Release of Gulf Cartel Leader ‘La Kena’ Ordered After Arrest Deemed Improper

The release of Jose Alberto Garcia Vilano, alias "La Kena," leader of the Gulf Cartel's "Los Escorpiones," ordered by a Tamaulipas judge.

In a surprising turn of events, Jose Alberto Garcia Vilano, alias “La Kena,” alleged leader of the Gulf Cartel’s “Los Escorpiones” cell, was ordered released immediately by a Tamaulipas judge on January 31st. La Kena had been arrested just two weeks prior, on January 18th, in a Nuevo Leon shopping mall in a dramatic videotaped operation that subsequently went viral.

Crescencio Contreras Martínez, a judge presiding over the Specialized District Court in the Accusatory Criminal Justice System of Tamaulipas state, cited multiple procedural errors by prosecutors in ordering the release.

Reasoning Behind Release

According to reporting by Milenio, Judge Contreras Martínez argued in his decision that federal prosecutors only had one actual charge against La Kena – possessing a false ID license. Therefore, Contreras Martínez contended there were no legal grounds to continue holding the alleged organized crime leader.

The National Association of Circuit Judges and District Judges (JUFED), of which Contreras Martínez is a member, specified this rationale in a separate document after the Interior Ministry filed an impeachment complaint against the judge on January 31st.

Background on La Kena

Authorities in Mexico and the United States had outstanding warrants for La Kena’s arrest. He was wanted in connection with the 2022 kidnapping of four U.S. citizens in Matamoros.

Months after that incident, the Gulf Cartel publicly apologized via narco manta banner and handed over five hitmen from Los Escorpiones directly implicated.

The January 18th video showing La Kena’s dramatic capture inside a Nuevo Leon mall and subsequent raid of properties linked to him had provided investigators hope of finally bringing down a vital player in Gulf Cartel operations.

However, the surprise court order has quickly dashed those aspirations, pending an appeal by federal prosecutors.