Nemesio or Rubén Oseguera Cervantes (born July 17, 1966), commonly referred to by his alias El Mencho, is a suspected Mexican drug lord and leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a criminal group based in Jalisco. He is one of Mexico's most-wanted men, and the U.S. government is offering up to US$5 million for information that leads to his arrest and/or conviction. He is wanted for drug trafficking, organized crime involvement, and illegal possession of firearms. He is reportedly responsible for coordinating drug trafficking operations in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Under his command, the CJNG became one of Mexico's leading criminal organizations.
Born into poverty in Mexico, El Mencho grew avocados and dropped out of primary school before immigrating illegally to the U.S. in the 1980s. After being arrested several times, he was deported to Mexico in the early 1990s and worked for the Milenio Cartel. He eventually climbed to the top of the criminal organization and founded the CJNG after several of his bosses were arrested or killed. His notoriety was also a result of his aggressive leadership and sensationalist acts of violence, particularly against rival criminal groups and Mexican security forces alike. These attacks brought him increased government attention and an extensive manhunt.
Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes was born in Mexico in the 1960s, but sources disagree on his exact name, place of birth, and date of birth. According to the United States Department of State (DoS), he was born in the rural community of Naranjo de Chila in Aguililla, Michoacán, on July 17, 1966. They have a listed alternative date of birth for July 17, 1964. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) states he was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Other sources state he was born in Uruapan, Michoacán. The DoS refers to him by his first name "Rubén", while Mexican government sources go by "Nemesio". He has alternative aliases like "Nemecio", "Rubén Acerguera Cervantes", "Lorenzo Mendoza", and "Nemesio Oseguera Ramos". Some sources state that his birth-given name was Rubén but that he changed it to Nemesio in memory of his godfather. However, he is widely known by his alias "El Mencho", a nickname that derives from the phonetic derivation of Nemesio.
Oseguera Cervantes grew up in a poor family that cultivated avocados. He had five brothers: Juan, Miguel, Antonio, Marín, and Abraham. He dropped out of primary school in 5th grade to work in the fields. At the age of 14, however, he started guarding marijuana plantations. A few years later, he decided he wanted a better life for himself and immigrated illegally to the U.S. state of California in the 1980s. To conceal his identity in the U.S., he used a different names and combinations, like "Rubén Ávila", "José López Prieto", "Miguel Valadez", "Carlos Hernández Mendoza", "Roberto Salgado", among others. In 1986, he was living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was arrested by the San Francisco Police at the age of 19 for stolen property and carrying a loaded gun. Two months after his arrest, his first child was born. According to border entry records, Oseguera Cervantes crossed the U.S.-Mexico border several times during the late 1980s under other aliases. The DEA and Mexican investigators believe that it was during this time that he became involved in meth production and trade in California's Central Valley alongside his brother-in-law Abigael González Valencia (alias "El Cuini").
In 1989, El Mencho was arrested again in San Francisco for selling narcotics. He was deported to Mexico several months later, but re-entered the U.S. and resettled in San Francisco. In September 1992, he was arrested again, this time on federal drug charges in Sacramento, California. According to court records, El Mencho and his brother Abraham were at a San Francisco bar known as Imperial to carry out a heroin deal: five ounces for US$9,500. Abraham was in charge of the transaction, while El Mencho acted as a lookout. El Mencho was 26-years-old at that time and much younger than Abraham, but he was savvy enough to recognize that the transaction was a set-up by the police. He told his brother that the men who they gave the heroin to handed them perfectly stashed dollar bills instead of giving them loose ones. Through a wiretap conversation, the police overheard El Mencho warning his brother to never do business with them again since they were undercover cops. Three weeks after the incident, however, both of them were arrested by the police.
Once in court, El Mencho insisted that he was innocent. He said he was not involved in the heroin deal and that the undercover agents were lying about him handling the drugs. The prosecution insisted that both siblings were working together. El Mencho was left with few options; if he pleaded not guilty, his brother Abraham—who already had felony drug sentences in his record—would probably face life in prison. He understood that if he decided on a jury trial, he would win the case. However, he decided to plea guilty and protect his brother from life imprisonment. He was sentenced to 5 years and imprisoned at the Big Spring Correctional Center in Texas, which houses a large population of illegal immigrants. After three years, he was released from prison on parole and deported to Mexico at the age of 30. Once in Mexico, he joined the local police forces of Cabo Corrientes and Tomatlán in the state of Jalisco. Within some time, however, he left the police and joined organized crime as a full-time member of the Milenio Cartel. To strengthen his relationship with the Milenio Cartel, El Mencho married one of the clan leader's sisters, Rosalinda González Valencia. It was in this criminal group where El Mencho would become a leading figure in organized crime.
