Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera had ties to one of Mexico’s most notorious drug cartels before she was killed last month in a plane crash, a shocking report have claimed.
A witness reportedly came forward with claims that Jenni Rivera, known as “La Diva de la Banda”, was connected to the Beltran-Leyva cartel, which is regarded as one of the country’s most feared criminal syndicates.
The report by the Reforma newspaper also accused Rivera of performing at private events for the cartel and its one-time boss, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez, who was arrested in 2010.
In one instance, La Barbie mortified Jenni Rivera when he kicked her as part of a practical joke, according to Reforma.
The witness statements made in 2009, also alleged that Jenni Rivera used cocaine and ecstasy.
The capture of Edgar Valdez – a Texas-born drug kingpin who got his nickname from his fair complexion – was seen as a major coup in the government’s desperate battle against drug traffickers.
Before he was caught, Edgar Valdez had been battling for control of the cartel after its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in a 2009 December shootout with marines in Cuernavaca, a favorite weekend getaway south of Mexico City.
Jenni Rivera died on December 9 in a plane crash after she had performed in Monterrey, Mexico.
Also on Thursday, family members of the other plane crash casualties filed a lawsuit against the jet’s owners for “negligence” in letting the plane take off.
TMZ reported that the family of Jenni Rivera’s publicist Arturo Rivera, her lawyer Mario Macias Pacheco, Her stylist Jorge Armando Sanchez Vasquez and her makeup artist Jacobo Yebale filed the wrongful death suit against Starwood Management.
A similar lawsuit has also been filed against Jenni Rivera’s company.
Jenni Rivera had ties to one of Mexico’s most notorious drug cartels before she was killed last month in a plane crash
Jenni Rivera was in the process of buying the doomed private jet from business executive Christian E. Esquino Nunez, who owns Starwood.
Christian E. Esquino Nunez is wanted for questioning regarding his ties to the plane, and has been convicted of drug-trafficking and counterfeiting government inspection stamps.
RadarOnline.com reports that Christian E. Esquino Nunez also has ties to a Tijuana drug cartel, and has also been accused of trying to sneak the son of late Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi into Mexico.
Court records show that Christian E. Esquino Nunez obtained details from aircrafts and forged details so as to mark up aircraft prices, thinking the models had fewer miles on them or had more maintenance work than they actually had.
Christian E. Esquino Nunez’s current whereabouts are unknown.
The plane carrying the superstar plunged from more than 28,000 feet and hit the ground in a nose-dive at more than 600 miles an hour, Mexico’s top transportation official says.
Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Mexico’s secretary of communications and transportation, revealed the first detailed accounts of the moments leading up to the crash that killed Jenni Rivera and six other people aboard their Learjet on Sunday in northern Mexico.
According to Gerardo Ruiz Esparza told Radio Formula the plane hit the ground 1.2 miles from where it began falling, and plummeted at a 45 degree angle.
“The plane practically nose-dived,” he said.
“The impact must have been terrible.”
Gerardo Ruiz Esparza did not offer any explanation of what may have caused the plane to plummet, saying only that: “The plane fell from an altitude of 28,000 feet … It may have hit a speed higher than 1,000 kph [621 mph].”
Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said the pilot of the plane, Miguel Perez Soto, had a valid Mexican pilot’s license that would have expired in January.
Photos of a temporary pilot’s certificate issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and found amid the wreckage said that Miguel Perez Soto was 78.
Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said there is no age limit for flying a civil aviation aircraft, though for commercial it’s 65.
Mexican authorities were performing DNA tests Tuesday on remains believed to belong to Jenni Rivera and the others killed when her plane went down in northern Mexico early Sunday morning.
Investigators said it would take days to piece together the wreckage of the plane carrying Jenni Rivera and find out why it went down.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to help investigate the crash of the Learjet 25, which disintegrated on impact in the rugged terrain in Nuevo Leon state in northern Mexico.
The 43-year-old California-born Jenni Rivera known as the “Diva de la Banda” died as her career peaked. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, and had branched out into acting and reality television.
Besides being a singer, Jenni Rivera appeared in the indie film Filly Brown, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, and was filming the third season of “I love Jenni”, which followed her as she shared special moments with her children and as she toured through Mexico and the United States.
