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

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Evolving Understanding of El Gigio, Top Lieutenant of El Mayo

"HEARST" for Borderland Beat

Recently the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), along with the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) revealed a new image and a new name for El Gigio, among other new details in an organizational chart. 

Despite some recent online rumblings of El Gigio and his faction Los Gigios having “lost support” from Sinaloa Cartel boss El Mayo, the US DEA and OFAC evidently still believe, as of the September 22, 2021 date in which the chart was released, that  El Gigio is a direct report to El Mayo.

In May 2013, OFAC, in collaboration with the DEA, revealed the map seen below. It depicts the Sinaloa Cartel plaza boss for the northern Sonora area. It specifically lists Felipe De Jesús Sosa Canisales as the Nogales plaza boss.

Link to Full Sized OFAC Map

On the page dedicated to OFAC’s Recent Actions for the month of May 2013, El Gigio was listed as the following:

The map did not place any special focus on El Gigio, it instead appears to be a regional overview of 8 different alleged Sinaloa Cartel plaza bosses, placing their area of control relative to each other. Distinctions between the plaza boss of a port of entry to the US versus a more southern location were not even made, making it seem like map placement was the primary goal behind the creation of the graphic.

Then, just recently, on September 22, 2021, the US OFAC designated Mexican national Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela under the Kingpin Act. 

“Based in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, Valenzuela Valenzuela is a Sinaloa Cartel plaza boss.  In that role, he oversees a major drug trafficking corridor in Mexico, is responsible for smuggling tons of fentanyl and other drugs into the United States, and reports directly to the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Ismael Zambada Garcia (a.k.a. “El Mayo”)

[...] Valenzuela Valenzuela was designated today for materially assisting in, providing financial or technological support for or to, or providing goods or services in support of the international narcotics trafficking activities of the Sinaloa Cartel and Zambada Garcia

[...] Today’s action is the result of OFAC’s ongoing collaboration with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA).” 

OFAC, in collaboration with the DEA, released the chart seen below in conjunction with this statement. It depicts the relationships of El Gigio with El Mayo, as well as some key subordinates who appear to work -either in a financial capacity or in an operational capacity- for El Gigio. 

Link to Full Sized OFAC Chart

On the page dedicated to OFAC’s Recent Actions for the month of September 2021, El Gigio was listed as the following:


How can we be sure this is the same El Gigio being referred to as the one from the May 2013 OFAC release? Well, in the released chart, it points from Valenzuela Valenzuela to a 2018 Southern California Indictment. 

And interesting to note, in the indictment, the defendant is defined as "SERGIO VALEBZUELA - VALENZUELA aka Felipe de Jesus Sosa - Canisales", which all but confirms the newly listed name is still referring to the same "El Gigio" that was identified by OFAC back in 2013.

So how has the US DEA/OFAC’s understanding of El Gigio changed between 2013 and 2021? For starters, the understanding of his legal name has changed. There are two major possibilities for why this changed. 

One, “Felipe de Jesus Sosa Canisales” was discovered to be a fake name, likely tied to some fabricated identification documents, such as a birth certificate or passport, and over the last 8 years investigators discovered stronger evidence that suggested El Gigio’s legal name at birth was “Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela”. 

This type of development would not be uncommon in the course of investigating a powerful cartel kingpin such as El Gigio.  An example of this occurring is the continued confusion around former La Linea leader El JP, who is still identified by some as José Luis Fratello, but by others, such as the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (FGR) as Juan Pablo Ledezma.  

The other possibility is that El Gigio was originally born with the name Felipe de Jesus Sosa Canisales but has legally changed it to Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela sometime in between 2013 to 2021. This is a commonly employed tactic of drug lords, meant to muddy the waters around who a person is, usually later used as justification for part of an amparo plea. OFAC may be using his new legal name due to a legal requirement to do so in order to protect the potential prosecution of the case. 

El Gigio’s listed date of birth has changed in every aspect, month, date and year. The newest listed date of birth makes El Gigio roughly one year younger than previously thought, going from 53 years old to 52 years old as of the writing of this story. Superficial aspects such as commonly used aliases have changed as well, which is to be expected. 

El Gigio’s place  of birth was not previously listed but it is now said to be Los Mochis, Sinaloa. The combination of a new name, birth date and place of birth may point in the direction of a new, authentic birth certificate having been found but it's impossible to determine.

What else has changed? Well, notably the photo used to show El Gigio. The natural question the photos bring up is: “is this a photo of the same person, who just aged or possibly underwent plastic surgery, or is this a different person?”

Many armchair detectives like to claim they can expertly detect similarities in facial features such as lips shape, brow bone depth, nose dorsum, however it can be dangerous to espouse conclusions when a person is assuming expertise in a field they have no experience in. 

Discussion over whether it is the same person in both photos is worthwhile, but it is important to keep in mind that ultimately we cannot know based on two small resolution photographs, all we can do is guess. 

One of the most prominent differences between the two people in the photos is in their skin tone color. Possible reasons the same person could display such a dramatic difference in skin tone color could be due to recent sun exposure (tanned or not tanned) or skin lightening procedures. Other factors to consider are the lighting of the setting the photograph was taken in and the use of camera flash. 

Photo processing can also dramatically affect the look of skin tone color. An improperly done white balance which was trying to color balance out a background with strong red or yellow tones can lighten the appearance of skin tone. The improper lightening of mid tones, which is often done to improve visibility of a photo taken in a dark setting can also distort the skin tone color seen in photos. 

Outside of the new information about El Gigio, the new September 2021 chart shows a photo of El Gigio’s right hand man, second in command “El 20”. Prior till now, El 20 was believed to have the real name of Leonardo López. 

Prior to this release there were no photos of El 20 with an level of credibility attached to them, so this chart offers our first glimpse at what El 20 looks like. 

El 20 was referred to as Leonardo López in a host of prior Borderland Beat stories, as well as Proceso, Vanguardia, El Manana, La Opinion, and MX Politico articles. But US intelligence seems to currently suggest that El 20 is named Leonardo Pineda Armenta. 

It also lists out a date of birth and place of birth not known prior. His date of birth suggests that El 20 is 51 years old, as of the writing of this story. He is notably alleged to have been born in the same town as El Gigio, Los Mochis in the state of Sinaloa.


  1. Animo Sicarios!
    Sinaloa Cartel #1.
    My respects to The 5th Month aka "The Lord with the Hat" and the Guzman Dynasty "La Chapiza".

    1. Hey
      What's the story on the British Special forces, coming to Michoacan? Do you see Cjng is killing Innocents. Wake up.

    2. Your a dorkie California cholo lol.

    3. Hows los flechas doing tho🤔🤣 bien rosados de la vergizas que les estan

    4. Donkey California Cholo, now that's a good one.👍

  2. "El 50" is in no way 34 years old. His D.O.B. is possibly fabricated? Or he's lived a really hard life and aged beyond his years?

  3. La Patrona Emma Coronel is getting ready to divulge any info they have on los Mayos with the help of El Chapo. Payback time for all that snitching los Mayos did to El Chapo. Although his info is somewhat old I am sure he knows many of Mayos secrets....

    1. 11:43 I regret to inform you that, is not what is happening.
      Chapo is not allowed to talk to anyone, except to the rats that pass, looking for food. It's ok to daydream of something not true.

  4. Amazing work, HEARST! Thanks for connecting many of the dots.


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