Urabeños commander alias "El Negro Sarley"

One of the Urabeños' top commanders was killed in a shootout with police in the organization's native Uraba region, in a serious blow to the most powerful of Colombia's new-generation criminal groups.

On his Twitter account, President Juan Manuel Santos said Francisco Morelo Peñata, alias "El Negro Sarley," was the Urabeños' "military boss and second-in-command." He was reportedly the brother-in-law of the group's top leader, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel."

Police told press that El Negro Sarley had participated in massacres and was responsible for multiple homicides and large-scale drug trafficking.

Prior to his death, El Negro Sarley was in charge of moving drug shipments out of Colombia and into Panama via the gulf of Uraba, reported Semana. Morelo had remained constantly on the move in the countryside to evade authorities, traveling by mule and never staying in one place for more than a day.

InSight Crime Analysis

El Negro Sarley was a key member of the small group that make up the Urabeños' top command, and his death will be a significant loss to the organization. 

Like many of the other current and former leaders of the Urabeños, he began as a member of now-demobilized guerrilla group the Popular Liberation Army (EPL). After the EPL disbanded, many fighters, including El Negro Sarley and the Usuga brothers, joined up with the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) before becoming leaders of the new-generation BACRIM ("bandas criminales" or "criminal bands") after the AUC demobilized.

In November 2012, police sources reported that Morelo had relocated to Panama to oversee the Urabeños' money laundering network and rebuild the group's regional alliances. Previously, he had been the Urabeños' top commander in the department of Choco, which joins Colombia's Pacific coast to the Caribbean.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Prev Next

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...