Note: This post includes excerpts of the Wikipedia article of Carlos Landín Martínez ("El Puma"), which I created/published a month ago.
A grandfather shopping for watermelons wouldn't get a second look. But Carlos Landín Martínez (alias "El Puma") was with two bodyguards at a supermarket in McAllen, Texas, in 2007 when an off-duty DEA agent got a glance of him by coincidence. His faced looked familiar. The DEA had been investigating him for at least two years and knew he was living a double life: a quiet retiree who had retired from the Tamaulipas State Police and spent the weekends with his grandchildren, and the No. 2 for the Gulf Cartel in Reynosa. The agent called the cops, who arrested him at an intersection blocks away.
Early life and careerEl Puma was a commander in the Tamaulipas State Police, where he headed the homicide investigatory task force. In the police, he was known as "El Puma Uno" (English: Puma One) for his aggressive stance against the most-wanted criminals in Tamaulipas. But El Puma led a double life, authorities said. He officially worked to fight crime, but actively committed it on the side. He worked closely with the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas by running drug trafficking operations through the Reynosa corridor. El Puma was permanently released from the Tamaulipas State Police along with nine other police chiefs in 1999, but he continued in the cartel full-time.
U.S. authorities tracked El Puma's drug trafficking activities back to 1998, when his criminal cells in Granjeno and Peñitas, Texas, worked with a family-led smuggling ring headed by Francisco Meza-Rojas, a former McAllen police officer. For nearly a deacde, El Puma's drug trafficking cells were responsible for moving narcotics from Mexico into the U.S. Most of the drugs from the Gulf Cartel were cultivated in Michoacán, smuggled through Tamaulipas, and then redistributed in South Texas and throughout the rest of the U.S. The drugs were crossed via the Rio Grande River and dropped off in designated spots for other middlemen to pick up.
The drugs were then given to other smugglers, who met in parking lots of businesses in the McAllen area. Smugglers linked to El Puma would then take the drugs and store them in stash houses across the city. A group of smugglers would then take those drugs past the the U.S. Border Patrol stations in Falfurrias and Sarita, where they would then be distributed to cities like Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Tampa, Nashville, Atlanta, Greensboro, and New York City.
No. 2 of ReynosaFrom January 2005 to January 2007, El Puma was the second-in-command for the Gulf Cartel in Reynosa. Among his duties included collecting taxes (or piso) from independent drug traffickers who wanted to smuggle drugs through his corridor, which extended between the Tamaulipas municipalities of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and Río Bravo. Those who tried to circumvent this rule, or who were found responsible for losing drugs or money, were kidnapped, tortured, and/or killed on El Puma's orders.
During that time, the Reynosa corridor was officially headed by Gregorio Sauceda Gamboa ("Caramuela"), a kingpin that reported to Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the top leader of the cartel. El Puma worked under both of them. However, Sauceda Gamboa began having differences with the Gulf Cartel's leadership due to his perceived weakness; his excessive drinking, drug addiction, and cancer diagnosis pushed him to the sidelines. While Sauceda Gamboa's influence declined, El Puma began generating more influence and money.
Arrest and sentenceThen came El Puma's arrest. As he shopped for watermelons at an H-E-B supermarket in McAllen, Texas, an off-duty DEA agent caught a glance of him by coincidence. "He happened to fall into our lap, so we had to move fast," the agent said. "You only get one shot at a person like [El Puma]." And so he did. He called the police to stop him a few blocks away. El Puma was taken into custody.
More than a handful of criminals who worked under El Puma testified against him in court and identified him as the leader of the cartel in Reynosa. El Puma said he was innocent, while his defense team stated that the witnesses were testifying against their client in exchange for soother life sentences. None of them said they ever met El Puma in person or saw him committing a crime; they described how the Gulf Cartel was able to reduce liability by keeping low-level criminals away from the core operations of the cartel.
El Puma was eventually found guilty and convicted to life imprisonment, though his sentence was later reduced. U.S. federal authorities stated that the case could serve as a model for future organized crime cases charging top crime bosses. Authorities explained that they built the case against Landín Martínez from the bottom up, using the information from low-level criminals arrested in the U.S. and Mexico, which slowly led them to information about the cartel's leadership structure.
El Puma's scheduled released date is on 13 October 2029. He is imprisoned at the Federal Medical Center, Butner, a North Carolina federal security prison for inmates with special health needs.
Sources and notes* Wikipedia article is under free domain
* Multiple sources, see here for more details
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