Mexican officials said that a son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán may be one of the six men abducted early Monday morning at a restaurant in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta.
Jalisco Attorney General Eduardo Almaguer told Radio Formula that "it is presumed," though not yet certain, that Iván Archivaldo Guzmán was among those kidnapped after gunmen burst into the La Leche restaurant in Puerto Vallarata.
One of Guzmán’s three sons, Iván – better known as Luis or Chapito – is believed to have assumed control of parts of his father's business after he was re-arrested in January.
The young Guzmán, who is believed to be around 32 years old, has been wanted by U.S. Justice and Treasury departments for alleged drug trafficking and money laundering activities and has been on the most wanted list since June 2012.
"The defendant Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar, better known as Luis or Chapito, is accused of transporting multiple kilograms of cocaine and several tons of marijuana from Mexico to the U.S. border to introduce them throughout the United States for distribution," reads a District Court of California document obtained by El Universal that's dated September 2013.
"[He] subsequently collected from customers in the United States the gains of those drugs and laundered and transferred the funds from the United States to Mexico and elsewhere for the benefit of the members and associates of the Sinaloa Cartel," reads the same document.
In early 2016 the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California announced charges against 60 members of the Sinaloa Cartel, including Iván Archivaldo, “for introducing large quantities of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana to the United States in vehicles, trucks, boats and tunnels.”
Iván Archivaldo spent three years in a Mexican prison after his arrest in 2005 but was released by a judge for lack of evidence.
Since authorities arrived on the scene of the kidnapping on Monday, they have been taking fingerprints, viewing video images and checking identifications related to five vehicles — some luxury models — left behind by the victims at the restaurant.
Almaguer said "several of them (the victims) had false identities," which complicated efforts to determine who they were.
He said the abduction was the work of a "criminal group" that operates in the area, and while he would not identify the gang by name, the largest group operating in the state is the Jalisco New Generation cartel.
The Jalisco cartel has grown quickly to rival Guzmán's Sinaloa cartel as the most powerful of Mexico's drug gangs.
Experts say there could be other reasons why someone would want to kidnap the younger Guzman. Ivan Archivaldo had reportedly been running roughshod over allies in his father's business.
Meanwhile, the city's tourism promoters scrambled to reassure tourists that the kidnapping was an isolated incident and that activities for visitors continued without interruption.
Almaguer told a news conference Monday that the victims "were not tourists or residents who work in legal activities ... they were people tied to a criminal group we can very clearly presume."
Almaguer said two SUVs carrying five gunmen arrived around 1 a.m. at La Leche restaurant on Puerto Vallarta's main boulevard, which runs through the hotel zone lying between the old beach city and the airport.
He said some of those abducted had been vacationing in Puerto Vallarta for a week and the group that was targeted appeared to be celebrating, according to other people in the restaurant. Authorities found lots of drinks and luxury items inside the restaurant. Five vehicles were abandoned at the restaurant, among them one with Jalisco license plates but a false registration.
Alejandro Hope, a Mexico City-based security analyst, said that while Jalisco New Generation controls the area, it would be possible for another group to enter the city.
Hope also called it odd that a group of alleged cartel members would be taken without a shot being fired.
"It's a bit surprising that in effect they were drug traffickers but didn't have any security," Hope said.
Jalisco Gov. Aristoteles Sandoval said on his official Twitter account that such violence would not be tolerated.
"To the residents and tourists of Puerto Vallarta, I inform you that we have reinforced security so that you can go on as usual," Sandoval wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.