Gulf Cartel - Modus Operandi

Modus Operandi

Protection racketeering

Organize crime groups opt for protection racketeering in an effort to control markets and "maintaining internal order." It is generally seen as a way where criminals change the legal face of security and provide their own form of "insurance." This practice of extorting money from people is also seen in the human trafficking business in Mexico; the cartels threaten smugglers to pay a fee for using the corridors, and if they refuse to pay, drug traffickers respond in a deadly form. The Gulf Cartel operates in a similar way, and often extorts businesses for protection money in the areas where it operates, pledging to kill those who do not agree to pay the fee. In addition, the Mexican drug cartels also tax several Mexican businesses inside the United States, and threaten them with property damage and murder if they do not comply.


The Gulf Cartel, along with their rival group Los Zetas, have been the two drug cartels with the most kidnappings in all of Mexico, and "more than half of the country's kidnappings are attributed to them." And, there are several kidnapping rings of the Gulf Cartel throughout several parts of Tamaulipas. The Mexican military in fact mentioned that in the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, where the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas fight for territory, abductions are carried out very common. Intelligent agencies mentioned that the Gulf Cartel kidnaps for three reasons: (1) To increase the ranks of their cartel after the deaths or arrests of their own members; (2) To exterminate members of their rival gangs; (3) To kidnap people for money and other ransom.

On Abril 2011 in the border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, 68 kidnapped victims from different parts of Mexico and Central America were found in a safe house of the Gulf Cartel. Omar Ortiz, best known for his nickname El Gato, was a former soccer star from C.F. Monterrey who was arrested on January 2012 for working in a kidnapping ring within the Gulf Cartel. The Mexican Lucha libre wrestler Lázaro Gurrola, known as the Estrella Dorada (Golden Star), was also arrested for kidnapping people for the Gulf Cartel.

In the United States, the Gulf Cartel has been responsible for several kidnappings, primarily in McAllen metropolitan area. Investigators believe that more unreported kidnappings have occurred in nearby locations. When victims are kidnapped by the drug cartels on American territory, kidnappers usually hide them in the trunk of a car and take them to Mexico. FBI investigators said that victims are "kidnapped, threatened, assaulted, drugged and transported into Mexico to meet with Cartel members.” Reports indicated that kidnappers working for the Gulf Cartel train with paintball equipment "to practice simulated kidnapping schemes in order to prepare for the actual kidnapping they intended to commit." In one reported incident, Isaac Sanchez Gutierrez, a man from Palmview, Texas, said he faced an ultimatum: pay $10 million dollars to the Gulf Cartel, or transport 50 drug loads from Mexico into the U.S. in order to free his kidnapped brother.

Human trafficking

Before 2010, it was not clear whether to Gulf Cartel controls the human trafficking business in its territory or whether it simply taxes to operators for using their smuggling corridors. La Jornada mentioned that before the rupture with Los Zetas in 2007, the corridor of Reynosa, Tamaulipas was often used for human smuggling. People smuggling is currently controlled by a cell within the Gulf Cartel known as Los Flacos, dedicated to the kidnapping and smuggling of undocumented migrants as far as South America to the United States. It operates primarily on the Tabasco-Veracruz-Tamaulipas corridor. Human trafficking in the Rio Grande Valley has became "ground zero" and was considered the "new Arizona" in December 2011 by the Homeland Security Today.

An U.S. agent mentioned that the drug cartels that operate in the Mexico–United States border, and principally across from Texas, are "in control of not only the narcotrafficking, but also the human smuggling."

Critics say that the strategy of capturing drug kingpins often resulted in the increase in extorsion, as the cartels look for other sources of money.


When the Gulf Cartel was moving tons of cocaine to the United States and moving millions of dollars in cash along the border in the 1970s, Juan García Ábrego decided that he needed more protection. Court documents indicated that García Ábrego was bribing several law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and politicians on both sides on the border to keep himself impune and untouched. In fact, his former friends and associates mentioned that the drug lord was paying one of Carlos Salinas de Gortari's deputy attorney general more than $1.5 million dollars a month for his protection. He is allegedly reported to have been protected by a large private army of gunmen. A retired FBI agent and expert in drug trafficking explained that the Gulf Cartel "relied on bribery" to build its drug empire and consolidate its prominence.

FBI agents have claimed that the Gulf Cartel moves millions of dollars in cash through the Rio Grande Valley each month, a tempting amount for many U.S. officials. A lot of the money stays in the area, which has caused several officials—both federal and state—to succumb to the "easy money aspect" the drug money has to offer. The Gulf Cartel also bribes journalists to persuade them not to mention any violent incidents in the media. In addition, due to the low paying salaries of many policemen, the Gulf Cartel often "buys" many law enforcement officers in Mexico.


Stealing oil from PEMEX and selling it illegally has been one of the many funding activities of the Gulf Cartel. In fact, they were reported to have stolen around 40% of the oil products in 2011 in northern Mexico and then selling it illegally in Mexico and in the American black market. One leader of the Gulf Cartel confessed after his apphension that "drug trafficking is their main business, but due to the difficulties they have been encountering, oil theft has been an important financial cushion" for the cartel. They have also been reported to steal vehicles.

