An important financial operator for the Sinaloa cartel and two other inmates facing extradition to the U.S. who escaped from a Mexico City prison were driven out of the penitentiary in a jail transport van, city officials said Thursday.
The escape is stoking debate over a judicial system that critics say is being manipulated to criminals’ advantage. Video of Wednesday’s escape shows it occurred at 5:50 a.m. and yet supervisors were not alerted until 8 a.m.
Officials in Mexico’s capital say that city jails are not the appropriate facilities for high-value prisoners and that judges are allowing inmates to manipulate the system, enabling them to be transferred to or remain in lower-security lockups.
Mexico City Interior Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said that at the end of the jail’s second shift, when a head count is supposed to be taken at 7:45 a.m., the report was that nothing was amiss. The alarm was not raised until the next shift began at 8 a.m.
Ulises Lara, spokesman for the capital’s prosecutor’s office, said the preliminary investigation suggested eight jail workers did not follow procedures and thus allowed the escape.
Icela Rodríguez said the jail’s director and head of security had been dismissed.
The biggest name among the escapees was Victor Manuel Félix Beltrán, who was designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2015 under the Kingpin Act. The designation described him as a “high-ranking Sinaloa cartel trafficker, who operates from Culiacan and Guadalajara.” It noted that he was the son of drug trafficker Victor Felix Felix, who moved cocaine and laundered money for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The Mexico City prosecutor’s office said in a statement that Luis Fernando Meza González and Yael Osuna Navarro were the other two escapees.
Icela Rodríguez said the men’s cells were unlocked and they cut through a bar to drop down to a common area. They scaled two walls and managed to get into a vehicle within the prison compound. The vehicle was not checked when it departed through a guarded exit.
The guards driving the van had orders to transport another prisoner to a hospital and city surveillance cameras show the van driving to the hospital. However, they did not capture the moment in which the prisoners got out of the van, she said.