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Suspect Behind Deadly Casino Fire in Mexico Finally Sentenced After 12 Years

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Posted on: September 1, 2023, 03:27h. 

Last updated on: September 1, 2023, 03:27h.

On August 25, 2011, a criminal group carried out an arson attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Mexico, that resulted in the death of 52 people. The subsequent investigation led to several arrests, and one of those implicated in the attack, Luis Adán “El Gordo” Gómez Vázquez, has finally been sentenced in court.

The charred facade of the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Mexico, following an arson attack in 2011
The charred facade of the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Mexico, following an arson attack in 2011. One of the suspects behind the attack has finally been sentenced. (Image: CNN en Español)

On September 18, 2011, the then Federal Police arrested Gómez Vázquez in a safe house in Colonia Lázaro Cárdenas, in the municipality of Santa Catarina, Nuevo León. They found weapons and drugs, as well as other alleged accomplices.

Federal authorities identified Gómez, a leader of the infamous Los Zetas cartel, as a key figure in surveillance work around the casino on the day of the attack. While the sentence may bring closure to the families of the victims, there are still other suspects out there.

Nabbing The Fat One

During the raid on the safe house, the authorities confiscated several items, including a Nissan Sentra with Texas plates, the numbing agent cocaine hydrochloride and cocaine. They also seized two .45 caliber pistols, two 7.62×39 mm caliber long weapons with 55 cartridges and other weapons.

Gómez, who also used the name José Pérez and the alias “El Comandante Pelón,” was a former military officer and former agent of the Monterrey Municipal Police. As such, he was able to use his connections to procure weapons that only the military should have been able to access.

The sentence imposed is not related to the Casino Royale fire itself. Instead, it’s because of those objects that the authorities found during his capture and the testimonies that link him to organized crime.

“El Gordo” was found guilty of crimes including possession of cocaine hydrochloride, commonly known by the brand name Numbrino in the US, with intent to trade, organized crime and possession of a weapon for the exclusive use of the Army. His sentencing didn’t include any mention of his role in the deaths of the victims.

He’s serving his 32-year sentence at the Federal Social Readaptation Center in Durango. In addition, he received a fine of MXN392,620 (US$22,948).

When police arrested Gómez, they also arrested several of his conspirators, including Jesús Rafael “El Colitas” Torres Bautista. He killed himself in prison a year ago.

The Tragedy That Shaped Mexico

The sentencing arrives almost precisely on the anniversary of the attack. On August 25, 2011, around 3:15 in the afternoon, the Casino Royale went up in smoke.

Security cameras outside the casino captured the moment a group of armed men arrived in four vehicles before entering through the venue’s main doors. Statements from witnesses at the time added that they began to spray the gaming machines and the carpet with gasoline.

They then lit the gas on fire and, within minutes, the blaze was burning out of control. Many of the victims died inside the casino, while a few more died during treatment at a local hospital.

The attack occurred because the owner of the Casino Royale allegedly refused to pay an extortion fee to the cartel. The gang took out its revenge on the innocent guests of the property.

Every year since the event, the relatives of the 52 victims have placed offerings in front of the casino to remember their loved ones. They hold a mass annually in which they demand that justice be done.

A year ago, Mexico’s Undersecretary of Human Rights, Alejandro Encinas, gave a formal public apology from the government. However, the friends and families of the victims weren’t impressed then and they aren’t today.

They argue the government still hasn’t done its job in bringing all the perpetrators to justice or is taking too long to prosecute those it has arrested. The long delay in sentencing Gómez supports their arguments.



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