Miguel Angel Trevino Morales

Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales (a.k.a. Z-40) is a Mexican drug lord and top leader of a criminal organization known as The Los Zetas Organization. Unlike the original founders of Los Zetas, Treviño Morales has no military experience, and instead worked for a local gang as a teenager before being recruited in the 1990s. Nonetheless, he is known by his adversaries and law enforcement officials for his violent reputation and as a "brutal assassin" responsible for being behind much of the violence in Mexico.

Treviño Morales is an important figure in the Zetas, who acted as regional boss of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas and as the second-in-command of the organization. Nonetheless, since early 2010, Treviño Morales began to have a bigger role in Los Zetas. Los Zetas are responsible for the smuggling of multi-ton quantities of cocaine, marijuana and heroin into the United States from Mexico annually.

He is currently on Mexico's most-wanted list, with a $30 million MXN ($2.3 million USD) reward offered to information leading to his arrest. The United States Department of State is offering up to $5 million USD ($62.4 million MXN) for his arrest and conviction.

Criminal careerEdit

Miguel Treviño was born on 18 November 1970 in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas but grew up in a large family with six brothers and six sisters in Dallas, Texas. As a teenager, he began to work for Los Tejas, a gang that controlled most of his hometown's crimes. He was arrested as a teenager in Dallas, where some of his family members now reside. He was never in the military, but he was hired in the 1990s by Los Zetas, the paramilitary wing of the Gulf Cartel, for his experience moving contraband across the border. Around 2005, Treviño Morales became the regional boss of Nuevo Laredo and was given the responsibility to fight off the incursions of The Sinaloa Cartel that were attempting to take control of the smuggling routes in the area. While in power, he orchestrated a number of assassinations in the United States by hiring young American citizens across the border.

With Treviño's help, Los Zetas have taken on sideline operations that go beyond narcotics trafficking: human smuggling, extortion, and gunrunning. In November 2007, the city of Laredo, Texas issued an arrest warrant for Treviño in connection with a 2006 double homicide in Texas, and the U.S. Department of Justice also released an indictment against Treviño for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine into the United States. In 2008, Miguel Treviño and Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, the two leaders of Los Zetas, forged an alliance with the Beltrán Leyva brothers. Government sources said the organization, along with Beltran Leyva's, were fighting for control against 'La Federacion' (The Federation), an alliance of drug trafficking organizations led by Joaquin Guzman Loera and by Ismael Zambarda Garcia, former allies of Beltrán Leyva.

Treviño Morales also acts as a cartel 'gate-keeper' and collects the 'piso' (tariff) at all drug plazas controlled by Los Zetas. He is currently in charge of the highly lucrative Nuevo Laredo plaza, across the border from Laredo, Texas. He bribes and intimidates officials to help maintain control, and puts down challenges violently. Treviño invokes such fear, very few local journalists dare to write about him. Treviño Morales' violent and fearsome reputation is well-earned; when getting rid of his victims, Treviño Morales favors a torture method known as the "guiso" (cook-out), where people are stuffed into an oil barrel, doused with gasoline, and then set on fire alive. His violent behavior helped him gain "the notoriety of a cult figure." Reports say that he would escape unharmed from gun battles, avoid making any alliances with anyone, dismember his victims while they were still alive and dump them in dozens, and "seemed unafraid to die." Reports from within the organization claim that Treviño Morales enjoyed driving around the city in a car and pointing at people randomly and saying, "kill this one and kill that one." Under Treviño Morales' leadership, Los Zetas are considered by the DEA to be highly sophisticated, advanced, and the most dangerous criminal organization operating in Mexico and the hemisphere.

