“HEARST” and “Enojon” for Borderland Beat

Sinaloa Cartel figure Eliseo Imperial Castro, alias “Cheyo Antrax”, was killed in Culiacan – in a city which the cartel group entirely controls, which means someone from the Sinaloa Cartel had Cheyo Antrax killed. 

So was it a Sinaloa Cartel faction which works under rivals like Guano or Chapitos? Or was Cheyo’s own Mayo faction involved in his murder? 

And why is the Sinaloa Cartel trying to prevent pictures of Cheyo’s murder from being shared online?

Warning: Some graphic images below this point.

Overview of Cheyo’s Criminal History

Before we jump into the details of Cheyo Antrax’s murder, let’s review who he is, what he’s done and what role he’s played in the Sinaloa Cartel.

In the year 1984, Eliseo Imperial Lopez, a Sinaloa Cartel narco who went by the criminal aliases “Cheyo Imperial”, had a son with his wife. Their son was born on January 17, 1984 and they named him Eliseo Jr.  

That same year Eliseo Imperial Lopez’s sister, Margarita had an affair with the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Ismael Zambada Garcia “El Mayo”. Their affair produced a son, who they named Ismael Jr., who was born that same year. 

Because Eliseo and Margarita Imperial Lopez were both living in Culiacan and they had sons so close in age, the two boys grew up together – often attending each other’s birthday parties and other family events.

One of El Cheyo’s narcocorridos, titled Soldado Imperial, describes how he grew up with Mayito Gordo with the lyrics “We lived, we grew up, together, one and two.”

Their two boys would grow up to be Sinaloa Cartel narcos in their own right. 

Eliseo’s son Eliseo Imperial Castro became known by the criminal alias “Cheyo Antrax”. Margarita’s son Ismael Zambada Imperial become known by the alias “Mayito Gordo”. 

In 2008, following the separation of CDS and the Beltrán Leyva Organization, a new CDS armed wing was founded by Rodrigo Arechiga Gamboa, alias “El Chino Ántrax” and René Velázquez, alias “Sargento Phoenix” that would go on to be called “Los Antrax” (although some debate to this day that El 20 and El Fello were more of the creators of the group). 

El Cheyo was allegedly a part of the initial group of members. There are many photos of El Cheyo posing with other Antrax members.

It’s worth noting that Cheyo Antrax is known to have a sister named Eli Imperial Castro, who he is frequently photographed with. She seemed to have frequented the same party scene as los Antrax. 

Eli and Mayito Gordo are cousins (in a way, except it seems Mayo never married Margarita) and they appear to be quite close.

Cheyo’s sister Eli would go on to marry los Antrax member Francisco Arce Rubio, alias “Pancho Arce”. This means Pancho Arce was, at one point, Cheyo’s brother-in-law.

Eli and Pancho reportedly had three children together, two sons and a daughter. But Pancho Arce would be killed in November 2011, leaving Eli a widow.

In 2013, Chino Antrax was arrested in Amsterdam after flying to the European city to vacation – not realizing that Interpol was not going to be fooled by his fake passport. Chino’s arrest marked the beginning of the decline of los Antrax, who dissolved over the following years. 

During this period, it seems that Cheyo Antrax shifted from working primarily as a member of los Antrax to instead working as Mayito Gordo’s head of security. This role is referenced in narcocorrido Soldado Imperial, with the lyrics “Mayito – the support, Cheyo – the protection.” 

In July 2014, Cheyo Ántrax was officially identified as a wanted fugitive for drug trafficking offenses by the US government in 14-CR-2127-DMS.

The Sinaloa-based newspaper Ríodoce wrote that Cheyo Ántrax was the right-hand man of Ismael Zambada Imperial, “El Mayito Gordo”. They go on to state that, according to their sources, when Mayito Gordo was arrested, El Cheyo was with him and acting as his bodyguard at the time. 

The arrest took place on November 12, 2014, when a group of marines descended onto one of Gordo’s properties, a house in La Estancia de los Burgos, Sinaloa, where he was staying at the time. Ríodoce says that El Cheyo “managed to escape at the last minute,” much like El Changuito Ántrax, who was also present at the house that day.

