Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, alias “Chapo” or “Chapito” Isidro, is a relatively young, formerly low-profile figure believed to have operated in the Mexican underworld since the 1990s. His growing influence in Sinaloa state led the US Treasury Department to designate his network as a Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) in January 2013.
According to the United States government, Chapo Isidro has been trafficking large quantities of drugs out of Mexico since 2000, operating out of Guasave in Sinaloa state. Other reports claim that he began his criminal career working for Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the one time head of the Juarez Cartel who allegedly died in 1997 following plastic surgery. After Carrillo Fuentes’ death, Chapo Isidro began working with the Beltran Leyva Organization, at that time allied with what would later become their rival — the Sinaloa Cartel.
When Alfredo Beltran Leyva was detained in 2008, producing an acrimonious split between the faction led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and the remaining Beltran Leyva brothers, Chapo Isidro remained with the Beltran Leyvas.
Reports of Chapo’s criminal activities have begun to emerge with more frequency since 2011. In November of that year, he was linked to 32 allegedly corrupt police officers in Ahome, Sinaloa and was also implicated in the murder of 16 people whose burned corpses were found in trucks in Culiacan, slightly further south.
Chapo Isidro Factbox
DOB: June 9, 1982
Group: Meza Flores Network, Beltran Leyva Organization
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking, drug dealing, kidnapping, extortion, murder
Status: At large
Area of Operation: Sinaloa state, Mexico
Chapo Isidro’s exact role in Mexican organized crime continues to be murky. US authorities claim he runs his own organization — the Meza Flores network — which operates in Guasave and surrounding towns in northern Sinaloa state, in the geographic area known as the “Golden Triangle,” Mexico’s drug producing heartland. The group, in which a number of Chapo’s family members are also cited as playing key roles, has allegedly trafficked large quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin to the US since 2000.
In the statement issued by the US Treasury, the body blamed rivalry between Chapo Isidro and Chapo Guzman for causing the quadrupling of drug-war killings over four years in Sinaloa state. According to Borderland Beat, this war was spurred by the betrayal of one of Chapo Isidro’s associates, who deserted and went to work for the Sinaloa Cartel.
Other reports indicate Chapo Isidro was the right hand man to the now captured Hector Beltran Leyva and served as a high-level hit man for the larger cartel, leading a group known as the “Mazatlecos.” His support is believed to havehelped the BLO maintain control of a small fraction of Sinaloa state despite ongoing fighting with the Sinaloa Cartel. Chapo and his group have allegedly clashed with and defeated the “Los Anthrax” cell of the Sinaloa Cartel, and they were also cited as major players and victors in a shootout with Sinaloa Cartel enforcers in Tubutama, Sonora state. Chapo Isidro’s group is thought to control ranches and farms that produce marijuana and opium poppies for the BLO. After the arrest of Hector Beltran in 2014, numerous reports speculated Cahpo Isidro would be crowned the new head of the BLO, although it is unlikely he could assert centralized authority over the entire organization.
Further reports identify Chapo Isidro as the head of a group called the “Oficina,” which has a reported presence in Baja California Sur.This group is allegedly composed of members originating from the Familia Michoacana, the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, and the BLO. Jesus Manuel Reyes Flores, alias “El Negro,” an alleged member of the Oficina arrested in 2012, told authorities that the group had murdered dozens of local drug dealers in the municipality of Los Cabos in Baja California Sur.
Chapo Isidro has allegedly pulled local police and other authorities into his network, affording him some protection through pay-offs in his areas of operation.
He has also proved elusive. A 2010 army operation in Choix, Sinaloa ended in two soldiers and 12 gunmen dead, but Chapo escaped. In December 2013, one of his top deputies, Ignacio “Nacho” Gonzalez, was captured and another 12 alleged members of the Mazatlecos were killed in July 2014, among them some high-level members of the structure, in an operation aimed at Chapo Isidro’s capture.
The US designation demonstrated an increased international awareness of Chapo’s activities and indicated that his influence was growing, and Mexican authorities appear to have trained their eye on him as well. While it remains unclear whether the Meza Flores network can truly be considered a DTO in its own right or if he heads a faction of the BLO network, now that Chapo Guzman has been captured Chapo Isidro’s group could be well-positioned to seize more power and territory in Mexico’s drug trafficking heartland of Sinaloa.
Chapo Isidro is allegedly involved in transnational drug trafficking to the US, as well as power struggles for local drug “plazas.” He is also thought to work as the muscle behind the BLO in Sinaloa state.
Chapo’s main area of influence is northern Sinaloa state, though there are reports he has a presence in Baja California Sur.
Allies and Enemies
Chapo Isidro’s most notable enemy is the Sinaloa Cartel. His main ally is the BLO.
With the BLO weakened and plagued by infighting and external rivalries, events such as the US designation of Chapo Isidro’s group as a DTO and the capture of Chapo Guzman could mean his influence is growing and that he could be poised to strike out on his own or take control of at least part of the BLO network. However, an increased public profile has come with increased attentions from the security forces, and it may become increasingly difficult for Chapo Isidro to operate freely.