Federal Jury Convicts Los Zetas Drug Cartel Sicario and Plaza Boss
In San Antonio today, a federal jury convicted a high ranking member and a sicario for the Los Zetas drug cartel, of conspiring to commit numerous murders and other acts of violence in Northern Mexico in furtherance of a drug distribution operation announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.; Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division; Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden; and, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw.
Following a two-week trial, the jury found 33–year-old Marciano Millan Vasquez (aka “Chano”), guilty on all charges including killing while engaged in drug trafficking; conspiracy to distribute and import marijuana; distribution of controlled substances outside the U.S. intending that they be imported into the U.S.; employing minors in a drug crime; conspiracy to distribute cocaine; conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine; conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; and, making a false statement to a federal official.
Testimony during trial revealed that Vasquez was a member of Los Zetas and served as a sicario until 2013 when he took over control of the Piedras Negras “Plaza,” or drug trafficking corridor, for the Los Zetas led by Miguel Trevino Morales (aka “Z-40”) and his brother, Oscar Omar Trevino Morales (aka “Z-42”). Testimony also revealed that as the “Plaza boss,” Vasquez oversaw the importation and distribution of more than 1,000 kilograms of narcotics (marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine) into the United States and obtained and distributed firearms amongst Los Zetas members. Furthermore, testimony revealed that Vasquez was responsible for the murders of at least 29 individuals in Northern Mexico between January 2009 and July 2015.
In one incident, testimony revealed that in 2013, Vasquez murdered a young girl by dismembering her with an axe and burning her body in front of her parents while laughing and saying, “so you’ll remember me.” Vasquez then ordered that the mother be killed in similar fashion while forcing the father to watch. Vasquez then ordered that the father be killed. According to testimony, Vasquez did so because he and other Los Zetas wanted the father to suffer. In a prior incident, testimony revealed that Vasquez participated in the massacre of numerous people in Allende, Coahuila, Mexico, at the hands of Los Zetas members in March of 2011.
“The witnesses and victims in the trial of Marciano Millan Vasquez gave testament to the unspeakable savagery and violence of the Los Zetas cartel and Vasquez’s complete disregard for human life,” stated United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr. “Without mercy or compunction he brutally murdered anyone and everyone as it suited him and his cartel, at times inflicting the cruelest of pain, forcing relatives to watch their loved ones murdered before he turned his blades on them. With this verdict his reign of terror over the drug plaza in Piedras Negras has been judged and has come to a close. This jury has done justice. His just punishment awaits him.”
Vazquez has remained in federal custody since his arrest in San Antonio on July 15, 2015. He faces life in federal prison. Sentencing is scheduled for October 26, 2016, before United States District Judge Xavier Rodriguez in San Antonio.
“Today’s guilty verdict in the Marciano Millan Vasquez case is a significant win for the citizens of south Texas and the multiple law enforcement agencies that conducted this robust investigation. We thank the jury for their service. HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners to target and investigate violent and dangerous members of transnational criminal organizations in an effort to completely dismantle this criminal element,” said Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, HSI San Antonio.
“The guilty verdict today sends a strong message that violent drug traffickers who prey on our citizens will be held accountable for the crimes they have committed. DEA along with our Federal, state and local law enforcement partners, will continue to utilize all available resources to ensure that members of violent drug trafficking cartels, such as the Los Zetas, are held responsible for their actions,” said Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration- Houston Division.
This case was investigated by the DEA, HSI, and the Texas Rangers together with the U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Border Patrol; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); HSI Office of the Chief Counsel; Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS); Texas National Guard; Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office; Maverick County Sheriff’s Office; Maverick County Constable’s Office; and the police departments of Austin, San Antonio, Hollywood Park, Castle Hills, Live Oak, Leon Valley, Eagle Pass, Eagle Pass Independent School District, and Richland (MS).
The Los Zetas is a powerful drug trafficking organization operating out of Mexico, which funnels thousands of kilograms of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and other narcotics into the United States each year. The Los Zetas are one of the largest drug cartels operating in Mexico today, with their influence stretching from Central America through Mexico and into cities throughout the United States. The organization is based in the city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and has control over several other Mexican cities located on the United States-Mexico border, including Ciudad Acuna and Piedras Negras—both located in Coahuila, Mexico. The large-scale drug trafficking of this organization generates multi-million dollar revenues.
The Los Zetas were first established to be the lethal enforcers for another Mexican drug cartel: The Gulf Cartel. The leaders of the Gulf Cartel recruited former members of the Mexican Army Special Forces from the Groupo Aeromovil de Fuerza Especiales (GAFES) in the late 1990s. However, over time the Los Zetas broke away from the Gulf Cartel and began to operate independently. Heriberto Lazcano, aka Z-3, was the leader of the Los Zetas from 2004 until his death on October 7, 2012 in Coahuila, Mexico. After his death, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, aka Z-40 and his brother Oscar Omar Trevino Morales, aka Z-42 assumed the leadership positions. In April 2009 the President of the United States identified the Los Zetas as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker under the Kingpin Act and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Z-40 and Z-42 as specially designated narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act in July 2009 and March 2010, respectively.
The Los Zetas are organized in a hierarchical structure with certain groups or cells operating in tiers of command. Its members purchase bulk quantities of narcotics and sell them abroad as well as to other non-Los Zetas drug traffickers operating in Mexico. In addition to those considered actual members of the Los Zetas, any large scale narcotics trafficker operating in a region controlled by the Los Zetas must support and associate with the Los Zetas or risk execution. The Los Zetas not only supplies the drugs (marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.) to the traffickers, they charge the traffickers a fee (called the “quota”) for the privilege of operating in Los Zetas territory. That fee includes cash payments as well as firearms and other munitions (ammunition, magazines, etc.). In addition to allowing these traffickers to operate in their territory, the Los Zetas supplies them with real-time intelligence about the movement and location of the Mexican military and law enforcement.