Mayito Gordo remained in prison for years after the arrest and Gordo was eventually extradited to the US, which means Cheyo Antrax was suddenly out of a job. It’s worth noting that some people call Cheyo Antrax as “El Lobo Guardián” or “The Wolf Guardian” out of reverence for Cheyo’s role as Mayito’s head of security. 

But one of the chief jobs of security is to prevent your charge from being arrested and, well, Mayito was arrested on Cheyo’s watch, while they were together on a remote ranch, so Cheyo being some wolf-like guardian doesn’t really track.

Cheyo had to again shift his role in the Sinaloa Cartel and it seems like he began trying to manage a drug trafficking route which crossed shipments through the border city of Tijuana in to the US city of San Diego.

Just two years later, in September 2016, the US designated Cheyo under the Kingpin Act which economically sanctioned him and his associates, forbidden US citizens from doing business with him or his known associates.

The US press release alleges that El Atlante and El Hannibal transported drug shipments (specifically citing methamphetamine) through Tijuana on behalf of Cheyo.

El Atlante and his brother would go on to switch sides and begin working with a CAF/CJNG group in Tijuana, abandoning his work with Cheyo Antrax and the Sinaloa Cartel. 

Ever since the US sanctions in 2016, Cheyo kinda fell off the map. His influence and power seemed to wane, or at the very least, he seemed to switch to a very behind the scenes role in the cartel. 

Compared to the stir that other supposedly “low key” Mayo associates like Chavo Felix and Lupe Tapia still regularly make, Cheyo Antrax effectively disappeared. 

From 2016 to 2024, there was almost to news about Cheyo at all. The most notable incident during the last whole time came in January 2021 when Cheyo was allegedly spotted in a video of a narco party, listening to a live music act

The latest news is that Cheyo Antrax’s father, Eliseo Imperial López, reportedly died in September 2023 in Sinaloa. How he died is unclear but so far there hasn’t been any claims that it a murder. 

Plenty of big wreaths from important cartel figures were spotted at his funeral ceremony, including one from Ismael Zambada (Junior or Senior is unclear), which signals that Eliseo Imperial López was still considered to be in good standing with the Sinaloa Cartel at the time of his death.

The Details of Cheyo’s Murder

On Thursday, May 30, 2024, a lifted white Chevrolet Colorado 4×4 pickup truck was found on the side of Mexican Federal Highway 15 at a location just south of the city of Culiacan, in the state of Sinaloa. The pickup truck reportedly had Sinaloa license plates, according to Milenio.

The spot on the highway where the vehicle was located is near a junk yard which is filled with old vehicles, near Colonia Antorchista and the El Ranchito. 

The front windshield of the pickup truck had more than a dozen bullet holes in it. The vehicle had obviously been shot at.

Most news sources (like Proceso and Notiver) are currently reporting that the attack on the vehicle occurred at approximately noon and a driver on the highway called the emergency line at about 2:20 pm – more than two hours after it happened.

However, there are some sources (like Dallas News) which claim the attack itself occurred at 2:20pm.

Dallas News reported, without citing the source of their information, that Cheyo Antrax “was ambushed by at least four individuals who were aboard a truck and a motorcycle and who shot him at least 15 times.”

SDP Noticias expands on this and writes that “the nephew of Mayo Zambada was traveling in a Chevrolet Colorado truck, when he was ambushed by hitmen who were traveling in 2 vehicles. Early reports indicate that the attackers forced Imperial Eliseo to pull over to the side of the freeway and stop driving. After that, the hitmen got out of their vehicles and began to shoot at the truck.”

The level of detail in the SDP and Dallas News articles, with the number of attackers identified and Cheyo being forced to pull over, may suggest there was either an eye witness to the incident or law enforcement got their hands on some high resolution surveillance video.

