Jose Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias “El Chango,” was a leading figure in the Familia Michoana and considered to be the right hand man of the head of the Familia council Nazario Moreno, alias “El Mas Loco,” or “El Chayo.” El Chango was arrested June 21, 2011.
Believed to be a former operative for the Gulf Cartel, El Chango coordinated the Familia Michoacana’s methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking. His security detail was known as the “Twelve Apostles,” another nod to the Familia Michoana’s twisted religious ideology. Recruits to the Familia reportedly had to study El Chango’s teachings, which include interpretations of Biblical stories, as an initiation ritual.
El Chango Factbox
DOB: February 28, 1974
Group: Familia Michoacana
Criminal Activities: Methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking, extortion, kidnapping
Area of Operation: Michoacan, Mexico
The Mexican government had offered a 30 million peso reward (about $2.3 million) reward for his capture, alongside a 2 million peso reward (about $160,000) for intelligence about his whereabouts. He had previously been targeted by the Zetas in assassination attempts, allegedly for trying to create a Familia cell in Mexico City in 2008.
In June 2011, Mexican federal police arrested El Chango in the central state of Aguascalientes. His arrest led authorities to state the last remaining elements of Familia Michoacana’s command structure had been destroyed.
Prior to his arrest, El Chango was in charge of methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking for Familia Michoacana. El Chango is also reportedly accused by Mexican authorities of committing kidnapping and extortion.
The Familia Michoacana originated in Michoacan, which would continue to be its base of operations. However, the group would eventually expand into nearby regions, including Mexico state.
Allies and Enemies
Following the death of El Chayo in December 2010, El Chango began feuding with Servando Gomez Martinez, alias “La Tuta.” El Chango remained with the Familia’s old guard, while La Tuta formed his own faction, dubbed the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), in March 2011. The two rival cells battled fiercely in Michoacan, reportedly causing El Chango to seek aid from the Familia’s former bitter rivals, the Zetas.
In April 2014, a Mexican court rejected El Chango’s appeal for an “amparo” – which is similar to an injunction – that would stall his extradition to the United States. El Chango is wanted by the Southern District of New York on charges of methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking.