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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, January 7, 2019

From the Archives: Public Enemy # 1, Master of Crime

Translated by El Profe Los Archivos Secretos, La Prensa

              ENEMIGO PÚBLICO #1, maestro del crimen

[I will be translating and publishing stories from La Prensa's "Secret Police Archives" periodically. These are older stories that are worth another look. -El Profe]

Alfredo Ríos Galeana was born on October 28, 1950, in the town of Arenal de Álvarez, in the state of Guerrero. He was the son of Sabino Ríos and María Damiana Galeana. From a poor origin, accustomed from a very young age to having nothing, he hardly grew up. He set his hopes on being part of the ranks of the Mexican Army, which he managed to enter at age 18. There he reached the rank of First Sergeant in the Paratrooper Fighters Brigade. Years later he defected. In 1976 he joined the Preventive Police of the State of Mexico and later he was appointed commander of the Radiopatrullas Battalion (Barapem) in Tlalnepantla.
The Barapem was a corporation that was dedicated to guarding banks, the ideal place for Ríos Galeana to integrate his criminal gang and dedicate himself to robbing them. His flotilla did not have the best training other than knowing activities from within, how they operated, and knowing their most vulnerable points. Another important aspect was that the commanders of the police group were in collusion. 

In 1978, when Galeana and his band's first bank robbery was successful he left the police battalion and, along with his followers, gave free rein to his criminal career. His robberies were increasingly frequent. One of his biggest hits was committed in 1979 at a Bancomer branch in Tlaxcoapan, Hidalgo. They obtained spoils of half a million pesos. After that, not only banks were robbed, but government institutions and houses of wealthy families. At last, Ríos Galeana felt important, he had power and a lot of money. He felt included in the world. A world that from a very young age had excluded him and expelled him as scum.

Three years of fortune passed for "El Charro Cantor." He recorded two ranchera LPs but the picture became clouded when, in mid-August 1981, agents of the Division of Investigations for the Prevention of Crime (DIPD) detained him in the company of four accomplices in possession of a large arsenal, several luxury vehicles, and a significant amount of cash. Talking to the media, "El Feyo" as he was also known, said with the arrogance that characterized him that he considered himself more cunning than the others, especially the Mexican police who "were extremely incapable of apprehending the real assailants." He boasted that he would not be arrested again, and declared that he would "flee as soon as possible from where he was confined." A judge ordered him to be confined in the Cereso de Pachuca, Hidalgo.
A year later, when Christmas was approaching, Ríos Galeana kept his word, bribed guards and fled the prison and took his accomplices with him: Juana Sánchez Ramírez, Yadira Areli Berber Ocampo, Gabriel García Chávez and Caritino Carmona Cuts. As a nice family, together they arrived and together they left.
With their leader free, the band took power again. They met in safe houses in the Federal District and State of Mexico where, with their stolen money, they planned their crimes in detail. Sometimes, these meetings ended in crazy parties accompanied by alcohol, drugs and women. Eden on Earth was made into reality for Galeana and his followers.
With very recent memories of their last stay in prison, Ríos Galeana and his criminal gang decided in revenge to amp up their robberies. Their ambition and desires "to live well" - as he said - led them to carrying out a long chain of robberies, kidnappings, and murders in just one year.
Among their most successful hits was the robbery on the National Institute of Cardiology where they obtained 20 million (viejos pesos Mexicanos). Also, the raid on the Bank of Cédulas Hipotecarias [bank of mortgage bonds], when together with ten of his accomplices, they drilled open the security boxes, taking more than 250 million pesos. And, as if that were not enough, they also stole the coffers of the Tlalpan Delegation, several Conasupos [National Company of Popular Subsistence], and obtained high amounts of money for the rescue of several businessmen and merchants who they kidnapped.
Ríos Galeana managed to strengthen his criminal group to such a degree that he recruited more men and formed diverse groups of criminals. He used some for robbing banks, others for government and private institutions, others to commit crimes in the Federal District and the State of Mexico, and the rest to rob in several states of the Republic, such as Veracruz, Oaxaca, Puebla, Hidalgo, Guerrero, among others. In addition, he had the protection of several police officers who protected him.
In October 1983, Ríos Galeana and several of his accomplices robbed the residences of the wealthy Díaz and Bojalil families in Puebla, taking money, precious objects, paintings and jewelry. It was valued at 35 million 800 thousand pesos. Days later, the Judicial Police managed to capture several of them and recover part of the stolen property. The detainees were Eduardo Rosey Lira, Saturnino Vera, Salvador Ornelas Rojas, Leonardo Montiel Ruíz, Lauro Rodríguez Velázquez, Catalina, Corona Landa, among others; who were linked to several robberies of banks, homes, official institutions, and other businesses. A judge confined them to the Reclusorio Oriente but the following year, 1984, these criminals escaped from the prison with the help of "Feyo," who once again evaded justice.
It was in that same year that the case was assigned to the commander of the Judicial Police, Luis Aranda Zorrivas, who, methodically and disciplined in his investigations, managed to find the whereabouts of a couple of Rios Galeana's cronies in the state of Guanajuato. He pulled the thread that led to his arrest, on January 9, 1985, in a clandestine palenque in the State of Mexico.
The day after being placed at the disposal of the public prosecutor who would take the case, Ríos Galeana and his accomplices were extensively interrogated by agents of the Judicial Police and of the Attorney General's Office, who only accepted blame for four robberies and one homicide. The band denied having several million dollars in their possession that they obtained from various bank robberies.  
It was most likely that "El Feyo" had the money in a bank account abroad or in the possession of one of his men. According to Galeana, he had planned to retire from crime very soon and live quietly in the United States, enjoying his stolen millions.
Things weren't going so well for the gang however as with each passing hour evidence against them was piling up. On the afternoon of January 14 - under an impressive security operation of more than 70 elements of several police corporations and Commander Aranda Zorrivas acting as hero guarding the rear of the convoy- Ríos Galeana and his four accomplices were taken to the Reclusorio Sur, where they were assigned an isolated cell to avoid any escape.
There, the criminal judge 29 charged them with more than 44 armed robberies committed to different institutions, where they obtained loot of more than 100 million pesos and murdered at least 16 people, None of them would be granted freedom on bail.
He also ordered the seizure of the gang's several properties in the Federal District, State of Mexico, San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo and Puebla, jewelry, appliances, and high-value cars.
Thus, the overwhelming weight of reality fell on top of Ríos Galeana; the reality that from a very young age he ignored, and now, too, he took four of his trusted accomplices with him.
The corrupt state created him, he became its worst nightmare
The Attorney General's office of the Federal District took a day to confirm the capture of the most dangerous criminal in the country. It is possible authorities feared Ríos Galeana's accomplices would come armed to rescue him; the truth is unknown.

