MEXICO CITY – Caballeros Templarios drug cartel boss Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, who died in a shootout with soldiers over the weekend, used erroneous reports of his death in 2010 to continue operating freely for some time, officials said Monday.
“The biggest beneficiary of having anonymity was him,” special commissioner for Michoacan Alfredo Castillo told Televisa.
Moreno, known as “El Chayo,” was killed in a shootout with soldiers on Sunday near Tumbiscatio, a city in the western state of Michoacan.
The 2006-2012 administration of President Felipe Calderon announced that Moreno died in a shootout with the Federal Police on Dec. 9, 2010, but officials said the body was not recovered because members of the cartel the drug trafficker led at the time, La Familia Michoacana, took it away.
La Familia Michoacana was formed in 2006 to push the rival Los Zetas gang out of Michoacan.
Moreno and other Familia Michoacana members formed the Caballeros Templarios organization after he was reported killed by the government.
The cartel boss may have been wounded in the December 2010 shootout with the Federal Police, Castillo said.
Moreno used government reports of his death as a “cover,” but he later “relaxed his security measures and information started to leak out that he was alive,” Castillo said.
The cartel boss then had to “keep a very low profile, trying to get by unnoticed,” especially during the past few weeks, Castillo said.
“The presence (of federal forces) was growing stronger each day and he was being encircled as the days passed,” the official said.
Moreno resisted arrest and was killed in a shootout, officials said.
Moreno’s death was confirmed this time around using fingerprints that were on file.
Investigators plan to run a DNA test on the body to further confirm its identity, officials said.
Moreno was one of the most notorious and feared men in Michoacan, where he ran extortion rackets, staged kidnappings and committed “multiple murders,” federal security spokesman Monte Alejandro Rubido said Sunday.
Los Caballeros Templarios, which deals in both synthetic and natural drugs, commits murders, stages kidnappings and runs extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies in Michoacan.
The cartel uses Michoacan’s 270 kilometers (168 miles) of coastline to smuggle chemical drug precursors for the production of synthetic drugs into Mexico.
Civilians began arming themselves last year to fight the gang, which operates across Michoacan.
The federal government deployed soldiers and police in Michoacan on Jan. 13 in an effort to end the wave of violence in the state.
Dionisio Loya Plancarte, one of the cartel’s top leaders, was arrested by federal forces in late January.