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Press Release

Los Zetas Drug Cartel Sicario and Piedras Negras Plaza Boss Sentenced to Life in Federal Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas

In San Antonio today, a federal judge sentenced 34-year-old Marciano Millan Vasquez, a high ranking member and a former sicario for the Los Zetas drug cartel, to seven (7) consecutive life imprisonment sentences for committing and aiding and abetting the commission of numerous murders and other acts of violence, drug trafficking and weapons trafficking 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.

“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,” stated United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr. “Today’s sentence marks an end to his reign of terror over the drug plaza in Piedras Negras.”


On July 19, 2016, following a three-week trial, the jury found 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 (or assassin), drug trafficker and weapons distributor 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 100,000 kilograms of marijuana, tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States and obtained and distributed firearms amongst Los Zetas members. Vasquez also personally distribute multi-kilogram quantities of methamphetamine in the United States. 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 Piedras Negras and Allende, Coahuila, Mexico, at the hands of Los Zetas members in March of 2011.


Vazquez has remained in federal custody since his arrest in San Antonio on July 15, 2015.

“The life sentence imposed on Vasquez should be a reminder to all criminals that violence and victimization of the public will not be tolerated and will be met with the full weight of the law,” said Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, HSI San Antonio. “HSI and its law enforcement partners are committed to ensuring the safety and security of our communities in south Texas.”

“Marciano Millan Vasquez’s sentence to life in federal prison sends a message of our unending resolve to pursue drug traffickers who wreak havoc in our communities. It is another example of our success in the fight against major Mexican drug cartels operating in the United States,” stated Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Houston Field 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. 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. 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. 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 is 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 had control of law enforcement entities and political subdivisions within the State of Coahuila, which allowed them to operate with impunity and to obtain real-time intelligence about the movement and location of the Mexican military and law enforcement within the State.


Updated June 28, 2017

Drug Trafficking
Violent Crime