In the Milenio Cartel, El Mencho started as a member of the assassin squad that protected the drug lord Armando Valencia Cornelio (alias "El Maradona"). On August 12, 2003, his boss was arrested by Mexican authorities. Around the same time, a rival criminal group known as Los Zetas, with the backing of the Gulf Cartel, carried out an armed offensive against the Milenio Cartel in Michoacán. The attack forced the Valencia family to exile in Jalisco; El Mencho relocated in the state capital, Guadalajara, with his father-in-law José Luis González Valencia (alias "El Quini") and Román Caballero Valencia. In Jalisco, El Mencho and the Milenio Cartel formed an alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel subgroup headed by Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, a high-ranking drug lord and ally of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. Under Coronel, El Mencho and his group managed the Sinaloa Cartel's drug operations, finances, and murder activities in the states of Colima and Jalisco.
On October 28, 2009, however, the Milenio Cartel's top leader Óscar Orlando Nava Valencia (alias "El Lobo") was arrested. The following year on May 6, 2010, his brother Juan Carlos (alias "El Tigre") was arrested too. Two months later, Coronel was killed in a shootout with the Mexican Army. Following their downfalls, the Milenio Cartel began to rupture and El Mencho tried to take over its leadership structure. One sect within the Milenio Cartel wanted to appoint Elpidio Mojarro Ramírez (alias "El Pilo"), who worked closely with Óscar Orlando and Juan Carlos before their arrest, as the leader of the group. Erick Valencia Salazar, one of the clan members, however, wanted El Mencho to take command. El Mencho then asked the other Milenio bloc to hand over Gerardo Mendoza (alias "Tecato" and/or "Cochi") for killing a group of men that reported to him in Tecomán, Colima. The other division refused El Mencho' request, prompting an internal war.
The Milenio Cartel's divisions split into two. One side was known as La Resistencia; the other was Los Torcidos, headed by El Mencho. La Resistencia accused Los Torcidos of turning in Óscar Orlando to the authorities. A war ensued, and the two groups fought for the drug smuggling turfs in Jalisco. To legitimize its presence, El Mencho' group launched a propaganda campaign against its enemies, denouncing extortions done by rival gangs against civilians, businessmen, and government authorities. Los Torcidos eventually won the war and consolidated their influence in western Mexico. The group then changed its name to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG).
As leader of the CJNG, El Mencho solidified his position and grew his organization through territorial expansion and by corrupting government officials. The CJNG went from being a small, offshoot criminal gang to one of the leading criminal groups in Mexico. Throughout the process, El Mencho established himself as one of Mexico's most-wanted criminals. His rise to fame is due to a number of factors, including the aggressive and sensationalist displays of public violence by the CJNG. The direct attacks of the CJNG against Mexico's security forces earned El Mencho a reputation among authorities as "principal enemy" of the state and as a dangerous criminal. In addition, the fall of Mexico's former top crime bosses cleared the way for El Mencho to gain visibility and status.
He consolidated his operations in Jalisco and its adjacent states by fighting off incursions from criminal groups like Los Zetas and the Knights Templar Cartel. According to government sources, he is responsible for overseeing the CJNG's entire drug trafficking operations in the states of Jalisco, Colima, and Guanajuato, where he created a bastion for methamphetamine production and trade. Their operational capacity in Mexico is concentrated in 8 states: Jalisco, Colima, Guanajuato, Nayarit, and Veracruz, where it holds a firm grip of drug trafficking operations, and Morelos, Guerrero and Michoacán, where it fights competing rival drug groups. Between 2014 and 2016, the only region in the country where the CJNG lost its territorial presence was in Mexico City. Internationally, the CJNG reportedly has ties with criminal groups in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. On an international scale, the CJNG is mainly focused on trafficking cocaine and methamphetamine.
El Mencho was able to make the CJNG one of Mexico's most profitable criminal gangs. The government estimates that El Mencho' group has about US$50 billion in total assets. This success was shared with Abigael González Valencia, his brother-in-law, who headed a drug trafficking group known as Los Cuinis, allied to the CJNG. Abigael was arrested by the Mexican Navy on February 28, 2015. Part of El Mencho' success in the drug trade had to do with his ability to strategize market and consumer changes. Initially, the CJNG produced methamphetamine, but then he moved to heroin production when the consumer demand changed.