Money laundering

Some of the revenue of the Gulf Cartel is often laundered in several bank accounts, properties, vehicles, and gasoline stations. Bars and casinos are often the hubs for money laundering of the drug cartels. Top leaders of the Gulf organization, like Juan García Ábrego, Osiel Cárdenas, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, Antonio Cárdenas Guillén, among others, have been charged by the U.S. government for laundering millions of dollars. Bank accounts inside the United States also launder millions of dollars for the drug lords of the Gulf Cartel. The Economist mentioned in 1997 that the drug money from the Gulf Cartel in the Rio Grande Valley was perhaps moving about $20 billion, and that around 15% of the retailers' gains were from drug money.

Arms trafficking

For the most part, the arms trafficking circles of the Gulf Cartel operate directly across the border in the United States, just like most of the criminal groups in Mexico. Nonetheless, there are indeed circles within the Gulf Cartel that coordinate the arms trafficking routes inside Mexico. Arms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico, however, is often carried out individually, and there is no criminal group in Mexico or an international organization that is solely dedicated to this activity.

On a side note, Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar, a top-tier Los Zetas boss was caught in 3 July 2011, and claimed in an interview that was aired on national television that the Gulf Cartel, unlike Los Zetas, has an "easier and quicker acccessability to arms in the United States," and probably works "with some people in the government" to traffic weapons south of the U.S. border.

Prostitution network

Prostitution circles are believed to be used by the Gulf Cartel to persuade journalists to favor them in the media. Prostitutes are also used as informants and spies, and provide their sexual favors to extract information from certain targets.


The Mexican criminal organizations like the Gulf Cartel launder money through counterfeiting, since they are free from taxes and more accessible to people who cannot buy original products. The products sold can be clothing, TVs, video games, music, computer programs, and movies. In 2008 in the state of Michoacán, the Gulf Cartel was reported to have controlled the counterfeit business, where it produced and sold millions of fake CDs and movies.

Police impersonation

Reports indicate that gunmen from the Gulf Cartel often impersonate law enforcement officiers, using military uniform to confuse rival drug gangs and move freely through city streets.


Due to the Gulf Cartel's territory in northern Tamaulipas, primarily in the border cities of Reynosa, Tamaulipas and Matamoros, Tamaulipas, they have been able to establish a sophisticated and extensive drug trafficking and distribution network along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. The Mexican drug cartels that operate in the area are currently employing gang members to distribute drugs and conduct other criminal activities on their behalf. Among these gangs, that range from street gangs to prison gangs, are the Texas Syndicate, the Latin Kings, the Mexican Mafia, the Tango Blast (Vallucos), the Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos, and the Tri-City Bombers—all based in the Rio Grande Valley and Webb County, Texas.

While the entire Mexico–United States border has experienced high levels of drug trafficking and other illegal smuggling activities for decades, this activity tends to be concentrated in certain sectors within Texas. The two such sectors are the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas, near the El Paso–Juárez metropolitan area. The high level of legitimate travels and movement of goods and services between border cities in the U.S. and Mexico facilitates the drug business in the area. In fact, the majority of the commerce between the United States and Mexico passes through the state of Texas. Due to its multifaceted transportation networks and proximity to major production areas right across the border in Mexico, Texas is a major hub for drug trafficking. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, drug traffickers commonly use private vehicles and commercial trucks to traffic narcotics throughout the state. The drug organizations usually use the Interstates 10, 20, 25, 30, and 35, as well as U.S. Highways 59, 77, 83, and 281. The Gulf of Mexico also presents a danger to the flow of drugs to Texas; the Port of Houston and the Port of Brownsville enable traffickers to use small vessels and pleasure craft to transport illicit drugs into and from southern Texas.

Illicit drugs also are smuggled into and through Texas via commercial aircraft, cars, buses, passenger trains, pedestrians, and package delivery services. Narcotics are also smuggled through the railroads that connected the U.S. and Mexico. Moreover, the Mexican drug traffickers often use small boats to transport drugs through the coastal areas of South Texas, usually operating at night to prevent them from being spotted by law enforcement officials. Another avenue that they have implemented is to construct underground tunnels to get their product across the border. By constructing a tunnel, the cartel is able to get their product across the tight border-security with the possibility of no detection. Apart from using these common ways, once the product is across the border, common cars and trucks are utilized for faster distribution in different cities. In an effort to use the seas, the cartel also implemented the use of narco submarines.

Read more about this topic:  Gulf Cartel

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Modus Operandi

Modus operandi (plural modi operandi) is a Latin phrase, approximately translated as "method of operation". The term is used to describe someone's habits or manner of working. In English, it is often shortened to M.O.

The expression is often used in police work when discussing a crime and addressing the methods employed by the perpetrators. It is also used in criminal profiling, where it can help in finding clues to the offender's psychology. It largely consists of examining the actions used by the individual(s) to execute the crime, prevent its detection and/or facilitate escape. A suspect's modus operandi can assist in his identification, apprehension or repression, and can also be used to determine links between crimes.

Modus operandi is often used in business settings as well, to describe a firm's preferred means of doing business and interacting with other firms.

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