Pueblos Unidos cartel leader José Artemio Maldonado Mejía, AKA El Michoacano, sentenced to 80 years in Mexico

Cartel leader José Artemio Maldonado Mejía receives an 80-year sentence for kidnapping after an escape and dramatic recapture in CDMX.

The Hidalgo State Attorney General’s Office (PGJEH) has announced the sentencing of José Artemio Maldonado Mejía, also known as ‘El Michoacano’, ‘R,’ or ‘El Rabias,’ to 80 years in prison for aggravated kidnapping in Tula de Allende, Hidalgo, Mexico. Maldonado is a leading figure in the Pueblos Unidos cartel, a criminal organization known for drug trafficking and fuel oil theft.

On July 21, 2021, Maldonado and his associates entered a building, kidnapped a victim, and later demanded a ransom from the victim’s family. In response, the Mexican PGJEH launched a tactical and intelligence operation through the Mexican Specialized Unit to Combat Kidnapping (UECS), resulting in the arrest of six individuals connected to the crime. However, Maldonado himself evaded capture.

(Facebook PGJEH)
(Facebook PGJEH)

The Mexican authorities continued their pursuit of Maldonado, and on November 26, 2021, they arrested him in Texcoco, State of Mexico (Edomex), during a joint operation by the UECS of Hidalgo and the Federal Ministerial Police. The Mexican Attorney General’s Office attributed Maldonado’s identification and subsequent arrest to the successful application of voice recognition technology.

Explosives and escape from Tula prison

The evidence against Maldonado and his accomplices was compelling, and the PGJEH secured the indictment, prosecution, and eventual conviction of the seven perpetrators.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, Maldonado and eight other inmates, including his brother Mario el ‘M1’, leader of the group Los Emes, managed to escape from the Tula prison on December 1, 2021. Pueblos Unidos operatives used cars rigged with explosives as decoys to distract the authorities during their escape.

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(Graphic: Infobae Mexico)
(Graphic: Infobae Mexico)

Following the prison break, security forces across three levels of government launched a manhunt for the escaped prisoners. Four months later, on April 18, 2022, authorities apprehended Maldonado in a high-stakes operation in Mexico City.

Reports indicate that after his escape, Maldonado had been hiding in the mountains of Michoacán, accompanied by Gerardo ‘El Shrek’, who had also recently escaped from a prison in Puebla.

Pueblos Unidos, of drugs and fuel oil

The Pueblos Unidos cartel, previously headquartered in the community of La Loma in Tepetitlán, Hidalgo, was known for its involvement in drug trafficking and oil theft, known locally as huachicoleo.

Following Maldonado’s arrest, his brother ‘M1’ took over leadership of the organization. It is worth noting that Maldonado, originally from Pachuca, Hidalgo, managed to extend his criminal activities into other states, including Querétaro and Michoacán.