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

Friday, July 14, 2023

Former CAF Lieutenant Juan Francisco Sillas-Rocha "El Sillas" Pleads Guilty in US Court

"Socalj" for Borderland Beat

Juan Sillas-Rocha, 45, of Tijuana, Mexico (initially from Sinaloa), pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, Continuing Criminal Enterprise, and Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Furtherance of the Continuing Criminal Enterprise before Chief Judge Peter Welte in Fargo, North Dakota. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later time.

On March 31, 2011, Sillas Rocha, also known as "El Rueda" was indicted by a grand jury in North Dakota in a Superseding Indictment on those three counts.

Background on "El Rueda"

Sillas began his career by robbing drug dealers, often killing them in an attempt to exert control over the plazas that belonged to Teodoro García Simenta, "El Teo." His primary objective was to dismantle distribution cells in Baja California that were loyal to the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS). With this task, he also had the backing of the Tijuana cartel (CAF) who were seeking to reestablish control over their territories and smuggling routes.

These confrontations between rival groups brought the attention of both the police and the military, the culmination of which led to several high-profile arrests and seizures of narcotics. This also led to complications in the daily operations of the drug-dealing cells. These groups pleaded to "El Ingeniero" to bring a halt to the assaults they were enduring, however, he was unable to help them adequately with this request.

"El Ingeniero" appointed "El Sillas" to lead the charge against the opposition, he also ordered other sicario cells to lend him support. "El Sillas "was the only person who was willing to take this task, other groups had attempted to regain control of the plaza and had met with disastrous results.

Operation Speed Racer

As outlined at the plea hearing today before Judge Welte, an investigation was initiated in 2004 in Fargo, North Dakota, into the drug-trafficking activities of local drug dealers.  The investigation “Operation Speed Racer” revealed that from January 2002 until December 2005, Jorge Arandas, "Sneaky," supervised a continuing criminal enterprise responsible for transporting large quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana to North Dakota and Minnesota from Washington, California, and Mexico. Arandas was supplied by Juan Sillas-Rocha or employees of Sillas-Rocha.

Sillas-Rocha was a distributor for the Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO/CAF) and was supervised directly by Arturo Villareal Heredia, "El Nalgon," who worked for Javier Francisco Arellano-Felix, "El Tigrillo."  Both Villareal Heredia and Arellano-Felix were prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. 

Lee Avila Murder

In 2005, Arandas arranged a 10-pound shipment of methamphetamine into the United States. Five pounds landed in Washington state and 5 pounds were delivered to Lee Avila at the West Acres Mall in Fargo, North Dakota. Lee Avila failed to pay for the drugs and members of the Arandas organization murdered Lee Avila in June of 2005, shooting him nine times in the presence of two small children. 

After the murder, Arandas read the article in the Fargo Forum newspaper about the homicide to Sillas-Rocha and he gave Arandas an extension to pay for the shipment. All five participants in the homicide pled guilty to their roles in this murder in furtherance of the continuing criminal enterprise. The participants in the homicide received the following sentences:

Gabriel Martinez - Life
Jorge Arandas - 40 years
Michael Petzold - 30 years
Alan Wessels - 23 years
Martin Carrillo - 20 years

After the arrest of Javier Arellano-Felix in 2006, his nephew, Fernando Sanchez-Arellano, "El Ingeniero," assumed control of the AFO. Under the leadership of Fernando Sanchez Arellano, Sillas-Rocha became a very powerful lieutenant in the cartel, controlling cells that were responsible for drug trafficking, armed conflicts with rival cartels, kidnappings, and numerous murders. Sillas-Rocha once boasted to authorities he killed up to 30 people a month during the Felix cartel’s prime in Tijuana, according to a detective in North Dakota.

"El Teo" Sinaloa Cartel's Tijuana Plaza Boss

Sinaloa Cartel Kidnappings

According to Sedena, Sillas-Rocha is credited with the kidnapping of three women, relatives of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, one of the most powerful leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel, which occurred on September 25, 2010, in Tijuana.

The background on this kidnapping stemmed from brokering peace in Tijuana between the two rival cartels. Representatives of the Sinaloa cartel had arrived in Tijuana with fiscal incentives in order to “bring peace to the plaza,” giving "El Teo" and "El Sillas" the authority over the area. They spoke of ending the internal struggles that had brought forth these bloody confrontations, and they would do this while still paying the CAF the right to use the plaza of Tijuana to smuggle their drugs into the U.S. through various cells.

