José Rodolfo Villarreal, AKA “El Gato,” arrested in Mexico City after a six-year manhunt

Villarreal was one of the FBI's most wanted criminals, with a reward of one million dollars offered for information leading to his arrest. He is accused of criminal association and interstate stalking in connection to a 2013 murder-for-hire plot in Southlake, Texas. He is expected to be extradited to the United States.
  1. On January 7, José Rodolfo Villarreal, also known as “El Gato,” was arrested in Mexico City by elements of the Attorney General’s Office (FGR).
  2. Villarreal is a regional leader of the Beltrán Leyva cartel and has been wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) since 2013, with a reward of one million dollars offered for information leading to his arrest.
  3. Villarreal is accused of criminal association and interstate stalking concerning the conspiracy to murder a man in Southlake, Texas, in 2013. He is expected to be extradited to the United States.

Elements of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (FGR) managed to capture José Rodolfo Villarreal, alias El Gato, regional leader of the Beltrán Leyva cartel in San José, Nuevo León. His arrest took place in Mexico City, and he is expected to be handed over to US authorities.

Agents from the Mexican Secretariat of the Navy (Semar), the Nuevo Leon State Investigation Agency, and the National Anti-Kidnapping Coordination also participated in the operation carried out on Saturday, January 7. The crimes for which he was wanted for were criminal association for the purpose of committing homicides and interstate stalking.

El Gato, in addition to being a highly relevant member of the Beltrán Leyva criminal organization, was also one of the 10 most wanted criminals by the FBI, which had wanted him since 2013 and offered a reward of one million dollars in exchange for information leading to his whereabouts or arrest.

As a result, Rodolfo Villarreal was transferred to Mexico City’s International Airport (AICM) to be extradited to the United States. The Attorney General’s Office announced this process through a brief statement in which it pointed out that it complied with the “formal arrest warrant for extradition purposes file 36/2017 of the defendant,” it was detailed.

"El Gato" was one of the most wanted criminals by the FBI (Photo: FBI)
“El Gato” was one of the most wanted criminals by the FBI (Photo: FBI)

Why was “El Gato” wanted?

Villarreal was one of the most wanted fugitives by the FBI due to the fact that in 2013 he was allegedly involved in the conspiracy to murder a 43-year-old man “for hire.” The crime was perpetrated on May 22 in Southlake, Texas, and after five years, a federal warrant was issued for his arrest.

The victim in these events was Jesús Guerrero Chapa, a lawyer for Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, former head of the Gulf Cartel. At the time of his murder, the man was with his wife inside his vehicle, parked at a commercial establishment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas. The Dallas Morning News reported that El Gato blamed the lawyer for the murder of his father, which occurred in 2011, so he hired a couple of hitmen to execute him.

Also involved in these events was Ramón Villarreal Hernández, alias El Mon, El Gato’s brother, who pleaded guilty in July 2020 in the United States to the crime of interstate stalking in relation to Guerrero Chapa’s murder. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. It should be recalled that his arrest was recorded in 2018 in Monterrey, Nuevo León.

In addition, the FBI indicated that El Gato was one of the “ringleaders” of the Beltrán Leyva drug trafficking organization in San Pedro Garza García, Nuevo León, although he also had criminal connections in Monterrey and Mexico City, according to the 43-year-old drug lord’s wanted list.

El "Gato" started as a federal police officer, rose to the Beltrán Leyva cartel and was head of the plaza in Nuevo León (Photo: fbi.gob)
El “Gato” started as a federal police officer, rose to the Beltrán Leyva cartel, and was head of the plaza in Nuevo León (Photo: fbi.gov)

At the time, then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo identified El Gato as the alleged overseer of the importation of large quantities of marijuana and cocaine into the neighboring country, as well as blaming him for violent acts to maintain “status” within the criminal structure.

According to Mexican intelligence reports, cited by Breibart News in a November 2018 report, El Gato was a Federal Police agent and part of his career was spent in Sonora, where he learned surveillance techniques. He later dabbled in organized crime.