The Learjet 25, number N345MC, with Rivera and her handlers aboard, was en route from Monterrey to Toluca, outside Mexico City, when it was reported missing about 10 minutes after takeoff.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta, the former mayor of Mexico’s district Tiquicheo, had survived two assassination attempts which claimed the life of her first husband and left her with horrific wounds that never really healed.
But despite being a marked woman, Maria Santos Gorrostieta remained defiant to the very end.
With unimaginable courage, the 36-year-old stood up to the drugs gangs that had ravaged Mexico and Tiquicheo, the district where she once served as mayor. When some doubted that she had been shot, Maria Santos Gorrostieta bared the scars that riddled her flesh and swore she would never give in.
It was almost inevitable that she would eventually pay for her bravery with her life.
Her body – stabbed, burned, battered and bound at wrist and ankle – was found dumped by a roadside in San Juan Tararameo, Cuitzeo Township.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta left behind three young sons. Her second husband Nereo Delgado Patinoran, understood to have vanished at the same time she did, is still missing.
She had seen her government security team withdrawn in November last year, and then her police escort in January.
The decision has provoked much soul-searching in Mexico which has been torn apart by brutal drug cartels.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta had become an icon in Mexico for her work against the gangs and had been described as a heroine of the 21st century.
She was elected as mayor of Tiquicheo, a rural district in Michoacan, west of Mexico City, in 2008.
Almost immediately, she received threats. The first assassination attempt came in October 2009 when the car she was travelling in with her first husband Jose Sanchez came under fire from gunmen in the town of El Limone.
The attack claimed his life but Maria Santos Gorrostieta lived. An attempt had been made on Jose Sanchez’s life earlier that year, but he managed to escape the armed mob who came after him.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta bravely battled back from her injuries in the face of overwhelming tragedy, but she was not destined to know peace.
The next attempt on her life was just three months later, when an masked group carrying assault rifles ambushed her on the road between Michoacan and Guerreo state. The van she was traveling in was peppered by 30 bullets. Three hit her.
This time her injuries were more severe, leaving multiple scars and forcing her to wear a colostomy bag. She was left in constant pain.
A reporter was also wounded in the attack, as well as her press officer and brother.
In a famous act of defiance, she posed for pictures showing the extent of her horrifying wounds to draw attention to the brutality the drug gangs routinely mete out to their opponents.
In a statement to the public made at the time, the devout Catholic said: “At another stage in my life, perhaps I would have resigned from what I have, my position, my responsibilities as the leader of my Tiquicheo.
“But today, no. It is not possible for me to surrender when I have three sons, whom I have to educate by setting an example, and also because of the memory of the man of my life, the father of my three little ones, the one who was able to teach me the value of things and to fight for them.
“Although he is no longer with us, he continues to be the light that guides my decisions.”
She added: “I struggle day to day to erase from my mind the images of the horror I lived, and that others who did not deserve or expect it also suffered.
“I wanted to show them my wounded, mutilated, humiliated body, because I’m not ashamed of it, because it is the product of the great misfortunes that have scarred my life, that of my children and my family.”
“Despite my own safety and that of my family, what occupies my mind is my responsibility towards my people, the children, the women, the elderly and the men who break their souls every day without rest to find a piece of bread for their children.
“Freedom brings with it responsibilities and I don’t dare fall behind. My long road is not yet finished – the footprint that we leave behind in our country depends on the battle that we lose and the loyalty we put into it.”
Maria Santos Gorrostieta’s body, stabbed, burned, battered and bound at wrist and ankle, was found dumped by a roadside in San Juan Tararameo, Cuitzeo Township
After her ordeal Maria Santos Gorrostieta remarried and ran for a seat in Mexico’s Congress of the Union, but failed to gain the backing she needed.
Her family reported her missing on November 14 and her body was found three days later.
A murder hunt has been launched and police are still searching for her missing husband.
Mexico has been torn apart by murderous drug gangs since President Felipe Calderon launched his drug offensive in 2006.
More than 50,000 people have been killed in clashes between rival drug cartels and security forces and about two dozen mayors have been murdered.
