Drug cartel leader’s trial continues at locked-down Waco federal building

Juan Francisco Treviño Chávez, Jr. (Booking photo)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Testimony continued at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at a locked-down federal courthouse in Waco where a man prosecutors call a drug cartel leader is being tried under intensive courthouse security.

Juan Francisco Treviño Chávez, Jr., 38, a U.S. citizen, was arrested on Sept. 28, 2016 in Baytown, near Houston, on drug conspiracy charges, federal clerk’s records show and agents at the time said he was leader of the Cartel de Noreste, a Mexican drug cartel that supplies illegal drugs to the United States through Texas.

Chavez formally is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, but investigators believe he is responsible for moving thousands of kilograms of marijuana and cocaine into the United States and in the process laundering millions of dollars.

The government’s case against Chávez, also known as “Kiko” or “Comandante Kiko,” goes back to 2012, when a Mexican judge released him on a minor crime and he slipped back into the United States.

Chávez is the nephew of former Zetas boss Miguel Angel “Z-40” Treviño Morales and Omar Trevino, and he is presumed to have moved into the premier leader position, after the arrests of his uncles in Coahuila and Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

His uncles’ arrests caused a rift within the Los Zetas cartel which left Kiko as head in the “CDN” (cartel de noreste) and the splinter group is called “Vieja Escuela Z” (Old School Zetas).

Kiko is the second in his family to be tried in a U.S. court, after another uncle, Jose Treviño, was convicted in a 2016 trial in Austin for laundering the Zetas’ drug money through quarter horse racing.

Kiko is the son of Juan Francisco Trevino, the eldest Trevino brother, who was released just two years ago after serving a 20 year federal prison sentence in the United States.

Kiko’s younger brother now is in charge, and “The younger Juan, is known to be a brutal leader, evident by the horrific violence that has plagued Tamaulipas since the clash of the two groups,” a recent MSNBC report said.

“His (Juan’s) uncles kept him in check while they were at the helm, once he began as premier leader, grotesque killings and dismemberments returned and becoming the norm once again, much like when Heriberto Lazcano (Lazca) was alive and in charge of ‘Sicarios.’”

Kiko operated out of Laredo, Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, and Coahuila, where CDN remains prominent.

The local newspaper in Tamaulipas, Valor por Tamaulipas, is following the Waco trial closely and in Tuesday’s edition said: “Some of the Zetas’ original members are expected to testify for the U.S. government about how Kiko Treviño allegedly helped the Zetas control large swaths of the northern Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila, which border Texas, from its home base of Nuevo Laredo.

“The cartel used Interstate 35 as a corridor to points north, sometimes dropping drug shipments in San Antonio or other cities along the way, according to federal agents.”

Because of Chavez’s prior associations, the U.S. Marshal’s Service stepped up security at the building located at South 8th Street and Franklin Avenue, in Waco, although USMS has not disclosed to what degree the upgraded security would be visible, or intrusive.

As yet unconfirmed reports indicate lanes of traffic on South 8th and in the 700 to 900 block of Franklin, which at that spot is one way, may be affected by closure during the trial, which could last a few days.

Waco police made no comment about their role in the security upgrade.

“I cannot confirm nor deny anything,” Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said when asked if Waco police had been tasked or made aware of any spike in security at 8th and Franklin.

A local law enforcement officer who has prior experience as a federal law officer said security at the courthouse building is the responsibility of USMA, but they can request help from other federal, state, county and local law enforcement if necessary.