Servando Gomez Martinez, alias “La Tuta,” was a former high-ranking member of the Familia Michoacana, who split from the group following the supposed death of top commander Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias “El Chayo,” in December 2010. Following a two-year manhunt for La Tuta, the drug lord was captured by an elite police force in February 2015.
Gomez was originally a schoolteacher from Arteaga, Michoacan, which inspired his other alias, “El Profe” or the professor. As recently as December 2010, he was still on federal payroll for his teaching job.
In the public arena, Gomez was a fervent promoter of the Familia’s vigilante ideology, and claimed the group’s ultimate purpose was to protect Michoacan from unwelcome outsiders, namely, the Zetas, a rival criminal gang that trained the original members of the Familia before the group became independent.
During a phone interview with a local TV program, “Voz y Solucion,” in 2009, Gomez praised President Felipe Calderon and the Army, then claimed the Familia’s only grievances were with the Zetas and the Federal Police for “attacking our families.” Members of the Familia followed a strict behavioral code and those who disobeyed were “made to pay,” he added, unlike the Zetas, about whom he said: “Most of them are drug addicts.”
La Tuta Factbox
DOB: February 6, 1966
Group: Knights Templar
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking, extortion, illegal arms possession
Area of Operation: Michoacan, Mexico
After his split from the Familia — whose remnants were led by Jose de Jesus Mendez, alias “El Chango” — Gomez headed the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), a drug trafficking organization with the same quasi-religious sensibility and faux-moral codes as the Familia. The Caballeros announced their appearance in March 2011, and for a while seemed ascendent over the Familia, with Mendez in jail and many analysts considering the old group to be effectively out of action. However, the government soon came down hard on the Knights Templar. The organization also faced pressure from the multiple citizen militia groups that formed in Michoacan throughout 2013 and 2014.
Gomez’s nephew, girlfriend, mother and brother were all arrested between July and August 2009. That same year, a New York grand jury indicted Gomez for drug trafficking. While Gomez continued to release statements to the public via social media, including one vow that he would never surrender, he was arrested in Morelia, Michoacan in February 2015.
In many respects, La Tuta’s capture spelled the end for the Knights Templar as a powerful crimininal organization in Mexico.
La Tuta is reportedly charged by Mexican authorities with methamphetamine and marijuana trafficking, as well as posession of military weaponry and ammunition. La Tuta’s Knights Templar are also heavily involved in extortion operations in Michoacan.
Prior to his capture, La Tuta was based in Michoacan and Guerrero, and coordinated drug shipments through Baja California.
Allies and Enemies
La Tuta professed to standing up against other Mexican drug trafficking groups such as the Zetas, who inflicted harm on the general population. With the backing of government security forces, self-defense groups have driven the Knights Templar out of several cities in Michoacan. It is believed a significant number of Knights Templar operatives have moved on to other criminal groups, including the self-defense forces.
The Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG) is the newest criminal group challenging the supremacy of the Knights Templar in southwest Mexico.
La Tuta is reportedly wanted in the United States not only on drug trafficking charges, but also for either being a terrorist or belonging to a terrorist organization. This classification is typically reserved for members of illegal Colombian armed groups the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). However, considering chilly US-Mexico relations surrounding extraditions, it remains to be seen if La Tuta will ever face prison time in the United States.