Cartel members in Mexico don't just buy gun parts and equipment from arms traffickers — they also shop online. One Mexican Drug Cartel used eBay for this
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The Mexican cartel named Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación) or CJNG was formerly known as Los Mata Zetas. It is a militarized vigilante criminal group from Mexico and is based in Jalisco. It is headed by the world’s most-wanted drug lord -El Mencho, originally named Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes.
As of 2020, the United States government considers this cartel to be the most dangerous criminal organization in Mexico. They have been known for various types of criminal rackets, drug trafficking, and trafficking arms as well. They are also known for cannibalizing some of their victims. U.S. prosecutors have said that the cartel has purchased its arms from European gun manufacturers along with Mexican military helicopters with rocket-propelled grenades. The most bizarre thing is, some of the arms that were purchased, were from eBay.
Shipping Internationally Now
Ismael Almada told U.S. Law Enforcement all about their purchase from the e-commerce website in March 2020, when he was interviewed in the Mexican city of Guadalajara. He said that he first used his mom’s credit card to order accessories for the weapons and tactical gear from eBay. He purchased these for his security business which focused on anti-spyware and surveillance technology. He later shifted to PayPal to cover the trail of U.S. goods to Mexico.
PayPal first found some accounts to be suspicious in June 2019 and informed U.S. officials. It was later found that 50 accounts were linked to ‘Brother Carlos’ also known as Adrian Galegostrejo and ‘Brother Ismael Armada’. It was found that Carlos had received the guns and other military-grade weapon accessories in the municipality of Zapopan, adjacent to their location in Guadalajara.
Extradition and Immunity
Carlos and Armada would supply these weapons to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel but it was suspected that the leader, Cervantes, wanted Carlos dead. The U.S. authorities were able to extradite the leader’s son, Ruben Oseguera or “El Menchito” in February 2020 on drug charges. Carlos was a witness against Ruben but he died under suspicious circumstances.
That is the reason why Ismael voluntarily went to the U.S. authorities in Mexico. All details about the connection of the brothers to the CJNG smuggling ring disappeared from the U.S. government’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). It is safe to bet that this was a negotiation move and Ismael was given some immunity for his statement against the CJNG.
Ismael’s statement gave a detailed look at how the CJNG cartel acquired military-grade gear as well as how the younger generation of the cartel would operate within the organization. Soon the authorities subpoenaed eBay and received access to records. They also got access to a Gmail account that was associated with the brothers once Google was also subpoenaed.
The day when the government received the records from eBay on July 20, 2019, the account had made a purchase of “Blackhawk 40mm Grenade Triple Pouch.” They also found 300 more transactions which included “night vision goggles, laser sights, armored vests, safety respirators, additional ammo pouches, gun accessories, and muzzle brakes”
From LA to Mexico
This case showed how the accessories may have entered Mexico through internet shopping and messenger delivery. The purchases were sent to a shipping business known as MM Cargo till 2018. They later rebranded themselves and renamed their shipping business as Calix Packing which was based in Los Angeles’ Fashion District.
Ismael had received a message from the shipping business in July 2019, that they were unable to send some weapon accessories to Mexico and well as a sword which they had purchased from eBay. The U.S. law enforcement found the communication between the shipping company and the brothers where the business wrote “This is what we were unable to send you, the sword, plus the sword case,” along with the photos of the items. To which Ismael had replied “If you can please send me the sword, it is a wall ornament, and it’s not even sharp.”
The Paper Trail
The shipping company said, “I’m sorry sir, look we talked to the shipping company and we cannot send you anything like that, we can’t send you anything because the boxes go through X-ray and that will be a big problem.” Well, of course, it will be. The authorities raided a house in Guadalajara where Carlos Almada was staying along with three alleged CJNG associates on September 28, 2019. 22 assault rifles, two hand grenade launchers, tactical gear, as well as packs of cocaine and meth were found on the property. It was claimed that the weapons came from Los Angeles and they did find a shipping label inside the house which belonged to Calix Packing.
With the son of the leader facing a long prison sentence in the U.S. and the discovery of smuggling weapons accessories from eBay, the cartel will look to find new pathways for trafficking weapons. Will it stop the arms trafficking completely? Probably not. But the next time you feel like ordering some assault rifles, just don’t use your mother’s credit card.