'Border Insecurity:' Stealing from Cartels and Contract Killers

'Border Insecurity:' Stealing from Cartels and Contract Killers

While most Americans generally understand getting involved with Mexican drug cartels to be dangerous business south of the border, many may not be aware of the extent “spillover violence” spreads into the U.S. as well.  

The following is an excerpt from Breitbart Texas’ border security expert and contributing editor Sylvia Longmire’s new book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer:

Martin Cota-Monroy was about to have a really bad day. It’s doubtful he would have seen it coming, considering he had just returned from a killer weekend in Las Vegas with his buddies from California and some new friends from Mexico. They had rounded up some more people they knew in the Phoenix area before heading to “Sin City” Friday night, and they went straight to the MGM Grand and Palms casinos for a night of gambling and debauchery. But the fun eventually had to come to an end, and the group arrived back at their hotel in Phoenix around 6:00 p.m. Saturday night.

Not wanting to wrap up the weekend so early, part of the group started to get ready at the hotel for a local night out, and Martin took a few of the guys back to his apartment in the suburb of Chandler so they could get cleaned up there. Later that night, Martin and his friends Alberto, Manuel, and Juan met up with Daniel, Jorge, Adolfo, “Joto,” and “El Muñeco” at one of their favorite watering holes, the Coyote Bar. The night did not disappoint; they got drunk, closed the bar down, and Juan even got temporarily kicked out after getting into a fight with someone over some cocaine.

Hungry after a wild night, half the group went to the Filiberto’s drive-through for some food, and the other half–including Martin, Manuel, David, Juan, and “El Muñeco”–went back to Martin’s apartment. Martin and his friends arrived at the drive-through a bit later, brought out more alcohol, and Manuel invited his friend Edna to come by. She was nice enough to bring a friend, and the group just hung out in the parking lot for a while, drinking and talking. Manuel left briefly around 3:30 a.m. to take Edna’s friend home.

When he got back to Martin’s apartment, Manuel realized he needed to charge his cell phone. He went inside the apartment, where Martin, David, Juan, “Joto,” and “El Muñeco” were all still talking. At this point, their conversation about mysticism and death–and the looks in the eyes of the five men–was getting crazy enough for Manuel that he only charged his phone for five minutes and got the hell out of the apartment at around 5:00 a.m. Edna went with him to get a ride home.

Shortly after getting into the car with Edna, he saw David, Juan, and “Joto” leave the apartment, get into the red SUV they were driving, and pull out of the complex. Thinking something might be wrong, Manuel warned Edna to stay put in the car while he went back to the apartment. As he was walking into the living room, Daniel was coming out of one of the bedrooms. They both looked down and saw Martin’s lifeless body, blood pouring out of a stab wound, and his severed head lying two feet away.

Later in a conversation with a Chandler police officer, Manuel would try to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He didn’t know Martin very well, and “Joto” was a relatively new face for him, too. David and Juan, however, were Manuel’s childhood friends. David and Juan had introduced Manuel to “Joto,” and the four of them had been living in Manuel’s apartment for the last few weeks. They even took road trips together to Perris, California, on a regular basis, although Manuel didn’t really know why at first. Then, it started to sink in: the frequent stops at Western Union locations, David and Juan’s use of several different cars . . . there was a good chance his childhood buddies were in the drug business. Manuel never asked questions and had no interest in getting involved, but he was getting worried that his two friends might have had something to do with Martin’s murder. When asked, he truthfully told the police officer he didn’t know where they were.

Shortly after they finished their interview with Manuel, police officers picked up one of the suspects, Crisantos Moroyoqui (a.k.a. “El Muñeco”); his shoes and pants were stained with Martin’s blood. He agreed to talk to the police, but said he couldn’t remember any details from the night before because he was too drunk. But then the Chandler Police Department caught a break. They got a call from Jorge and Daniel, who knew that David, Juan, and “Joto” were currently in the Ursulo Galvan neighborhood of Valle Empalme in Sonora, Mexico. Following up on this lead, detectives met with members of the US Border Patrol’s Intelligence Unit in Tucson, Arizona, to see if they could uncover some of the mystery surrounding Martin’s grisly demise.

They learned that Martin, known as “Jando” in his hometown of Nogales in Sonora, had stolen four hundred pounds of marijuana from the Sinaloa Federation, which was collaborating with the Sonora state police investigative unit (PEI for Policia Estatal Investigadora). Martin had also been “pinching” small amounts of methamphetamine from the cop-backed cartel. His most egregious misstep was telling his narco bosses not that he had lost the marijuana load, but rather that the US Border Patrol had seized it[JS6] . It’s bad enough in the eyes of the cartel to lose a drug load in the process of evading authorities, but this is sometimes forgiven as a cost of doing business. However, it’s a death sentence to steal from them, then lie about it to try and cover it up. The cartel saw through the lie, and hired an enforcer crew called Los Relampagos (The Lightning) to kidnap Martin in Nogales.

Martin was initially able to talk his way out of getting killed. He said he would put up the home he said he owned as collateral, and swore to pay all the money back for the drug load he stole. But after they let him go, Martin continued to make bad decisions. He fled to Phoenix and went into hiding, fearing for his life because he didn’t actually own the home he put up as collateral. He knew the cartel would eventually figure this out and would come looking for him. They did; a subsidiary of the Federation known as “El Gio” sent David, Juan, and “Joto” to befriend Martin in Phoenix and keep an eye on him until the order to kill him came down.

But even Martin’s murder didn’t settle the score. Martin was apparently a mid-level member of the Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO), a smaller family-run cartel that had once been part of the Federation and split off in 2008. David, Juan, and “Joto” had been seen out and about in Valle Empalme, and the Border Patrol agents told the Chandler detectives the word on the street was the BLO had put hits out on the three men in retaliation for Martin’s murder. The cycle of “narco justice” had been happening on the Mexican side of the border for decades, but this was the first drug-related beheading ever known to have occurred in the United States.

In the days after Cota-Monroy’s beheading, news of the incident could only be found in local media outlets. About three weeks later, only two conservative national outlets–FOX news and the Washington Times–were reporting on the killing, and using the term “spillover violence” in their stories. Only when the Chandler Police Department’s report was released in early March 2011, making a definitive connection between the murder and a Mexican cartel, did more national news outlets come on board to report the story. But by then, the decapitation was old news.

You can read more about the debate over the existence of border violence spillover, as well as Washington’s inability to define what a secure border looks like in order to develop a comprehensive border security strategy, in Sylvia Longmire’s book Border Insecurity. You can learn more about the book, watch the official trailer, and read reviews at the official website,