José Efraín López Mendoza, 49, alias “M1” or “Dante”, wanted by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was arrested on Tuesday afternoon when he was traveling on the Ruta 27 in Escazú.
López Mendoza, leader of the Organized Crime Revolutionary Movement (Moreco), is suspected of moving just over two tons of cocaine – 2.250 kilos – from Colombia, to Mexico, Guatemala to the United States.
The arrest was made west of the Escazu tolls, on the highway 27 near the Cima hospital, while traveling towards San Jose, by agents of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad (DIS), working with the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) and officers of the Escazú Municipal Police after M1 evaded a vehicle control checkpoint.
Not obeying the orders of police to stop, a chase on the Ruta 27 ensued, the vehicle finally forced to stop in the area of the bus stop in front of Pricesmart, as agents swooped in and at gunpoint forced López Mendoza out of the vehicle.
A man named Peraza and an unidentified woman were traveling with M1.
To mislead authorities, López resorted to some physical changes, such as dying his hair blond and letting his beard grow disheveled.
Moreco, a gang that had a logo, a flag, ‘values’ and subjected members to a kind of doctrine or ideology was dismantled last April after 16 raids in various parts of the country.
“The values of honor, pride and loyalty shielded the organization and gave them the idea of being inaccessible to the police and of projecting,” said Wálter Espinoza, director of the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ).
The members of the group identified themselves with the letter M and a number, the first 10 being the hierarchical positions.
For Espinoza their presentation is a copy of work models established in Mexican cartels or Guatemalan gangs, in order to keep the roles within the structures clear.
According to Espinoza, Moreco had links with groups in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States. From Colombia, he said, cocaine was sent to Costa Rica and then sent to Guatemala, Mexico and the U.S.
Costa Rican authorities say López Mendoza had direct contact with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada in Mexico, to the point of communicating directly with him to carry out efforts aimed at coordinating drug trafficking actions in Costa Rica.
Zambada, ex-partner of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, is the current leader of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and one of the most wanted criminals in the world.
The DEA and FBI provided confidential information to Costa Rica authorities that established the link between M1 and the powerful Mexico drug lord.
López Mendoza or M1, designated as leader of the organization, is an old acquaintance of the judicial authorities.
The most important case with which he was linked was on November 30, 1997, when López, along with three accomplices, sequestred the accountant of the Hatillo branch of the Banco Nacional. She was held for seven hours with her husband and three minor children.
The next morning, December 1, two individuals took the accountant in a vehicle to the bank brank at the Hatillo shopping center, where they forced her to open the premises, reach the vault, which could not be opened because in at that time the bank had implemented a modern system.
The hostages were let go, Lopez and his group made their getaway.
In March 1999, López was sentenced to 19 years and 11 months in prison for his role in the crime.
In 2011, López was a member of another group or organization that moved cocaine through the country in secret compartments of vehicles. That year he was arrested and sentenced. Judicial records do not indicate his punishment.