Gulf-Zeta cartels splitEdit

In the late 1990s, Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the former leader of The Gulf Cartel, began recruiting members of the Mexican Army to protect his territory, personnel, and drug trafficking operations. These original deserters, who were known as Los Zetas, came from the Special Forces squadron of the army, arguably the best trained branch of the Mexican military. Upon the arrest and extradition of Cárdenas Guillén in 2003 and 2007 respectively, Los Zetas strengthen its role in the Gulf cartel, but managed to retain its alliance. Nonetheless, that alliance lasted until early 2010, when disagreements reached a turning point. On 18 January 2010, several members of the Gulf cartel kidnapped Víctor Peña Mendoza, a leader of Los Zetas nicknamed Concord 3 and a close associate and friend of Treviño Morales, alias Z-40. When he was held captive, Peña Mendoza was asked to switch alliances and join the Gulf cartel, but he refused, earning a beating and an execution, presumably carried out by Samuel Flores Borrego.

Treviño Morales heard about the incident and issued an ultimatum to Flores Borrego and Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez: "Hand over the assassin of my friend, you son of a bitch ... You have until the 25th, if you don't comply, there will be war."  Both of the Gulf cartel leaders ignored the command, and Treviño Morales did not wait to avenge the death of his friend. On 30 January 2010, Treviño Morales kidnapped and slaughtered 16 Gulf cartel members in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, marking the start of the cartel war between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas in the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, and Veracruz that has left thousands of people killed. Los Zetas used violent and intimidatory tactics to expand, emerging with a notorious reputation as Mexico's most violent drug trafficking organization. Nonetheless, it managed to take control of most of the territories owned by the Gulf cartel when they had essentially served as a single organization.

Los Zetas infightingEdit

In a flurry of articles on late August 2012, a U.S. law enforcement official told the press that Treviño Morales, the former second-in-command of Los Zetas, had successfully taken the leadership of the cartel and displaced Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, the long-time leader. Due to his violent and confronting personality, Treviño Morales began to take over the assets of Los Zetas and removing Lazcano as the head since early 2010.

At the beginning, Lazcano was happy to have a man like Treviño Morales in his ranks, but he reportedly underestimated him and gave him too much power. The active role of Treviño Morales got him the loyalty and respect of many in Los Zetas, and eventually many stopped paying to Lazcano. Personality-wise, Treviño Morales and Lazcano are opposing figures; Treviño Morales tends to prefer violence, while Lazcano is a lot steadier, and prefers to keep his organization as a stable group. Lazcano reportedly wants Los Zetas to be less of a problem for the next political administration of Enrique Peña Nieto; in contrast, "[Treviño Morales] is someone who wants to fight the fight." Los Zetas are inherently an unstable organized crime group with a long history of brutal violence, and with the possibility of more if the infighting continues and if they fight off without a central command.

It was later confirmed, however, that Treviño Morales and Lazcano had actually kept their alliance, and that the rumors of the infighting started when several men of Treviño Morales' faction did not want him as leader.


Miguel's brother José Treviño Morales was arrested on 12 June 2012 by a combined U.S. federal task force. He has been indicted as one of the money launderers for the Zetas through an Oklahoma-based American Quarter Horse racing operation. His son Alejandro Treviño Chávez was killed during a shootout in the state of Coahuila on 5 October 2012 by a law enforcement group.

His other brother, Omar Treviño Morales, is a high-level leader in Los Zetas, and the United States government is offering up to $5 million USD ($62.4 million MXN) for information that leads to his arrest and conviction. He is responsible for several murders and kidnappings carried out in Nuevo Laredo between 2005 and 2006.

Miguel's older brother, Juan Francisco Treviño Morales, is currently imprisoned in the United States; his son and nephew of Miguel, Juan Francisco Treviño Chávez, alias El Quico, was arrested in Monterrey on 15 June 2012.


There is a bounty for Treviño in Mexico set at $30 million MXN ($2.3 million USD) and another one in U.S.A. set at up to $5 million USD ($62.4 million MXN).

Treviño Morales is known by various aliases: L-40 (40, Z-40, Zeta 40), Comandante Cuarenta, El Cuarenta, David Estrada-Corado, and La Mona.