The Attorney General of the Federal District, Victoria Adato, under pressure from journalists, had no choice but to give the order to present the capture to the media.
On the afternoon of January 11, the wait made Comandante Zorrivas tremble more than Ríos Galeana himself. Why? Because "El Feyo" rejoiced in fame, of what was spoken of him, of his image appearing everywhere; and now, before him, was the most important means of the country to assist him in his photographing. Meanwhile, Commander Zorrivas did not know how sarcastic public enemy number one was going to be.
As soon as Alfredo Ríos Galeana appeared, the bustle and camera flashes broke into the air. The number of journalists in the offices of the Attorney General was impressive.
With a face very different from a few years ago - due to the multiple facial surgeries he had undergone to evade justice - both reporters and photojournalists swarmed around the criminal, who calmly and arrogantly said: "I am very intelligent and my capture was not by mistake, but by a 'tip-off' of one of the elements of my band. When I get out of prison, I think I will continue with my criminal activities."
Maybe it was the modern Robin Hood syndrome or Chucho "El Roto" come to life, but the reality is that he liked the good life, the one he never had - from which he had been expelled- either because of his origin, or because he was under its spell.
He also stated that he liked money, to dress well, hang out and live with women, and the only way to get it was with robberies.
Ríos Galeana pointed out that his salary as a policeman was miserable, that earning an honest living would never be for his tastes and comforts.
On the other hand, Galeana was not someone who cared about the less fortunate, although there were times when he had inexplicable details, or so he told the press: "I am not a hero or pretend to be a Chucho 'El Roto', but I also tried to financially help the relatives of the policemen I murdered, unfortunately I could never do it. "
The most wanted criminal in the country felt quite comfortable, was free flowing in his words, and took pride in narrating his wrongdoing in front of cameras and microphones.
With his ego elevated to the maximum, he detailed to the press the ingeniousness of his plans to carry out his robberies. Like the time they robbed the Bank of Cédulas Hipotecarias in 1984, and said: "The assault was intelligently planned 15 days before. On that occasion I presented myself elegantly dressed at the doors of the institution and told the guard that I was carrying a gift for the manager."
"The uniformed officer immediately opened the door and my companions -the other four subjects and I- quickly went into the establishment. We loved the staff, we told them that if they cooperated nothing would happen, and then, with tools, we broke open the vault. We took around 230 million pesos and we escaped."

He commented that he had undergone at least three plastic surgeries for two reasons. The first being that he would not be recognized by the police who wanted him all over the country, and second, because he liked to look good and attractive to seduce the women he liked.
He also mentioned enthusiastically that another one of his passions was ranchera music and that he had recorded two albums and used to sing at family gatherings or with his criminal buddies.
With great form and clarity, the detainee regaled those present with his best notes and falsettos about his robberies. He remembered details of several of them, as if everything had happened yesterday.

