The heir to a Mexican cartel empire, largely built on saturating the U.S. with fentanyl and other drugs, was expected to spill cartel secrets this month to prosecutors in Washington, D.C.
Instead, Rubén Oseguera González backed out of his plea deal the day before his scheduled hearing in federal court.
It’s one in a host of setbacks for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in its crusade to topple Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación or CJNG, a “super cartel” detected on every continent except Antarctica.
Oseguera González, known as “Menchito,” now wants a trial and maintains his innocence on charges that he helped coordinate “tonnage” quantities of drugs funneled across the border and into the U.S.
His father, fugitive Rubén Oseguera González, known as “El Mencho,” oversees the Guadalajara-based Jalisco Cartel, known as CJNG. He remains a top DEA target with a $10 million reward for information that leads to his capture.
CJNG and its top rival, the Sinaloa Cartel, are the two dominant cartels blamed for the bulk of illegal drugs in America.
El Mencho has remained on the run and in hiding for more than a decade, surrounded by highly trained and armed mercenaries. He groomed his son, called “Lil’ Mencho,” or “Junior” to one day take over the reins of the 5,000-member cartel, according to the DEA.
Unlike his stealthy father, Menchito had been spotted many times in public in the bustling city of Guadalajara. It’s Mexico’s second-largest city and the capital of the western state of Jalisco — known for its popular coastal resorts in Puerto Vallarta.
The Mexican military and navy teamed to capture Menchito in January 2014 in the western state of Jalisco, also finding large amounts of cash and guns. Cartel members lashed out by setting some vehicles on fire in the center of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city. By October 2014, a Mexican judge ordered his release, citing a lack of evidence.
Menchito was recaptured in June 2015 in the city of Zapopan by the Mexican army and the federal police. Many drug investigators in the U.S. doubted he would ever be extradited to the U.S. because of the cartel’s history of bribing judges and other officials and killing those who couldn’t be bought.
After his arrest, Menchito was detained in a federal prison in the state of Sonora, which borders Arizona. He fought his extradition, even falsely arguing he wasn’t the blood relative of El Mencho.
Prosecutors successfully argued against the bond, saying they have several witnesses with personal knowledge of Menchito’s crimes who are prepared to testify, along with damning recordings.
A judge declared Menchito’s case “complex,” due to the volume of evidence. His trial is slated for October 2024.
Terry Cole, a former New York police officer who oversaw U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Guadalajara, said at the time he was surprised by Menchito’s eventual extradition in 2020 because of the “amount of corruption and influence that CJNG has been pressuring local and federal government with [in Mexico].”
Cole served as the DEA’s assistant regional director for North and Central America before retiring.
Still, El Mencho, the cartel leader, remains free. The former “sicario” or hitman, is known for running an extremely violent cartel with military-grade weapons.
Prosecutors allege Menchito’s criminal involvement with his father’s cartel began when he was a teenager and spanned more than a decade, extending into Colombia and Central America.
The Courier-Journal traveled to Mexico in 2019 for a special project on CJNG and its rapid and vast expansion deep into the U.S., from large cities to tiny towns.
Agents arrested Menchito’s sister, Jessica Johanna Oseguera Gonzalez, known as “La Negra,” when she traveled from her family’s home in Guadalajara to Washington, D.C., to support her brother during his arraignment, unaware of a warrant for her arrest in her own case.
La Negra pleaded guilty in March 2021 to violating the Kingpin Act, initially designed to topple the mafia. A judge sentenced her to serve two years and six months, and she has since been released.
Prosecutors targeted her for associating with businesses linked to her father, including helping manage or promote a sushi restaurant, cabana resort, tequila label, agricultural company, and advertising firm.
Because her father was designated a kingpin by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2015, it made it illegal for any U.S. citizen — including California-born La Negra — to have any involvement with businesses linked to him. Prosecutors say La Negra tried to distance herself from her father and his global drug empire.
Officials who participated in the investigation into Mencho, his family, and his cartel claim prosecutors likely would have spared La Negra prison time away from her young children if her father had come out of hiding to face charges.
But the cartel boss never surfaced.