Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias "El Chayo" or "The Craziest One" (El Mas Loco) was a founding member of the Familia Michoacana and later a leader of the Knights Templar criminal organization. He was falsely reported killed in a confrontation with security forces in 2010, but this claim was debunked when, on March 9, 2014, government officials confirmed his death in a shootout in the Pacific state of Michoacan.
Moreno is believed to have been one of the original commanders of the Milenio Cartel, and contributed a great deal to the Familia's cult-like reputation. He was a devout evangelical, allegedly inspired by Christian writer John Eldredge’s “Wild At Heart.” Members of the Familia were reportedly required to study a book of Moreno’s own quasi-spiritual writings entitled “Thoughts,” which includes New Age maxims like “Don't view your obstacles as problems, but accept them and discover in them the opportunity to improve yourself.” Moreno also cited religious fundamentalist Carlos Cuauhtemoc Sanchez and motivational speaker Miguel Angel Cornejo as inspirations.
He is rumored to have been born in Apatzingan, Michoacan, and to have migrated to California for several years, working in Palo Alto, Fresno and San Jose. He reportedly trafficked marijuana at the border of Tamaulipas and was arrested once in McAllen, Texas, on drug trafficking charges. As a member of the Milenio Cartel, Moreno may have been the driving force behind the rebellion that ejected the Zetas from Michoacan. In a rare media interview with leading Mexican magazine Nexos, he emphasized the Familia's “social work” in the state, and justified the group’s control of the local drug trade by declaring, “what we want to do is regulate it, so that the people are not exploited.”
Moreno was reported killed in a police shootout in Apatzingan, Michoacan on December 12, 2010. However, years after his reported death, rumors continued to circulate that the cartel leader was still alive, and working on behalf of the Knights Templar criminal organization, which emerged as a Familia Michoacana splinter group shortly after El Chayo disappeared. These rumors were stoked when an alleged financial operator of El Chayo was arrested in Michoacan in February 2014.
The mystery surrounding El Chayo's 2010 "death" was brought to an abrupt end when Mexican marines and members of the army killed the drug trafficker in a shootout on March 9, 2014 in Tumbiscatio, Michoacan. Government sources said fingerprint tests had proved beyond doubt that the dead man was El Chayo.
- William Finnegan, "Silver or Lead," New Yorker, 31 May 2010.
- Steve Fainaru and William Booth, "A Mexican Cartel's Swift and Grisly Time," Washington Post, 13 June 2009.
- George W. Grayson, "La Familia: Another Deadly Mexican Syndicate," Foreign Policy Research Institute, February 2009.
- Alejandro Suverza, "El Evangelio Según la Familia," Nexos, January 2009. (Spanish)