10/25/14 (written by rorosco) — The suspected leader of the Gulf Cartel (Cártel del Golfo, CDG), Juan Francisco Sáenz-Tamez also known as “Comandante 103,” “Metro 103,” and “Comandante Panochitas,” was arrested by members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on October 9in Edinburg, Texas while shopping. Edinburg is located about 12 miles north of the border from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, which was Sáenz-Tamez’s base of operations. It is uncommon, writes the New York Times quoting crime analysts, for a cartel leader to be apprehended in the United States and few details, including where he was specifically shopping when arrested, were released after his capture despite attempts to contact the DEA and Sáenz-Tamez’s attorney, Crispin Quintanilla. Still, U.S. Attorney John Bales stated that the arrest of the Gulf Cartel leader “ . . . proves that justice exists in Mexico.”
Sáenz-Tamez (23) allegedly took over the Gulf Cartel after his predecessor, Mario Ramiréz-Treviño, “X-20” or “El Pélon,” was arrested in May 2013 in Reynosa, and solidified his status as leader following the takedown of Gulf Cartel regional leader Juan Manuel Rodríguez García, “Juan Perros,” who controlled the territory along the Río Grande near the U.S.-Mexico border in Tamaulipas. According to experts cited in the New York Times, it was unusual that Sáenz-Tamez assumed the leadership role at such a young age, considering cartel leaders often have years, if not decades, of experience before taking over an organization. Nevertheless, he rose up quickly through the ranks, moving from lookout to regional boss—in charge of the CDG’s operations in Starr County, Texas, just west of McAllen and Edinburg—to the outright leader of the organization. The Gulf Cartel largely operates in the state of Tamaulipas in the northeast corner of Mexico, trafficking cocaine and marijuana across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sáenz-Tamez was one of the top priority suspects named in May 2014 in the ongoing Tamaulipas security strategy being implemented by Mexico’s federal authorities (Fuerzas Federales) and Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF). To avoid arrest, he relocated several times in the months since, bouncing between Reynosa and surrounding areas along the Tamaulipas-Texas border, including in the United States. Mexican government officials, who were speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated that the arrest was the result of the exchange of information between U.S. and Mexican agencies, and with Interpol. Sáenz-Tamez was arrested under a 2013 indictment, which was unsealed in a Beaumont, Texas Federal District Court on October 21, charging him with trafficking of marijuana and cocaine, and money laundering. If convicted, he stands to receive a sentence of ten years to life in prison.