The suspected leader of the Unión de Tepito drug and crime gang has been released from prison and rearrested for a second time within the space of a week.
Óscar Andrés Flores, also known as “El Lunares,” left the Reclusorio Norte prison in Mexico City early Saturday morning after a judge ruled on Friday that he wasn’t required to stand trial on charges of express kidnapping.
The judge determined that there were irregularities in the case against Flores, including the fact that the apparent victim of the alleged kidnapping filed the complaint against him using the identity of another person.
Upon leaving prison, “El Lunares” was immediately arrested by Mexico City police on homicide charges and transferred to a prosecutor’s office, the newspaper Milenio reported.
It is the third time that authorities are attempting to put Flores on trial since the suspected criminal leader was first arrested in Tolcayuca, Hidalgo, on January 31.
According to official police reports, Flores and two other suspected members of the Unión de Tepito were arrested in the act of committing a crime. The reports said that the three individuals were found to be in possession of drugs, military-grade weapons and ammunition after being stopped for speeding.
However, at a hearing on February 8, Judge Beatriz Moguel Ancheyta said that federal prosecutors were unable to provide sufficient evidence to back up the official version of the capture.
She ordered the immediate release of all three men, allowing Flores to leave preventative custody at the Altiplano maximum security prison in México state last Saturday.
Mexico City police promptly arrested “El Lunares” on express kidnapping charges and transferred him to Reclusorio Norte where he was held until today.
Both Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and the capital’s Attorney General’s Office (FGJ) slammed the judge’s decision on Friday to release Flores, who allegedly took over the leadership of the Unión de Tepito after the arrests of the former bosses known as “El Betito” and “El Pistaches.”
“It’s inconceivable, outrageous, that a judge has released a criminal [based on] minor arguments. Security and justice are only possible with the commitment of the three powers [of government] . . . The Mexico City judicial power needs to review this case and others,” Sheinbaum wrote on Twitter.
In a strongly-worded statement, the FGJ expressed its “complete disagreement” with the decision to release Flores.
“The times of presenting false evidence were left in the past,” the FGJ said, adding that “under no circumstance” would it allow a complaint to be filed under a fake name.
Flores’ defense team, the statement continued, presented a person at Friday’s hearing who claimed to be the victim of the express kidnapping, identifying himself with a document that the judge “accepted as authentic without giving the Attorney General’s Office the opportunity to verify its validity.”
The person who filed the claim against Flores for express kidnapping – the real victim – “was and is under the protection of this Attorney General’s Office,” the FGJ said.
The Attorney General’s Office said that it will appeal the decision to absolve “El Lunares” of the express kidnapping charges and file a complaint against the judge with the Mexico City Judiciary Council.
It said that the suspected criminal leader is linked to a range of crimes including drug trafficking, bribery, kidnapping, assaults and murder.
Flores is believed to have moved to Hidalgo after Mexico City police raided four properties linked to the Unión de Tepito in the neighborhood of Morelos last October. Police arrested more than 30 suspects but “El Lunares” evaded capture, allegedly by escaping via a secret tunnel.
The gang he is suspected to lead is believed to be one of the largest distributors of drugs in Mexico City and is also suspected of extortion and other crimes.
Gunmen from the Unión de Tepito – based in the notoriously dangerous neighborhood of the same name – allegedly dressed as mariachis to carry out an attack on members its arch rival, the Anti Unión, at Garibaldi Square in Mexico City in September 2018. Six people were killed in the attack and another seven were wounded.