El Universal reports on the emergence in Mexico City of thugs-for-hire who impersonate cartel members in order to intimidate their clients' rivals.

For a price, these fake cartel hitmen can be used to carry out evictions, ward off jealous ex-boyfriends, and discourage workers from filing lawsuits against their bosses. According to the El Universal video report below, they have imitated members of the major drug trafficking organizations, from the Familia Michoacana to the Zetas.

Many are open about their services. One of the impersonators interviewed by El Universal, “Hector,” solicits clients right next to the Mexican Supreme Court, in the center of the city. Although he masquerades as a mover, his real occupation is an open secret amongst local police. His wife passes out business cards bearing his cell phone.

Their services are not limited to intimidation, and many actually follow up on their threats. One, “Anibal,” recounts as part of his pitch how he sent three individuals to hospital.

As for the nature of their clients, El Universal reports that while some are individuals with personal disputes, most have business matters to settle. Many are representatives of development companies, interested in buying up real estate at sub-market prices. The biggest portion of their income comes from lawyers, however, who hire the intimidators to recover property, carry out evictions, and even to deliver subpoenas.

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The existence of such a service is a testament to the level of fear associated with drug trafficking organizations like the Zetas and the Familia Michoacana.

The identity of the clients of these impersonators is equally disconcerting. If lawyers must rely on thugs and extortionists to enforce justice, it does not bode well for the future of Mexico’s already rickety justice system.

By capitalizing on the reputation of groups like these, however, intimidators are putting themselves at considerable risk. None of these organizations is likely to take kindly to imposters using their name. If discovered, they risk incurring the very wrath with which they threaten others.