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

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Violent Prison Riot of Apodaca & The Narco Who Caused It

"Itzli", "Sol Prendido" and "HEARST" for Borderland Beat

A new narco message sign appeared in Nuevo León which blames a prison riot, which injured 56 inmates, on Jonathan Enrique Gonzalez Rivera, alias “El Totoy” who leads a major independent cartel group in the area around the city of Monterrey.

On the morning of January 7, 2022, Samuel García Sepúlveda who is the new governor for the state of Nuevo León, publicly announced that “the state, once again, has taken back control of the prisons. As of today no more criminal activity or criminal strategies or calls can enter or leave from any prison in Nuevo León.”

Only a handful of hours after this announcement, at approximately 2:00 pm on that same day, a riot erupted in Apodaca prison, which is located near the major city of Monterrey in the state of Nuevo León. 

At first, some in the press speculated the riot was a direct response to the statement made by the governor but according to the statement later made by the Secretary of Security, the riot began as a simple dispute between two prisoners over 70 pesos (equivalent to $3.43 USD) in the Delta building of the prison complex. 

This fight between the two inmates escalated as both men belonged to rival gangs of extortionists within the prison. Their dispute led one gang member to allegedly take retaliatory action against the leader of the other group, by entering his prison cell and burning the leader’s mattress.

The mattress burning incident led to an outright brawl between not only the two gangs involved but three other gangs within the prison which are said to have joined in, presumably due to pre-established alliances they had with the involved parties. This five gang prison fight led to the injury of 56 inmates in one day. More than 100 anti-riot elements from the Civil Force were sent to enter the prison shortly after 3:30 p.m.

Eight of the 56 injured men had to be sent out for hospitalization at the University hospital while another 29 remain under medical supervision by prison personnel.

Secretary of Security Aldo Fasci Zuazua said of the injuries caused by the riot, “There were no firearms. All the injuries were caused by hits (blows). The head wounds were caused by blunt objects, either rocks or in some cases by [smashing the head] on the floor.” 

During the fight and subsequent crackdown by prison guards, visitors to the prison were not allowed inside for normally scheduled visitions. Some relatives of the injured prisoners demanded to be let inside and to be given more information. The situation eventually escalated to a riot outside of the prison as well. 

Video Source: Proceso

During this riot, a portion of the prison gate fell on top of a cameraman, a photographer, and other people who were standing outside of Apodaca prison. Video of the gate falling can be seen above. All people who were injured by the gate fall sustained non-life-threatening injuries although some required hospitalization.

A narcomanta, or narco message banner, was placed on January 10, 2022, on the highway to Laredo at the intersection with the highway to Salinas Victoria which made claims about the true nature of the prison riot. Photos of the banner reveal that the message read, as translated by Sol Prendido:

Mr. Director of the Apodaca prison, 

We ask that you please not permit Zeton Totoy to extort the inmates or their families. The same is asked for Lanchas and Rodo. The lives of these inmates lies within your hands. Please help us so that things change for the better.

In the message, “Zeton Totoy” likely refers to Jonathan Enrique González Rivera, alias “El Totoy” who leads an independent cartel group in the area around Monterrey. Of note, the term “Zeton” can be translated as "Big Zeta".

Meanwhile “Lanchas” likely refers to the alias of Fernando Lecea González and the “Rodo” likely refers to the alias Joel Rodolfo Ramones Barba*, the leader of a different independent cartel group called “Cartel Independiente de Nuevo León”, or the Independent Cartel of Nuevo León who is covered in more detail in this previous story on Borderland Beat.

Of note, despite leading an “independent group” El Rodo is believed to be in an alliance with the El Mayo side of the Sinaloa Cartel, as evidence by the video shoutout he received from MZ hitmen on September 16, 2021. 

These preliminary identities of “El Lanchas” and “El Rodo” are supported by narcomantas which appeared last month, on December 8, 2021, at multiple locations in the greater metropolitan area Monterrey. These banners explicitly named the aliases and alleged real names of the two, along with allegations about corruption by Apodaca prison commanders. 

As previously stated, the message’s “Zeton Totoy” likely refers to Jonathan Enrique González Rivera, alias “El Totoy”, based on the currently available evidence. 

El Totoy is believed to have been born in approximately the year 1987 in the area of Puerto Vallarta, in the state of Jalisco. He, along with his brother, Guillermo Osiel González Rivera, alias "El Totoy Negro" were said to have acted as petty theives in within Jalisco in their early criminal careers before both ended up relocating to Nuevo León.

After their move, Totoy continued his criminal streak and spent time in Nuevo León jails such as Topo Chico and the aforementioned Apodaca prison, meanwhile his brother El Totoy Negro earned a reputation within the criminal underworld after he kidnapped and tortured an undercover police officer. 

By the summer of 2019, El Totoy made his first appearance in major news publications, being described as the leader of an independent cartel group operating in the area around Monterrey. His brother El Totoy Negro was said to be working as his second-in-command and right hand man within the group. 

It is possible that El Totoy’s organization operated prior to these 2019 reports, managing to go unnoticed at the time due to the Monterrey news cycle being largely preoccupied with other, larger cartel killings.

As some background context, the state of Nuevo León was originally under the control of the Gulf Cartel (Cártel del Golfo, CDG). 

Beginning in 2003, the Sinaloa Cartel federation tried to contest the Gulf Cartel’s control over Nuevo León and the nearby city of Nuevo Laredo but the Gulf Cartel managed to retain control of the areas, in no small part due to the use of their armed wing, Los Zetas. 