This is how the CAF and Sillas began to lose control of the plaza. "El Ingeniero" openly supported El Ruedas until September 2010 when Sillas kidnapped the aunt, cousin, and niece of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. This aggressive action causes the Sinaloa cartel to put a large price on the head of Juan Sillas Rocha.

"El Ingeniero" allowed "El Sillas" to be expelled from the CAF to show he was not supporting the kidnapping, and thus avoided a war with the CDS. 

In a video released on Youtube, the people of "El Silla"s said this kidnapping was in retaliation for a series of kidnappings and murders of the family of Juan Sillas Rocha, actions perpetrated by members of the CDS. According to the authorities, the kidnappings were in retaliation for the kidnapping and disappearance of his sister Lizeth Sillas Rocha, perpetrated on July 30 of that same year, in Nogales, Sonora. 

Sillas-Rocha requested several Amparos throughout the years of his incarceration in Mexico to have authorities investigate the kidnapping and attempt to locate his missing sister. The relatives of "El Mayo" were rescued in a military operation, and one week later, "El Sillas" was captured.

ZETA Newspaper Threats

He issued death threats in 2010 against Adela Navarro Bello the director and also an editor of Semanario ZETA. US authorities had intercepted phone calls that the cartel looked to target "ZETA Editors".

The Mexican army confirmed the threat and assigned seven soldiers each to the top three editors for more than two months, until after the suspects were arrested. In May of that year, authorities arrested a group of hitmen who plotted to carry out the threat by attacking the Zeta Tijuana offices using grenades.

Zeta reported that a Sinaloa cartel operative was recruiting hit men in San Diego, that authorities freed alleged cop killers, and that traffickers in small towns east of Tijuana paid off police to allow street-level drug dealing. "It's not easy to take this route and commit to doing these investigations, but it's what we do," Navarro said, speaking in a newspaper conference room that features a portrait of Blancornelas above the manual typewriter he used as a cub reporter in the 1950s.

Zeta's editors say they are honoring Blancornelas and their colleagues who have been gunned down: co-founder Hector Felix in 1988, Blancornelas' driver, Luis Valero, in 1997, and editor Francisco Ortiz in 2004.

2011 Arrest

In February 2011, Sillas-Rocha ordered two individuals in California to be murdered for retribution for the alleged kidnapping and murder of a drug smuggler associated with Sillas-Rocha. During the course of the investigation, Sillas-Rocha ordered the murder of at least two intended victims who are identified by initials in the Superseding Indictment. After providing the confidential informant with photos and the address of the intended victims, three co-conspirators were arrested and charged in San Diego County with Conspiracy to Commit Murder. 

Arrested were Jorge Sillas, the brother of Sillas-Rocha, Victor Magana, and Danny Cepallo. All three defendants plead guilty in state court in San Diego and received the following prison sentences:

Jorge Sillas - 21 years
Victor Magana - 15 years
Danny Cepallo - 5 years

Sillas-Rocha was arrested on November 4, 2011, in Tijuana, Mexico, after he and three others had attacked a vehicle in Tijuana. He was served with a provisional arrest warrant issued by a court in Mexico which started the extradition process.

Sillas-Rocha continued his work for the cartel until his arrest in November 2011 but would acknowledge committing overt acts to further the conspiracy and CCE after 2011, while incarcerated in Mexico.

2022 Extradition

On September 8, 2022, after 11 years of litigation in Mexico, Sillas-Rocha was extradited to the United States and made his initial appearance in North Dakota on September 9, 2022. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in North Dakota played a significant role in securing this extradition. This was after years of court battles, prison transfers and complaints about his treatment for health issues including kidney problems (he has one kidney). For almost a year in 2020, authorities did not know what prison Sillas was located in.

As part of “Operation Speed Racer”, 66 defendants were charged on 18 separate indictments, and the defendant’s guilty plea today it brings this 19-year investigation to a conclusion.


  1. Why would a guy like that plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder when it carries the same time as murder? And after bragging to cops about killing 30 people a month what could he possibly have coming from the authorities except life without? Surely he just wanted to get it over with. ADX Florence is no picnic. Maybe there God can speak to him and save him from the wrath to come.

