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Joined: 08 Mar 2006
|Posted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:57 am Post subject: East End Mafia (Drug Ring)
|Modern-day mafia story had its roots in Houston's East End
By DANE SCHILLER
Copyright 2011 Houston Chronicle
March 20, 2011
He was just a skinny kid with a thick head of hair who stole cars and sold pot around his East End neighborhood.
But Daniel Zamora climbed the crime ranks to reach one of the world's most ruthless employers: a Mexican drug cartel capable of providing power and money even if the path meant prison or death.
Which for "Danny Boy," it did. He was dead by the age of 32, but not before bringing his family and friends along for a wildly perilous ride.
Their collective story is one of a modern-day mafia, every bit as merciless as the mobsters of Chicago, Boston and New York — but these small-time criminals hit it big on the streets of Houston.
"We all knew each other for years," said Saul Salinas Jr., now serving 10 years for a plot involving more than a ton of cocaine, and whose brother became Zamora's hated rival.
Zamora's rise and fall is chronicled by police reports, interviews, court testimony and an array of documents churned out by several prosecutions, including his brother's capital murder conviction last week.
From it all emerges a vivid account of kidnapping, murders, pistol-whippings, robberies and betrayal tying the East End clan to Mexico.
"So many lives were ruined or were marked," Assistant Harris County District Attorney Colleen Barnett said. "We are the tail of the dog, and the people in Mexico are running the show. We see the violence right in our backyard."
For Zamora, the possibilities seemed endless. From making $250 a week detailing cars and installing alarms for a place on the Gulf Freeway, he rose to the role of boss for a cell that smuggled millions of dollars worth of cocaine to Houston. The trusted boy he rode bikes with as a kid became a top enforcer, enlisting his own family, in at least one instance, to kidnap and torture a man over a drug debt.
They wrapped his head in duct tape and pummeled him with fists, a beat-down the victim said was so fierce he was sure he was going to die.
Zamora's older brother, Jaime Arturo Zamora, 40, is now serving life without parole over a drug hit that killed the wrong man in a case of mistaken identity.
The Zamoras, like many East End kids, were brought to Houston as young children by parents who emigrated from south of the border.
Parts of the area have the feel of Mexico: brightly painted homes and narrow streets, store signs in Spanish and snow cones sold from carts.
The Zamoras knew these streets. And they were comfortable on both sides of the border, skills that served the brothers well.
Danny Zamora's first felony conviction came for stealing a car in 1993, his cohort Saul Salinas at his side. A litany of arrests followed. His final prison stint came for running heroin in the streets for the Texas Syndicate, the state's oldest prison gang.
While doing time in federal prison, he made his first Mexican cartel connection.
Zamora would catapult from errand boy to player.
After his release in 1998 from the prison in Big Spring - a few months early for good behavior - Zamora was deported back to his native Monterrey, Mexico.
No matter. His bravado was raging.
From Monterrey, he called the shots and served as the bridge between the cartel that brought in tons of cocaine from Colombia, and his family in Houston who helped move the drugs.
The flashy and personable Zamora rode in expensive sport utility vehicles and wore hefty gold. A regular at nightclubs, he raised eyebrows in Monterrey as a new-money gangster, all of this well before the violence now wracking that city.
Cocaine stashed in secret compartments was driven in cars and pickups to Houston. From there, Zamora's clan did the rest: Drugs were unloaded and cash from their sale stuffed back in the compartments to return to Mexico.
"We started getting bigger and bigger," recalled Zamora's brother-in-law, Rogelio Gonzalez, who counted money for the organization but later became the bookkeeper and Zamora's party buddy and confidant. Gonzalez was the high school sweetheart of Zamora's sister, whom he married.
Hundreds of pounds of cocaine were kept stashed in the attic of Gonzalez's home. Once, he was pistol-whipped in his own house in front of his terrified family by rival gangsters disguised as police.
They were moving more cocaine than ever.
"It was every two days, then every day," he said of loads arriving. "We started working with a big company over there," referring to a cartel he did not name.
While the Zamoras lived in modest homes on Avenue E, it was an open secret that they were in the drug business and business was good. But in Houston, trouble was brewing.
