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

Thursday, December 9, 2021

"El Michoacano" Prisonbreak: An Overview & Update

"HEARST" for Borderland Beat 

Last week an armed group of men used car bombs and a truck to battering ram open a prison gate in the town of Tula de Allende, in the state of Hidalgo. They did this as part of their operation which aimed to free a regional cartel leader, who escaped along with 8 others. 

Every day since the prison break, there has been a slow drip of information coming out which details how the group planned and executed the jail break, along with updates on some of the escapees getting rearrested. Here, in one article, is a brief overview of what has been reported.

Who is behind the operation? 

The group “Los Emes”, a subgroup within “Pueblos Unidos” is believed to be behind the breakout operation. 

Los Emes, or in English “The Ms”, refers to the first letter of the surname of the crime family  who lead the group, the Maldonados. The family originally hails from Pachuca, Hidalgo.

The four Maldonado brothers who are known to be involved in leading the organization are: Mariano, alias “El M1”, José Artemio, alias “El Michoacano”, Lucio , alias “El Jabalí” and Gerardo, alias “El Shrek”.

Two sisters, Sara and Reyna, are also allegedly involved in the business along with Sara’s son Salvador Alcázar Maldonado "El Chava".

Who were they trying to break out of prison? 

Reportedly the two prisoners that the operation primarily sought to free were José Artemio Maldonado, “El Michoacano” and his brother Mariano Maldonado Mejía, alias “El M1”. Seven other prisoners escaped, making a total of 9 inmates who were let out by the operation. 

El M1 had been in Tula prison, which is located in the state of Hidalgo, since 2018 on kidnapping charges related to migrant abductions that occurred in Mexicali, Baja California. 

El Michoacano was arrested in November 2021 after Hidalgo law enforcement requested authorities in the State of Mexico detain him on their behalf. They made this request after gaining intelligence that suggested where Michoacano was hiding out in Texcoco de Mora municipality, within the State of Mexico. 

His arrest was executed by State of Mexico authorities on November 16, 2021. Michoacano had suspected involvement in acts of kidnapping, extortion, intentional homicide, and drug trafficking.  

El Michoacano had only been in Tula prison for 5 days before an operation from Los Emes sprung him and his brother out.

What happened?

The timeline of the operation which freed the group, as reported now, goes as follows:

4:00 am

At approximately 4:00 am in the early morning hours of December 1, 2021, Tula authorities received a report of a vehicle explosion that had just occurred. The bomb exploded in a breach in between two roadways, in front of the General Hospital.

Photos of the car bomb used at the General Hospital taken on the morning of the attack

Photos of the car bomb used at the General Hospital taken on the morning of the attack. 

Photos later taken of the car bomb used at the General Hospital. 

Photos later taken of the car bomb used at the General Hospital.

4:15 am
At approximately 4:15 am, several pickup trucks and a box truck full of armed men arrived at the Tula prison. Four armed individuals dressed in black, military style clothing exit their vehicle, then three more men exit theirs.

Hitmen in front of the prison, as seen on surveillance video

The total of seven armed men approaching, dressed in black clothing, began opening fire at the prison guard watchtowers from their position. The driver of the box truck turned his vehicle around and waited for a signal.

After several minutes of shooting, a signal was given and the box truck was driven into the gateway entrance of the prison, using the vehicle as a type of battering ram. Video footage of the moment the gate was rammed seen below.

Source: Milenio

The gateway fell down and the hitmen entered the facility behind the truck. The first group of four men set fire to one of the entrances and then went upstairs to rescue the inmates inside the facility.

Photos of damage to the gate taken following the attack. 

Photos of damage to the gate taken following the attack. 

4:25 am

After ten minutes of intermittent shootouts which were occurring while guards were rushing to contain the fire started, the attackers got the prison guard to comply. Nine inmates were released from their locations in the prison. Whether all nine were individually picked out and their release sought after by the attackers, or if some of the nine were just in the right place at the right time is unknown. 

