The Knights Templar Cartel (Spanish: Los Caballeros Templarios) is a Mexican criminal organization composed of remnants of the defunct La Familia Michoacana drug cartel based in the Mexican State of Michoacán.
After the first alleged death of Francisco Montes and co-founder Nazario Moreno, leaders of the La Familia Michoacana cartel, on 9 December 2010, a split between the cartel leaders emerged. Some of the cartel co-founders, Montes brothers; Fred Montes CM and Frank Montes, Servando Gómez Martínez, and Dionisio Loya Plancarte, formed into a Royalty of La Familia calling itself Caballeros Templarios (or Knights Templar). A large part of La Familia Michoacana left with them to form the Knights Templar group, while José de Jesús Méndez Vargas kept the leadership of the now disbanded "Familia Michoacana", starting a fight for the control of Michoacán.
The Knights Templar Cartel indoctrinates its operatives to "fight and die" for the cartel. They have taken full control of the now-defunct La Familia Michoacana operations in states including Michoacán, Guerrero, the state of Mexico, and Morelos.
Along with the Sinaloa Cartel and Gulf Cartel, the Knights Templar formed a short-lived joint enforcer gang called Cárteles Unidos (English: United Cartels) or La Resistencia, composed of well-trained gunmen dedicated to kill and expel Los Zetas Cartel operatives who were invading the former Familia Michoacana territories in Michoacán and Jalisco.
The Templars' most recent feud is against the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which is trying to gain full control of Jalisco and Michoacán, and also against Civilian vigilante and Militia groups that are fighting back the criminals in an attempt to clear Michoacan from the Knights Templar.
On February 27, 2015, Servando "La Tuta" Gómez Leader of the Knights Templar was arrested by the Mexican federal police. A non-specific number of his associates were also arrested and many properties were also seized by the Mexican government.
Previous to that date, on 17 March 2012, the Knights Templar Cartel allegedly put up 14 banners on bridges of the León, San Miguel de Allende, Irapuato, Salamanca, Yuriria, Moroleón and Uriangato, municipalities of Guanajuato, pledging to not provoke any violent acts during the pope's visit. The banners read the following:
|“||The Knights Templar Cartel will not partake in any warlike acts, we are not killers, welcome Pope.||”|
The Knights Templar cartel was founded on a strict ethical code developed by La Tuta. The code is contained in a small book that is handed out to all members of the cartel and even to the public. The book is decorated with knights on horseback with lances and crosses. The 22 page book is titled "The Code of the Knights Templar of Michoacan" and contains the rules and regulations of the gang. The gang has based its rules on those of the European Knights Templar. Members swear to help the poor and helpless, fight against materialism, respect women and children, not kill for money, and not use drugs. The Knights even go as far as drug testing all members. While the cartel has moved more towards accepting criminal acts prohibited by the ethical code, breaking the code can still incur punishment by death.
As of September 2017 it is believed the cartel has ceased to exist after their leader Pablo “El 500” Toscano Padilla is believed to have been killed by members of La Nueva Familia Michoacana as he and Ezequiel “El Cheques” Castañeda, who was also killed were on their way to a regional meeting with members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, who El 500 was working for and were in the process of forming an alliance with them. The cartel has seen their cartel split in two with either sides siding with CJNG or La Nueva Familia Michoacana cartel.