Known as the “Wolf Boys,” two American teens became some of the deadliest hitmen in Mexico’s ongoing drug war – bringing violence to both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
In his new book, “Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel,” former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Slater paints a picture of the brutal lives of Gabriel Cardona and Rosito (Bart) Reta during their time as assasins for the notorious Zetas cartel.
Cardona was the first to join the Zetas a group made up of former Mexican Special Forces offices-turned-drug traffickers – when in 2004 at the age of 17 the poor kid from Laredo, Texas was taken alongside 70 other recruits to a Zetas training camp.
Highly valued by the Zetas for his ability to easily cross the U.S. border thanks to his American citizenship, Cardona was taught combat skills by Colombian mercenaries before being selected to be a sicario – or assassin – for the cartel.
Cardona, who earned $500 a week for the cartel plus up to $10,000 for every hit he carried out, first made his way onto the U.S. law enforcement radar when he and another U.S. teen were assigned two $5,000 commission jobs in Laredo.
The first hit was on Bruno Orozco, a corrupt Mexican cop who had defected from the Zetas to join the rival Sinaloa boss. The hit took place in broad daylight in Laredo and, while most of his cohorts were able to escape, Cardona was picked up and taken to Laredo police station for questioning.
While the sicario was plenty talkative about his job with the Zetas, he fibbed out a tale about why he was at the murder scene and was soon free on bond.
When Cardona returned to Mexico he learned that he was now a commander in Laredo and could recruit his own members. One of the first one’s he chose was his childhood friend Reta, who appeared to relish in the bloody work.
Reta joined the Zetas at age 13 and had become known as a killing machine – wiping out one suspected smuggler in his car while his wife and 3-year-old child looked on.
While the two continued their bloody path both in the U.S. and in Mexico, Garcia and law enforcement in Laredo stepped up their efforts to haul in the suspected sicarios just as the Zetas were preparing to take out 40 people on Treviño’s hit list.
In 2006, through a series of wiretaps and information from informants, cops tracked Cardona to a Laredo safe house where they cuffed him. He eventually pleaded guilty to the four known murders in the U.S. and was sentenced to 80 years behind bars.
Laredo U.S. Attorney Angel Moreno noted that the murder rate in the border city had dropped by half since his arrest three years before.
Reta – who eventually went rogue from the Zetas and shot up a nightclub in Monterrey, killing four – was eventually arrested in Mexico and extradited to the U.S. He is rumored to have committed 30 murders and bragged in the interrogation room about feeding live humans to white tigers. He was eventually sentenced 70 years in prison.