Just as the group of inmates and attackers were about to leave the prison, driving in vehicles, a second car bomb was set off to the east on the on the Tula-Michimaloya highway, suggesting that either the explosion had a remote detonation device, a timed detonation device or a second group of hitmen were working in tandem with the attackers in the prison.

Remnants of a car bomb used on the highway. 

It is worth noting that in some publication these car bombs are referred to as simply “vehicles on fire”, leaving open the possibility that the vehicle were simply set aflame similar to traditional narco-blockade construction. 

However, Ignacio Rojas Martinez, the director of Civil Protection of Tula, explained that at around 4:00 a.m. they received an emergency report of two vehicles on fire and, “according to preliminary reports, the fire was started by two explosions.”

4:35 am
At approximately 4:35 am, the convoy of vehicles fleeing the prison sped in the direction of the  El Crestón-Xochitlán highway however they were intercepted by a group of State and Municipal Police officers who were responding to reports of the prison break. The gunmen inside the vehicles shot at the officers who returned fire. A chase began but police were unable to make the vehicles stop. Two officers were injured by the gunfire, one state officer and one municipal.

4:45 am

By 4:45 am the gunfight was over and the attackers vehicles moved onto Arco Norte Federal Highway M40D. Within five minutes, the attackers vehicles switched onto the Mexico-Queretaro freeway. 

Two of the vehicles from the convoy were seen on surveillance footage going through the Atlacomulco toll booth, at 5:10am. 

Is this the same Pueblos Unidos organization that is working in Michoacán

Yes. It is believed that the Hidalgo Pueblos Unidos group (Los Emes) comes from the same overall organization that the Michoacan Pueblos Unidos group comes from. It appears Pueblos Unidos (PU) has multiple subgroups within it, spanning across multiple states, and each subgroup has their own set of alliances/rivalries, as well as targeted criminal endeavors.

Whether there is an overall leadership structure that all the PU subgroups report to or if the subgroups actually function more like a loose federation of independent factions is unclear. 

The Los Emes subgroup made their first appearance on June 14, 2021 when they announced themselves in a video claiming that they were a “citizen self defense” group and would be “hunting” huachicoleros. For Borderland Beat’s coverage of the new group, click here

Still from the June 2021 video. 

In the video, they especially denounce huachicoleros, saying “We all have something in common: the loss of a child, a cousin, a brother, a father, a friend, because of these huachicoleros,”

Los Emes allegedly has a prior criminal history of migrant kidnapping for ransom near the Baja California border, in the city of Mexicali. Their current stronghold is allegedly in the town of La Loma, in the municipality of Tepetitlán in Hidalgo. 

Within Michoacan, the PU faction is believed to be a subgroup working under the Carteles Unidos (CU), in alliance with other CU groups like Los Viagras and Cartel de Abuelo. The Michoacan group has much less of an emphasis on huachicoleros. 

Who was re-arrested? Who is still a fugitive?

On December 2, 2021, Hidalgo police reported the rearrest of three of the group of nine who escaped from the prison. 

Those recaptured were identified as Román Farfán Sánchez, Juan Valentín Rangel Albor and Abel Millán Gaspar. In addition, three other people who were allegedly a part of the group that helped the prisoners escape were arrested, one of them in Texcoco, State of Mexico.

Sources: El Sol de México Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, La Silla Rota Article 1, Article 2, El Imparcial, Zeta Tijuana, Milenio, UnoTv, La Jornada, Vice


  1. Carteles Unidos is bigger and stronger than i thought.
    CU is the third biggest organization besides, CDS and CJNG.
    No wonder they wanted to be indeendent from CJNG..
    Viagras, cartel del abuelo, familia michoacana, CT, los , emmes, los correas,pueblos unidos and im sure there are bunch more..
    Thats the reason CJNG will never take over michoacan..
    michoacan cartels are deep

    1. The only reason CU is still around is because of help from the government. If they had no help they would be long gone.

