A top lieutenant to the brutal Jalisco New Generation drug cartel boss known as “El Mencho” who’s facing federal drug charges in Chicago tried to buy grenade launchers and assault rifles because “it’s wartime over here” in Mexico, according to federal authorities.
They say Luis Alderete is part of the Mexican drug cartel that the Trump administration singled out as a threat to the United States in 2018. The cartel is a major drug supplier to the Chicago area, officials say.
Alderete is charged in federal court in Chicago with selling heroin to an informant for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Prosecutors say Alderete was part of a network supplying drugs to dealers in Chicago, southern Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and other states.
According to prosecutors, Alderete is a lieutenant of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, known as “El Mencho,” the shadowy and brutal cartel leader of the Jalisco New Generation cartel who’s a fugitive facing a 2014 indictment in Washington.
El Mencho is vying with the Sinaloa cartel for control of drug markets in the United States now that infamous Sinaloa boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera is doing time at a federal prison in Colorado.
In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the U.S. government was targeting El Mencho “from all sides and with every weapon we have.” The State Department has posted a $10 million bounty for his capture. Earlier this year, the DEA announced 600 people across the country, including 50 in Illinois and surrounding states, were arrested in a crackdown on the cartel.
Other high-level associates of El Mencho prosecuted in Chicago include Diego Pineda-Sanchez, sentenced to 15 years in prison for laundering money for him and other drug kingpins.
In 2018, Alderete’s brother Roberto Alderete was arrested in Kentucky with two pounds of methamphetamine. Charged with drug trafficking, he told federal agents his brother supplied the drugs and was a high-level player in the cartel, prosecutors say.
The brothers both appear to be about 30 years old, though public records give varying dates of birth for them.
In March 2019, Luis Alderete was in Mexico when he contacted a government informant who’d worked with his brother, authorities say. Alderete sent the informant photos of cocaine-processing labs and asked for assault rifles and grenade launchers, saying, “It’s wartime over here,” according to a DEA report.
The Jalisco New Generation cartel is engaged in battles on many fronts in Mexico. The cartel is entrenched in more than two-thirds of the states in Mexico and fighting to control the others. It helped drive the violence that led to more than 35,000 people being killed last year in Mexico, the most since the 1990s, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
The ongoing cartel wars have seen rockets used to shoot down aircraft operated by the military and the police. In 2015, the Jalisco New Generation cartel is accused of shooting down a military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing eight soldiers and a police officer.
On March 22, 2019, Alderete told the informant that they would meet in a few days in Paducah, Kentucky, and if their deal worked out, he’d supply the informant with any quantity of methamphetamine and marijuana the informant wanted, according to a DEA report that didn’t say whether Alderete followed up on the weapons.
One of Alderete’s customers was a methamphetamine dealer who got arrested in southern Illinois, authorities say. Alderete is accused of telling the informant he knew the customer was talking to the feds and that the cartel would have him killed. At the time, the man was in federal custody in southern Illinois on drug charges. He’s serving a 22-year prison term.
Alderete had communicated with the informant on a cell phone and on Facebook using a pseudonym, according to the DEA. His Facebook account had a profile picture of Our Lady of Holy Death, a folk saint worshiped by some Mexicans, including cartel figures, officials say.
Alderete was arrested last year in the Chicago suburbs after he sold heroin to a DEA informant who’d been paid $18,000 and was receiving immigration benefits for helping law-enforcement officials, according to court records.
On June 18, Alderete delivered 1.5 kilograms of heroin to the informant in Rosemont, according to prosecutors. DEA agents said they found another 6.5 kilograms of heroin at his associate’s hotel room in Glen Ellyn.
The judge in Alderete’s case in Chicago ordered him jailed without bail as a danger to the community and flight risk.
Prosecutors and Alderete’s lawyers have discussed a “potential resolution of this matter short of trial,” but that’s on hold because of restrictions on moving federal detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic, court records show.
Alderete is being held in the Kendall County Jail. His brother is serving 15 years at a federal prison in California for a drug conviction in Kentucky.
Contributing: Jon Seidel