Authorities have detained a former US soldier accused of leading a gang of kidnappers in northern Mexico, officials said Monday.
The 32-year-old suspect spearheaded a band of 16 people who operated in the states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Tamaulipas in the past four years, said Nuevo Leon security spokesman Jorge Domene.
He carried two identities — Luis Ricardo Gonzalez Garcia and Javier Aguirre Cardenas — and moved to Nuevo Leon’s industrial city of Monterrey from the United States in 2009, Domene said.
He served in the US military between 1998-2002 before working as a police officer in Texas between 2002-2009, the spokesman said.
The suspected gang leader is accused of ordering the September 25 kidnapping of Jorge Luis Martinez Martinez, the 70-year-old father of the mayor of the town of Zuazua, a suburb of Monterrey.
The victim was found dead five days later in the neighboring state of Coahuila even though a ransom had been paid for his release.
The 16 gang members were detained in eight separate operations in Nuevo Leon and Coahuila in the past month, but their arrests and pictures were only presented Monday because the kidnapping investigations were recently completed.
Their alleged leader was in possession of a 9mm gun when he was caught while traveling in a sport-utility vehicle in the wealthy Monterrey suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia on October 19, Domene said.
Kidnappings for ransom have soared in Mexico in recent years, coinciding with a rise in drug-related violence.
Official figures show that 1,205 people were abducted in the first nine months of the year, compared to 1,317 in 2012.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]