McALLEN — A top lieutenant for the Gulf Cartel was in federal court on Wednesday morning for a hearing to verify his identity.
Wearing a green shirt and jeans, Ediel "La Muela" Lopez Garcia went before U.S District Judge Dorina Ramos for the hearing.
Lopez Garcia is named in a multi-count indictment from the District of Columbia that names 26 Gulf Cartel and Zeta bosses, court records show.
Court records don’t specify when Lopez Garcia was arrested. However, a U.S. law enforcement official not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said federal agents arrested him Sept. 18 in the parking lot of PlainsCapital Bank,
1311 N. Cage Blvd., Pharr.
The indictment shows a discrepancy in the name because it identifies the defendant as Ediel La Muela, "the molar," Lopez Falcon instead of Lopez Garcia.
A slain Gulf Cartel member in Miguel Alemán named Ediel Lopez Falcon went by the nickname El Yeyo — not La Muela, said a Tamaulipas law enforcement official who requested anonymity, citing security concerns.
In Matamoros, the man known as La Muela is not Lopez Garcia, but Jaime Alejandro Perez, who was indicted on close to a dozen drug trafficking charges on in November 2002 along with several other top Gulf Cartel members, including fallen kingpin Antonio Ezequiel "Tony Tormenta" Cardenas Guillén, who was gunned down after a day of firefights with Mexican marines in that border city.
Perez, who remains a fugitive and is believed to be in Matamoros, remains a close associate of the Cardenas family, most recently having worked with Mario El Gordo "the fat man" Cardenas, the Mexican law enforcement official said.
Mario Cardenas ran the region around Matamoros for the Gulf Cartel after the death of his brother in November 2010 until his arrest last September. Since then, the Matamoros plaza — the term given to different territories split up by the cartel — has been run by his brother Homero "El Orejón" Cardenas.
While Lopez Garcia does use the moniker La Muela, that is a name that few people outside of his circle know him as, since he is most commonly known as Metro 5, the Tamaulipas police official said, adding that Metro 5 was in charge of the Miguel Alemán area.
The nickname Metro 5 points to his role as member of the Metros group, which was a security detail originally assigned to Matamoros, where several Gulf Cartel lieutenants have risen over time, the official said.
During the hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors asked a Drug Enforcement Administration agent to testify about Lopez Garcia’s identity, but the agent said he wasn’t in charge and was covering for the lead agent based in Washington, D.C.
The DEA agent said that the information that they had on Lopez Garcia linked him to several tons of narcotics trafficked for the Gulf Cartel. The identification of Lopez Garcia was done through a photograph that the DEA received from the Mexican military after a firefight in Nuevo Laredo.
When Ramos asked the agent for the picture, he said he didn’t have it with him. Defense attorney Arnulfo Guerra asked the agent several questions about why the agency mixed up the names from Lopez Falcon to Lopez Garcia the agent replied that the man was "Ediel Lopez, La Muela."
"Agent, are you aware that in Matamoros and the border area there are some nicknames that are commonly used. Do you know how many men call themselves La Muela?" Guerra asked.
After not being satisfied with the answers, Ramos reset the hearing for Friday, warning the agent to prepare his evidence and, if possible, bring the lead agent into court to testify.