CARO QUINTERO, narco of narcos; DR. JORGE MEJIA "el monje," narco medico

As I read the New York Times article [July 12, 2015] on Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and his tunneled escape from a Mexican maximum security prison, another escape from another maximum-security prison by another Mexican Narco kingpin immediately came to mind.

 

In August, 2013, “El Chapo” Guzman’s former boss, Rafael Caro-Quintero, walked away from his Puente Grande Prison after serving a portion of his 40 year sentence. In 1985, then head of the Guadalajara Cartel Caro-Quintero was convicted for the murder of Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] agent, Francisco “Kiki” Camarena. On a fallacious legal technicality, a Jalisco state judge ordered Caro-Quintero’s release. Though the Jalisco Supreme Court overturned that decision two days later, the “narco of all narcos” had already checked out of his Puente Grande suite, leaving no forwarding address, and had a 48-hour head start on the posse.

 

Once again, Rafael Caro-Quintero is on the FBI and DEA’s most wanted list and, once again, so is his partner in crime, El Chapo Guzman.

 

That same New York Times article recalled to mind a review I had seen on a novel written by a New Yorker. Intrigued by the review, I read The Society of Judas [pp. 485; Amazon, iTunes]. Set in Guadalajara in the 1980’s, among the eclectic cast of characters are a flashy Sinaloan drug lord and a psychopathic Mexico City medico.


I contacted author
Charles T. Murr who agreed to an interview. Murr is a Roman Catholic priest who worked in Guadalajara from 1979 to 1992.

 
Terry Woods: What made you write The Society of Judas?


Fr. Murr: I wrote it for hundreds of reasons. In 1979, I built an orphanage near Guadalajara, Jalisco, in a place called Tepatitlan - as much a state of mind as it was a town. Villa Francisco Javier Orphanage – named for Francisco Javier Nuño y Guerrero, former Archbishop of Guadalajara – was home to over 500 boys and girls, now young and not so young men and women. I wrote the novel for them and dedicated it to them.

Woods: Is your novel a true story?

Murr: Except for some minor details, everything in The Society of Judas is true. Still, as a roman a clef, technically, it’s fiction. The name changes were done, as they say, to protect the innocent.

Woods: The story is filled with unforgettable scenarios. One that really grabbed and held my attention was the encounter between the priest protagonist and a drug lord from Sinaloa.


Murr: The Baptism and First Communion reception.

Woods: Exactly.  Inside that walled and heavily guarded country estate – right next door to the governor’s home on the lake…

 
Murr: Chapala; Lake Chapala. The narco’s county estate and the Governor of Jalisco’s country estate were right next-door to each other. I mention that because, years later, the governor at that time, Flavio Romero de Velasco, was found guilty of criminal associations and consorting with the Guadalajara and Juarez drug cartels. Governor Romero was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in jail and slapped with a hefty fine of $105.00 {USD}. Since the sentence was immediately suspended.  Who knows if the one hundred and five-dollar fine was ever paid? In a lot of ways, Mexico boggles the mind.


Woods: That chapter reminded me of the opening scene in The Godfather; the larger-than-life wedding reception for Don Corleone’s daughter.

 

Murr: They weren’t all that different. Substitute Sicilian-Italian with Mexican-Spanish and Sinatra crooning Vicino Mare with the Mariachi Vargas belting out Son de la Negra, and you’ve pretty much got it.

 

Woods: Is everything in that scene true?

Murr: I described it just as it was.


Woods: If I may ask, Father: How often did you find yourself rubbing elbows with Mexican drug lords?

 

Murr: Extremely infrequently. Thank God.

Woods: Is the Sinaloan you describe in that chapter Rafael Caro-Quintero?

 

Murr: I can’t recall this very moment the pseudonym I gave him in the novel, but his real name was Arturo Legaspi. Legaspi was a major player in the cartel. He was Caro-Quintero’s compadre and business partner; an operations overseer in Guadalajara.

 

Woods: You seem comfortable using his real name.

Murr: Only because - not long after the infamous Lake Chapala reception - Arturo Legaspi and two of his bodyguards were gunned down on the streets of Guadalajara. Richard Morefield described the happening best. Morefield was the American Consul at the time; a remarkable man and a very good friend. He referred to Caro-Quintero’s elimination of Legaspi as “Two Sinaloan businessmen reaching an understanding; the smarter, stronger and quicker, killing the stupider, weaker and slower.  Without any messy contract to quibble over, later on.”

