Zeta Cartel leader known for beheadings, mutilations nabbed after manhunt

Miguel Trevino Morales

Credit: DEA

Miguel Trevino Morales, seen here in a wanted poster photo issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was captured in Nuevo Laredo on July 15, 2013 by Mexican marines.

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by ANGELA KOCHERGA / KHOU Border Bureau

khou.com

Posted on July 16, 2013 at 7:56 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 16 at 10:40 AM

EL PASO, Texas — The leader of the notorious Zetas drug cartel is in custody after an intense manhunt. Mexican marines captured Miguel Trevino — alias "Z-40" — in Nuevo Laredo Monday morning, officials confirmed.

Trevino, 43, is a wanted man on both sides of the border. He spent his teenage years in Dallas, and was arrested in Dallas County in 1993 at age 19, trying to evade police, but only paid a fine.

Trevino is noted for his brutality, which includes ordering beheadings and publicly displaying his victims' mutilated bodies.

Trevino rose through the ranks of the criminal organization from gang member to lead the Zetas reign of terror in Nuevo Laredo and the region bordering South Texas.

The Zetas clashed violently with their former ally, the Gulf cartel, in a bloody turf battle over control of the Interstate 35 smuggling corridor.

"You’re going to see a spike in violence pretty quick," predicted a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak about Trevino’s capture.

Mexican authorities were expected to provide details when they announce Trevino's arrest.

With Trevino in custody, experts expect the Gulf cartel will try to move into Zeta territory and assume control.

While Nuevo Laredo is the Zetas' base of operation, the cartel has extended its reach deep into Mexico as well as Central America.

Unlike the original Zetas leaders, Trevino did not have a military background. The Zetas were army deserters trained to fight drug trafficking who switched sides and went to work for the Gulf cartel.

Trevino started his criminal career as a street gang member in Nuevo Laredo and also lived in Dallas for a while as a teenager.

Many of his family members lived in the Dallas area, and Trevino allegedly recruited teens in Texas to help the cartel.

A 2008 indictment charged him and others with moving marijuana, cocaine, drugs and cash between Nuevo Laredo and Dallas.

Trevino was indicted last year, accused of running drug money through horse racing in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and California.

The U.S. offered a $5 million reward and Mexico $2 million for information leading to his arrest.

E-mail akocherga@belo.com

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