5 Mexican Cartel Bosses Who Were Caught Hiding in Texas

Mexican cartel bosses have a history of seeking a safe haven in the United States in an apparent effort to avoid dying at the hands of their rivals or having to shoot it out with Mexican military forces. U.S. law enforcement officers arrested several key cartel bosses after they sought refuge in Texas.

It is not clear how many Mexican cartel bosses have in fact crossed or continue to cross into the U.S. and avoid being captured. Authorities arrested the following five cartel leaders in South Texas:

1– Rafael Cardenas Vela AKA El Junior

One of the top leaders in the Gulf Cartel, and nephew of Los Zetas founder Osiel Cardenas Guillen. As Breitbart Texas reported, Cardenas Vela was known as a fierce warlord who commanded crews of cartel hitmen that rode in armored trucks and had access to rocket launchers, automatic weapons, and explosives. Fearing a certain death at the hands of his rivals, Cardenas ultimately fled to the United States in May 2011. He maintained control of the Matamoros Plaza from a series of security houses in the Texas border cities of Rio Hondo and Brownsville through the use of daily e-mails to key leadership within the Cartel. 

Federal agents arrested El Junior in October 2011 him along with two of his key bodyguards as he was making his way to South Padre Island from Port Isabel, Texas, where he had a luxury condominium. According to federal prosecutors, Cardenas Vela had approximately 500 gunmen men in Mexico ready to respond to his call.

2– Luis Alberto Blanco Flores AKA Pelochas or M-28

The current leader of the Gulf Cartel in the border city of Rio Bravo fled to the U.S. in 2010 along with fellow Gulf Cartel members Oscar “El Apache” Castillo Flores and others to escape certain death at the hands of their rivals. At the time, the Gulf Cartel underwent a series of internal conflicts that led to the murder of key leaders. Blanco Flores worked for Castillo Flores and both men fled to Brownsville where eventually federal authorities arrested them, Breitbart Texas previously reported. Both cartel leaders were only charged with illegal re-entry and released after serving two years in prison.

Castillo Flores was gunned down in a firefight in 2012, while Blanco Flores kept climbing the ladder within the leadership of the Gulf Cartel.  During his illegal re-entry trial, Blanco Flores was seen loudly sobbing in court when he saw his mother sitting in the federal courtroom in Brownsville.

3– Juan Saenz-Tamez AKA Panochitas

The former leader of the Gulf Cartel was arrested in October 2014 in the border city of Edinburg. In a story first reported by Breitbart Texas, Juan “El Panochitas” Saenz-Tamez was arrested by federal authorities after the cartel leader had been hiding in Texas in an apparent effort to avoid the ongoing rivalry between cartel forces and a possible capture by Mexican authorities. Tamez’s charges came from a federal indictment from Beaumont, Texas, where he eventually pleaded guilty to multiple drug conspiracy charges.

4– Jose Luis Zuniga AKA El Wicho

A former key leader and regional boss for the Gulf Cartel, El Wicho was arrested by federal authorities in Santa Maria, Texas in 2011. At the time of his arrest, Zuñiga had a .38 caliber jeweled handgun valued at close to $50,000. 

As Breitbart Texas reported, El Wicho had a strike team of 60 SUVs with as many as 240 gunmen ready to answer to his call.

5– Juan Roberto Rincon-Rincon

One of the key commanders of the Gulf Cartel, he was arrested in Texas in October 2011 when he fled to rural Cameron County. According to the FBI, Rincon and his key security detail fled to the United States rather than face a likely death at the hands of their rivals.

According to testimony from his trial, Rincon and the Gulf Cartel were able to remain in control of northern Mexico by bribing Mexican law enforcement, some elements of the Mexican military, the news media, and elected public officials. In addition to unlimited funds, Rincon also had Rincon-Rincon also had at least 100 individuals at his disposal armed with semi-automatic rifles, body armor, grenades, and .50 Caliber automatic rifles, and some had rocket launchers. The Gulf Cartel commander is serving a life sentence in federal prison.

Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon.  You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Brandon Darby is managing director and editor-in-chief of Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Ildefonso Ortiz and Stephen K. Bannon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be contacted at bdarby@breitbart.com.


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