Los Priscos

Christopher was locked up in La Modelo with Los Priscos, the paisa gang of assassins who carried out the Medellin Cartel’s most high profile murders in Bogota.

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Los Priscos - bosses and managers
Los Priscos – bosses and managers
Los Priscos – jailed assassins
Los Priscos – dead assassins

This from Semana’s “Como Los ‘Pescaron'” (How They Caught Them):

The country, which seemed resigned to impunity for motorcycle murders, was surprised last week with a story that sounded like a burst of bullets. The investigation into the murder of Justice Hernando Baquero Borda has succeeded and, finally, there are arrests.

Although the criminal mastermind was obvious from the beginning (the member of the Supreme Court had coauthored the Treaty on Extradition), national tradition signaled that, again, it would be months or years and the crime would fade into oblivion unpunished.

But even if there was no doubt given the motive, hope of capturing the perpetrators was remote. However, the audacity of the assassins, who left the crime scene littered with clues, encouraged investigators to launch an undertaking that soon had another asset. Public indignation led eyewitnesses, who in these cases are usually reluctant to give any information, helped develop sketches of the killers.

The investigation initially depended on two points. The cynicism of the gunmen, who felt safe in guaranteed impunity, was such that they did not use helmets or ski masks; one of them went walking around the neighborhood after the shooting and, during the escape, two of the motorcycles used in the crime were abandoned. That helped to build accurate verbal descriptions of those involved in the crime on July 31 in the north of Bogotá.

The shock of the murder and witnesses’ descriptions led to the creation of an investigative team. At first the investigation fell under typical criminal procedure, but given the complexity of what happened, a group quickly formed of DAS personnel and Justice Department investigators.

The origin of the motorcycles (one was left at the crime scene and the other found in a parking lot in front of the Shaio Clinic) led the investigation, first to Corozal and then to Cartagena. The first town was where the false paperwork led to the capital of Bolivar, where the two vehicles was bought. From there, the suspects’ track was found. Establishing points of sale and finding papers yielded the first names.

The first was that of a commercial establishment: the Maremoto warehouse of Cartagena, from where the Yamaha DT 175 cc bikes came from. The second name to appear was Jorge Ivan Montoya Toro, a former employee of the Belmotos parts store in Medellín, and the third was Castor Emilio Montoya Peláez, alias Quimilio, expert mechanics with criminal background. In phone calls between them, the motorcycles were organized. Montoya Peláez, from Medellín, asked Montoya Toro in Cartagena to buy them. They agreed on 720,000 pesos and both vehicles were sent to Medellín after formalities and paperwork were falsified.

For these tasks in Corozal, Montoya Toro contacted Luis Felipe de Oro Yepes and received two hundred thousand pesos, according to the record.

THE KEY IN THE HOLE

Once the history of the motorcycles used in the crime was discovered, the next step was to look for their owners. Investigations in Cartagena and Corozal finished with the arrests of Montoya Toro and Oro Yepes, after which all suspicions pointed to Medellín. Meanwhile in Bogotá, police developed verbal descriptions of the murderers.

With the name of Castor Emilio Montoya Peláez and his alias, Quimilio, detectives began to search the slums of Medellín to get details on the man who, by phone, had requested the purchase of the two bikes. What they heard was bad and, for that matter, encouraging: “Quimilio is a gangster by anybody’s definition,” they said. And they knew he belongs to the gang called “Los Priscos”, whose kingdom is in Aranjuez, a neighborhood of winding streets and leafy trees whose innocence inspired the novel, “Yours is My Heart”, by sixties writer Juan Jose Hoyos.

Aranjuez today is not so beautiful but, among other problems, the headquarters of “The Priscos”, who became strong in a place known as “The Hole”, where investigators searched for those who shot Justice Baquero Borda.

The existence and danger of Quimilio was established, as well as his relation to David Ricardo Prisco Lopera. The latter, 29, a “laborer” according to his personal data, is actually the head of Los Priscos, a large gang of youths and category offenders with sophisticated weaponry for any mission, from kidnapping to robbery and motorcycle assassinations. The den of Los Priscos was an excellent strategy, which is why despite many raids by the police and army, its members have not been arrested.

Outside of The Hole is where Quimilio and Prisco were seen in a blue car, looking to hire assassins for an important job in late July, when the bikes were already en route to Medellín. Hired on behalf of Prisco by Quimilio, everything was pointing to Baquero Bordo in Bogotá, where bikes traveled aboard a truck with the four gunmen: Elkin de Jesús García, Gonzalo de Jesús Hernández, Luis Mariano Herrera Guzmán, and Victor Miguel Vásquez. The attack came just eight days after these four men arrived in Bogotá, during which they followed every step of the judge, until they felt ready to shoot.

