Gulf Cartel launched kidnapping ring in Valley last year
January 22nd 2012 · 0 Comments
NEAR ALTON — Two men stepped down from a white truck at a house near Alton. A pair of Jeeps pulled up close behind. It was Memorial Day weekend 2011. The truck’s driver said he was a policeman, complete with handcuffs, a pistol and an embroidered shirt.
He wasn’t a cop.
But he handcuffed Ovidio Olivares Guerrero and loaded him into the truck and drove off, court records state.
Guerrero hasn’t been seen since the pseudocops took him from his cousin’s house that day. And court records suggest he wasn’t even the target of a Gulf Cartel-ordered kidnapping.
Olivares’ wife, Oralia Elizondo, reported the abduction to sheriff’s deputies minutes after she watched her husband disappear. The report came from a beige stucco house along 8 Mile Line Road, north of Alton.
Investigators learned more about Olivares’ kidnapping two weeks later. On June 12, Mission police responded to Hawthorn Suites, an upscale inn in Sharyland, regarding people selling drugs from one of the motel’s rooms.
Officers learned two men were in Room 158 and identified themselves as drug cartel members. They had a gun.
Police found four people inside the room. They found a chrome .45-caliber pistol and several stolen vehicle parts. An officer patted down Gerardo Villarreal, 22, who allegedly had several tranquilizer pills in his pocket.
Police arrested Villarreal for possession of a controlled substance. He then told officers information about Olivares’ kidnapping, saying he’d been contacted by a man known only as “Pecueka,” who worked for Miguel “El Gringo” Villarreal, court records state. “El Gringo” worked as a plaza boss for the Gulf Cartel in Miguel Alemán, across the Rio Grande from Roma, records show.
Pecueka told Villarreal that El Gringo had a list of several people he wanted kidnapped from the Rio Grande Valley and taken to Mexico after a load of cocaine had been stolen.
Pecueka gave Villarreal a list of addresses of potential kidnap victims to scout in the third week of May 2011. That list included Olivares’ cousin, Gerardo.
Two days before Olivares was kidnapped, Villarreal said he staged with Pecueka and others at a ranch along Trosper Road, between 5 and 6 Mile Line roads. Villarreal said the kidnapping crew was armed with SWAT gear, assault rifles, extra bullet magazines, body armor and grenades.
The kidnapping crew descended on Gerardo’s house, intent on kidnapping him. Pecueka told Villarreal they’d dress as police officers to “avoid violence,” court records state.
But rather than taking Gerardo, the kidnappers took Olivares.
The kidnappers drove toward Rio Grande City, dropping off Villarreal near Garciasville after they paid him about $1,000 for helping with the operation.
Villarreal was indicted on aggravated kidnapping charges in the 275th state District Court last August and was expected to go to trial later this month. But the FBI launched its own investigation into the case and a federal indictment was returned in U.S. District Court in McAllen.
Court records do not say what happened to Olivares, or any other possible kidnap victims. The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston declined to specify beyond what was published in court records.
Attempts to reach Elizondo, the kidnap victim’s wife, were unsuccessful. Drive past the couple’s house today and it appears to have been abandoned.
Olivares’ family hasn’t seen him since his alleged abduction nearly eight months ago, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said.
“As far as we know, he’s still missing,” the sheriff said.
The kidnappings ordered by “El Gringo” resembled a similar cartel operation across Hidalgo County in 2008, when Zeta boss Jaime Gonzalez Duran, better known as “El Hummer,” ordered a series of abductions of his rivals. Several of El Hummer’s associates have been indicted and sentenced to prison for their roles in the kidnappings, which resulted in at least one murder.
Miguel “El Gringo” Villarreal, also known as “Gringo Mike,” had been known as a Gulf Cartel plaza boss for Miguel Alemán in early 2011. He is believed to have been killed near Valle Hermoso after infighting besieged the cartel last fall.
A version of this column originally appeared in www.valleymorningstar.com.
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