Moreno González was born in the ranchería of Guanajuatillo in Apatzingán, Michoacán, Mexico at around 5:00 a.m. on 8 March 1970. There are few details of Moreno González’s upbringing, but religion may have played an important role in his early life. His parents had 13 children (including Moreno González). His father Manuel Moreno was reportedly an alcoholic and had several mistresses, and one day he left his family when Moreno González was still very young, forcing his mother to singlehandedly raise the whole family. With their father gone, Moreno González and his siblings lived under the strict discipline of their mother. According to his autobiography, Moreno González had a love-hate relationship with his mother; as a child, he was beaten by his mother for being troublesome and getting into fights. In one occasion, he recalled that his mother once forced him to make his way back to his house by walking on his knees while keeping his arms stretched like a cross throughout the whole day for stealing an animal. Such treatments helped him develop resentment as to partially explain his violent behavior as an adult, he argued. He admitted, however, that he often got into fist fights with other kids from Guanajuatillo and the surrounding rancherías. Moreno González recalled that he would not always win and that he once got into 10 fights in a single day. His violent reputation as a child helped him earn the nickname El Más Loco (“The Craziest One”)—which he held onto for the rest of his life—among his siblings and other kids from the area where he grew up.
He never attended school and was illiterate for some years of his early life. He learned to read and write reportedly out of curiosity after reading and hearing comic books and stories of Kalimán and Porfirio Cadena, El Ojo del Vidrio on the local radio station. In his autobiography, Moreno González said that as a child he believed he had the superhuman ability of speaking telepathically with animals like Kalimán did in the comics. He said he wanted to be a hero like the comic characters. As a child, he was accustomed to seeing gunmen near his home, and played las guerritas (“war games”) for fun. While playing the game, he often pretended to be dead, only to say later on that he had been wounded in the game but that he had managed to survive. At the age of twelve, he moved to Apatzingán and made a living by selling matches, peeling onions, working at a melon field, and throwing out the trash from several booths at a marketplace. As a teenager in the late 1980s, Moreno González migrated illegally to the United States, settling in California, where he eventually began selling marijuana. After some years, he moved to Texas and in 1994 was arrested for drug trafficking charges in McAllen. Nearly a decade later in 2003, the U.S. government charged him with conspiracy to distribute five tons of narcotics and issued an arrest warrant. Moreno González then fled back to Mexico.
Although raised Catholic, Moreno González became a Jehovah’s Witness during his time in the United States. In Apatzingán, Moreno González preached to the poor and always carried a bible with him. With time, he won the loyalty of several locals, and many started to see him as a “messiah” for preaching religious principles and forming La Familia Michoacana, a drug cartel that posed as a vigilante group. When Carlos Rosales Mendoza was arrested in 2004, Moreno González ascended to the apex of La Familia Michoacana, a drug trafficking organization based in western Mexico, along with José de Jesús Méndez Vargas. In 2006, La Familia Michoacana broke relations with the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, and Moreno González heralded the organization’s independence when several of his gunmen tossed five human heads on a discothèque dance floor in Uruapan. Near the severed heads lay a message that read, “La Familia doesn’t kill for money, doesn’t kill women, doesn’t kill innocents. Only those who deserve to die will die.”
In 2009, the Mexican government published a list of its 37 most-wanted drug lords and offered a $2.2 million reward for information that led to Moreno González’s capture. His three partners – José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, Servando Gómez Martínez and Dionicio Loya Plancarte – were also on the list. In 2010, he was sanctioned under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (sometimes referred to simply as the “Kingpin Act”) by the United States Department of the Treasury for his involvement in drug trafficking. The act prohibited U.S. citizens and companies from doing business with Moreno González, and virtually froze all his assets in the U.S. Los Zetas eventually broke off from the Gulf Cartel in 2010, after serving in the armed wing of the organization for more than a decade. But in opposition to Los Zetas, Moreno González’s cartel rejoined with the Gulf Cartel and allied with the Sinaloa Cartel to fight them off. Since then, La Familia Michoacana became one of the fastest-growing cartels involved in Mexico’s drug war. It stood out for its promotion of “family values” and religious agenda, unlike traditional cartels. Although deeply involved in the methamphetamine business, Moreno González’s cartel diversified its criminal agenda by controlling numerous “counterfeiting, extortion, kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution and car dealership” rings in Michoacán and its neighboring states. By mid-2009, La Familia had managed to establish a foothold in about 20 to 30 urban areas across the United States.
