MEXICO CITY – A high-ranking member of the Arellano Felix drug cartel was arrested in the northern state of Sonora, Mexico’s Public Safety Secretariat said Monday.
Armando Villarreal Heredia, alias “El Gordo” (Fatso), was “one of the principal operators” of the Tijuana-based outfit, the secretariat said in a statement.
Born in San Diego, California, Armando began his criminal career at 16 as a henchman of his cousin Arturo Villarreal Heredia, who was involved in migrant trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.
The now-33-year-old Armando Villarreal oversaw the transportation of illegal drugs from the western state of Sinaloa to Tijuana and from there into neighboring Southern California, according to the official statement.
He was also in charge of intercepting consignments from rival cartels, federal officials said.
Identified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as one of the major figures in the “new generation” of the Tijuana cartel, Villarreal is suspected of using vehicles with hidden compartments to smuggle large quantities of marijuana into San Diego and Los Angeles, the secretariat said.
What came to be known as the Tijuana cartel was founded by several siblings of the Arellano Felix family.
Following a brutal power struggle that erupted after several of the original bosses ended up dead or behind bars, leadership of the organization eventually passed to Fernando Sanchez Arellano, a.k.a. “The Engineer,” a nephew of the founders. EFE