    2. The only reason CU is still around is because of help from the government

    3. CU is not the 3rd biggest especially not the 3rd most powerful and influential.. Yeah they have many different mini csrtels in on the alliance but all of them are merely shadows of hat they once were and banned together out of NECESSITY because alone they couldnt take on CJNG.
      BLO and NCDJ and Even CDG are still major drug trafficking organizations. BLO moves insane amount of jale all over USA and Europe and they do so lowkey because Chapito Isidro is smart motherfucker whos very calculating and very patient and seems to enjoy working from the shadows. Despacito sin hacer tanto ruido. Seems like he understands too much publicity in that line of work is bad for business all the way around. It also seems to me that BLO isnt a centralized organization or top to bottom organization where there is one all powerful leader or one lesder with obvious majority rule and instesd seems to be some time of System where the top bosses enjoy almost an even amount of say so, piece or the profits and thats why everyone is so damn loyal
      NCDJ is still run by A Carillo Fuentes, Vicente rhe one who just got released a few years back and hasntbeen heard of since. He took control in part after his release and after his uncle Viceroys Arrest and Extradition basically became #1. He basially runs the cartel business, contacts, money and connections with drug suppliers and politicians while his Primk who i wont mention because hes not burnt out runs day to day operations and is the org #2 or #3 guy. Also JL is very much alive and hes a top guy but as many suspect he was killed im guessing he enjoys that and keeps from using his name on anything . Nothing ever popped up, no body, no pictures, no nothing about his death. It ws just a rumor that ws spread far and wide. I think hes still technically wanted by the US too. But yeah NCDJ is still powerful and hold their plaza down from enemies and make very little "noise" . Its well knoen they have more internal problems than external problems and as of late they seem to be expanding and taking plazas from CDS. Its also well known they have an alliance and some type of understanding with CJNG. All over thrir plazas CJNG dope is sold openly buy its sold, regulated and distributed by NCDJ. Also CJNG crossed alot of jale thru their border crossings in return cjng pays with dope a cut of each shiptment, a percentage of Money passed back and recieve weapons and ammunition from the shipments coming into mexico belongin to cjng

      Also CDG Metros is gaining alot of ground in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and wherever they are because that CJNG/metros alliance is working in their favor both ways. Cjng has another border crossing while CDG gets a supplier, Weapons and money in return and Primito and R8 and other Altos Mandos recieve protection from Govt and Enemies in Jalisco. Primito is CJNG golden egg right now
      Surprised he hasnt changed the name to CartelGolfoNuevaGeneracion foreal. Apart from solidifying their control of La Frontera Chica and the areas of control/influence they also greatly expanded into Nuevo Leon and om guessing that has to do with SAMUEL GARCIA GOVENOR OF NL being a nephew to an oldschool CDG CAPO. Its rumored Samuel Garcia Sold the Plaza to Metros and CJNG for 4 Millions dollars cash, some properties and a portion of the profits there on after. Also highly rumored that CDV is now on Primitos side instead of Vaqueros and that many many CDG Rojos escorpione . Etc have began to flip and join CDG Metros even wome CDN commanders they say..
      So yeah CDG metros i believe has more influence money and power than CU by a long shot especiallt with it being a border plaza

      CU and CDN are the bigger of the smaller organizations and are shadows ofwhat they once were. CU moves weight yeah but do they have their own infrastructure,central american connect/cocaine connect, chemical precursor and do they enjoy political protection OUTSIDE of Michoacan or Tierra Caliente? Probbaly not. They probbaly get their cocaine from CDS or a smaller conecta in panama or Venezuela

    4. SOSA we could only speculate but even golfos are a shadow of what they were. Metos also had to click up with CJNG out of nessesity..
      I really thought cjng was going to smash on CU but they are more powerful han i thought.
      As far as chapo isidro he only has nuevo leon, parts of sinaloa and cuernavaca.. hes over rated

    5. Outside of michoacan CU have presence in guerrero, colima, morelos, hidalgo, even Tamaulipas with golfo cells.. your really underestmating CU just like mencho..

    6. Well the only reason CDS, zetas,golfos and cjng are still around is because of government protection.2:41 2:42

    7. @Sosap7g
      I don't see how you and especially Hearst are able to keep up with all the Chaos the way yall present it seems to make more sense to me then ever before and Ive been coming here for a while and its appreciated they should put you on the staff you seem to be on the money time after time . Good lookin out !

