Hector Beltran Leyva captured, drug and weapons operation dismantled
By Dialogo October 02, 2014
The Mexican Army has captured alleged Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO) drug lord Hector Beltran Leyva, only days after the head of an associated organization – Cristian Berrelleza-Verduczo – was sentenced to prison.
Beltran Leyva, also known as “The Engineer,” has attempted to maintain a low profile for several years, but an eleven month investigation determined that he was posing as a real estate salesman and art dealer in Querétaro. Just outside of that state in the city of San Miguel de Allende, military special forces captured him at a seafood restaurant.
The BLO is responsible for trafficking cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine to the United States and Europe. Courts in both the District of Colombia and New York, in the United States, have indicted The Engineer, and both the U.S. and Mexico have offered rewards for information leading to his capture – at USD $5 million and $3.7 million, respectively. He rose to power in the BLO after a group of about 200 Mexican Marines killed the previous leader of the BLO, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, during a gun battle in Cuernavaca in December, 2009. Arturo was known as “The Boss of Bosses.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, another high-ranking gang leader with ties to the BLO – Berrelleza-Verduczo – was sentenced to 27 years in prison by a federal judge in Washington State on September 26.
Over a year ago, Berrelleza-Verduzco, 27, pleaded guilty to five drug trafficking and firearms charges stemming from his years running a drug trafficking ring. The criminal organization smuggled methamphetamine and heroin worth millions of dollars from Mexico into the United States, and sent weapons back down to Mexico. Berrelleza-Verduzco said he’d hurt or kill those who let him down, according to wiretapped phone conversations he had with BLO leaders.
“This sentence helps protect us from a very dangerous man and organization,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “This defendant raked in massive profits from the scourge of heroin addiction. He and his family sought to control the entire supply chain, from growing the poppies, to manufacturing the heroin, to selling it in this district. And just as they moved their drugs north, they wanted to move high-powered weapons back to Mexico to cause further cartel-related violence.”
During their investigation of Berrelleza-Verduzco and his organization, federal agents seized more than 20 pounds of heroin, 30 pounds of methamphetamine, nearly USD$200,000 in cash and 31 firearms. The effort, known as Operation Black Ice, has also led to the arrest of 34 suspects – most of whom have pleaded guilty – including Berrelleza-Verduzco, who was arrested in March 2012.
“He fed the destructive habit of Washington addicts and fueled Mexican cartel violence with drug money,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in the city of Seattle in Washington. “Incarcerating Berrelleza-Verduzco and his co-conspirators is a significant victory for public safety, especially considering the massive increase in local teens dying of heroin overdoses in recent years.”
Berrelleza-Verduzco isn’t the only member of his family to land behind bars in the U.S. for trafficking drugs and weapons. His brother, Víctor Berrelleza-Verduzco, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a U.S. federal judge in 2014. And the judge sentenced another Berrelleza-Verduzco brother, Ivan, to seven years in prison. Both were sentenced in Washington State.
Though Cristian and Víctor headed the trafficking ring in the U.S., their father, known as Don Víctor, is considered the ring’s overall leader. He lives in Mexico.