Colombia Arrests Top Figure in Medellín Underworld
Juan Carlos Mesa Vallejo, also known as “Tom” or “Carlos Chata,” was arrested on 9 December 2017 while celebrating his 50th birthday. He was charged with aggravated criminal association, illegally carrying military-grade weapons and use of false documents. The recent arrest of one of the top criminal figures in Medellin, Colombia, is unlikely to have a major impact on the city’s underworld, but it could incentivise other suspects to adopt a low profile.
Vallejo, a career criminal from Bello, a town just north of Medellin, is thought to have taken a leading role within the powerful Oficina de Envigado criminal group earlier this decade. He is being held in isolation after having been transferred to a Bogota prison. According to El Colombiano, he will likely be extradited to the United States.
Another famous criminal was also present at the birthday party where Vallejo was arrested: Jhon Jairo Velásquez, alias “Popeye,” a self-confessed hitman for Pablo Escobar who spent more than 23 years in prison before turning himself into a political activist and internet sensation. His presence at a drug capo’s birthday celebration along with other top figures of the Medellin underworld appears to contradict the terms of his parole, meaning the attention-seeking former assassin could once again find himself behind bars.
Vallejo criminal career began with the “Chatas” gang, which he helped create in the 1990s and which he would later lead. Under the rule of Diego Fernando Murillo, alias “Don Berna,” the successor to Pablo Escobar’s empire, the Chatas would come under the banner of the Oficina and develop into a more powerful criminal structure.
In 2014, the US Treasury Department put Vallejo on its “Kingpin List.” And in 2015, the agency blacklisted the Chatas for “narcotics trafficking and violence in support of the Oficina de Envigado.” By 2016, the US was offering a $2 million reward for information that could lead to Vallejo’s arrest.
For more on this, please see Insight Crime.