  2. Farrah Fresnedo,was riding in a car with Israel El Marquitos" in November 2011, who was responsible for telling Sanchez Arellano/Aquiles about the September 2010 kidnapping of Mayos nieces

    which allowed the federal police to rescue her and unravel Sillas, exposing him and ending his run in TJ

    Sillas personally tried to kill Marquitos and Farrah in November, like shot them up in traffic, near Zona Rio and was arrested after

    Farrah and Melissa (who is La Rana's former girlfriend) were kidnapped in Tijuana, March 2021, and later released, CJNG cell members were allegedly responsible

  3. If he gets less than 40 years, he most likely gave the feds some information.

    1. This is a guy though, who, what would he possibly have to trade?

      Inge is done. if Southern District of CA didn't have enough to file an indictment, neither will the damn North Dakota US Attorneys Office.

      Arellano's aren't around. None of his contemporaries are. Israel Marquitos is in US custody already. Not really a big player anyway

      Aquiles and La Rana and Sillas never worked together, and they are already on an indictment for trafficking out of San Diego.

      Never met Mayo. Never met Chapo. Never knew his sons.

      Dude has nothing to trade, and got burned in the game, and benched by the feds. Crazy how life goes. Never would think he would end up in North Daktota.

  4. I can’t believe this fucking guy is still alive..?

  5. CAF turned him over that’s what CAF is known for .

  6. Sillas amd el teo 2 in a long list of assholes that do not understand that there is narcotraffincking and the rest is bullshit. Kidnappers shld be put to death quickly without remorse. They dont deserve to be alive.

  7. Of all places this guys this guys get tried in courts in all white towns they get the book thrown at them probably no translation is given to them through the whole process.

    1. It ain’t about race dude. The guy was killing people right and left. Put away your snot rag and get real.

  8. Mitch, lee’s brother the murder victim was one of my goons I guess you could say. I ran a prison extortion gang and Mitch and I clicked from moment one even though I’m White and he Hispanic and since the Hispanic shot caller loved my diabolical ruthlessness he allowed Mitch to be with me I was very grateful because Mitch later was part of the torture court I created in the mid90’s to torture suspected and found out sex deviants. Nowadays you can easily find out what somebody’s in for back then it was a whole process and steps that I formulated to right to find those cockroaches and when I did they were brought before MY torture court where I was the prosecutor and judge and a diff “goin” was the cockroaches attorney. Mitch usually the one to get the answers and then once the trial was over he would provide the consequence. Real quick, fucking classic, one sick pig was sentenced to have his eyes gouged 10 times. So Mitch, to right the predators wrongs took great pride and with ultimate precision and great strength executed the sentence. Right after our supper was done prison nachos and burritos. Fucking Mitch had this guys blood and I swear part of his eyeballs under his long ass nails while we were eating. And Mitch was a clean freak as I was we fucking laughed and laughed and were so proud that the sex pig got his. Now remember controlled movement wasn’t quite implemented yet in USA and this was max security. So things were wide open. We r taking free weights, creatine, protein mix and many other supplements we were repping 350 on bench high 400’s on squat and 600+ on deadlift. Plus we were cardio maniacs . We were programming like a motherfucker. I probably had 15 psychos under me and how I got to that point doesn’t matter but I must say it was fairly easy and I always was just good at taking care of business I guess you could say starting. In my late teens I dominated I was just good at prison. I always wondered how I would’ve done in cali pens. I FIRMLY believe that I did a tiny part in making society safer and better through my righteous torture court. Some killed themselves some were maimed beyond being able to sexually function and out of the 100 or so I was able to bring to trial id say over 95% were uncaught serial offenders. I never have once felt bad about the righteous sentences the cockroaches were given I feel bad that I didn’t do enough and my other ventures inside took away from the amount of work I did for the greater good . Needless to say I of course ended up caught and did many years in seg over it which was ok because I was able to do their things. Mitch always told me his and lee’s mom was ruthless and very dangerous. When this happened to lee I heard, whether true or not, that his own mom was deeply I involved in her sons murder because she didn’t want to fuck up her drug hook. Now I have many kids and live a great life and my kids know nothing of those things and wouldn’t believe me if I told them. I was a true convict and I made USA society a little safer through my torture court implementation!

  9. This dude was the real deal.a wild one.crazy in the early 2000s u would see Teo in Bonita and his crew downtown or at Tangaloo.


  11. El Ruedas was the real deal. Learned from his dad an ex cop. Saludos compa sillas.


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