On August 25, 2012, a unit of the Mexican Federal Police based in Tonaya, Jalisco, responded to an anonymous tip stating that there was an organized crime cell present in a rural community close by. When the security forces got to the area, a shootout broke out between the two parties. 6 CJNG gunmen were killed in the firefight. Initial reports stated that El Mencho was captured in the operation, but the Mexican government later confirmed that he was not in custody. In a series of highly coordinated tactics to prevent El Mencho' arrest, the CJNG blocked several highways and roads across the Guadalajara metropolitan area by setting at least 37 vehicles on fire. The purpose of the burning vehicles was to place them as blockades to impede the security forces from traveling across Jalisco's capital and giving El Mencho' ample time to escape. The blockades were placed in strategic routes to prevent police reinforcements to come in or leave Guadalajara. After the attacks were over, the government confirmed that El Mencho was in the area and had evaded capture.
On March 19, 2015, in Ocotlán, Jalisco, CJNG gunmen ambushed a Federal Police convoy. The total death toll was 9; five police officers, three civilians, and two CJNG gunmen. The attack was a response by the CJNG to protect El Mencho, who was reportedly in the area for a meeting. On March 23, Heriberto Acevedo Cárdenas (alias "El Gringo" and "El Güero"), one of El Mencho' close associates, was killed in a shootout with the Federal Police in Zacoalco de Torres, Jalisco. Three other CJNG suspects were killed. According to government sources, Acevedo Cárdenas directed CJNG cells in Zacoalco, Tlajomulco, Cocula, Tapalpa and Atemajac de Brizuela, Jalisco. In response to his death, El Mencho commanded the CJNG to carry out attacks against the Mexican Federal Police. On March 30, CJNG gunmen in Zapopan, Jalisco, ambushed a convoy where Alejandro Solorio Aréchiga, Jalisco's security commissioner, was travelling in. No one was killed in the fire exchange. On April 6, CJNG gunmen blocked a road in San Sebastián del Oeste, Jalisco, with a burning vehicle and opened fire at a convoy of the Federal Police, killing 15 policemen and wounding 5 more. The incident was the deadliest single-attack on the Mexico's police force since 2010. That same day, Miguel Ángel Caicedo Vargas, the police chief of Zacoalco de Torres, was killed by CJNG hitmen.
A month later on May 1, 2015, the Mexican government launched Operation Jalisco, a military-led campaign that intended to combat organized crime groups in Jalisco and capture their respective leaders. The announcement came after a series of violent attacks from the CJNG in previous weeks. The day the operation was inaugurated, however, intelligence reports stated that El Mencho was in Tonaya, which prompted an offensive to apprehend him. As the security forces moved to the area where El Mencho was allegedly hiding, a gunfight broke out between law enforcement officials and gunmen of the CJNG. In the small town of Villa Purificación, Jalisco, El Mencho' men shot down a Mexican Army helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher, killing 9 soldiers. The battle extended throughout several municipalities in Jalisco; El Mencho' men blockaded several roads across the Guadalajara area to slow down the mobilization of law enforcement and facilitate their leader's escape. The CJNG set 39 buses, 11 banks, and 16 gas stations on fire. The attack spread through 20 different towns and in three neighboring states.
Since the 2000s, the DEA office in Los Angeles, California, tracked El Mencho' activities and detected that the CJNG had expanded its drug trafficking operations internationally. In 2000, the U.S. government discovered that El Mencho was involved in a cocaine and methamphetamine operation internationally. Five years later, they discovered he had used firearms to facilitate his operations. In 2007, the DEA discovered that El Mencho was involved in a cocaine operation that went through Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and ended in the U.S. They also uncovered a second cocaine shipment from Colombia, Mexico, to the U.S. In 2009, DEA detected that El Mencho was involved in another cocaine shipment originating from Ecuador. Two more shipments were then detected in 2013 from Mexico then the U.S. In 2014, however, the DEA noticed a radical shift in the CJNG's modus operandi; El Mencho' was discovered to have coordinated a methamphetamine shipment that went from Mexico to Australia then to the U.S by leveraging China-based gangs.