    8. 5:04 correct but those are all validated cartels. CU is a lose affiliation of the bottom of the barrel. CJNG would have finished CU if it wasnt for the government.

    9. 5:42 CU is a solid cartel now and thats what people dont understand lol
      they have political, NAVY, and ARMY government protection in more than 4 states in mexico but they are not a cartel?
      Every cartel in mexico is made up of loose aliances tontos lol
      Thats how cds and CJNG are structured as well..
      I know, it took me a minute to actually admit it but its a cartel..
      If it was not strongly structured CJNG would have took them out already..
      but yea, they have government support like any cartel and that proves their power..
      You have to look at it from a NON CARTEL GROUPIE angle to actually get it lol

    10. Sosa, I've said it before but once again, your input is pretty amazing and yeah, I think you have a shit ton of validity, thank you

  2. Replies
    1. Vaca loves to read Super Supper Big Fat Comments.

  3. I always love me a great prison break. Very well planned with strategic planning, bombs, and I’m sure pay offs. Organized and willing to take risks. Very deadly combination. This group is surely trouble for Mexican society. Too bad they are always only about total power and money. A group like this could do some good for their communities. BUT, they won’t and will never. The killing raping and genocide will continue. Their hands, with a firearm in them, will cause untold misery and suffering.

  4. These guys broke out because they need to be secret Santa's in their towns and theres no way these fellows are going to let down their communities (they are the real deal benevolent war lords) And coming day after christmas they will prison break their asses right back in to prison and act like nothing happened ! I gaurentee it .Happens every year about this time .

  5. I always like to read how all the little fellows in elf costumes get in the house. Warms my heart every time. A Honduran hand grenade for little Bobby and the poor mom gets stuck with another tortilla press.

  6. Metros did have to click up with cjng out of necessity and its the best thing they did. Well weird how things turned out but all along Primito seemed to be making power moves until he was left undisputed l. His steofather is a hogh ranking member of cjng and thats why that alliance seems to flourish so much. Its family involved.

    To the guy who said Chapito isidro only has this or that in mexico, then tell me why accoeding to many agencies his cartel is #3 in distribution in US and has a major hub in Atlanta which is Gold. Its practially another chicago and through Atlanta you can run drugs to many other important lucrative places which means money. Mexico is nothing but heat, fighting for plazas is bad newsand usually its not only the boss that wants it but a crooked greedy politician but i wont dive into all that.
    Yeah drugs are sold in mexico but paid for in Pesos and at a very cheeap price yeah there is extortion and kidnapping but all that brings nothing but heat and for this reason Isidro seems to be doing pretty well for himselfm he has essentially 30-40 of sinaloa and demanded a truce with the respect his name carries the dude is a fighter and he demonstrated that many tmes.

    For the guy who says they are a cartel, well yeah they are but not the 2rd most ppwerfl. They dont carry the same amount of power in any other area like they do in Tierra caliente bro. In tierra caliente they reign supreme but even that is being contested daily and pretty soon whats going to happen is tha same shit cjng did in GTO. Marro had everything on lock 100% but little by little jng hit him where it hurt and really heated upthe plaza which does one thing... Brinh g otside help from federal forces and that equals 1 thing. Cjng. Its not a secret that cjng has very powerful an important people on their side and sooner or later the govt does their job for them . Pretty soon the commander of sedena or GN will be replaced in Michoacan due to corruption allegations and moved to another cuartel along with all the other CU loyalist and maybe cjng cant buy or scare the new one but neither can CU and it will even the playing field. Sadly unless Mencho dies or is arrested cjng will win any war but not because they aresome elite force or super cartel or because they have better this or that but because of th ppweful politcally monster behind Mencho and Co. For that reason alone

    1. 7:11 mencho is powerfull but not as much as people claim..
      Shoot, he cznt even take out la corona or muchiacan plaza..
      I GUARANTEE MENCHO WILL NEVER take michoacan.. I hate to say it but CU has tierra caliente on lock..
      Mencho, mayo, chaputos CAF are all pieces of shit but CU are worse i heard..


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