Mexico City – The suspected leader of a Beltran Leyva drug cartel cell in Zihuatanejo, a city in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, was captured by army troops, the Attorney General's Office said Monday.
Ricardo Benitez Servin was arrested Saturday in the Caribbean resort city of Cancun, where he traveled to avoid being killed by a rival gang, the AG's office said.
Benitez allegedly controlled drug trafficking in Guerrero's Costa Grande region for the Beltran Leyva cartel and was behind a number of killings.
"The suspect was known for using extreme violence against members of rival organizations, which allowed him to position himself as one of the most trusted hired guns of the Beltran Leyvas," the AG's office said.
Benitez started out as a drug dealer in the Pacific coast cities of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, working for Jose Angel Pineda Sanchez, who he helped murder in February 2010.
The suspect took over the Beltran Leyva cartel's operations in Zihuatanejo after the arrest of another one of his bosses, "unleashing a wave of executions of members of rival groups," the AG's office said.
The La Familia Michoacana cartel launched an offensive in March 2011 against Benitez's group in an effort to "reduce his predominance" in the area, investigators said.
La Familia, one of whose factions now operates as the Los Caballeros Templarios cartel, put up posters in Zihuatanejo accusing Benitez of being behind kidnappings, extortion rackets, murders and disappearances in the area.
Benitez moved to Cancun, Mexico's top beach destination, "with the goal of reorganizing his criminal cell to retake control of criminal activities on Guerrero's Costa Grande," the AG's office said.
Two firearms and two vehicles were seized from the suspect by army troops.
The Beltran Leyva cartel has been weakened by the killings and arrests of several of its leaders, as well as infighting.
The Beltran Leyva cartel arose as a splinter group of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Mexico's oldest and most powerful drug trafficking organization, in 2008.
The criminal organization was led by Arturo Beltran Leyva, who died in a shootout with marines at a luxury condo in Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos state, on Dec. 16, 2009.
Two weeks after Arturo was killed, Carlos Beltran Leyva was arrested in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, where he was going by the alias of Carlos Gamez.
Hector Beltran Leyva took over control of the cartel after Arturo's death, but he had to battle a rival faction led by Edgar Valdez Villarreal for control of the organization.
Valdez Villarreal, known as "La Barbie," was arrested by the Federal Police on Aug. 30, 2010.