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“El Teo” One of Mexico’s Most Wanted, Arrested

Created: 15 January, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
5 min read

The guy was asleep in his room, no bodyguards around. Just before dawn an explosion was heard and over 50 masked police men entered his huge mansion in an exclusive neighborhood in quiet La Paz, Baja California Sur.

That was the way police arrested one of the most renowned from Tijuana.

Teodoro García Simental better known as “El Teo” “El Tres Letras” or “K-1,” is just around 31 years-old but according to federal officials and the DEA, he is responsible for the gruesome killings of over 600 people in the Tijuana region and was one of the criminals who made it common for killers to mutilate their victims and even dissolved them in acid so they would not leave a trace.

After its movie-like arrest, “El Teo” was quickly sent to Mexico City, where he was paraded in front of the media in a press conference lead by the head of the Federal Police, Ramón Pequeño García.

Pequeño, confirmed “El Teo” was one of the most wanted criminals both for Mexico and the US, and a 2.3 million dollar reward was offered for information that lead to his capture. It took authorities over 5 months of surveillance and intelligence gathering, as well as close collaboration of the Mexican army, marines and the DEA to catch him.

Who is “El Teo” and why is he considered key in the war against Mexico’s war against violence and drug trafficking? According to information released by federal authorities, “Teo” started a criminal career joining the Arellano Félix Cartel at a young age, quickly climbing the ranks and becoming head of security for the family.

But August 2006, DEA arrested Francisco Arellano Félix “El Tigrillo” shifting the power of the cartel. Simental confronted Fernando Sánchez Arellano, “El Ingeniero” in the fight over control, but the Cartel proved to be a “family owned business” and “Teo” was kicked out of the operation.

He then decided to join Arellano’s rivals; La Familia Michoacana and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, from the Sinaloa Cartel. He started trafficking for them, bringing plane loads of drugs to Tijuana, from Sinaloa, Michoacán and Jalisco.

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Since then, Simental waged an all open war against the Arellano’s, and his criminal group attacked police from all levels. Federal authorities link him with planned attacks against Tijuana police chief, Julián Leyzaola Pérez and even the state’s prosecutor Rommel Moreno Manjarrez.

The separation from the Arellano Felix also resulted in a spike in kidnappings.

It was during that time that the war between drug rivals made the killings bloodier; burned, beheaded and mutilated bodies started turning up all over, most of them with direct narco-messeges, and references to the new head of the Arellanos.

His bloody style of leadership and territorial control made it necessary for people like Santiago Meza López, nicknamed the “Stew-maker” or “Pozolero.” A man, who after his January 2009 arrest, confessed to having dissolved over 300 bodies in acid under directions of his drug boss: Simental.

Now, the region has lived the three bloodiest years, but Simental’s arrest gives strange hope for people from the Esperanza Association, a non-profit group of families whose members have been kidnapped or disappeared.

“My phone was ringing off the hook even before authorities had confirmed Teo’s arrest” said Cristina Palacios, president of Esperanza , “I’ve been getting calls from Guadalajara, Mazatlan, Mexicali… entire families who left Tijuana after the kidnappings and who are now hopeful this man will confess to the crime and finally tell them where their son, wife or parents are buried”.

According to Palacios, the Association has documented over 300 cases of kidnap victims and disappeared, out of the cases filed during 2007 to 2009, 60 to 70% have been linked to people working for “Teo.”

“Family members have become private investigators in their own cases, and it was them who have found the crimes to be linked one way or another to this guy “Teo” who used to kill people in conjunction with “pozolero” said the activist, who then proceeded to give pictures and information to federal investigators,  hoping they will be used during interrogations.

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Amongst those who are hopeful is Nayeli Lara de Barruecos, whose husband, thoracic surgeon Horacio Barruecos disappeared January third 2008.

“The two year anniversary of his disappearance just passed, and I’m praying to the lord this man [el Teo] will look into his heart and finally confess where he took his victims and where their bodies lay, so families like ours can bury them and have some long delayed peace”, said Lara.

Despite celebration from authorities and politicians, many think this arrest will have little repercussion in the grim public safety in the area if these actions are not followed by sustained collaboration amongst authorities.

Even Baja California governor José Guadalupe Osuna Millán, said he was happy about the arrest but on the same breath said he has instructed special vigilance in the state because of fears of more violence.

José María Ramos, Public Safety Expert from local think thank Colegio de la Frontera Norte (Colef) en Tijuana, warned about two possible reactions from organized crime; one would be the decrease in violence because the Arellano’s will quickly regain control, but the other possibility is for Teo’s allies —La Familia and Sinaloa Cartel— to double their efforts for territorial control and become even bolder in their attacks.

“The way things are laid out, they are not going to change because of just one arrest” said SDSU professor and human rights activist, Víctor Clark Alfaro, “What we have seen is one a head gets arrested it pulverizes the big cartels into small headless criminal cells, so what we have to remember is “Teo” was just the violent arm of a criminal group, not the brains or financial power of the operation. If authorities led their efforts to intellectual leaders or the financial stability of such groups, then we would see truly mortal blows, but that’s not the case”.

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