Carlos Oliva Castillo, known as “Frog,” was captured Wednesday in the northern city of Saltillo, where he allegedly ran drug-trafficking operations over several states, said Col. Ricardo Trevilla, spokesman for the armed forces.
Gunmen sought to rescue Oliva by trying to distract soldiers with gunfire around the city, authorities said. Hours-long shooting rattled residents and prompted city officials to ask people to remain indoors for much of the day.
Trevilla described Oliva as “one of the most important leaders” of the Zetas, and said he ranked just below the two men in charge of the group, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano and Miguel Angel Trevino Morales.
Authorities say Oliva, 37, is suspected of giving the order to torch a casino in the northern city of Monterrey in August. That daytime blaze trapped scores of people, many of them middle-aged and older women, and left 52 people dead. Authorities have said the fire may have been tied to an extortion attempt.
Oliva is alleged to have joined the Zetas in 2005 in the border state of Tamaulipas, working to relay drugs north to the United States. Officials said he later helped oversee money collection, and at the time of his capture was in charge of smuggling across the northern border states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila.
Two other suspects, including a woman described as Oliva’s girlfriend, were also arrested. Authorities recovered several rifles and handguns and a 10-pound packet of marijuana.
-- Ken Ellingwood
Photo: Carlos Oliva Castillo, right, a suspected top leader of the Zetas crime gang who was captured in northern Mexico, with a Mexican military official on Thursday. Credit: EPA.