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Mexican Drug Lord Lived in a Cave and Was Caught Because His Girlfriend Brought Him Birthday Cake

"I led a gang of pendejos," or idiots, drug lord La Tuta said after his arrest on Friday. The details on the Knights Templar leader emerged as officials leaked word that another cartel kingpin has been arrested.
Photo par Eduardo Verdugo/AP

"I know I killed a lot of people in my town. I acknowledge it," Mexican drug capo Servando Gomez Martinez said unsympathetically in one of his many public statements prior to his arrest.

"I killed them because they were assholes who snitched on me, when I didn't do anything to them, and only helped everybody," Gomez said in an audio file released in November.

"But I know I'll eventually pay for it."

Three months later, the leader of the Knights Templar cartel fell.


A former primary school teacher, Gomez, known widely as "La Tuta," was apprehended early on Friday in Morelia, Michoacan state. It was the Mexican government's most significant arrest since the capture of notorious Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, which occurred almost exactly a year before.

The arrest came at around 3 am last Friday at a hot dog stand in downtown Morelia, after what the Mexican president referred to as "months of investigation." The detention, authorities said, unfolded without incident.

In a video released to Mexican news outlets taken in the hours after Gomez's arrest, the drug lord appears at ease but recalcitrant, saying he was arrested "because I'm a criminal."

"Because I led a gang of pendejos," or idiots, he said.

Related: Talking Heads: The Murder of the Young in Mexico

Servando Gomez Martinez in federal custody.

Gomez was captured just before President Enrique Peña Nieto's arrival this week to London to meet the royal family and top British political leaders, providing the Mexican administration a much-needed publicity boost.

"I want to recognize broadly the security forces of our country," President Enrique Peña Nieto said on Friday before a stadium crowd of cheering supporters in Jalisco. "Thank you for apprehending La Tuta."

Peña Nieto called La Tuta "one of the most sought-after delinquents" in Mexico. As leader of the Knights Templar, Gomez supplied "large quantities" of methamphetamine and cocaine over the border into the United States, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.


On Wednesday, while Peña Nieto was still in the UK, authorities told news outlets that another cartel leader, the chief of the Zetas, had been captured.

Officials said they captured Omar Treviño Morales in a suburb of the industrial hub Monterrey, in Nuevo Leon state. Treviño Morales allegedly took over control of the Zetas cartel after the capture of his brother Miguel Treviño Morales in July 2013.

Birthday cake mistake

The Gomez capture was marked by a series of events reminiscent of the days Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein spent in hiding before he was captured.

Gomez, increasingly isolated by the pursuing authorities and pressured by his cartel and autodefensarivals, evaded police for months by hiding out in a bat-filled cave, Mexico's federal police commissioner told the news agency EFE in an interview.

The cave had previously served as a holding cell for detainees. Gomez, 49, spent his final free months in "misery," commissioner Enrique Galindo told EFE.

By early February, authorities had narrowed the search down to one of ten properties. A messenger whose phone was tapped finally led authorities to his location.

On February 6, a girlfriend of Gomez named Maria Antonieta Luna Ávalos visited him along with others who brought food and drinks, including a chocolate birthday cake, which was found in the refrigerator at his home at time of his arrest, officials said.

Pastel en casa donde se escondía — Raul Torres (@raultorres70)February 28, 2015


Hours after Gomez's capture, his brother Flavio Gomez Martinez was detained in the city of Merida on the Yucatan peninsula, in possession of firearms and narcotics, authorities said. Six other people linked to Gomez have also detained.

"We now have 90 of the 122 most dangerous [people] detained," Mexican interior minister Osorio Chong said on Monday. "Most have been detained without a single shot."

Though the arrests may bring a positive bump for the Mexican government, it is unclear what if anything the captures of influential organized-crime leaders mean for the Mexican people, or the future of cartels like the Knights Templars.

'This isn't organized crime,' La Tuta said. 'If anything, this is disorganized crime.'

Gomez is well known for his presence on social media and his moves to expose corrupt public figures by filming his meetings with politicians and journalists. But as his power structure crumbled, La Tuta seemed to increasingly predict his downfall.

"They say 'let's fuck up La Tuta, because if we fuck up La Tuta, we end the problem in Michoacan,' as if I were the only fucking delinquent in Michoacan," Gomez said three months before his arrest, using the Mexican slang term chingar.

La Tuta was known to hand out money and buy supporters at all levels, bribing journalists and authorities alike. He acquired folk-hero status among communities in Michoacan that depended on him.

Shortly after the September 26 police attacks in Iguala, Guerrero, in which 43 teachers college students were forcefully disappeared, La Tuta released a 30-minute audio file containing his position on the government's role in the tragedy.


"They [state authorities] are supporting the people that apparently disappeared, kidnapped and possibly murdered the 43 students from the rural Ayotzinapa normal school," Tuta said on the audio file, after naming several authorities by name and title.

"The judges, and the federal prosecutors who are in charge of the investigation and in charge of filing arrest warrants, are all colluded with organized crime," Gomez said. "I think there is something very wrong with the government."

Related: Mexican 'Viceroy' Sent to Pacify Michoacan State Leaves Murky Legacy. Read more here.

Three of La Tuta's children have been arrested in previous years for ties to organized crime, one while fleeing the scene of a cockfight in 2009. His ex wife, Ana Patiño Lopez, was arrested in October with more than $13,500, which she allegedly hoped to use in an attempt to bribe the arresting authorities.

Gomez's daughter Sayonara was arrested a week after her mother was put behind bars, but was released just hours after. "I love you and admire you Servando Gomez Martinez," Sayonara posted on Facebook shortly after her detention.

Así la figura de — ARTURO BERMUDEZ (@bermudezphoto)February 27, 2015

It is not yet clear if the US government will seek his extradition, but La Tuta's 2009 US indictment sets possible jail time over narcotics conspiracy charges at a minimum of ten years in prison, or a maximum life sentence.


Since 2010, Servando Gomez Martinez has on the US Treasury Department's list of international kingpins. US Department of State officials did not respond to requests by VICE News for comment.

La Tuta once told Mundo Fox he would rather die than be sent to prison. He reportedly refused to give statements over the weekend, authorities said.

Gomez's first appearance before a judge is likely to take place on Thursday. He is expected to face charges of organized crime and drug trafficking.

"This isn't organized crime," La Tuta said in his monologue in November, referring to cartel violence in Mexico. "If anything this is disorganized crime."

Related: Rebuked Over Missing Students Case, Mexican Attorney General Steps Down. Read more here.

Follow Andrea Noel on Twitter @MetabolizedJunk.