Killings, Kin and Luck Helped Drug Lord
How does a camera-shy farm boy from rural Sinaloa become a threat to the national security of his country?
Family connections, a few timely deaths and luck.
Amado Carrillo-Fuentes got his foot in the door of Mexico's drug smuggling in the 1980s with help from his uncle, longtime smuggler Ernesto Fonseca-Carrillo.
A lieutenant in one of the first drug cartels founded in the early 1970s, Fonseca is in a Mexican prison for his role in the 1985 murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena.
In the mid-1980s, Fonseca sent his nephew, Amado, to Ojinaga to coordinate cocaine smuggling with Pablo Acosta-Villareal -- a longtime marijuana and heroin smuggler who branched into cocaine smuggling with the help of Carrillo's uncle.
Carrillo-Fuentes coordinated flights bringing cocaine from Colombia and dealt with representatives of the Medellin Cartel.
He kept such a low profile that 1985 DEA documents listing more than 200 members of Acosta's organization don't include his name.
Carrillo-Fuentes took control of the Ojinaga operation after Acosta was killed during a 1987 police raid.
The same year, Carrillo-Fuentes helped broker a deal that brought the Colombian cocaine cartels into international heroin trafficking. The Colombians had sought him out to help arrange meetings with leaders of the Herrera family of Durango.
The Colombians wanted to get into the heroin business. The Herrera family had been in the heroin trade for generations and had expertise the Colombians wanted.
Carrillo-Fuentes arranged the meetings in Torreon.
Details of the deal are not known. But today, most of the heroin seized on the U.S. eastern seaboard is produced in Colombia. The Colombians apparently agreed to stay out of the traditional Herrera heroin markets in the Midwest and Chicago areas.
In 1988, Carrillo-Fuentes took over narcotics operations in Hermosillo, Sonora, after his brother committed suicide.
In August 1989, Carrillo-Fuentes had his first and last brush with Mexican law enforcement when he was arrested in Guadalajara. He gave police a statement claiming he was in the cattle business and owned ranches in northern Mexico.
He admitted smuggling marijuana with the late Pablo Acosta but didn't implicate his uncle or any other member of the Mexican Federation in his statement.
Mexican officials confiscated several of his airplanes, and he spent a few weeks in jail. He was charged with crimes against the public health and possession of illegal weapons but was never brought to trial.
After his release, Carrillo-Fuentes continued to play the role of coordinator for Pablo Acosta's successor, Rafael Aguilar-Guajardo, a former high-ranking Mexican enforcement official in Juarez.
Carrillo-Fuentes' involvement in the drug trade continued to expand when in 1991 he added the Colombian Cali Cartel to his list of clients.
He was one of the few smugglers who handled cocaine loads for the rival Medellin and Cali cartels.
In 1993, Aguilar-Guajardo was gunned down in Cancun after threatening to go public with allegations of payoffs to Mexican officials. The heir apparent to Aguilar-Guajardo disappeared, and his body was found 10 months later -- leaving no doubt that Carrillo-Fuentes was in charge in Juarez.
While Carrillo-Fuentes' influence in the Juarez Cartel and the Mexican Federation grew, an internal war among members of the Sinaloa Cartel in western Mexico helped catapult him to the top of the Federation.
The shooting began shortly after Miguel Angel Felix-Gallardo was imprisoned in 1989. His cousins, the Arrellano-Felix brothers, went to war against Felix-Gallardo's former partners.
The trail of kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and assassinations ended in a shootout that began at the Christine Discotheque in Puerta Vallarta, Jalisco, in November 1992. It included the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Pasados Ocampo at the Guadalajara airport.
With the exception of the Arrellano-Felix brothers, surviving participants aligned themselves with Carrillo-Fuentes.
In fact, the Arrellano-Felix brothers tried to have Carrillo-Fuentes killed after he lost a load of cocaine that belonged to the brothers.
Carrillo-Fuentes survived the shootout in a Mexico City restaurant because assassins working from an old photograph shot the wrong man.