Alleged drug kingpin captured on dirt road, "with 8 guns, $2 million" in Mexico

(CBS News) One of Mexico's most wanted drug lords, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales was caught early Monday by members of the Mexican navy. Trevino Morales -- also known as "Z-40" -- is the alleged leader of the ruthless Los Zetas drug-trafficking cartel, a gang of former Mexican special forces commandos that emerged in the late 1990's. 

Before breaking off to form their own organization, members of Los Zetas "were hired by the Gulf cartel to be their enforcers, and brutal enforcers they were until ... they formed their own cartel," CBS News senior correspondent and a former assistant director at the FBI, John Miller said Tuesday.

Trevino Morales "is the first leader who has not been a former member of special forces but the people working for him are," according to Miller.

The U.S. State Department had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his' arrest and conviction. Trevino Morales is known for his brutal and violent tactics, including lighting people on fire.

"Their trademark was to go into town, figuring out who was cooperating with law enforcement, who was working for a rival gang, behead everybody and ride out of town, leaving that as an example," Miller explained, adding that Los Zetas is a "very feared gang."

Miller described the dramatic capture of Trevino Morales and several members of his entourage, Tuesday on "CBS This Morning."

"He was riding down a dirt road. A helicopter gunship with Marines in it stopped his pickup truck. An arrest team moved in from behind. They had been laying in wait on the possibility he might travel this road."

"They arrest him, they arrest his bodyguard, they arrest his accountant. ... They capture eight guns. There's also $2 million in the truck."

In terms of the impact on the war against drugs within the U.S., Miller explained, the arrest will have "significant" consequences.

"Los Zetas, on a weekly basis, sends hundreds of pounds of cocaine and marijuana across the U.S. border with a massive network," Miller said, adding, FBI intelligence bulletins talk about Los Zetas trying to recruit among the Mexican mafia gang in the Texas prison and expand its reach into the United States."

However, he qualified that due to the group's military background and culture, a messy succession period is unlikely to occur or stall their drug trafficking operation. 

"When the leader is disposed of, they don't have the traditional battle for succession inside. The military hierarchy dictates that the next most qualified person with seniority moves up. We may see his brother emerge as a leader," Miller said.

Trevino Morales rose to the top of Los Zetas in October 2012, after then-leader Heriberto Lazcano was killed in a shootout with Marines. 

Comments

Follow Us

The Newsroom