The arrest of this last man (Víctor Miguel Vásquez) in Medellín yielded an orange jumpsuit and thick jackets in his home (witnesses mentioned ‘yellow rubber overcoats’) and, with the help of police sketches, investigations led to the names of all four gunmen.

However, only Vasquez could be arrested because his three partners were turning up dead in a series of murders interpreted as a reaction to roundup. When detectives began to get close to the crime bosses, the perpetrators started dying. Elkin de Jesús García, 23, who they called “Monín”, a dangerous boy recognized by gangs and whose skill on the motorcycle had made him a motocross competitor, was shot and killed October 4 in Medellín. Then followed Jesús Hernández and Luis Mariano Herrera, who were left in pastures on the outskirts of the city. That’s how the “kill and be killed” sentence was fulfilled to avoid them from talking. Víctor Miguel Vásquez was saved from that end, and he is now incarcerated in La Modelo prison in Bogotá.

The search for David Ricardo Prisco Lopera and Castor Emilio Montoya Pelaez is the next step of the investigation. They are so far the top bosses of the network. They seem to have the key to who is higher in this motorcyle murder, for which the successful investigation until this point has resulted in a surprise for a country cynical about gunmen impunity…

The book abbreviates the 1987 El Tiempo article, “La más temible industria del crimen”. This is the entire article translated:

With the death of the boss, José Roberto Prisco Lopera and 12 of his accomplices, along with the arrest of seven more, the terrifying Los Priscos organization has been dismantled. The assassin gang was responsible for multiple crimes such as journalist Guillermo Cano Isaza, Justice Hernando Baquero, and Coronel Jaime Ramírez Gómez.

DAS chief Miguel Alfredo Maza Márquez revealed that the investigation was such a success because the gang played an active role in those murders and was the most powerful organized crime industry in the country.

According to the organization chart, brother José Roberto and David Ricardo Prisco Lopera were the bosses of the gang, the first killed last week with three of his partners, Jaime Sánchez Salazar, Nelson Armando Pineda Delgado, and Luis Eduardo Bermúdez Arango, on Avenida 127 with Calle 43 in the north of Bogotá.

The middle managers were Jaime de Jesús Muñoz Garcés, alias “El Pillo”, and Castor Emilio Montoya Peláez, alias “El Chivo”, both of whom are hiding from authorities. Arrested and in jail are assassins Victor Manuel Vásquez, José E. Montoya, Irley Omar Gutiérrez, Mario H. Fernández Silva, Jhon Jairo Cortés, Pablo E. Zamora R., Javier Homero Gutiérrez, and the intermediaries Maria Ofelia Saldarriaga and Pablo Enrique Zamora, alias “El Rolo”.

Over the course of six months, after the assassination of Cano Isaza, a “settling of scores” occurred in the organization, in which Elkin J. García, Luis Restrepo A., Gonzalo Hernández Q., Harvey E. Gil M., Alvaro García, Luis M. Herrera G., Jaime Sánchez S., Nelson Pineda, Luis E. Bermúdez, Iván Dario Guisao, and Rubén Dario Londoño were killed.

The Los Priscos organization started to emerge after the murder of Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonillo. Coincidentally, one of the Los Priscos bosses was killed in the same setting on Avenida 127 in the north of Bogotá.

The occurrence of multiple crimes using the same methods told authorities of common elements and actors, enough to lead investigators to the theory that these were the same people in a string of crimes.

Authorities learned that, although many crimes occurred in different settings, the involvement of specific people and the typical procedures (motorcycles in broad daylight) pointed to coordination from Medellín by Los Priscos, who also operated as Los Quesitos and Los Magníficos.

One of the first conclusions was the verification of Los Priscos’ involvement given the similarity in which the murders were carried out.

There are other details like the organization and involvement of many people, as well as the standard procedures of assassins using motorcycles and cars for attacks in broad daylight.

The prudent preparation of the crime and setting, the sky-high bounties, the reliance on impunity, execution of great precision, assured means of escape for the assassins, and similar transport were the details that called the attention of the authorities.

From the surprising and cruel attacks from this organized crime, a detailed knowledge has developed from the techniques used by the criminals in every instance. The links uniting that tragic path are known: remote planning, the preparation of the scene, the selection of the shooters and reinforcements, the city where the attack was planned, the methods of disappearing, the acquisition of the criminal instruments, the location of the hotels, the techniques of getting close and identifying the target, the escape routes, and the ultimately bad luck of the killers (many of them were executed without mercy and abandoned on public roads).

