Cartel members in Mexico don’t just buy gun parts and tactical equipment from illegal arms traffickers – they also shop online.
An investigation by the United States government found that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) purchased military equipment on eBay between 2018 and 2019 and had it shipped to Mexico from the U.S. by courier companies.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) detected at least 300 transactions in which cartel members used PayPal to make purchases on eBay in the United States.
Among the items they bought were parts for grenade launchers, rifles and other other guns as well as holographic weapon sights, night-vision goggles and bulletproof vests.
The brothers Ismael and Carlos Almada Castrillo were in charge of the CJNG’s eBay equipment acquisitions scheme, the newspaper Milenio reported.
U.S. authorities detected that Carlos Almada used about 50 PayPal accounts to conceal his identity while he purchased gun parts and tactical equipment on eBay.
He and his brother illegally imported their purchases into Mexico using two courier companies. The vendors of the equipment sent the brothers’ purchases to an address in Los Angeles and from there they were transported to Guadalajara, Jalisco.
The FBI detected that Carlos Almada used the alias Adrián Gallegos Trejo to receive his purchases at one address in Guadalajara and another in the neighboring municipality of Zapopan. He subsequently distributed or sold the items to members of the CJNG, which is usually considered Mexico’s most dangerous and powerful criminal organization.
The courier companies that transported the goods within the United States and to Mexico – M&M Cargo and Calix Packing – are both owned by a man named Julio César Mejía Calix. He admitted to the FBI that he had transported gun parts for Ismael Almada.
Milenio said that U.S. investigation documents only detail expenditure of US $2,000 on weapons and equipments purchases by the Almada brothers on eBay. However, the newspaper said that there is evidence that they actually spent much more.
In addition to the items previously mentioned, the brothers bought hidden camera and microphone detectors, anti-tracking cell phone cases, muzzle brakes and rail systems for firearms and military-grade sights. All of the items are used by drug cartels in Mexico and in some cases have been seized by the authorities.
According to Mary Lacis, an FBI and DEA agent, other cartels might be using courier services to send gun parts, equipment and cash to Mexico.
Carlos Almada was also investigated by Mexican authorities for allegedly importing cocaine to Mexico from Colombia and subsequently sending part of the shipments he received to the United States. He was arrested in September 2019 in possession of weapons and drugs.
He was found dead in his cell at Jalisco’s Puente Grande prison in March, Milenio said, explaining that his death was apparently a suicide.
Ismael Almada was also arrested and has been questioned by United States authorities. Milenio said he was freed on bail but that there is still an active cases against him in Los Angeles.
The CJNG is notorious for showing off its firepower and military-grade equipment in videos posted online.
Its leader, Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, is Mexico’s most wanted drug lord and is also sought in the United States, where a US $10-million reward is on offer for information that leads to his arrest.