The arrest of Juan Guadalupe Jacobo Regalado, alias "El J3" or "El Chepa," in early April marked a significant blow against the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and showed an interesting reveal into the powerful group's internal structure.
Regalado reportedly trafficked drugs and weapons to the United States for the Sinaloa Cartel and was also revealed as being the head of Los Demonios, a powerful cell within the group which may have answered personally to Joaquin Guzmán Loera, alias "El Chapo."
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile
El Chepa was arrested on April 3 in a residential area of Culiacán, the state capital of Sinaloa, and may now face potential extradition to Arizona.
Regalado was detained on suspicion of being the Sinaloa Cartel's operator for the trafficking of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine as well as firearms between the city of Nogales in Sonora, Mexico and Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona, Tribuna reported.
US authorities have long been on alert about drug trafficking through Phoenix as it is a major distribution hub for the rest of the country. El Chepa's capture reveals that this key drug trafficking route was being operated by Los Demonios (The Demons), which would seem to make them a powerful offshoot within the Sinaloa Cartel.
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Three members of Los Demonios were arrested in May 2018, including the group's second-in-command, yet they were not included in a list of Sinaloa Cartel cells issued by authorities around the same time.
These cells mostly act as armed wings of the Sinaloa Cartel, securing specific territories against rival threats or controlling criminal economies from drug trafficking to extortion.
SEE ALSO: The Sinaloa Cartel's "El Mayo," Mexico's Last True Capo
Some of them also appeared to personally answer to specific Sinaloa leaders. Where Los Demonios were reported as being loyal to El Chapo, new leader Ismael Zambada García, alias “El Mayo," is close to "Los Cabrera," a family-run gang in Durango.
Specific information about these cells has been hard to come by. For example, it is currently uncertain whether one of these groups, "Cartel del Poniente," remains affiliated to the Sinaloa Cartel or has switched sides to join the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG).
With El Chapo out of the picture, El Mayo became the new leader of the Sinaloa group with the support of Guzmán Loera's sons, known collectively as "Los Chapitos."
But the reveal of Los Demonios' reach into the United States, despite little being known about them before El Chepa's arrest shows how the Sinaloa Cartel continues to depend on specific cells in charge of territories or criminal economies, answering to a central command.
Since the fall of El Chapo, the Sinaloa Cartel has managed to project an image of control, unifying under the leadership of El Mayo, maintaining a strong structure while other criminal groups have fragmented.
Securing the continuing allegiance of these cells, each in their own fiefdom, has likely been key to El Mayo's power.