Gulf Cartel leader Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez was arrested on October 9, 2014, while shopping in Edinburg, Texas, authorities announced yesterday, when Saenz-Tamez made an appearance in a Texas court on drug trafficking charges. His ascend to the top is further proof that the Gulf Cartel is in a steady decline after the imprisonment of many of its leaders.
“Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez, also known as Panochitas, became the head of the Gulf Cartel following the 2013 arrest of former leader Mario Ramirez-Trevino,” DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart told the press. “He moved steadily up the cartel ranks, working as a lookout, record keeper, plaza boss, and finally its leader. He oversaw much of the violence and bloodshed that has plagued Mexico.”
A federal investigation into the large-scale trafficking of illegal drugs from Mexico into Texas led to the identity of Saenz-Tamez. The investigation revealed that thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana were shipped into Texas and then to locations across the nation, including Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Maryland and Georgia.
Saenz-Tamez was indicted by a federal grand jury on September 5, 2013, and charged with conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy with intent to distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to money launder.
If convicted, Saenz-Tamez faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison for the drug charges and up to 20 years in federal prison for the money laundering charge.
“The news that Juan Saenz-Tamez has been arrested is further proof that justice is prevailing in Mexico,” said U.S. Attorney John M. Bales.
It is also a sign that the Gulf Cartel is not doing so great.
Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez is just 23 years old and already running one of Mexico’s foremost drug cartels. Despite the fact that he is no doubt a ruthless and capable drug boss, his young age also indicates a lack of experience. With so many of its top leaders under arrest, the cartel needs replacements faster and faster resulting in young and inexperienced leadership at the top.
Jorge Chabat, a security expert at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City, told the Los Angeles Times that the Gulf cartel had weakened in recent years. “In terms of the criminal organizations in Mexico, it’s a cartel that is in decline,” said Chabat, who told the newspaper he had never heard of Saenz-Tamez. “The truth is that this organization is not as relevant as it used to be.”
Its problems began when its military wing, called Los Zetas, decided to break away and a war broke out between the two groups. And in the last three years, the cartel saw three of its bosses placed in handcuffs, including Saenz-Tamez.
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