Inside the white pickup truck they found the dead body of a man tentatively identified as Cheyo Antrax. That identity has yet to be confirmed by the DEA. He was in the driver’s seat, crumpled onto himself, with his left leg splayed to the right. 

Parts of his face were covered with blood. There were multiple puncture marks on his face which are presumably bullet holes from being shot. 

He was wearing a black t-shirt, hoodie, and blue jeans. Based on Cheyo’s birth date according to US federal intelligence, Cheyo was 40 years old at the time of his death.

There is visible blood splatter on the passenger’s side seat but very little splatter is visible on the driver’s side seat. 

40 shell casings were reportedly found near the pickup truck, according to SDP Noticias.

Meganoticias reports that firearms and ammo was found inside Cheyo’s truck. Where inside his vehicle is not reported. 

Cheyo Antrax was undoubtedly murdered by somebody. 

Usually after an important cartel member or the family of a cartel member is killed, hitmen will take to the streets and commandeer vehicles from civilians on the road to burn them as roadblocks. Or hitmen may perform drive-by shootings at bars known to sell drugs supplied by their rivals.

Threats against their rivals will usually go out across radio channels and somebody with a phone will inevitably record some of what is said. Threatening banners may even be erected in the days after a murder of someone like this. 

Strangely, none of that has happened in Culiacan since Cheyo’s death. There is no visible sign of impending retribution. Something about Cheyo’s murder is being handled by Mayo-leadership differently than you’d expect. 

Misinformation in News Coverage of Cheyo’s Death

Misinformation is running rampant in the news coverage of Cheyo’s death. 

For example, El Financiero refers to Cheyo Antrax as “the founder” of los Antrax. There are four major cartel figures who people credit with founding los Antrax: 

Rodrigo Arechiga Gamboa, alias “El Chino Ántrax” 

René Velázquez Valenzuela, alias “Sargento Phoenix”  

Jesús Peña González, alias “El 20”  

Alfredo Vizcarra Vega, alias “El Fello”

People will often debate which of these four men deserve the title of founder. But you’ll notice that  Cheyo Antrax is not in that list. 

Another example, the outlet Olegario Quintero Informa claimed that Cheyo “was the last survivor” of los Antrax. 

This is patently false. There are a handful of Antrax members still alive and one (a man named Rafael Guadalupe Felix Nuñez, who goes by the alias “Changuito Antrax”) was sanctioned by the US government in a high-profile announcement less than a year ago

And finally, some news outlets, like SDP Noticias, claim there was a $5 million dollar reward offered by the US for Cheyo. This is incorrect. This error likely derives from the 2016 sanctions on Cheyo which mention the $5 million dollar reward for Cheyo’s boss Gordo. 

Sinaloa Cartel Tries to Ban Images of Cheyo’s Murder

The Sinaloa Cartel has tried to put an embargo on sharing the images of Cheyo’s dead body. Multiple Sinaloa Cartel-sympathetic social media accounts have put out warnings, saying that sharing those images is strictly forbidden. 

Even US-based news outlets like Dallas News took note and reported on the Sinaloa Cartel’s attempt to ban the images from being shared.

An audio clip (embedded below) in which a cartel figure says that anyone online sharing the images will be found and punished was published online.

The audio says as follows, as translated by Enojon: 

“People, people whoever has pictures of the [body] delete them there’s [trouble], [trouble]…or you’ll get beat. 

Delete the photos, delete the photos. 

They’ll have to kill them all [since] there’s a lot [of them]. 

…Don’t upload it man, don’t upload it to your profile, don’t let people know of one’s profile because I’m hearing on another line that…they’ll get hit [with a paddle] at least 15 times…I know it’s a-lot, it’s a-lot but don’t post it on Facebook or anything…”

Thankfully, there are a decent-number of cartel news accounts like @Crux1469, El Blog de los Guachos, and @Libertador_Mx who don’t cower in the face of such threats and they posted the images online.

And we at Borderland Beat want to do our small part in trying to amplify and highlight these images for all to see – because they should be seen.

