U.S., Mexico jointly turn up the heat against Zeta financial operations; $4 million seized in latest raids
Seventy-two hours after U.S. authorities busted a huge Los Zetas money laundering operation on American soil, Mexico's Infantería de Marina, or Marines, have nabbed a key aid to Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, the number two Zeta who is wanted on a variety of pending charges in the United States.
The Zeta operative was arrested in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas with "a large quantity of money," press sources say. He is identified as Eric Jovan Lozano Díaz. Tamaulipas is a hot zone of cartel activity and drug violence. The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros issued a Mexico-wide security alert for Americans on Tuesday (June 12): U.S. State Dept. issues Mexico-wide alert.
An initial news report suggested that Z-40 himself had been taken into custody, but that proved to be erroneous.
Authorities say that Lozano Díaz has admitted to being the "chief financial operator" of Los Zetas, with particular responsibility for washing money obtained from business extortion or "floor charges," known here as the derecho de piso (Extortion in Mexico: one way it’s done). He listed his official business as auto import/export. Lozano Díaz was taken before Public Ministry officials today, the equivalent of a first appearance in many U.S. criminal courts.
Marines and police searched two properties after Lozano Díaz's arrest yesterday. They seized over 41 million pesos (more than $2.9 million USD at an exchange rate of 14 to 1), and $1.049 million in American currency. It was a large haul, even by drug war standards, although far short of the record. Cocaine, firearms and 300 rounds of ammunition were seized as evidence. One of the properties searched was referred to as a Los Zetas "safe house" in Nuevo Laredo, which borders Laredo, Tex.
A nephew of Miguel Treviño Morales and two other Treviño family members, also Zeta members, were arrested by Mexican security forces earlier this week.
The arrests are victories in the 66 month old National Security Strategy of president Felipe Calderón. They will please the U.S., too, where Miguel Treviño Morales and 13 Zetas were indicted by a federal grand jury in Austin on May 30. Treviño Morales U.S. Indictment Unsealed. American prosecutors will likely seek the extradition of Eric Lozano Díaz.
José Treviño Morales, Miguel's brother, and five Zeta operatives were arrested at an Oklahoma ranch on Tuesday (June 12). Feds bust Los Zeta money washers in U.S.
This week's simultaneous operations against the financial and business wings of the Los Zetas cartel undoubtedly signifies coordinated action by law enforcement authorities on both sides of the border.
A note on Zeta rankings: So many Zetas have been killed - either by other cartel operatives or government security forces - that Z-40, for example is now actually the second in command of the entire organization. What happened to the original Z-2? He's resting peacefully in the Jardín de Memorias (Garden of Memories).
July 15, 2013 - Top Los Zeta boss, Z-40, arrested in Nuevo Laredo
Mexican marines kill Los Zetas leader in gun battle
Life Sentence For Mexican Extortionists – First Time Ever
Vázquez Mota: "Yo sí confío en la Marina"
Spanish sources for this report:
Cae operador del Z-40
Presentan a operador financiero del Z-40