NEW: Mexican federal police have captured Vicente Carrillo Fuentes
NEW: Authorities captured him at a checkpoint in Torreon, Mexico
Alleged Juarez Cartel boss was one of Mexico's most wanted criminals
He's apparently led the cartel since 1997, when his brother died during plastic surgery
His cartel helped give Ciudad Juarez its infamous reputation as one of the world’s most violent cities.
But no shots were fired when Mexican federal police captured alleged Juarez Cartel boss Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, authorities said Thursday.
The 51-year-old kingpin was detained alongside a bodyguard in a “discreet operation” at a checkpoint in the northern city of Torreon, said Monte Alejandro Rubido, head of Mexico’s National Security Council.
The driver’s license Carrillo Fuentes flashed at a checkpoint concealed his identity. But once he realized he’d been found out, Carrillo Fuentes admitted who he was, Rubido said.
Carrillo Fuentes, known as “El Viceroy,” was one of Mexico’s most wanted alleged criminals.
U.S. authorities had been offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
A list of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted fugitives describes Carrillo Fuentes as a former Mexican police officer and notes that he “occasionally travels to El Paso, TX.”
A State Department Narcotics Rewards Program description of the notorious drug lord describes him as a “known user of narcotics” who is “believed to have had plastic surgery” and may have scars around his face.
Cartel’s influence had been waning
In the United States, Carrillo Fuentes faces a number of charges, including drug trafficking, conspiracy, money laundering, tampering with a witness and “ordering the intentional killing of individuals to prevent communication of information,” the State Department said.
There were five arrest warrants for his capture in Mexico, where authorities were offering a reward of 30 million pesos ($2.2 million).
Analysts have said the Juarez Cartel’s influence had been waning after a lengthy battle for territory with the Sinaloa Cartel.
Some speculate that violence dropped in Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, after the Sinaloa Cartel won the fight for control.
But at one time, the Juarez Cartel was one of the most powerful in Mexico.
Its former leader Amado Carrillo Fuentes was known as the “Lord of the Skies” because of the large fleet of jetliners he used to transport cocaine from Colombia to Mexico.
He died while undergoing plastic surgery in 1997, leaving his brother, Vicente, in charge of the cartel.
Arrest comes as government faces criticism
His reported arrest comes a week after another top cartel leader was caught. Authorities said last week that they arrested Hector Beltran Leyva, leader of the Beltran Leyva Cartel, while he was dining in a seafood restaurant in San Miguel de Allende.
The high-profile captures come as Mexican authorities face fierce public criticism over a surge in violence in Iguala, where 43 students went missing during a recent night of shootouts.
On Monday, the government ordered local police to lay down their weapons and sent federal forces to the area, where investigators have found mass graves full of unidentified human remains.
Critics accuse local authorities of involvement in the grisly crime, and say the government hasn’t done enough to solve it.
So far, 34 people have been detained in connection with the case, including nearly two dozen local police officers, Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told reporters Thursday.
Hours later at another press conference, Murillo trumpeted news of Carrillo Fuentes’ capture as the “result of enormous effort by the federal government,” noting that it shows how much authorities have strengthened their abilities in investigation and intelligence.
“He was one of the most important of the most important that Mexican justice had to capture,” he said.
CNN en Español’s Fidel Gutierrez and Danny Guerra contributed to this report.