Woods: After the Legaspi encounter you made a promise to yourself…

Murr: - that I would wise up and stay clear of anyone or anything drug related.

Woods: Short-lived, wasn’t it?

Murr: There’s an old Spanish adage, Mr. Woods: El pez por la boca muere - The fish dies by its mouth. In other words: Watch what you say. You’re right, of course.  I hate to admit it but it did happen again – and not long after I made myself that promise. This time, though, I was conned by one the best; the most cunning and deceptive Judas it has ever been my displeasure to have known.

Woods: Doctor Mencía?

Murr: You really did read the book, didn’t you?

Woods: Cover to cover. And speaking of covers, your book has a very impressive one. The main characters; psychological camouflages; the musical instruments. Nicely done.

Murr: I worked closely with the artist, a talented young man: Enrique Aguilar. Frankly, I think it’s one of the neatest covers I’ve ever seen on a book. But then, I am a bit biased.

Woods: Back to Doctor Mencía.

Murr: Well, to begin with, “Mencia”, as I call him in the novel, is really medical doctor by the name of “Mejia”.

Woods: Mejía?

Murr: Jorge Mejia; Doctor Jorge Mejia. To make it complete, that is, along with his mother’s maiden name to follow his father’s last name, it is: Doctor Jorge Mejia Iturbe.  And, just like with Arturo Legaspi, I have no problem using his real name today. In fact, not to use it would make his narco espionage years incomprehensible – exactly the way he planned it.

Woods: So then, Doctor Mejia is dead.

Murr: “To be, or not to be: that is the question.”

Woods: Sorry?

Murr: He is, and he isn’t.  That your answer.

Woods: Would you care to expound on that?

Murr: Certainly. You see, narcos like Rafael Caro-Quintero and “El Chapo” Guzman had to learn the art of deception for business and survival purposes, whereas Doctor Jorge Mejia only had to act naturally.

A little background.  In 1977, at age 26, Mejia left his native Mexico City to work at the Red Cross in Magdalena, Jalisco, a small town, an hour and a half northwest of Guadalajara. A year later, he married a seventeen year-old girl from there named Rocio Ornelas Gonzalez. They had two daughters.

In those same years, Doctor Mejía managed to get his foot in the door of the Clínica del Carmen, a private, upscale hospital in Guadalajara.

From the mid 1970’s, well into the 1980’s, the Magdalena/Tequila region of Jalisco was the marijuana hub and cocaine processing center for the Guadalajara Cartel. The founder and undisputed king of that cartel was 35 year-old Rafael Caro-Quintero. From the jungles and mountains of Mexico, and from as far away as Columbia and Bolivia, packages the size of hay bales were being airdropped nightly to strategic points all around Magdalena. The marijuana was cleaned and packed there, and the cocaine bricks processed and packed for smuggling into the USA.

By now, Doctor Jorge Mejia had spent seven years eking out a living in Magdalena, but he had also, carefully and quietly, cultivated the trust and confidence of the local
narcos - Caro-Quintero’s “thirds-in-command,” so to speak; the lieutenants and foot soldiers.

Woods: How do you cultivate the trust of narcos? I mean, I image they’d be some of the most untrusting varmints on earth.

Murr: They are indeed, but even drug lords have needs that need to be met – some of them medical. Over time, the regional narcos came to consider the “Chilango Medico” dependable. Mejia had made himself available to them day or night, any hour. He’d removed bullets and patched up the troops whenever the need arose. He saved many of their lives. And never once did he report any of it to the government, as required by federal and state law. Controlling syphilis among the troops was, at times, almost a full-time job in itself. Doctor Mejia did everything imaginable to gain the confidence of those thugs, even if that meant socializing after hours, or sharing a bottle of tequila or an occasional whore with them. He considered it all part of the greater plan.

When the doctor had amassed all the information he felt he needed, he drove into the big city, marched into the American Consulate and insisted on a face-to-face with the Director of the DEA.

Woods: The Drug Enforcement Agency.

Murr: The very same. More than anything in the world, Doctor Jorge Mejia wanted to become a DEA informant – a very well-paid DEA agent.

Woods: And did the director agree?

Murr: The director called in two agents for him to talk with. They had a little, preliminary test for him – you know, to see if he had the “in” he was claiming he had with Caro-Quintero’s generals. They wanted him to produce the Cartel’s cocaine processing formula. The DEA had never been able to replicate the quality of the cartel’s final product.