Santiago "Chago" Salinas, brother of Saul Salinas and a longtime friend who spent many a night drinking with Zamora, decided to bolster his own business by going behind Zamora's back.
He knew the profit "Danny Boy" was making and wanted cocaine at a lower price.
The dispute intensified. Zamora warned Santiago Salinas that if he came to Mexico, he would be killed. Salinas went anyway. He was shot in the neck and left for dead.
He survived and returned to Houston, where he was overheard bragging at a bar that Zamora and his gangsters were too inept to kill him.
"They couldn't even shoot him right," convicted drug trafficker Ben Rosales recalled of Salinas' words.
Salinas sought revenge. Grenades were launched into a Monterrey restaurant where Zamora was celebrating his birthday. Zamora was unscathed but others died.
The war continued with Salinas' brother-in-law being dragged from his home in Mexico, tortured and killed, his body found in a barrel.
Not long after, Zamora's enemies at last cornered him and used a shotgun to blast him in the face. He was killed on the dance floor of a Monterrey nightclub.
It had been 13 years since that first car-theft arrest.
With his younger brother dead, Jaime Zamora inherited a business and a war.
By most accounts, he was different from Danny Boy.
He talked less, had no criminal record and kept a day job as a supervisor in Houston's municipal parks department.
He was known to disappear for long stretches as his crew worked, then come around with wads of cash to treat everybody to lunch.
Although Jaime Zamora had overseen Houston drug operations for his brother, he had never been in charge.
He took up drinking. And just days after his brother's funeral, began to plot revenge on Santiago Salinas.
Gangsters loyal to Zamora cruised the streets of Houston and searched local haunts.
Word finally came on the night of May 20, 2006, that Santiago Salinas was in Chilos, a restaurant on Houston's Gulf Freeway.
A hit team was dispatched. But as Salinas dined in the restaurant, so did Jose Perez - just a guy eating dinner who looked like Salinas. When Perez and his family walked outside, an assassin gunned him down. Salinas escaped.
"It was unprovoked, a straight-up killing, an assassination," said Billy Bell, a retired police officer who first investigated the case.
Salinas would be dead six months later. Three strippers lured him to a Houston motel as part of a trap.
Jaime Zamora was allegedly overheard telling a hit man, make it "a closed casket," an echo of his brother's demise.
Salinas was shot three times in the head.
Two years later, a weapons trafficker turned confessor told authorities he knew about the Chilos killing and, in return for leniency, would help snare those responsible.
Jaime Zamora was arrested, as was the gunman, the getaway driver, and the money man - already on probation for another murder.
All were convicted for their roles in Perez's death. Zamora last week got a life sentence, on top of 27 years without parole for a drug conviction.
A straight-faced Zamora has never said a word to police about the murders, including Salinas' killing, which has never been solved.
At one point during Zamora's recent trial, his mother and Salinas' mother were together in a courtroom.
Neither said anything to the other, although each one bears the unwanted mark of Houston's mafia.
One son serving life. Two sons dead and buried.
|EAST END MAFIA
• Daniel "Danny Boy" Zamora: The family's crime boss. He led the Zamora drug-trafficking business until he was killed in Mexico.
• Jaime Arturo Zamora: A former city parks employee who inherited the business after his brother was killed. Now in prison for drug trafficking and capital murder.
• Saul Salinas: He is in prison for drug trafficking. He grew up knowing the Zamoras and dealt drugs with Danny Boy.
• Santiago "Chago" Salinas: Younger brother of Saul Salinas. He started a war with the Zamoras by trying to buy cocaine behind their backs. He was killed in 2006 after being lured to a Houston motel.
• Jose Perez: Died in a case of mistaken identity. Killers thought he was Santiago Salinas.
• Rogelio Gonzalez: Married into the Zamora family and later kept the family business's books.
• Jose Chapa: Danny Zamora's childhood friend. He became an enforcer and is in prison for a kidnapping and torture.
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Joined: 07 May 2006
|Posted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:54 pm Post subject: Beemoe
|It`s interesting thay most of these "drug gangs" haven`t figured out that cooperation is smarter that competition. So am I missing something here? Are these two gangs connection to Marie Preston and Harry-O?
Is there some kind of connection here to The Maceos?
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