Cartel leader with Dallas ties nabbed in Mexico border city

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by ANGELA KOCHERGA

WFAA Border Bureau

Posted on July 15, 2013 at 6:45 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 16 at 9:07 AM

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

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EL PASO — The leader of the notorious Zetas drug cartel is in custody in Mexico after an intense manhunt.

Without firing a single shot, Mexican marines captured Miguel Trevino Morales, 40, in Nuevo Laredo on the Texas border, ending a reign of terror.

The face of Trevino Morales appeared to be bruised and battered in a booking photo obtained by the WFAA Border Bureau following the Zeta leader's capture.

Mexican marines cornered the man also known as "40" near Nuevo Laredo, the Zetas' base of operation. According to authorities, Morales was in a pickup truck with two other people and $2 million inside.

He spent his teenage years in Dallas, and was arrested in Dallas County in 1993 trying to evade police, but only paid a fine.

Many of his family members lived in the Dallas area, and Trevino Morales allegedly recruited teens in Texas to help the cartel.

A 2008 indictment charged him and others with moving marijuana, cocaine, drugs and cash between Nuevo Laredo and Dallas.

It was on the streets of Nuevo Laredo that Trevino Morales rose through the ranks from gang member to cartel leader. Unlike the original Zetas, he did not have a military background.

Trevino Morales' territory included the region bordering South Texas, where the Zetas clashed violently with their former allies in the Gulf cartel over control of the Interstate 35 smuggling corridor.

Officials predict a spike in violence in the Nuevo Laredo border area as the Gulf cartel tries to take advantage of the power vacuum to move into Zeta territory.

Now that the long manhunt is over, Trevino Morales faces charges for drug trafficking, money laundering and murder on both sides of the border.

The U.S. had offered a $5 million reward and Mexico $2 million for information leading to his arrest.

E-mail akocherga@belo.com

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