Two weeks later Mejia met again with the DEA agents. This time in a back booth at Sanborns on Avenida Vallarta. Mejia was instructed, at meeting, never to enter the American Consulate again. The back booth at Sanborns would be their new “secluded rendezvous”.

Mejia had the answer to their test question: boiling water. They, the DEA, were doing everything right, he told them, except for the water temperature.  It was crucial that the water be boiling at the very moment it mixed with the dry ingredients.

Days afterwards, Mejia was summoned to Sanborns again. Two different agents showed up to congratulate him on the formula indications. Everything checked out a hundred percent.  The new agents welcomed him aboard.  Doctor Jorge Mejia was now a DEA informant. But before he agreed, he had one “nonnegotiable condition” of his own for them: No one, in the DEA, or CIA, or in any way affiliated with the American Consulate, was ever to call him or refer to him by his real name. From that moment forward he was: “El Monje”, or simply: “Monje”.

Woods: The Monk?

Murr: That’s right: Monk.

Woods: Why that name? And there’s one other thing: you haven’t explained that remark about the doctor being dead and/or alive at the same time.

Murr: I’ll answer both those questions in just a moment. You have my word. But without just a little more background, you’ll still be lost.

Woods: Alright. What more do I have to know?

Murr: Fast-forward with me to 2009: The Baja California federales walk into an abandoned warehouse in Tijuana. They go straight for a rusty old oil drum in the far corner. Everything is just as the anonymous tipster described it. The police pry open the drum’s lid and, to their utter disgust, discover the decaying, butchered remains of a traitor.

Woods: Go on.

Murr: The victim’s genitals are in his mouth. In “narco jurisprudence” this particular show of disfavor is reserved for traitors and informants. By the way, The organ removal/repositioning was preformed ante - not post - mortem. The mutilated remains are identified as those of 58 year-old, Doctor Jorge Mejía, a physician affiliated with the Clínica del Carmen in Guadalajara, Jalisco.

Now, you can’t understand Doctor Jorge Mejia’s murder without understanding Doctor Jorge Mejia’s DEA involvement.

So, we rewind to the mid-80’s.

Woods: I’m with you. Go ahead.

Murr: The day “El Monje” began peddling information to the DEA was the day Caro-Quintero began losing men and money.  Especially hard hit were secret locations around Magdalena. Raids on Caro-Quintero’s marijuana and cocaine operations were more frequent and aggressive. Ambushes. Raids. Roundups. Shootouts and killings.

The “narco of all narcos” had a major rodent problem on his hands. Immediately, he set out to identify, find and kill the rat.

At noon on February 7, 1985, the DEA’s number one agent in Guadalajara, Francisco “Kiki” Camarena, was abducted by a squadron of corrupt Mexican police – pardon the redundancy. The “puercos” turned him over to cartel soldiers who brought him directly to Rafael Caro-Quintero.  Rafael Caro-Quintero personally attended to his torture and ultimate murder. Caro-Quintero was hell-bent on getting all the information he could out of the DEA’s number one agent. To that ignoble end, he took extra measures to prolong Camarena’s life and his unbearable sufferings. With a medical doctor assisting him, Caro-Quintero injected lidocaine directly into Camarena’s heart while relentlessly shouting out questions and, with every unsatisfactory or unintelligible answer, he drilled another hole into Camarena’s skull with a power tool. Francisco “Kiki” Camarena died after 30 hours of the most brutal torture imaginable.

On an anonymous tip, Camarena’s body, crushed skull and all, was found along a Michoacán highway. [Consul] Richard Morefield told me that Camarena’s torture was the worst act of subhuman savagery he or anyone in the CIA and DEA had ever seen or heard of.

Woods: Good God…

Murr: Good God, indeed, Mr. Woods; Good God, indeed. So now, the biggest manhunt in American and Mexican history went into high gear.  And, on April 4, 1985, the CIA captured “the Narco of all Narcos” holdout in Costa Rica. He was extradited to Mexico, tried for murder, convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

If prison provides anything to a convict, it is time, and Rafael Caro-Quintero had plenty of it for thinking. It took him years to see it but, when he thought he finally had, from his Puente Grande cell, he put out a contract on Doctor Jorge Mejía. The doctor was abducted from his home at gunpoint, blindfolded and taken for a very long ride. When the Suburban stopped, he found himself in an abandoned warehouse.  There, his kidnapper tortured him for hours, to get every piece of information out of him concerning his betrayals and every DEA contact he had ever known. We’ll never know what, if anything, the innocent man confessed to. But in the end, he was branded a traitor and butchered like a pig… All for another man’s betrayal.

