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Mexican Mafia member who ran Ventura County rackets killed in Baja California, authorities say

Martin Madrigal Cazares, a fugitive member of the Mexican Mafia who controlled gangs in Ventura County from a base in Mexico where he developed a drug trafficking network and introduced California-style prison policy into Mexican prisons, was gunned down earlier this month in Baja California, according to the law. said police sources.

Details of his death remain scarce. The sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation, said they had not yet been informed by Mexican authorities of where and when Madrigal, 53 years old, had been killed.

Deported in 2006 after serving a six-year federal prison sentence, Madrigal, nicknamed “Evil,” traveled between Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada in Baja California, according to sources. Indicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges and subject to extradition, Madrigal was released twice in Mexico under circumstances that are unclear.

Madrigal, according to sources, operated in a murky world where established Mexican drug dealers rubbed shoulders with uprooted California gang members. Some have escaped justice, while others have been deported to a country they barely remember after growing up in the United States and serving prison sentences.

In Baja California, members of the Mexican Mafia act as middlemen, according to sources, arranging for traffickers to send drugs – mainly methamphetamine – to contacts in California and elsewhere in the United States. . Often, one law enforcement official said, the drugs are simply sent via commercial shipping companies.

Six months before his death, Madrigal was arrested in Rosarito. Mexican authorities said he and his entourage of nine men were in the bed of a pickup truck carrying military-grade weapons.

Raised in east Oxnard, Madrigal was a member of the Colonia Chiques gang before becoming part of the Mexican Mafia in the early 2000s, said Leo Duarte, a retired state prison official who investigated the organization for decades.

After becoming an “accomplished” member of the group, Madrigal “thought he was just that and a bag of chips,” Duarte recalls. His excessive ego mistreated many members of the Mexican mafia. One of them was Thomas “Wino” Grajeda, who sent a letter to Madrigal that began: “Oral Martin, just these few lines to say to you, hoping that they please you, considering that things have gone to your head a little.

In the letter obtained by the Times, Grajeda chastised Madrigal for what he saw as abuses of his new authority. “Keep in mind,” Grajeda concluded, “you make your bed in life or the life we ​​live, and then you sleep on it. I don’t want to hear any crying later.

A Mexican national, Madrigal served a 77-month sentence for illegally re-entering the country at federal penitentiaries in Victorville and Leavenworth, Kansas, according to law enforcement records.

After his expulsion in 2006, Madrigal retained control of his former gang and others in Ventura County, according to investigations by the FBI and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. Phone calls revealed that Madrigal’s lieutenants collected “taxes” from gangs and drug traffickers and sent the money to Madrigal, who was being held in a high-security Mexican prison on unknown charges.

One of his subordinates in California, Edwin “Sporty” Mora, called Madrigal’s wife, Lina Fuentes, and promised to send Madrigal a letter. “Let your husband know, game for game, what I’m doing here. Kind of like who runs each city,” Mora said, according to a recording of the call reviewed by The Times.

Mora said a dealer’s weekly dues start at $100. “But if they’re making half a pound, a pound, you want them to give them at least $250 to $300 a week,” he said.

Mora complained that one dealer offered to pay only $500 a month. “I said, ‘Listen, dog. Let’s do the math. You earn between $35 and $4,000 per month. And you want to tell me you’re only going to give me $500?’ where you won’t receive that $4,000.

Mora asked Fuentes to get her husband’s blessing to “crush” an Oxnard gang member who falsely claimed to work for the Mexican Mafia. “I have to make a statement with this idiot,” he said.

Fuentes said she would send the request through a lawyer who was visiting Madrigal in prison. “I already know – you already know – what he’s going to say,” Fuentes told Mora.

Madrigal, Fuentes and Mora were all indicted in federal court in 2013 for conspiring to traffic methamphetamine in Ventura County. Mora’s federal case was dismissed after county prosecutors convicted him of conspiracy to commit extortion and drug trafficking in 2015. Now 39, Mora is serving time 23 years in Calipatria State Prison.

Fuentes remains a fugitive. Prosecutors filed papers to extradite Madrigal from Mexico, where they said he was already serving a life sentence, but he was never handed over to U.S. authorities — and was ultimately released.

Madrigal found himself engaged in a bitter power struggle with another member of the Mexican Mafia, Michael “Mike Boo” Moreno, who challenged not only Madrigal’s hold on the Ventura area, but also his racketeering collections in prisons in California and Mississippi, according to wiretapped calls.

Informed that some inmates were still following Madrigal’s instructions, Moreno was heard on the wiretap telling a subordinate: “Whoever keeps going, he’s going against what we’re telling them, man.” »

“He already had his opportunity,” Moreno continued. “He had his chances. We gave him the benefit of the doubt. And he screwed up again. And anyone who continues to fuck with him after we’ve already told them, he’ll be in trouble too.

Moreno was arrested in California in 2013 and released this year after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

According to records and sources, at least half a dozen members of the California Mexican Mafia now operate in Baja California. Madrigal was not the first of them to be killed.

Francisco “Sleeper” Escalante and Ramon “Thumper” Tanory, both members of the 18th Street gang who served 21-year sentences in federal prison for cocaine distribution, were doing business with Mexican drug traffickers in Baja California when they came into conflict with the Mexican Mafia. members of the California prison system who believed the two had not been “properly examined,” a law enforcement document states. Both men were killed in Mexico in 2019.

On the evening of January 24, 2023, Tijuana police officers and the Mexican National Guard arrested Madrigal and nine other men near the beaches of Rosarito, Mexican media reported.

The men were traveling in a Ford F-150 registered in California and carrying an arsenal of assault rifles and handguns, authorities said. Police arrested them on charges of possessing weapons that only military personnel are allowed to carry, the Punto Norte newspaper reported. Authorities in Baja California released photographs of Madrigal and the other detainees, their faces blurred, standing in front of a table filled with the seized weapons.

Held in a Tijuana jail, Madrigal found that many of the inmates were deported California gang members accustomed to obeying orders from the Mexican Mafia, said a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak to the media and requested anonymity. He began taxing drug trafficking and disciplining those who didn’t participate, the source said, and it proved such a headache for administrators that they transferred him from prison to prison, hoping to break his hold on prison racketeering.

At one point, Madrigal was released despite being named in two U.S. cases — one federal and another in Ventura County — in which he was subject to extradition. U.S. officials said their Mexican counterparts never explained why Madrigal was allowed to go free.

Officials with the Mexican attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

A source close to drug trafficking in Tijuana, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals from the Mexican Mafia, said that at the time of his death, Madrigal was doing business with two brothers, René and Alfonso Arzate Garcia , who Treasury Department officials named last month. like the bosses of the Sinaloa cartel plaza in Tijuana.

It’s unclear whether Madrigal’s dealings with drug traffickers or an internal conflict within the Mexican Mafia led to his death, U.S. officials said. A source who saw a photo of Madrigal’s body said he dressed the part of the California gangster to the nines: He wore a Chicago Bears jersey and a Santa Muerte pendant around his neck.

Los Angeles Times

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