One of the godfathers of Mexican drug trafficking looks set to see out the last ten years of his sentence in the comfort of his own home after a federal court granted him permission to be held under house arrest earlier this month.
Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, better known as “Don Neto,” was one of the most prominent leaders of the Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s first dominant drug-trafficking organization, throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
He was arrested in Puerto Vallarta in 1985 and sentenced to 40 years of imprisonment for his role in the abduction, torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in Guadalajara earlier that year.
One of the most infamous crimes in the history of Mexico’s drug war, the killing provoked the largest manhunt in DEA history and soon led to the breakup of the Guadalajara Cartel.
The granting of house arrest is the culmination of eight years of injunctions filed by Fonseca’s lawyers, who claim the law justifies his release because he suffers from hypertension, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and blindness in one eye.
Federal authorities are currently investigating which of Fonseca’s many homes have the appropriate security features to meet the conditions for house arrest, although his release is still dependent on the outcome of an appeal filed by federal prosecutors who want to keep him in prison.
Fonseca’s probable release comes just two years after his former partner, Rafael Caro Quintero, was controversially freed just 28 years into his own 40-year sentence.
Also convicted over Camarena’s murder, Caro Quintero was suddenly released at 2am one Friday morning in August 2013 after a judge in Jalisco overturned his conviction on a technicality.
Fonseca was born in 1930 in Badiraguato, Sinaloa, the same remote mountain municipality as the notorious Sinaloa Cartel boss, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
He is the uncle of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who became known as “The Lord of the Skies” for the fleet of Boeing 727s he used to import tons of Colombian cocaine. Once one of the world’s wealthiest drug-traffickers, Carrillo Fuentes is thought to have died in mysterious circumstances after undergoing plastic surgery in 1997, although rumors persist that he faked his death to slip into retirement.
Fonseca is currently being held in Guadalajara’s maximum-security Puente Grande prison — the same facility that Guzmán infamously escaped from in the first of his two daring jailbreaks in 2001.
Prior to Caro Quintero’s release, he and Fonseca shared a cell where legend has it they held wild parties after paying off the prison staff. On one occasion in 1985, they reportedly imported nine cases of wine and hired two live bands from Sinaloa to play in their cell for 12 hours straight.
Two years later, Caro Quintero reportedly dug a tunnel leading to a nearby property he had bought, although it was discovered before he could escape.
Having fled the Puente Grande by hiding in a laundry cart or buying a police escort, Guzmán perfected Caro Quintero’s method the next time he found himself behind bars. Little more than a year after being recaptured, he escaped from another maximum-security prison in Mexico State through a mile-long tunnel in July.