The 13 suspects detained in the Segmex operation

Security forces in Mexico have arrested 13 people who allegedly coerced prospective employees of a fake private security firm into becoming drug dealers and hitmen for the Jalisco Cartel, which according to authorities is a sign the group is changing its recruiting practices.

Jesus Eduardo Almaguer Ramirez, attorney general of Jalisco state, announced on March 9 that law enforcement operations in the cities of Lagos de Moreno and San Juan de Los Lagos targeted the fake security company known as Segmex, reported Proceso.

The operations resulted in the arrests of 13 suspects, including one US citizen who was allegedly responsible for recruiting private security guards and body guards for the imaginary company, reported El Universal. Recruits were offered a starting weekly salary of 3,000 Mexican pesos (roughly 168 US dollars), and former law enforcement and military agents were promised an increase in pay.

But when prospective employees responded to the advertisements, they were sent off to receive weapons training for two weeks before being inducted into a Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) cell, where they were reportedly used as hitmen or drug traffickers. 

Almaguer Ramirez said that the initial investigation stemmed from a complaint his office received about Segmex workers who had kidnapped a man that had refused to work for the CJNG. The cartel demanded a ransom of one million pesos, and the man's family reported the kidnapping to authorities. 

InSight Crime Analysis

This case may provide some insight into the CJNG's standing among locals in the cartel's home base of Jalisco. During the press conference announcing the arrests, Almaguer Ramirez stated the CJNG had previously accepted recruits who offered to join the cartel of their own volition. Now, however, Almaguer Ramirez says the CJNG relies on threats and coercion to find new recruits. The attorney general added that his office will investigate whether similar situations are occurring elsewhere in Jalisco.

SEE ALSO: Profile of Jalisco Cartel - New Generation

It's also notable that the CJNG is actively recruiting former law enforcement and military officials, given the cartel gained international attention last April by ambushing and killing 15 police officers in Jalisco. The CJNG further ratched up its aggression against the state a month later when operatives shot down a military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG), killing five soldiers.