He was perhaps confident that his stay in prison would be temporary; maybe that he was going to get away from there very soon as he had done twice before with the help of his band.
With great pride, he boasted of being one of the most astute criminals in the world, with more than 40 bank robberies in his criminal history, although in the end he acknowledged that he was arrested, due to the sagacity of Detective Luis Aranda Zorrivas: "I'm smart, but he was smarter than me this time, and that must be acknowledged."
The Attorny General of the Federal District, Victoria Adato, Ibarra's widow, thin, with a broad forehead and dark curly hair, made an incredulous unrefined gesture, almost as if the homage caused her annoyance. Commander Aranda stretched his right hand to surrender to Mrs. Adato de Ibarra, who emotionally delivered a congratulatory letter that read: "with a copy for the personal file."
Maybe Aranda thought, "what good is a heartfelt letter of thanks?" Perhaps the offer previously made by Rios Galeana crossed his mind: "I'm going to make him a millionaire, commander. You're not going to regret it. I swear on this one." And in memory those words come back again and again; that insinuation that public enemy number one was rejected by the honest commander.
Since Miguel de la Madrid took office, the commander José Luis Aranda Zorrivas resumed the investigation to go after that criminal who was called "El Toro" or "El Feyo" and his more than 80 meter stature, his great corpulence, and his unattractive appearance.
Continuing the family tradition, as his father also worked in this sector as group leader of the First Command, Aranda Zorrivas graduated in 1980 with a law degree and when he captured the infamous criminal, the commander -as documented by LA PRENSA in its edition of Sunday, January 13, 1985- also was involved in criminology.
Thus, two classic antagonistic forces faced each other: the detective against the bandit. Ríos Galena had transgressed law and order for years, and in his criminal career had evaded justice several times, escaping from prison and murdering police to continue his freedom.
Thus, Aranda Zorrivas perhaps unintentionally tried to return a certain moral order to society, or so he wants to believe, while he looked at the Attorney General and received a letter of thanks from her and 19 other elements under her command, who managed to free citizens from a danger as great as was the band of Ríos Galeana; not only the man but the whole group, a feat that probably seemed impossible.
It rings in the memory of José Aranda when he responded to "El Charro Mysterio" while the audience was full: "Remember that you have incited dozens of young people to rob banks. You have been one of their most fervent idols. Now they kill the police to get millions easily. They follow your path. Think about all the damage you've been doing ... "
In almost two years of searching, since his last escape from the penitentiary of Santa Martha, Aranda Zorrivas was collecting evidence (not much, to tell the truth) about the whereabouts of the most wanted criminal. Meanwhile, murders and robberies continued.
But while it is true that the ex-commander of the Barapem considered himself intelligent and shrewd, he doubted that he could catch Galeana due to the the ineptitude of the authorities and collusion of some policemen. In 1985, when Galeana was apprehended, he did not stop saying that his captor had been smarter. And again in the auditorium, listening to the words of the widow of Ibarra: "Receiving our recognition, with the conviction that it is recognized by the tranquility and security that all provided knowledge ..." but nothing calms the crowd, since they know in the end it had been a stroke of luck.
For as it is with fame, the truth has two or more faces. Chance played its role, and although it is true that the offender was captured, it was not due to the insight of the police elements or any meticulous inquiries. It was due to a "tip-off" to a great extent, from one of the accomplices of the Ríos Galeana band.
But the Attorney General of the Federal District continues her speech before agents of the 13 commanders of the Judicial Police: "I am aware of the failed efforts in the previous attempts of his capture, hence the importance of the tenacious and persevering attitude of this group of investigators."
Aranda unites the pieces that have taken him to that moment. It was in the wake of the escape of some of his accomplices, in 1983, who resumed the case, because a bank robbery was committed on his watch, which was fully linked to "El Feyo's" band.
And, nevertheless, it was possible to follow the trail of the fugitives to Irapuato, in the State of Guanajuato, where they managed to capture two escapees, who eventually ended up singing the corrido of the capture of "El Charro Cantor."
So, knowing this, Detective Aranda Zorrivas did not miss the opportunity and assigned several agents to guard the dens of vice in the State of Mexico. The rest, between bullets, persecution is resigned to history. Ríos Galeana fell along with four of his accomplices and the only consolation that remains is that he will soon escape again as he did previously.
With Ríos Galeana, the era of large-scale criminality is inaugurated, where the expertise of the authorities comes into play, who on many occasions were in collusion with the criminals. There were good detectives who, in the shadow of the spotlight, away from the big nominations, carried out their work in silence and with results.
But as in life there are no clear morals or final endings. The story continues, as the inspector moved up in his career thanks to this unprecedented feat. Unfortunately however, soon after, as is known, Alfredo Ríos Galeana disappeared to become someone else -to be a myth.


  1. Como van a de tenerlo si es astuto y es valiente,

  2. he looks like Venicio del Toro

  3. @ El Profe: Gracias.... very interesting colorful minion.

  4. A hammered version of Benicio Del Toro. - Sol Prendido

  5. Was it this guy that left to the usa and no one knew about hom for like 15-20 yrs until his dum ass applied for a greencard and thats how they busted him,im i right or wrong person?

  6. Thanks sol. Good read!

  7. Wow the great bank robber of Mexico, he eluded capture for many years.

  8. I thought I read that eventually broke out of Reclusorio Sur and was arrested in California in the early 90's and sent back to Mexico.

  9. Chema you are correct


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