“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

This week, one of the leaders of the “Los Cabos” group, based in Tijuana and in support of the CJNG cartel pleaded guilty to charges related to the distribution of heroin and methamphetamine. The plea agreement also includes admissions to ordering the murder of a police officer in Tijuana in 2018 and ordering co-conspirators to hang a narco manta in Tijuana.
Edgar “El Caiman” Herrera Pardo, also known as “Cabo 8” has been in custody since 2019 when he and his girlfriend were arrested. He was extradited last year to face the charges in San Diego, California.

Los Cabos has been linked to over 150 murders in Mexico, including several Mexican police officers, and two American teenagers killed alongside a Mexican teenager in 2018 in Mexico. 

Who is “El Caiman”?

“El Caiman,” also known as “Cabo 8” was indicted in the Southern District of California on April 10, 2019, as an alleged leader of a group known as Los Cabos, which operated in Baja California to secure control of the region for the CJNG. 

According to reports by Zeta Tijuana, Herrera operated under the late kingpin Arturo Gómez Herrera, also known as “El Gross,” who was killed in Jalisco in 2016. Herrera had used the alias “El Zame” in the past and had been imprisoned in 2004 and 2010 for minor offenses.

Between 2015 and 2016, the Arellano Felix Cartel (CAF) allied with CJNG. The CAF had been decimated by arrests and was in a long-losing battle with the Sinaloa Cartel for control of Tijuana. 

Los Cabos saw a significant rise in influence during this period, engaged in a fierce territorial battle with the Sinaloa Cartel over the lucrative smuggling route between the Tijuana and San Diego border. Los Cabos employed rampant violence to ensure that CJNG maintained the ability to traffic drugs through Tijuana and into the United States.

In late 2016, “El Caiman’s” identity as one of the leaders within the Los Cabos cell was revealed by Zeta Tijuana. He was listed among 8 wanted men within a CAF-CJNG alliance. Herrera Pardo was believed to be closely associated with “El Mencho” Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, the top leader of the CJNG. According to court filings filed by the government, Caiman/Cabo 8, Cabo 96, Cabo 89, and Cabo 50 were leaders of the violent group of cartel enforcers.

Los Cabos’s bloody reign of terror included the murder of 2 teenage United States citizens in Tijuana in November 2018, the government alleges. These teenagers were residents of Chula Vista, California. The government also alleged that Los Cabos targeted law enforcement in Tijuana, killing at least 3 police officers.

The teenage victims were Juan Suárez Ojeda, a graduate of Ingenuity Charter School in Skyline, and Christopher, 17, a student and member of the O’Farrell High School football team in Encanto. They were killed together with Mexican citizen Ángel Said, 17, with a bullet to the head in the Lomas Verdes subdivision in Tijuana.

He had been injured in an attack on May 5, 2019, in Guadalajara, Jalisco during a shootout where CJNG member Héctor “El Gallero” Manuel Morales Guzmán, was killed. “El Gallero” was the alleged successor of Jose “El Piolin” Perez Vargas. Herrera provided a fake alias at a Tijuana hospital after traveling back for treatment.
Herrera Pardo was released even though he showed a voter ID card with his photo and the false name of Julio Alexander Franco Romo, a resident of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Jalisco, issued in 2016 (the same year his identity was revealed by Zeta Tijuana).

Mexican authorities began monitoring him from that day on when he was injured in Guadalajara. His lawyers began the procedures for an Amparo in Tijuana, to prevent him from being detained, which was not granted.

On August 14, 2019, the Mexican authorities followed his girlfriend, model Maine de la Cruz Rojas, they saw her with him in Querétaro, getting on a bus heading to San Luis Potosí, where they were both arrested.

In October 2016, Maine won a bikini contest organized by the Mexican betting house Caliente Casino. 
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In her profile video for the contest, Maine said that she had recently finished high school, played soccer and that she liked to dance, listen to music, and spend time with her pet.

Her social media accounts showed her love of sports, and animals and posts with who is believed to be her son. However, no posts included her with “El Caimán,” nor with another man. 

A superseding indictment returned on March 6, 2020, plus a related indictment returned on March 16, 2021, collectively charged Edgar “El Caiman” Herrera Pardo, Carlos “Cabo 96” Lorenzo Hinojosa Guerrero, Edgar “Cabo 89” Perez Villa, and Israel “Cabo 50″Alejandro Vazquez-Vazquez, among others, with Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Intended for Importation, and Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances.

Edgar Herrera underwent his extradition procedure at a court based in the Michoacan prison he was being held for drug trafficking. On August 2, 2023, he was handed over to the US authorities at the Toluca International Airport in the State of Mexico.

Internal War in Tijuana

During the 7 months of authorized interceptions of a group chat between leaders of Los Cabos, it was learned that Los Cabos had planned over 150 murders, the majority of which took place in Tijuana, according to the filings. 2018 saw the killings of several police officers and teenagers, including the two teenage American citizens. The following year, in 2019, an internal cleansing within the CJNG network in Tijuana began to occur.
On May 5, 2019, Héctor “El Gallero” Manuel Morales Guzmán, was summoned to a meeting in Guadalajara. “El Caiman” made the trip as well, possibly as his bodyguard. “El Gallero” was believed to be the successor to “El Piolín” who had been arrested in 2017. “El Gallero” had likely become intolerable as a leader in the region and he was never seen again following the shooting that also injured “El Caiman.” “El Piolin” was killed less than two weeks later in prison.
At the time of his arrest, authorities stated “El Caiman” was in a turf battle with Sinaloa Cartel member José “El Versi” Loreto Capoeman Rivera, in Tijuana.
A few days before the couple’s arrest, Ricardo “Cabo 39” Álvarez Olivares was murdered in Baja California Sur. Several of the traffickers from Los Cabos began to switch sides to Sinaloa.
The internal struggle within the Baja California region of the CJNG resulted in more deaths. Including 16 deaths in Tecate. CJNG, CAF, and Sinaloa Cartel members continued fighting in the streets of Baja California as alliances between the local cells and parent cartels began to shift and merge.
CJNG narco mantas and threats went up across the area demanding that those from Los Cabos and under Cabo 8/El Caiman’s command remain loyal or be killed. Figures from the CAF, allied with the Sinaloa Cartel recruited several members from Los Cabos.