Cartel Hit-Team Leader Wanted for Multiple Killings Captured in Cancún

cancun cops

Police in Cancún apprehended a leader of a cartel hit-team wanted for multiple killings following a shootout. The gun battle with the ministerial police on Thursday left one female cartel operative dead.

Police arrested one of the leaders of a cell of cartel hitmen operating in Cancun for the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) in the La Joya neighborhood during an operation led by ministerial police agents, according to a statement released by the state attorney general’s office of Quintana Roo. Ministerial agents were attempting to locate the leader of the deadly cell of “sicarios” (hitmen) identified as Juan Diego Núñez Vargas, alias “El Gordo,” “El Optimus,” “El Viejo.” Police wanted the leader for multiple murders which occurred in Cancun. Those include a narco-hit which occurred on Wednesday in which stray rounds killed a 6-year old child and wounded her parents.

During the arrest operation, agents surrounded Núñez Vargas who was accompanied by several other cartel operatives. When the operatives noticed the presence of the police, they opened fire forcing the ministerial agents to return gunfire which fatally wounding a female cartel operative who was later found in possession of a handgun. Núñez Vargas was then taken into custody after he surrendered and at least one cartel operative was able to escape capture after the brief gun battle. The shooting occurred in front of a residence in which the cartel operatives allegedly used for the sale of drugs. The cartel operatives had been sitting inside a parked SUV in front of the house when the ministerial agents moved in for the arrest. The identity of the female cartel operative who was killed in the gunfight has yet to be disclosed.

Besides suspected of being involved in the cartel hit that resulted in the death of the 6-year old child, Núñez Vargas is also suspected of leading a cell of “sicarios” responsible for the attack on Bar “La Kuka” in Cancun on February 16. Four cartel gunmen carrying rifles and handguns killed five and injured 12 others after they indiscriminately opened fire on bar patrons. The same cell is believed to be responsible for a cartel hit at a movie theater in a commercial plaza and five other drug-related homicides throughout the resort city of Cancun.

Núñez Vargas previously worked as a cartel operative for “Los Pelones” which is a criminal cell aligned with the Gulf Cartel according to local authorities. Breitbart News reports extensively on the cartel violence in once peaceful beach resort of Cancún. In 2018, the traditional tourist magnet smashed its previous annual record for murders with at least 546—the previous mark was 227 in 2017. 

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.) You can follow him on Twitter. He can be reached at




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