Cartel Gunmen Silence Star Witness in Trial of Los Zetas Boss in Mexico

Los Zetas Top Leader Miguel Angel "El 40" Trevino Morales.
Mexico's Attorney General's Office PGR

Gunmen acting under orders of a ruthless cartel executed one of Mexico’s star witnesses who played a key role in the prosecution of top capos in Mexico, including the leader of Los Zetas.

While authorities tried to downplay the May 29 shooting where three men having lunch died at a shopping plaza near Mexico City, that country’s Proceso Magazine has identified one of the victims as a protected witness known to authorities by the name “Karen.”

The murder serves as another example of the overwhelming power of the criminal organization that remains one of the most ruthless and powerful syndicates in Mexico and continues to reach deep into the United States far beyond the border cities.

Karen is the name given to a former Zeta hitman who had been testifying about having worked with former top Zeta boss Miguel Angel “Z-40 o El 40, L40” Trevino Morales in the early 2000s which is a time when Los Zetas were still part of the Gulf Cartel and initially set their control over the border city of Nuevo Laredo.

While Trevino Morales is often called Z-40 by news outlets, in the early days of Los Zetas, Trevino was known as an L, Lobo, or Cobra because he was not one of the original military deserters that made up Los Zetas.

The Mexican government has been using women’s names in an effort to help hide the identity of government witnesses that have chosen to testify against their former employers.  In the case of Karen, he had been a former Mexican soldier who had joined the ranks of Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo as a foot soldier and then climbed to being a key member. After his capture, Karen joined Mexico’s witness protection program.

According to Proceso, Karen’s testimony at trial is what led to his execution under orders of Trevino’s defense team. The information is based on the court records filed against one of the two hitmen captured by Mexican authorities.

Jose Bravo Mendez, who drove the getaway vehicle for the hitmen, said that he worked for an attorney named Juan Pablo Penilla Rodriguez, who heads Morales’ defense team.

“From my job I learned that in the case of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales AKA Z-40, the lawyer began to have problems with a witness that they only knew as Karen but not by his name,” Bravo Mendez is quoted by Proceso. “This subject identified Trevino Morales in one of the trials that he is facing.”

The attorney had allegedly bribed Karen to change his testimony but in the following hearing which took place last October the witness went ahead and identified Trevino Morales as a top Zeta and as his former boss.

The suspect then said that the attorney had helped coordinate the hit on Karen and had brought a team of hitmen from Nuevo Laredo to carry out the execution of the witness and in exchange for his help Bravo Mendez was to receive $2 million pesos or roughly about $135,000.

A 2013 article by Mexico’s identifies Karen as El Gori from Los Zetas.  El Gori can be any one out of a group of brothers named Ricardo, Eduardo, Raymundo, and Octavio Almanza Morales who were former military in Mexico before joining Los Zetas ended up taking the nickname Gori. According to Mexico’s attorney general’s office archives, all used the nickname Gori followed by a number such as Gori 1, Gori 2, and so forth.

The brazen assassination of a star witness in a high-profile trial serves as another slap in the face at the Mexican government, which, despite the out-of-control violence taking place in that state continues to praise their own advances public safety.

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