Moreno González required his men to carry a “spiritual manual” that he wrote himself, “[containing] pseudo-Christian aphorisms for self-improvement.” In his “bible,” Moreno González prohibited his men from consuming alcoholic beverages or other drugs, and stated that he would severely punish those who mistreated women. His writings encouraged the corporal punishment of thieves by beating them and making them walk naked with billboards in the city streets. He prohibited members of his cartel from consuming or selling methamphetamines in Michoacán, arguing that the drug was only to be smuggled into the U.S. for American consumers. Moreno González justified drug trafficking by stating that La Familia Michoacana allegedly regulated the drug trade to prevent exploitation of the people. The book, sometimes known as “The Sayings of the Craziest One”, also talks about humility, service, wisdom, brotherhood, courage, and God. His second book, titled “They Call Me The Craziest One”, is 13 chapters long and talks about his life, idealism, the origins of La Familia Michoacana, their battle against Los Zetas, and his rationale behind joining organized crime. The text reads like a diary and justifies his criminal activities under the rationale that just like others in Michoacán, the limited opportunities and his poor financial situation pushed him to get involved in the drug trade. In addition to that, Moreno González blamed the government for the existence of criminals.
As leader of La Familia Michoacana, Moreno González was in charge of forging alliances with other cartels. Reportedly, Moreno González met with several other high-ranking drug lords, including Fernando Sánchez Arellano of the Tijuana Cartel; Juan José Esparragoza Moreno of the Sinaloa Cartel; and Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén of the Gulf Cartel. In these agreements, the cartels allowed La Familia Michoacana to move drugs freely in their territories in exchange for their support in fighting off rival gangs like Los Zetas. In 2008, Moreno González agreed to send armed men to help Joaquín Guzmán Loera and Ismael Zambada García fight off rival cartels, a favor which granted him access to the drug corridors in Sinaloa and Sonora. In addition, his friendship with the Gulf Cartel leader Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez allowed him access to the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
During his tenure as leader of La Familia Michoacana, Moreno González reportedly gave loans to farmers, funded schools and churches, financed drainage projects, and carried out several aid campaigns to help out the disadvantaged in the state of Michoacán. This, along with the manpower of the organization, allowed him get the support of several rural sectors in the state, where many served as informants and collaborators for the cartel. His wife was also known for organizing several self-help seminars in Apatzingán. The support of La Familia Michoacana is rooted in family connections and local communities in Michoacán, and in the supposed exploitation of its citizens by the government.
At around 7:00 a.m. on 9 March 2014, the Mexican Army and Navy pinpointed Moreno González’s whereabouts in Tumbiscatío, Michoacán. When they tried to apprehend him, the drug lord opened fire at the security forces before being killed in the fire exchange. Mexico’s Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) officially confirmed his identity through DNA examinations and fingerprint identification. The results were consistent with law enforcement files. While investigators conducted the autopsy at a hospital in Apatzingán, more than 150 law enforcement officers from the Army, Navy, Federal Police, and the PGR cordoned the area to prevent organized crime members from attempting to steal his body. Post-mortem reports indicated that Moreno González died of two gunshot wounds on his thorax. On 12 March 2014, his corpse was transferred to Morelia under tight security for further testing. At the time of his death, the drug lord was wanted by the Mexican government for charges relating to drug trafficking, organized crime, kidnapping, murder, and theft. On the evening of 14 March 2014, his corpse was handed over to his sister and two nephews in Morelia by state authorities. As they left the forensic installations, they covered their faces in front of cameras and did not specify if they had plans to carry out a funeral for Moreno González. His family and friends, however, held a funeral for him at the Santa Cruz funeral home in Altozano, Morelia. They did not comment where the corpse was to be taken, but unconfirmed reports suggested that there were plans to cremate him and scatter his ashes at a village in the Tierra Caliente region in Michoacán.
- March, 08, 1970
- Apatzingán, Michoacán
- March, 09, 2014
- Tumbiscatío, Michoacán
Cause of Death
- two gunshot wounds on his thorax