Several people arrested in Tijuana are suspected of belonging to a new drug trafficking group. Photo courtesy of PEPTIJUANA – Four alleged members of a new drug trafficking organization called the Caballeros Templarios were arrested Wednesday night with 71 pounds of crystal meth and weapons, state authorities announced.
The new criminal organization emerged in the Mexican state of Michoacán in April after the violent La Familia cartel splintered following the death of its leader, Nazario Moreno, in a military operation.
Los Caballeros Templarios, who take their name from a Christian military order from the Middle Ages, announced their formation through signs hung across Michoacán.
Baja California state police, known as the PEP, said that it’s the first evidence they have that this
group is operating in the border region, although members of La Familia had been linked in the last year to two meth laboratories.
The state police said a caller to the anonymous crime tip line reported that members of the new group could be found in the exclusive oceanfront neighborhood of La Perla, in the Playas de Tijuana district.
In a special operation, state police agents went to the house. They observed a man with a 9 mm weapon tucked in his waistband arrive by taxi.
After a brief struggle, the agents detained the man.
He was identified as José Martín Corona Valenzuela, 44, who allegedly was transporting 10 packages of crystal meth in the taxi, tactical police equipment, a battery with secret compartments and ammunition.
When the man was arrested, a woman named Ana María Soto Araujo, 28, said she was his wife and allegedly tried to bribe the officers, the police agency said. The agents then inspected the property and found a backpack with a 9 mm weapon, and 10 packages and a box containing meth.
Two people inside the house were arrested, Ventura Soto Araujo, 19, and Manuela Araujo Iribe, 50. All the suspects are from the Sinaloa city of Culiacán.
Afterward, the police team went to a house in the nearby beach neighborhood of La Cúspide, where they found an M-16 rifle, 12 packages with methamphetamine and two 9 mm weapons.
In an interrogation, Corona allegedly said that he belonged to the Caballeros Templarios.
State police said agents seized a total of 71.5 pounds of crystal meth, with an estimated street value of $1.3 million.