On September 27, 2011, Mexico's Office of the General Prosecutor (PGR) issued an arrest warrant for El Mencho and offered MXN$2 million for anyone who can help provide information that leads to his arrest. He was accused of organized crime involvement and illegal possession of firearms. In March 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, based on the previous investigations by the DEA, indicted El Mencho for several charges, including drug trafficking and for being leaders of a "Continuing Criminal Enterprise". El Mencho and Abigael were accused of coordinating shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine from South America via Mexico to the U.S. They also stated that the CJNG and Los Cuinis coordinated the collection and delivery of the drug proceeds from the U.S. to Mexico. The U.S. Department of State offered a US$5 million reward for anyone who can provide them with information that leads to his arrest and/or conviction. In addition, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas is looking to convict El Mencho for drug trafficking offenses.
On December 18, 2017, seventeen year-old YouTuber star Juan Luis Lagunas Rosales, known as "El Pirata de Culiacan" was gunned down in a bar in Jalisco by a group of four men armed with rifles, shortly after Lagunas published videotaped insults towards Oseguera Cervantes. Police are investigating if Oseguera Cervantes gave the order to execute him, but no charges have been filed.
On April 8, 2015, the United States Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned El Mencho under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act ("Kingpin Act") for his involvement in international drug smuggling operations. The sanction was joint investigation conducted by the Treasury and the DEA office in Los Angeles as part of a larger effort with their Mexican counterparts to sanction drug trafficking groups in Mexico. The sanction extended to the CJNG, his brother-in-law Abigael González Valencia, and Los Cuinis. As part of the sanction, all the U.S.-based assets and/or assets in control of U.S. individuals on behalf of El Mencho, González Valencia, the CJNG, and Los Cuinis, were frozen in the U.S. In addition, the act prohibited U.S. citizens from engaging in business activities with them.
On September 17, 2015, the OFAC sanctioned five businesses in Jalisco for financially supporting the CJNG and El Mencho' operations. This sanction was a result of another investigation done by the Treasury and the DEA office in Los Angeles. All the U.S.-based assets of these businesses were frozen, and U.S. citizens were prohibited from doing business with them. The businesses were a sushi restaurant in Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara, a tequila company in Guadalajara,[a] a rental cabin business in Tapalpa, and an advertising firm and agricultural company, both in Guadalajara. According to the report, the diversity of these businesses showed that the CJNG was successful at penetrating the economy.
On October 27, 2016, the OFAC sanctioned nine more individuals for providing material and financial assistance to El Mencho and González Valencia and their respective groups, the CJNG and Los Cuinis. This sanction was also result of another investigation done by the Treasury and the DEA office in Los Angeles. This sanction was an attempt by the U.S. government to disrupt the inner circle of complicit family members within the CJNG and Los Cuinis and affect their finances in Mexico's domestic economy. The individuals sanctioned were El Mencho' brother Antonio; his son-in-law Julio Alberto Castillo Rodríguez; five of González Valencia's siblings: Arnulfo, Édgar Edén, Elvis, Marisa Ivette, and Noemí; businessman Fabián Felipe Vera López; and attorney María Teresa Quintana Navarro. All their U.S.-based assets were frozen, and U.S. citizens were prohibited from doing business with them.
El Mencho has five brothers: Juan, Miguel, Antonio, Marín and Abraham. In the 1990s, Abraham in California was given a 10-year sentence. In 2013, Mexican authorities accused him of murder in Michoacán. The charges were later dropped and the case was closed. Marín was accused in a California court, but the charges are not available to the public. Antonio lived in the U.S. and was released from a Mississippi prison in 2001 after completing his sentence for property damage charges. He was arrested in Jalisco on December 4, 2015, by the Mexican Army and Navy for working as one of El Mencho' top financial operators. According to the Mexican government, Juan and Miguel are involved with the CJNG. Juan was charged in Michoacán for burglary, but the case was later dismissed.
Rosalinda González Valencia is the wife of El Mencho. They have three children: Jessica Johana, Laisha, and Rubén Oseguera González (alias "El Menchito). Jessica Johana is married to Julio Alberto Castillo Rodríguez (alias "El Ojo de Vidrio"), first arrested on May 1, 2015. He was released on July 1 for lack of evidences, but was re-arrested again on April 6, 2016, for his involvement in the CJNG. El Mencho's son Rubén was regarded by the Mexican government as the second-in-command in the CJNG prior to his arrest in 2014. He was released from prison on several occasions for lack of evidence, but was re-arrested each time by the police for additional charges.
In addition, Mexican authorities suspected in 2016 that Omar Eleazar Oseguera Cervantes was part of the CJNG leadership structure. Though he has identical last names as El Mencho, he was listed as his son-in-law and not as one of his brothers. He reportedly works as one of his top security chiefs.