Woods: There you lost me.  I’m completely confused.

Murr: Of course you’re confused. That, in part, was the idea. It’s like I told you at the beginning: Nobody could beat Doctor Jorge Mejia when it came to subterfuge and deception. Nobody. Confusion is the name of the game. So, now that’s it’s all been so nicely raveled, let me unravel it for you.

Woods: If you please.

Murr: Remember where Doctor Mejia worked part-time in Guadalajara? Remember the Clínica del Carmen?

Woods: Yes?

Murr: Well, there was a very good reason he had for choosing to work in that particular hospital.

There was another medical doctor who also worked in the Clínica del Carmen. The other doctor was the same age as Doctor Jorge Mejía. He was the same height, weight and build as Doctor Jorge Mejía. He had the same dark skin as Doctor Jorge Mejía and - after Doctor Jorge Mejía sheared off his black, shoulder length locks, trimmed back his straggly Fu Manchu mustache, and bought himself a new set of black rimmed frames for his prescription glasses – he even looked like Doctor Jorge Mejía. What’s more, since Doctor Jorge Mejía was raking in extra DEA dollars each month, he bought himself a new Chevy Suburban – the vehicle of choice for “the discerning narco,” - just as the other, as-yet-unnamed, physician owned.

Woods: I don’t know if this is getting more interesting or more confusing by the second.

Murr: One more flashback, Mr. Woods: Puente Grande Prison. The year is 2009.

Caro-Quintero believed he had the rat puzzle solved. After all the information was gathered, he saw it clearly: his own private and personal physician had been betraying him with the DEA and CIA, all along. That’s when he order the doctor killed.

Woods: So, Doctor Jorge Mejía was Caro-Quintero’s personal physician? The one who assisted him in Camarena’s torture?

Murr: I’m saying that, as impossible as this is going to sound, there were two different physicians, both named Doctor Jorge Mejia! One sold narco info to the DEA, the other was Caro Quintero’s personal physician! Jorge Mejia the DEA informant, painstakingly saw to it that nearly everything about the two of them was the same. The same, except for one minor detail that could not be changed: each man had a different, but rarely used, second last-named, or maternal last-name. The title and full name of the DEA spy was: Doctor Jorge Mejia Iturbe, whereas the title and full name of Caro-Quintero’s personal physican was: Doctor Jorge Mejia – are you ready for this?

Woods: As ready as I’ll ever be.

Murr: Monje.

Woods: Monje? Wasn’t that the codename that… O my God.

Murr: So, you see, Mr. Woods; that is how Doctor Jorge Mejia is, and is not, alive today. Doctor Jorge Mejia Iturbe, the one who managed to get Doctor Jorge Mejia Monje kidnapped, tortured and murdered in his stead, continues to live the charade.  Still today. In the town of Cuatla, Morelos, he poses as a Sexologist and works hard that couples heretofore unable to figure things out for themselves, might reach mutual sexual climax.

Woods: Incredible.  Doctor Jorge Mejia doesn’t still spy for the DEA, does he?

Murr: Oh, no. His DEA career had a sad and abrupt ending.  Soon after the Caro-Quintero arrest, paranoia overtook Doctor Jorge Mejia.  He wiggled his way into the American Consult offices of the CIA with a personal letter he had written for then Vice-President George H. Bush. He preferred Vice President Bush to President Reagan because, unlike him and Reagan, he and Bush shared the same first name. As you can see, by now, for yourself, the man had a real thing for names being the way he wanted them to be.

Anyway, after sending the doctor’s VP-Bush letter to Langley, Virginia, three days later the director of the CIA in Guadalajara received an answer.  The American Embassy in Mexico City, and all American consuls in Mexico were to have no further contact with “this unstable and dangerous individual”.

Woods: What was contained in the letter to Bush?

Murr: It was an assassination plan, diagrammed to the last detail.  Doctor Jorge Mejia Iturbe would accept $3,000,000.00 from Vice President George H. Bush to assassinate Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro.

Woods: He planned to assassinate Fidel Castro?!

Murr: Quite an elaborate, well thought out, detailed plan, at that. But that’s another story, Mr. Woods… for another time…

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Copyright  © Charles Theodore Murr 2017

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