In the wake of this war, a truce emerged in 2007 between the CDG and Sinaloa Cartel federation. As a part of this truce, the plaza of Monterrey was formally given to the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO). With cartel control of the area no longer under dispute, Monterrey was ruled by the leadership of BLO lieutenant Héctor Huerta Ríos, aliases “La Burra” and “El HH”, for a few years.

On March 23, 2009, La Burra was named as one of 37 most wanted cartel members in a list published by the Mexican government. He was arrested the day after the list’s publication. Within a year of La Burra’s arrest, Los Zetas declared their independence from the Gulf Cartel, plunging Nuevo León into chaos as the CDG, Los Zetas and the BLO all fought to control the state.

By this time, the larger BLO organization was in a state of decline due to the recent killing of its leader Arturo Beltrán Leyva, in December 2009. Nevertheless, a BLO presence remained in the city, led by José Rodolfo Villarreal Hernández, alias “El Gato”. 

As one of the Los Zetas splinter groups began evolving into the Northeast Cartel (Cártel Del Noreste, CDN) and the CDG began fracturing into independent factions, a brief semblance of stability emerged. However this was soon after disrupted when La Burra was released from prison in 2018 and he began contesting El Gato for control of the city. This power struggle played out for over a year, up until July 4, 2019 when La Burra was killed.

This did not end the violence, however, as CDN then began a bloody expansion campaign in Monterrey. They demanded the various local independent cartel groups that had emerged over time now must “align” or submit to paying a percentage of their earnings to them. At the helm of this CDN campaign was their lieutenant Hector Raul Luna Luna, alias “El Tory”.   

In response, many independent groups chose to ally with each other rather than submit to the percentage demands of CDN. Allegedly El Totoy chose to ally with the larger independent group “Los Billys”, who are covered in further detail in this previous Borderland Beat story

It was at this point, in June 2019, when Totoy’s group first came to prominence within the news due in no small part to their alleged involvement in the homicide of 31-year old José Luis Rodríguez Gómez in the La Alameda neighborhood of central Monterrey at 1:52 PM. The homicide was eventually traced back to El Totoy’s group by agents of the State Investigation Agency (Agencia Estatal de Investigaciones, AEI) through footage that was captured by nearby security cameras. 

Using the videos, police were able to identify the vehicles involved which led to the arrest of a subordinate of El Totoy named Cesar Emmanuel Rangel Robles, alias “El Coya”, who had an existing criminal record for vehicular theft related charges.

From there, officers were also able to identify and arrest a different subordinate of Totoy, Luis Eduardo Pérez, alias “El Chetos”, who was born in approximately 1993. It is worth noting that El Chetos was a former Los Zetas member who went to prison in 2018 and, upon his release, began working for Totoy. This type of poaching of Los Zetas members was something that El Totoy frequently engaged in, earning him somewhat of a reputation for the habit.

A third subordinate of Totoy named José Luis Mendoza García, alias “El Zurdo”, was also arrested in connection with the homicide.  El Zurdo began his criminal career working for Totoy as a “halcone” or lookout but eventually rose to become a sicario, or hitman within the group.

 All three prior arrests undoubtedly contributed to the eventual downfall of El Totoy, which occurred on January 25, 2020, when a special task force led by the State Investigation Agency (Agencia Estatal de Investigaciones, AEI) conducted a raid which captured El Totoy on a property in the El Barro neighborhood of the greater Monterrey area. 

According to La Opinion, Totoy was caught by the task force while he was in the middle of conducting a meeting with some of his subordinates, including the previously mentioned El Chetos, who was described at this point as his current second-in-command. 

El Totoy had two outstanding warrants for his arrest related to charges of homicide and kidnapping. Local reports detail that El Totoy was successfully taken into custody, without resistance, along with four of his fellow cartel members by the AEI agents. 

He was then sent to Apoadac prison but despite being imprisoned, El Totoy allegedly continued to lead his group through sending message and orders through his brother El Totoy Negro. 

El Totoy has been accused of heavily extorting the prisoners, more than any other cartel leader, within Apodaca prison. This excessively demanding of fees within the prison undoubtedly contributed to rising tensions that led to the prison riot that left 56 injured.

Please Note: *Joel Rodolfo Ramones Barda is sometimes misspelled as “Barba” in certain US media publications.

Joel Rodolfo Ramones Barba “El Rodo” is not to be confused with another Monterrey cartel figure Rodolfo Hinojosa, alias “El Rodo” who was a rapper from the group Low Barrio 1613 and broke off to form his own splinter cell group from Los Billys but was later killed in 2020. 

Apoadaca Prison Riot Sources: El Manana, El Economista, Infobae, Border Report, Proceso, El Porvenir, Noticias NRT, American Post 

January 10 2022 Narcomanta Sources: El Porvenir, Nuevo León Ta conmadre, Periodico la Voz

December 8 2021 Narcomanta Sources: El Codigo Libre, Bullfrag, Portal Mexico


  1. The prisons is the best school for future gangsters and crime groups

    1. Oh for reals boy your smarter, than a sack of potatoes, want to kiss my chorizo.

    2. @335 lolololol i was taking a shit wen i read that and i laughed ai hard that a fat log shot straight out and splashed me

  2. CDS, Golfos, zetas, beltranes and CJNG are all on that city..

  3. How many Mexican gangstas are rats? All of them!


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