In addition, there were coinciding points between the murders of Guillermo Cano Isaza, Hernando Baquero Borda, Tulio Manuel Castro Gil, Jaime Ramírez Gómez, Mauro Alfredo Benjumea, Alvaro Medina Ochoa, Gustavo Zuluaga Serna, and the attack on congressman Alberto Villamizar.

In all these cases Los Priscos set the stage, taking precautions not to leave any clue to give themselves away, such as gloves, bulletproof vests, hoodies, handbags, and backpacks.

In each case automatic weapons were used, especially the .45 caliber pistol and Uzi submachine gun along with grenades, all illegally brought into the country.

The vehicles were legally acquired at agencies or dealers and rented in other cases. The Mazdas and Yamaha 175 cc motorcycles were purchased in specific neighborhoods of Medellín with false documentaion.

Modus operandi

Ordinarily they spread out from Medellín toward the capital by plane, with layovers in other cities, before getting to know the routine and familiar settings the victims.

The key players stayed at hotels like Dann, Bogotá Plaza, Cosmos, and Continental, where they registered with false identities and documents. The shooters arrived in cars or motorcycles to stay at cheap, transitory hotels or rented apartments.

The attack on Alberto Villamizar was carried out by the brothers Javier Horacio and Yrley Omar Gutiérrez Uribe (both arrested), Luis Alberto Agudelo, alias “Dulcineo” (dead), Edison Harvey Gil Muñoz González, alias “Moquis” (dead), and Jhon Jairo Cortés Marin, alias “El Flaco”, the last two of whom are also linked to the murder of Cano Isaza.

In the cases of Hernando Baquero Borda, Alberto Villamizar, and Cano Isaza, an intermediary for buying cars and motorcycles was identified in Castor Emilio Montoya Peláez, alias “Quimilio”.

In the homicide of Hernando Baquero Borda, Elkin De Jesús García was deeply indicated as one of the most skilled assassins among Los Priscos, a motocross champion in various Medellín circuits.

His identification from witnesses and statements led to others involved in the crimes, such as Luis Mariano Herrera Guzmán (dead) and Gonzalo de Jesús Hernández (dead), who authorities established helped in acquiring motorcycles for Víctor Miguel Vásquez, Jorge Iván Montoya Toro, and Luis F. de Oro Yepes.

In the murder of Cano Isaza, Luis Eduardo Osorio Guisao, alias “La Guaca” (dead), and Alvaro García Saldarriaga, alias “El Zarco” (dead), were identified as masterminds with their accomplices Edison Harvey Gil Muñoz and Norbey de Jesús Alvarán Valencia.

The first two were killed, their corpses found outside Medellín handcuffed inside bags, the same fate which met with Alvaro García Saldarriaga, who shot Cano the night of December 17.

Cano’s killing

It was established that days before the crime a white motorcycle was seen parked at the El Espectador building at lunch hour, when Cano used to go out.

The driver of the journalist mentioned they were being followed by this motorcycle, but Cano dismissed it. The driver noted the face of the driver and ultimately gave a detailed description.

Another red motorcycle was seen by witnesses in front of the newspaper’s offices at Calle 22 with Avenida 68 hours before the attack.

From that motorcycle he shot Cano with an automatic weapon. These two motorcycles kept a permanent watch on Cano’s movements and, of course, they also had a Mazda to get them out of town.

The day before the crime, two suspicious young men with backpacks visited the newspaper headquarters. Employee descriptions established that they were Castor Emilio Montoya Peláez and Edison Harvey Gil Muñoz, who were also involved in the Baquero Borda and Alberto Villamizar cases.

With a base of operations in Medellín, where Cano’s murder was planned, it was verified that the author of the shootings was the assassin known as “El Zarco” or “Gigio”, who in real life was Alvaro García Saldarriaga, killed in Palmira (Valle) on February 18, 1987.

Additionally, the driver of the white motorcycle was identified as Luis Eduardo Osorio Guisado, alias “La Guagua”. His identification led to accomplices Norbey De Jesús Alvarán Valencia, Alvaro García Saldarriaga, and Edison Harvey Gil Muñoz.

Differences over money arose between “La Guagua” and “El Zarco”. The boss of Los Priscos chose to eliminate the rivals, who were killed in the Quimbayo de San Jerónimo hotel (Antioquia).

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