The cartels have ruled the streets with fear for years, enforcing their authority with murders, bribery and torture.
But after decades of using force to combat the gangs, it is U.S. lawmakers who are the criminals’ biggest problem.
Legalization of marijuana, as recently voted for by Colorado and Washington states, may wipe billions of dollars from the cartels’ annual profits.
And it has left politicians in Mexico with a tough question: How can they continue to justify spending money – and lives – fighting drug distribution to America when it will be legal in some states from next month?
Mexico presidential advisor Luis Videgaray said in a radio interview last week: “Obviously, we can’t handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status.”
From January to September last year, 12,903 people were killed in the country in drug-related crime, ranging from gang members, Mexican military and innocent victims caught up in gun battles.
The Mexican government claims they are winning the war on drugs, but few outside – or inside – the country believe that.
So corrupt are their police that they are rarely employed in combating the cartels. Instead, the country relies on its army to tackle the gangs while it attempts to rebuild its police forces.
Public support for the drug war continues to fall as the death toll rises and the cartels’ profits rise.
The business of trafficking drugs from Mexico into the U.S. is estimated to be a business worth between $13 billion and $49 billion, with 90% of all cocaine used in America originating from the country, according to a U.S. state report.
The U.S. Justice Department considers the cartels as America’s greatest organized crime threat, while conceding that it is U.S. dollars that fund the crime ravaging Mexico.
In 2009 a military assessment predicted that if the drugs war continued for another 25 years, Mexico’s government was at serious risk of collapse and the conflict would spread into America.
A year earlier, the U.S. Joint Forces Command suggested a similar time-scale of collapse in Mexico and warned American intervention may be necessary due to the implications for homeland security.
The problem of strengthening the Mexico/U.S. border even prompted President Barack Obama to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops in 2010.
The two major cartels in Mexico are now the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas.
The Sinaloa Cartel was formed when several gangs agreed to join forces in 2006 and is now led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
He is Mexico’s most wanted drug trafficker and is believed to be worth $1 billion. Forbes magazine even declared him the 55th most powerful man in the world in 2009.
Los Zetas were originally a mercenary outfit of former elite members of the Mexican army by the Gulf Cartel.
Consisting of Airmobile Special Forces Group and Amphibian Group of Special Forces members, they helped control parts of Mexico for the Gulf Cartel until its leader, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, was arrested.
Los Zetas took the opportunity to seize power for themselves and are now a 300-strong independent drugs and arms trafficking gang under the leadership of Heriberto Lazcano.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta was born in 1976 and graduated in medicine from a university in the city of Morelia.
She was elected mayor of Tiquicheo in 2008 and served until 2011. During that time she defected from the Institutional Revolutionary party to the left-wing Democratic Revolution party.
In January 2009 her husband Jose Sanchez Chavez was set upon by an armed group but escaped
In October that year Maria Santos Gorrostieta was attacked while she was with her husband as they drove along in El Limone. Jose died that day from gunshot wounds. She survived but was taken to a hospital in Morelia, the state capital.
On January 23, 2010, she was attacked by men with machine guns in Ciudad Altamirano Guerrero, on her way to an event at the City Hall. She was severely injured after being hit by three bullets, as well as receiving wounds in the crash after the shooting, and had to use a colostomy bag. Maria Santos Gorrostieta said her wounds left her in constant pain.
On Saturday November 17 her body was found by farm workers from San Juan Tararameo, Cuitzeo Township, who were heading to work. She was discovered on the property known as El Chupadero. The next day she was identified by members of her family.
Mexican government has admitted that it mistakenly identified Felix Beltran Leon as the son of the country’s most-wanted drugs lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
On Thursday officials paraded before the media a man they said was Jesus Alfredo Guzman, whose father leads the powerful Sinaloa cartel.
But the arrested man was in fact Felix Beltran Leon, a car salesman, the attorney general’s office said.
The authorities had hailed the arrest as the most important in years.
Known as El Chapo” or “Shorty”, Joaquin Guzman has been in hiding ever since he escaped from prison in 2001.
The Sinaloa cartel controls much of the flow of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine to the United States.
Within hours of the high-profile arrest, doubts had started to be cast on the official version of events.