(And if the Sinaloa Cartel really tries to push this image embargo, they’ll quickly find out just what the Streisand effect really means… The internet does not take kindly to powerful entities trying to bury dirt on themselves.)

What’s even more strange is that an image embargo has seemingly never been imposed after the death of other cartel members – even the members who were arguably more important and more powerful than Cheyo.

Think, for example, about the murder of El 22, the leader of a Sinaloa Cartel group known as los Numeros, which happened in a Culiacan hospital last year. (Read the full story here.)

Images of El 22’s bullet ridden body lying in a blood of his own blood were widely circulated online and yet no Sinaloa Cartel account tried to prevent those images from being shared.

And it’s worth noting that El 22 was supposedly killed entirely due to a mistake, so his death was not some punishment that was meant to be shared. It was an accident but the Sinaloa Cartel felt no need to ban the sharing of those images. 

One could argue that the embargo on the images is more due to Cheyo Antrax being (in a way) Mayo’s nephew and that there is some special reverence given to close family of high-level cartel leaders. 

However, think about Ovidio and Joaquin Guzman’s cousin Luis Alberto Beltran Lopez. He was a full blooded cousin of two of the four Chapito brothers. 

When he died in a freak accident while he was motorbiking through the wilderness last August, there were photos of his swollen corpse posted all over the internet. (Read the full story here.)

Despite Luis Alberto not being found until he was “in an advanced state of decomposition”, there was no embargo on sharing images of his dead body. 

So what is it about these photos of Cheyo Antrax that is different? Why don’t they want them shared? 

Oddities in the Crime Scene

There is one suspicious looking wound visible on Cheyo Antrax in the “banned” photos. On his left forehead, in the space between his eyebrow and his ear, there is a visible puncture wound, presumably a bullet hole, but there doesn’t appear to be blood coming from the wound. 

This is odd. 

Now, it’s possible for gunshot wounds to cause internal bleeding with little external bleeding, but that is very rarely seen with facial injuries because of the dense vascularity of the head.

In some cases, if a major blood vessel in the head is not hit by the bullet, there may be less external bleeding. However seeing no external bleeding at all, like what we see with Cheyo’s wound, is odd. 

One explanation (but not the only explanation) for the lack of external bleeding is that the wound was inflicted after Cheyo’s heart had already stopped beating.

Just how long after being shot did Cheyo’s heart stop? That depends on a variety of factors. You’d have to determine where the other bullets struck and the damage they did to organs like his brain to get an answer for that.

Another oddity is the location and direction of the blood spatter. Very little seems to be on the driver’s side seat behind Cheyo. Most of it seems to be on the passenger’s side seat, coming from the direction of the driver’s side.

Keep in mind that there are no visible bullet holes in the driver’s side window. So, according to the news outlet’s version of events, we’re supposed to believe all the gunshots came from the front of the vehicle, directly at Cheyo, who was sitting in the driver’s seat. It’s strange. 

The blood splatter better aligns with a scenario where the shooters approached the pickup truck and opened the driver’s side door and then they shot at Cheyo, who was inside the vehicle.

Look, it’s ultimately impossible to determine the reason why that wound shows no sign of external bleeding or why the blood spatter is where it is based on photos.

The only way to reliably determine that is through a medical autopsy and forensic blood spatter analysis, something that the Sinaloa state government is likely already “doing”. 

But let’s not kid ourselves, the forensic experts in Sinaloa will report that Cheyo’s injuries match whatever the Sinaloa Cartel says happened. 

The autopsy and forensic “findings” will corroborate the cartel’s desired narrative. 

This is just how things in Sinaloa work. This is how things in Jalisco would work if something like this were to happen to a CJNG figure. 

In the uncontested stronghold states of a cartel group, there is top-down influence which can be wielded by cartel groups and the Sinaloa Cartel seems to think the handling of this murder warrants the use of that influence.

So we’re stuck. The only trustworthy evidence we’ll ever get is these two photos. Their importance is only further bolstered by the knowledge that some people really don’t want these images being out there. 

Take a moment to look at the photos further and share them online anonymously in any way you can.