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Wolf Boys: How two American teens were trained as brutal hitmen by Mexico’s most murderous drug cartel

September 4, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Wolf Boys: How two American teens were trained as brutal hitmen by Mexico’s most murderous drug cartel

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Gabriel Cardona, a Texas native, along with his crew of teenage assassins were captured by federal authorities just before they could unleash the murderous Mexican drug wars to Laredo. The unbelievable story is outlined in graphic detail in seasoned journalist Dan Slater’s book, “Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel.”

The tale starts in the mid-1990s after of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shut down the cocaine-trafficking corridors between Colombia and South Florida. As a result, 90% of cocaine and a significant amount of meth that found its way into the United States was now transported through Mexico.

One of the nation’s poorest areas, Laredo, Texas, which is just across the border from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, soon became one of the most lucrative drug trafficking routes.

In 2004, Nuevo Laredo was taken over by the Los Zetas drug cartel. Former elite Mexican Army commandos who deserted to form the cruel paramilitary enforcement faction of the Gulf Cartel, whose regional head was Miguel “Z40” Trevino.


Gabriel Cardona was 17, a poor kid from Laredo, Texas, when he was inducted along with 70 other Zetas recruits at a Mexican training camp in 2004.

Trevino openly confessed to being responsible for over 800 slayings, including one where he murdered a man, and then made the victim’s brother eat the slain man’s brain.

He and his armed killers were involved in a corpse-strewn conflict with the Sinaloa Cartel to gain control of Laredo.

Gabriel Cardona, a 17-year-old underprivileged kid from Laredo, was enlisted along with 70 additional Zetas wannabes at a Mexican training camp in 2004. He was especially appreciated as an American citizen who was able to cross the border with impunity.

At a six-month boot camp, former Mexican, Colombian, and Honduran soldiers taught the young Zetas combat skills, weapons training, and military tactics. Despite the fact that most of the recruits volunteered for non-combat posts, Cardona was only among a few who was in training to become an armed assassin, otherwise known as a sicario.

Cardona was given the choice of a shovel, sledgehammer or machete as his weapon, and was given a live Sinaloan hostage. The weapon was employed only to bring down the hostage, but killing needed to be done with one’s own hands.

The teenage assassins, who were given the name “the Wolf Boys” by Slater, made $500 a week. The paycheck came with commissions that reached as high as $10,000 if the victim was of great value.

teen sicario

Rosalio Reta was recruited by the Los Zetas drug cartel at the age of 13

Cardona’s and a second American citizen were selected to carry out two $5,000 commission jobs in Laredo. The first scapegoat was a Mexican police officer, Bruno Orozco, who deserted the Zetas to follow a Sinaloan chief, Chuy Resendez, in Laredo.

The teens assassinated Orozco on the side of a busy road in the middle of the day. Most of the Zetas’ crew escaped, but Cardona soon found himself questioned at the Laredo police station by Detective Robert Garcia.

After making up a story to justify his presence at the murder scene, Gabriel Cardona was exceptionally chatty about his experience as a Zeta soldier. Nonetheless, the judge granted his release on bail.

After he had returned to Nuevo Laredo, Cardona became the most entrusted sicario to carry out challenging missions. He was on his way to becoming a commander of his own plaza in a Mexican city and was expecting to make up to $1 million a year.

As the young Zeta became a leader in Laredo, he was now permitted to recruit his own team of sicarios and decided to bring in his childhood friend Rosalio “Bart” Reta.

Cardona did not know that Reta had already joined the Zetas at just 13-years-old, and was heavily influenced by the widely feared Trevino.

In Laredo, authorities feared cartel violence was spilling over the border because of the city’s growing number of disappearing men . Since 2004, the FBI has reported 100 cases of American citizens missing in Nuevo Laredo.

Picture taken from a video released by Mexican Navy showing alleged maximun leader of drugs Mexican cartel "Los Zetas", Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, aka "El Z 40" escorted by marines upon his arrival at the Deputy Attorney Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SEIDO) in Mexico City on July 16, 2013. According to a spokesman Trevino Morales was arrested on July 15, during a military operation en Nuevo Laredo. AFP PHOTO/ HO/MEXICAN NAVYHO/AFP/Getty Images

Picture taken from a video released by Mexican Navy showing “Los Zetas” leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, aka “El Z 40” escorted by marines following his July 2013 arrest 

Cardona could account for at least two of the missing persons, and reportedly abducted two American teens linked to the Sinaloa Cartel from a nightclub and battered them to death.

All the while, Garcia began to step up his investigation into Cardona, and Reta started threatening the lives of the man, his wife, and kids. An Arizona law enforcement official found out that an informant advised them that there was a $500,000 price tag on Garcia’s head.

In 2006, Z40 commanded Gabriel Cardona to assemble and head up an American crew of armed sicarios to “chase and slaughter” ‘Forty’s” Top 40 targets in Laredo, Texas.

U.S. Attorney Angel Moreno and Garcia went into overdrive after getting wind of the imminent massacre from a source tasked with setting up a safe house.

Authorities sought to wiretap the residence to learn who exactly was on the Top 40 list. However, the crew made their first hit before the judge signed the papers.

During that period, the sicarios murdered top Sinaloa associate, Resendez, firing as many as 90 rounds into his Dodge Ram on a highway.

Cardona recognized that authorities were tracking him, but he seemed indifferent. In a conversation with a whiny girlfriend, he acknowledged his role in the Resendez hit, while investigators listened intently.

The following day, Cardona told the informant that their next target was an individual named Checo, a Sinaloan smuggler. However, soon after, stun grenades followed by federal agents invaded the safe house.

Gabriel Cardona pleaded guilty to the four recorded murders in the United States. At his sentence sentencing, Moreno noted that the killing rate in Laredo had been cut in half since his arrest three years prior.

"Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel" by Dan Slater.

“Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel” by Dan Slater.

The judge added although Cardona was not in charge of Los Zetas, he was the leader of the Laredo operation, and subsequently sentenced him to 80 years behind bars.

In 2006, Reta shot up a nightclub in Monterrey, murdering four and injuring others against the wishes of Trevino. Reta was arrested in Mexico. Fearing for his life inside a Mexican jail, he immediately reached out to the very man they had threatened, Detective Robert Garcia, and a DEA agent, Chris Diaz, pleading to be extradited.

Reta, who allegedly committed as many as 30 killings, would subsequently cooperate and receive 70 years in prison for two murders he committed.

During a chilling videotaped confession, he described the thrill he felt each time he killed and spoke nonchalantly about feeding his live victims to white tigers or having them burned alive in oil drums.

“I like what I do; I don’t deny it. It was like being Superman or James Bond,” Reta told Garcia during his interrogation.

The detective explained the false allure that attracts young teens to the cartels.

“They (cartels) just seduce you, by waving that power, the cash, the cars, the easy money. And these kids all have that romantic notion they are going to live forever.” Garcia said.

Wolf Boys: Two Americans Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Cartel” by Dan Slater is on sale Sept. 13.

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