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August 20, 2009 -- (US)

Mexican Drug Cartels Now Recruiting Hit Men From U.S. Military

By Dave Gibson, Norfolk Crime Examiner

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive


Pfc. Michael Jackson Apodaca, 18 who was arrested Monday, is accused of working as a paid hit man, and assassinating a member of the Juarez Cartel who had become an informant for U.S. authorities.

Along with Apodaca, El Paso police have charged Ruben Rodriguez Dorado, 30, and Christopher Andrew Duran, 17 with capital murder.

The informant, Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana, was shot several times at his home on May 15.

Both Dorado and Duran told detectives that Apodaca was the one paid to carry out the execution. Witness accounts along with the police investigation have confirmed this.

Pfc. Apodaca enlisted in the Army in September 2008. He is stationed with the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Bliss.

While this is the first known instance of a U.S. soldier working as an assassin for the drug cartels, this may simply be a consequence of the evolving threat posed to this country by the cartels, as well as a result of the criminal gang activity which now exists in the U.S. military.

In April 2009, the FBI released a statement on the growing problem of gangs in the military, and the threat they now pose to U.S. police officers. What follows is an excerpt from that statement:

"Gang members with military training pose a unique threat to law enforcement personnel because of the distinctive military skills that they possess and their willingness to teach these skills to fellow gang members. While the number of gang members trained by the military is unknown, the threat that they pose to law enforcement is potentially significant, particularly if gang members trained in weapons, tactics, and planning pass this instruction on to other gang members."

The National Gang Assessment Center has identified the following Latino street and prison gangs as having gang members who were trained in the U.S. military:

  • 18th Street Gang
  • Florencia 13
  • Latin Kings
  • Mexican Mafia (La Eme)
  • MS 13
  • Norteños
  • Sureños

The military does not currently keep data on gang activity within their ranks. However, FBI gang investigator Jennifer Simon said in a recent article: "Gang membership in the U.S. Armed Forces is disproportional to the U.S. population."

The prevailing estimate among most experts is that out of every 100 people who enter the military, at least two are gang members.

One of the reasons for the increasing number of gang members joining the military, is the fact that the lowering of recruiting standards, mainly by the Army. Of course, this is due to the two wars dragging on in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of California, between 2003 and 2006, recruiters allowed 4,230 convicted criminals into the Army.

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