Story Time

El Chino: Sinaloa Cartel’s Highest Ranking Hitman

The Rise and Fall of El Chino Anthrax: From Hitman to Infamy

On October 18, 2013, a chilling event unfolded. Can you spot the clown? In a matter of seconds, this clown, identified as Jose Rodrigo Arechiga Gamboa, would assassinate Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, the leader of the notorious Tijuana Cartel, and one of Mexico’s most dangerous men at the time.

This shocking act took place during Felix’s 63rd birthday celebration, in full view of the attendees. The clown assassin, better known as El Chino Anthrax, was the highest-ranking hitman of the Sinaloa Cartel. Today, let’s delve into his story, from shady beginnings to a tragic end.

A Privileged Upbringing:

Jose Rodrigo Arechiga Gamboa was born on June 15 in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. He hailed from a respected and affluent family—his father was a government official, and his mother was an academic. However, a significant factor in Arechiga’s life was his neighbors, the Zambadas. Living next door, the Zambada family was deeply involved in the Sinaloa Cartel, particularly Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García, one of the cartel’s founders. Despite this proximity to cartel influence, Arechiga’s childhood seemed fairly normal.

Entry into Cartel Business:

Arechiga’s life took a dark turn when he struggled as a father and husband, pushing him to reach out to his childhood friends, the Zambada brothers. He formed a close friendship with them during his upbringing. Vincente Zambada, known as El Vicentillo, introduced him to cartel activities to help him out of his predicament. Starting with minor tasks, Arechiga’s role gradually escalated, and he showcased creativity in devising methods to smuggle drugs across the border.

Rise within the Cartel:

Arechiga’s knack for innovation led him to become a key player in the Sinaloa Cartel. His idea of using legitimate businesses to mask drug shipments proved highly successful. He ascended the ranks and came to the attention of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada himself, who recognized Arechiga’s potential and made him the personal bodyguard of El Vicentillo. Arechiga formed his own hit squad, “Los Ántrax,” to protect El Mayo and engage in warfare against rivals.

Violent Escalation and Public Image:

As Los Ántrax engaged in deadly clashes with rival cartels, Arechiga’s propensity for brutality became evident. The squad’s violence escalated into a bloodbath, marked by reprisals and civilian casualties. Amid this, Arechiga began to relish the spotlight, flaunting his wealth on social media. His notoriety grew, and he even mingled with celebrities, solidifying his reputation as a ruthless enforcer.

Arrest and Extradition:

In December 2013, Arechiga’s actions drew global attention. However, his infamous ring, worn consistently in photos, ultimately led to his identification. Dutch authorities, alerted by the U.S., apprehended him upon his arrival in the Netherlands. He was extradited to the U.S. and faced drug charges. Initially pleading not guilty, Arechiga eventually reversed his stance and pled guilty, revealing his involvement in cartel activities and cooperating with the authorities.

Snitching and Sentencing:

Arechiga’s cooperation was highly valuable to law enforcement, destabilizing parts of the Sinaloa Cartel. He implicated numerous individuals and operations, substantially aiding U.S. agencies. Remarkably, he received a light sentence of just six years in prison, followed by probation, in exchange for his cooperation.

Tragic End:

After his release on parole in March 2020, Arechiga defied his parole conditions and returned to Culiacán. A mere ten days later, he, his sister, and her husband were ambushed and killed. The circumstances suggest the involvement of the Sinaloa Cartel, possibly orchestrated by El Mayo Zambada himself. Arechiga’s treacherous journey, from hitman to informant to a gruesome demise, underscores the unforgiving nature of the criminal world.