10 Times North Texas Felt the Weight of the Mexican Drug Cartels

The guy on the far right, in the white cowboy hat, is José Treviño Morales.
The guy on the far right, in the white cowboy hat, is José Treviño Morales.
United States Department of Justice

Two men accused of orchestrating the killing of Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa, the one-time attorney for Mexico's Gulf Cartel who was gunned down in 2013 in Southlake, have been connected by federal law enforcement to as many as a dozen additional murders. Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, 59, and his son Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Campano Jr., 32, are accused of orchestrating Chapa's killing in a parking lot after he and his wife went shopping at Southlake Town Square. The trial for the Ledezmas begins next month in a federal court in Fort Worth. Before it does, we thought we'd take a look at nine more times the influence of the Mexican drug cartels was felt in North Texas.

Mary Jane Esparza Runs Guns to the Zetas — Esparza, a Fort Worth hairdresser and mother of three, was busted by federal agents in 2011 for trying to pay someone $800 to buy four assault rifles for the Zeta Family Cartel. She was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison in June 2012.

Miguel Treviño Morales Grows Up in Dallas — Before becoming head of the Zeta Family Cartel in 2012, Miguel Angel Treviño Morales spent his early years in Dallas and still has a bunch of extended family in the area. As a teen, he worked as a gofer for the Los Tejas gang in Nuevo Laredo before joining the Zetas shortly after their formation in the '90s. Federal officials describe Treviño Morales as extremely violent, and say one of his favorite methods of killing enemies was burning them alive. Treviño Morales was captured by Mexican federal police in Nuevo Laredo in 2013. When he was busted, he had more than $2 million in cash, eight guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his possession.

José Treviño Morales Wins at the Races — As documented in an Observer cover story, José Treviño Morales, Miguel's brother, was an understated money launderer for the Zetas until his arrest in 2012. José Treviño Morales funneled money through the Southwest's quarter-horse scene, winning multiple races at Grand Prairie's Lone Star Park. He's currently serving a 20-year federal stretch.

Out of Limes Just in Time for Cinco de Mayo — In the spring and summer of 2014, cartel activity threatened one of North Texas' most hallowed traditions, appropriating as much not-quite Mexican culture as possible on May 5. Thanks to hijacked trucks and a bloody war being waged in the Mexican state of Michoacan, limes became exceedingly scarce and expensive in the United States. Many Dallas restaurants stopped serving limes and some, gasp, actually started garnishing their club sodas with lemon instead.

Two Zetas Picked Up in DFW — Arturo Lozano, 47, of Grand Prairie, and Leocadio Ruiz, 47, of Cedar Hill, were arrested in February 2015 as part of a long-term, Texas-spanning DEA investigation of drug and money laundering activities by the Zetas in the state. They were charged both with the possession and the intent to distribute more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, and conspiring to launder money. Both of their cases are still tied up in federal court in Laredo.

Dallas County Jailer Helps the Italian Connection — Brenda Medina Salinas, a Dallas County jailer, was arrested in 2008 for tipping off what she thought was a small-time local drug ring to drug conspiracy activity within the jail. As it turned out, she was actually helping the Gulf Cartel move cocaine through Mexico and Texas to Europe, where it was being distributed by, among other groups, Italy's powerful 'Ndrangheta mafia. Salinas cooperated with the feds and was given three years probation.

Dallas Dentist Murdered, Alleged Mastermind Claims Money for Murder Came From "Cartel" — Brenda Delgado allegedly arranged for the murder of Dallas dentist Kendra Hatcher because she was mad Hatcher was dating her ex-boyfriend. Police say she paid Kristopher Ledell Love — in drugs and cash — to shoot Hatcher in the garage of the dentist's Uptown apartment complex. According to the warrant issued for Delgado, the money used to pay love came from Delgado and a "drug cartel." Delgado fled to Mexico in October before the indictment was issued and has not yet been returned to the United States.

Local Real Estate Agent Busts Up Dallas Cartel Cell — Grand Prairie's Nicolas Salinas was convicted for his role in helping the burgeoning Jalisco New Generation Cartel get off the ground in Dallas, but he managed to take a bunch of the other members of the cartel down with him. Salinas helped Oscar “La Momia” Soto-Cabezas, the leader of the cartel's Dallas and Atlanta cells, buy a South Dallas stash house and often carried drugs across the border for Soto-Cabezas. When Salinas was busted trying to bring 9 kilograms of methamphetamine into the U.S., he identified Soto-Cabeza as the group's leader and cooperated with federal authorities. For his efforts, he was given a six-year stint in federal prison at his August 2015 sentencing.

La Familia Comes to Seagoville — Sergio Moreno Vidales was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison in 2013 after being convicted of conspiracy, drug and firearms charges. He was arrested during an FBI raid on a Seagoville home in 2011. Agents, who found Moreno Vidales in bed, hands behind his head on a 9mm handgun, recovered 1.2 kilograms of methamphetamine, several scales, a bullet-proof vest, an inert hand grenade, a safe, nearly $6,000 in cash, drug ledgers and six more firearms in the house, which was believed to be sort of a home base for the La Familia Cartel's Dallas operations.


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