Authorities in Mexico's western state of Jalisco broke up a fake private security company that in fact recruited hit men for the Cartel Jalisco New Generation, said the state's attorney general earlier this week.
The drug cartel distributed marketing materials for a phony company called Segmex in the streets in the cities of Tlaquepaque and Puerto Vallarta and hired Johanna Mary Hernández, a 28-year-old U.S. citizen along with another suspect to meet with recruits at ranches.
The recruits underwent "a one-week training course" focusing on firearms training, said Jalisco Attorney General Jesús Eduardo Almaguer.
Segmex billed itself as a "leader in private security" and advertised security guard and bodyguard jobs with a starting pay of 3,000 pesos (about $170) a week.
The pay offered was higher for candidates with previous law enforcement or military experience, Almaguer said.
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Personnel from the attorney general’s office raided the recruiting offices on March 7 and arrested 13 suspects on drug possession charges, with seven of the arrests made at a hotel in San Juan de los Lagos and six in Lagos de Moreno.
The suspects told investigators that, after contacting Hernández, they were summoned to ranches in the area of Tlaquepaque or Puerto Vallarta.
They were then taken to a site whose location was not revealed by officials.
One of the men "had worked for a private security company and when he saw what was happening, he asked to be allowed to leave and not participate, [but] they didn't let him [go] and told him that in order for him to leave, his family would have to pay a million pesos [$56,000]," Almaguer said.
Authorities discovered the scheme when one recruit tried to leave and was held for a ransom of 1 million pesos ($55,500). His family called authorities.
Based on reporting by EFE and the Associated Press.