HomeEl SalvadorJosé Adán Salazar Umaña, alias 'Chepe Diablo'
EL SALVADOR

José Adán Salazar Umaña, alias 'Chepe Diablo'

CHEPE DIABLO / LATEST UPDATE MAY 26, 2021 EN

José Adán Salazar Umaña, alias "Chepe Diablo," does not fit the normal profile of a criminal leader. As the former president of the first division of Salvadoran soccer and the owner of numerous hotels, he is a prominent businessman and political operator. He has built a business empire around a chain of hotels, granaries and cattle ranches. Yet, officials from El Salvador and the United States say Salazar Umaña is one of the founders of the Texis Cartel, which controls El Salvador's Northern Route through which cocaine is brought from Honduras to Guatemala and money is laundered by the truckload.

History

Salazar Umaña enjoyed what at the time appeared to be a series legitimate business successes prior to being linked to drug trafficking. In 1990, he launched a small investment brokerage, shortly followed by five other firms including a hotel chain, transportation firm, livestock company and transportation business.

Alongside local business figures Juan Umaña Samayoa and Roberto Herrera, Salazar is suspected of founding the Texis Cartel during this period. According to a report by El Faro, the group began running contraband through the mountainous northwest region that connects El Salvador with Honduras, prior to the early 1990s. Salvadoran authorities have been investigating the group since at least 2000. In 2001, the United States DEA mentioned Salazar Umaña as a suspected drug trafficker and money launderer. In 2014, the US Treasury Department put him on its "Kingpin List" of suspected money launderers. In April 2017, however, the Treasury Department reversed its decision and took him off the list, although the department has said it may bring other legal actions against him in the future.

Chepe Diablo Factbox

DOB: June 16, 1948

Group: Texis Cartel

Criminal Activities: Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering

Status: Free with no pending legal cases

Area of Operation: El Salvador

Despite investigations into himself and the Texis Cartel, Salazar Umaña has managed to avoid criminal conviction. Critics have said this is not a sign of innocence but of strength. Salazar Umaña is allegedly supported by a large network of official protection, ranging from prosecutors and congressmen to police officers and judges, leading many cases against him to be shelved. Authorities have also said Salazar's business empire and veneer of legitimacy have given him added flexibility as a money launderer. The amount of legitimate cash flowing through Salazar Umaña's accounts make it easier to hide illicit revenues.

In April 2014, Salazar Umaña was formally charged with tax evasion, amid attempts to topple Texis Cartel leadership by targeting financial operations. However, he was exonerated in January 2015, after paying some hefty fines. In 2016, the Attorney General's Office announced that it was actively investigating Salazar Umaña for money laundering, again. This investigation led to Salazar Umaña's April 2017 arrest in a police operation involving raids on about 50 of his properties, which authorities claim had been used by the Texis Cartel to evade taxes or launder money from illegal activities.

In May 2021, charges of money laundering were dropped against Chepe Diablo with an El Salvador appeals court ruling he should not have been tried as he had already been judged for this alleged crime.

Criminal Activities

Salazar Umaña is suspected of crimes related to drug trafficking and money laundering. The Attorney General's Office believes he used dozens of companies to launder some $215 million.

Geography

Salazar Umaña's Texis Cartel operated in a northwestern slice of El Salvador running from the borders of Honduras and Guatemala.

Allies and Enemies

The Texis Cartel is noted for using bribery and corruption instead of the extreme violence often associated with Central American criminal groups. Salazar himself reportedly encourages members to rely on law enforcement for protection instead of carrying arms. Salazar Umaña reportedly has ties with and enjoys the support of numerous politicians, including Juan Umaña Samayoa, the mayor of Metapán, and Óscar Ortiz, the current vice president.

Prospects

With high placed political connections, including a former business partner who is the country's vice president, and a veneer of legitimacy, Salazar Umaña has generally avoided public scrutiny and dodged legal convictions. In May 2021, he again avoided prison when the money laundering charges against him were dropped on what appeared to be a legal technicality.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 20 SEP 2013

El Salvador's defense minister has labeled the country's principal drug trafficking organization a "baby cartel," but what does the term…

CHEPE DIABLO / 18 AUG 2011

Unlike some Central American gangs that have earned fame for their brutality and their liberal use of violence, the Cartel…

CHEPE DIABLO / 25 MAY 2021

A business magnate who is an alleged leader of El Salvador’s Texis Cartel has escaped justice once again, after a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Dirty Money and Tren de Aragua

29 OCT 2021

InSight Crime was delighted to support investigative reporting in the Americas through a workshop with our friends at Connectas, a non-profit journalism initiative that facilitates collaboration…