Various government employees were among the 22 suspects arrested in Guatemala in relation to a car theft ring linked to the Texis Cartel, highlighting El Salvador criminals' transnational reach and the deep-seated corruption that has let them extend into Guatemala.
National police and Interior Ministry officials performed 80 raids and dismantled a group known as "the Cloners" (los Clonadores) that was dedicated to selling stolen cars, reported Prensa Libre. Among those detained were the alleged head of the group, Salvador Ramirez Soto, alias "Fernando G," as well as a soldier, two car salesmen, and 11 members of the country's tax office (SAT), who are accused of helping alter the information of stolen cars to match that of cars wrecked in accidents.
Investigators believe Ramirez Soto has ties with Roberto Antonio Herrera Hernandez, alias "El Burro," a major Salvadoran drug trafficker and alleged Texis Cartel leader arrested on July 21 on car theft charges.
The Guatemalan group is believed responsible for altering the information of 300 stolen cars, 47 of which have been recovered.
InSight Crime Analysis
The arrests made appear to have targeted the Guatemalan side of the operation overseen by El Burro Herrera, who currently faces charges of leading a transnational car theft network that stole four to five cars per week and resold them in Guatemala. As an alleged founding member of the Texis Cartel, Herrera is also being investigated in El Salvador for drug trafficking, a crime he was previously charged with in the United States.
SEE ALSO: Texis Cartel Profile
While car theft seems to have been one of Herrera's criminal sidelines rather than an activity carried out in the name of the Texis Cartel, the case highlights the diverse criminal portfolios and transnational reach of the kingpins behind the cartel.
The latest arrests also highlight how these criminals are able to extend operations into Guatemala by taking advantage of widespread corruption. The range of corrupt officials, spanning from the security forces to the tax agency, paints a picture of state institutions ready to sell their services, legal or otherwise, to the highest bidder.