Federal security forces may be closing in on the suspected ringleader of a gang of fuel thieves in Guanajuato who is believed to be behind a threat directed at President López Obrador.
José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, believed to the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, has evaded capture during the last two and a half years, helped in no small part by highway blockades made of burning vehicles such as those seen in the municipality of Villagrán earlier this week.
However, intelligence reports seen by the newspaper Milenio reveal that federal authorities have a lot of information about the criminal leader known as “El Marro” that could make it difficult for him to remain free.
According to the reports, authorities have identified five ranches frequented by Yépez, his closest criminal associates and the locations his gang targets to extract fuel from Pemex pipelines.
Four people have been identified as members or past members of the ringleader’s inner circle.
They are Yépez’s uncle, Efraín Labrada Reyes, a financial operator for the cartel; another uncle, Raymundo Labrada Reyes, who was involved in money laundering until he was killed in December 2016; El Marro’s sister, Karen Lizbeth Yépez, and her husband, Santiago González Martínez, both of whom work for the cartel in Celaya.
The intelligence reports also reveal the names of several other men with links to Yépez and the cartel he heads, including some who have already been arrested.
The Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, which since 2017 has been engaged in a bitter turf war with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), has a strong presence in a region of Guanajuato known colloquially as the Bermuda Triangle.
Made up of the municipalities of Apaseo el Alto, Apaseo el Grande, Salamanca, Irapuato and Celaya, the region has a high incidence of both violence and fuel theft. Both tanker trucks transporting gasoline and petroleum pipelines are frequently targeted.
The Yépez-led criminal group’s presence also extends into the municipalities of Villagrán, considered the cartel’s operational center, as well as Cortazar, Santa Cruz de Juventino Rosas, Valle de Santiago and its namesake Santa Rosa de Lima.
Pemex pipelines running between the refinery in Salamanca and the cities of Guanajuato, Zacatecas, León, Morelia and Tula have all been tapped by El Marro’s cartel, the intelligence reports reveal.
Residents of towns in the municipalities where the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel operates have set up highway blockades and shot at vehicles during operations carried out by the army and navy aimed at arresting Yépez.
The criminal leader is believed to be responsible for a narco-banner that appeared in Salamanca early yesterday morning, warning López Obrador to remove security forces from the state or innocent people will die.
After advising that a “little gift” had been left at the Salamanca refinery, which turned out to be explosive devices inside an abandoned vehicle, the banner concluded with: “Yours sincerely, El Señor Marro.”
Source: Milenio (sp)