MEXICO CITY – A Mexican drug cartel kingpin accused of dissolving victims in barrels of lye and waging a terror campaign that turned Tijuana into one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities was captured early Tuesday in the port city of La Paz, federal authorities said.
Teodoro Garcia Simental, blamed for a years-long campaign of massacres, beheadings and kidnappings that chased away tourists and caused social upheaval in northern Baja California, was arrested by Mexican federal police without the suspect firing a shot and immediately flown to Mexico City.
The heavyset Garcia, believed to be in his mid-30s, scowled and dabbed at his mouth as he was paraded before television cameras at a police base wearing a zippered warm-up jacket and close-trimmed hair and goatee.
Better known for his savage killing sprees than his narco-business acumen, the man nicknamed “El Teo” bedeviled Mexican authorities for years and narrowly escaped capture several times. Last January, authorities arrested Garcia’s body-disposal expert, a man known as El Pozolero, or “the stewmaker,” who said he dissolved 300 victims in barrels of caustic chemicals.
Mexican federal authorities, acting on intelligence provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said they tracked Garcia down after a five-month surveillance operation. He was captured in an upscale area in the southern part of the city.
Though Garcia was not among the top echelon of Mexican drug lords, few crime bosses have had such a ruinous impact on a region. Mexican authorities say he was responsible for the killings of at least 300 people during a nearly two-year power struggle with rivals from the Arellano Felix drug cartel, in which he had once been a top-ranking lieutenant.
Garcia branched out from traditional drug trafficking and focused his criminal empire on extortion and kidnapping, targeting all levels of society.
In recent months, the manhunt intensified and Garcia avoided going to Tijuana. Authorities had narrowed his whereabouts to southern Baja California and pinpointed his house through electronic surveillance of his telephone, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.