A lawyer proclaiming to speak for the Guzman family released a statement denying that the suspect in custody was the drug boss’s son.
Mexican government has admitted that it mistakenly identified Felix Beltran Leon as the son of the country's most-wanted drugs lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
Felix Beltran Leon’s mother then spoke to journalists and denied any link to Joaquin Guzman or the Sinaloa cartel.
It took another few hours, while identity tests were carried out, before the government admitted it had made a huge mistake.
In less than a day, the episode has transformed from an apparent coup against one of Mexico’s biggest drug cartels to a major embarrassment for President Felipe Calderon’s administration, our reporter says.
US agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, were among those that had applauded the arrest.
On Thursday, the Mexican Navy had said that Jesus Guzman – known as “El Gordo”, or “The Fat One” – was a growing force within his father’s cartel and controlled most of its trade between Mexico and the US, where he was indicted in 2009.
El Chapo was jailed in 1993, but escaped from his maximum-security prison in a laundry basket eight years later.
The US state department has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
If nothing else, the debacle goes to underscore how murky and confused the world of drug cartel arrests and government intelligence has become in Mexico.
With few recent photos of the main players in the drug world available, there may be more such cases of mistaken identity to come for the Mexican armed forces.
More than 55,000 people have died in Mexico in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels nearly six years ago.
The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a warning on Friday about drug cartels from Mexico seeking younger and younger recruits in Texas high school to “support their drug, human, currency and weapon smuggling operations on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border.”
A number of incidents in the past thirty day period caused DPS to issue the notice, however officials say the threat started in 2009.
“In ’09 we started seeing that happening with the bridge cases, when the cartels started getting our teenage students to move drugs across the bridge,” McCraw said. “Texas teenagers provide unique compatibility to the cartels. They’re U.S. citizens, they speak Spanish, they’re able to operate on both sides of the border and they’re expendable labor.”
Drug Cartel from Mexico
Because they’re juveniles, it’s not likely that they’ll be charged by the federal prosecutors, he said.
“Parents should talk to their children and explain how the cartels seek to exploit Texas teenagers and the risks in dealing with these ruthless organizations, especially those parents who live along the Texas/Mexico border,” the news release said.
Elisabeth Mandala left a Texas public high school for Mexico last May where she wound up beaten to death in a pick up truck along with two men carrying fake identification. It’s believed the violent drug cartels recruited Mandala to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border.
“Sometimes this may be delivering drugs. It may be crossing drugs over from Mexico or involvement in some of the other violent activities,” Steen said.
Just past week in a border county officers caught a 12-year-old boy driving a stolen pick up truck with more than 800 pounds of marijuana.
Last month a pair of Texas teenagers were lured to Mexico where they were kidnapped, beaten, redeemed and released in a distant region on the Rio Grande River.
“There’s some indication that they were subjected to the temptations to working with the gangs and cartels,” McCraw said.
The former gang task force director for the city of Houston, Kim Ogg, said:
“Recruiting is easy for such a vulnerable population”
He suspects the cartels are recruiting through gangs.
“Some see it (the gang) as their family. Some are attracted to the money, drugs, guns, women, and others are attracted because they have family members in gangs and it seems normal,” said Ogg.
“Teens are sometimes offered as little as $50 to act as drivers for the cartels or the local gangs who support them”
“We want to warn parents for the things to look out for so their child doesn’t get involved in this,” he said. “It’s subtle; it’s not always obvious. It’s not like a narco will show up at your doorstep with a wad of cash. It could be friends of friends at school influencing their child.”
The Texas border region represents 9.7% of the state’s population, yet has 19.2% of the state’s juvenile felony drug referrals and 21.8% of the state’s juvenile felony gang referrals, according to the release.
“We’re going to continue to warn parents. We have an obligation to be honest with the public, regardless of how it looks,” McCraw said.
“We’re not going to overinflate the threat, but we’re going to be honest. Al Qaeda has nothing on the savagery of these cartels,” he said.
“They don’t care what happens to the kids, we do. They’re our most precious asset in Texas.”
According to authorities more than 25 juveniles have been arrested for drug trafficking in one Texas border county alone within the past year.