Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, head of the Zetas drug cartel, has been captured in northern Mexico, the Mexican government has confirmed.
According to the LA Times: “The top leader of Mexico’s most feared and violent drug-trafficking paramilitary cartel, the Zetas, was captured Monday, Mexican authorities announced. It is the first significant blow to organized crime in the young government of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
“Mexican naval special forces seized Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, alias Z-40, before dawn Monday in Nuevo Laredo, a border city across from Laredo, Texas, in the state of Tamaulipas, long a Zeta stronghold, government security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said.
“Sanchez said Trevino Morales was wanted for numerous serious crimes including the slaughter of more than 260 migrants who were dumped into mass graves in Tamaulipas.”
Los Zetas History and Trevino Morales’ rise
The origins of Los Zetas date back to 1999, when a number of commandos of the Mexican Army’s elite forces deserted their ranks and decided to work as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, a powerful drug-trafficking organization.
In February 2010, Los Zetas broke away from their former employer and formed their own drug-trafficking organization. According to reports, the Zetas quickly became infamous for their brutality, which included beheadings of kidnapped migrants and rival gang members.
Trevino Morales took control of the Zetas following the death of the group’s founder, Heriberto Lazcano, in October 2012. However, his rise to the top was unexpected.
According to Reuters:
“Security experts said Trevino, who was born in Nuevo Laredo, took over the Zetas after the marines killed the cartel’s longstanding commander, Heriberto Lazcano, in October.
“Unlike most top Zetas, Trevino had no military background, building up a power base within the gang as a financial fixer and logistics expert, and helping to extend its operations running cocaine and crystal [methamphetamine] into the United States and Europe.
“Trevino’s reputation for extreme violence also helped cement his rise.
“‘He’s the most sadistic of them,’ U.S. political scientist and Zetas expert George W. Grayson said. ‘He really gets off on inflicting diabolical pain on people.’
“In the months leading up to Lazcano’s death, rumors of a split in the cartel were rife following a massacre of Zetas reportedly carried out by other members of the gang in the central city of San Luis Potosi.
‘”Not long before Lazcano was killed in Coahuila state, banners accusing Trevino of being a “Judas” to the Zetas leader began to appear, fueling talk the gang was splintering.
“Then, in the space of a few weeks, Zetas staged a mass jailbreak on the U.S.-Mexican border, assassinated the son of a top politician, and Lazcano was killed. Trevino was in control.
“Believed to have been born on June 28, 1973, Trevino spent many of his formative years in Dallas, doing menial work that led him to be labeled ‘car washer’ by some detractors.
“Turning to criminal enterprise, Trevino and his brothers set up a sophisticated money-laundering ring in the United States using race horses as a front.
“In June 2012, hundreds of FBI agents across the United States raided their stables, arresting Trevino’s older brother Jose. According to the FBI, the stables received more than $1 million a month from Mexico and had more than 300 stallions. One of the horses was called Number One Cartel.”
How Trevino Morales Was Captured
According to the BBC, Marines stopped a pickup truck containing $2 million in cash and Trevino Morales was taken into custody along with a bodyguard, an accountant and eight guns.