are represented by Sinaloa, and CAF, (even though it's been rumored Inge left Sillas on his own) is the fighting sanctioned or even approved by Mayo and Ingeniero? Is it a representation of Sinaloa/CAF? Or is it a case of letting them work out the dispute between eachother?

  2. I'm only making an educated guess, but consider this J,

    If ZetaTJ got it right, then the cell strategy is a way for the CDS to keep the money flowing into their coffers and at the same time, it keeps the organization compartmentalized. So yea, in essence I believe these operators such as Aquiles are more or less left to their own devices. I'm sure they can ask for some back up soldiers or maybe have the CDS send a few automatic rifles, but for the most part they have to handle their own feuds.

    I gotta give it to them, its a really good strategy. I'm not giving the Calderon admin a pass for not cracking down on the CDS, but it would explain why they have such a hard time locking these guys up in particular.

    So to answer the question, I don't think El Mayo or El Inge are interested in a war with each other right now. If they were, the pot bust of 134 keys would have been the spark that lit the fuse in TJ. But seeing that when compared to the rest of Mexico, TJ is actually very quiet for the most part. When these cells get out of hand the leaders are reprimanded, but even El Huicho is still around despite being the person whose orders led the police to the huge pot stash.

    I don't think los Pesados de los carteles really care one way or another who is fighting, so long as it doesn't interfere with business.

  3. There is another Zeta article that I have been meaning to translate. It has a lot of info about the relationship between Sillas, the CAF, and the federal government. I should get to it soon, but these Zeta articles take a while (at least two days usually)

  4. Yes, thats the impression I get too. I'd like to see the Sillas article too, he's been operating at a pretty high profile level for awhile now.

    Did you check out that indictment?

  5. I've been reading through it, its a lot of really good info. i guess we can start calling the CAF the FSO? I guess they don't really exist in the capacity it used to. I've been thinking about doing some primers about the cartel leaders, past and present, in order to give more perspective about the names that often appear in these articles and indictments.

    Speaking of which, perhaps you could tell me a little more about Sillas. To be honest I only know what i read and translate, so I don't have a whole lot of knowledge about this guy. His name does tend to show up all the time... Could you give me an idea of who he is?


    Link to article about Sillas, some of his actions, his family, and status in CAF.

    I dislike FSO, as it kind of speaks to the FBI's readiness to discredit organizations they target, Fernando Sanchez Arellano is still an Arellano, so CAF is still appropriate, in my opinion. FSo seems born more out of spite/disdain by law enforcement then practicality, although it is true, that CAF/FSO isn't in the same league anymore as Sinaloa, CDG. If you think you can make it work, see if a story can be made out of that indictment, the small reporting I've seen on it, doesn't really do it justice. If you don't have time, I may try to put something together, and run it by you guys.

  7. So all of sinaloa's guys in tijuana hate each other? Pretty confusing to me! SO the CAF has a pact with la familia and sort of one with cells of the CDS? Sounds weak to me or it can be tactical to avoid war and getting even weaker. I dont think they could put up a fight as big as the juarez cartel has to el chapo and mayo

  8. "Senores se los recuerdo si ocupan refuerzos aqui estan mis plebes"

    -Narco Cantante, Martin Castillo.

    Senores as in (The main leaders) I remind yall if yall need man power I offer mine.


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