Martin Corona opened fire on career Houdini Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman at a Guadalajara airport in the early 1990s. The assassination attempt failed
Martin Corona is sorry for all those people brutally killed during his run as a drug syndicate executioner.
His apology comes in the form of a new book exploiting his crimes in gruesome detail. And “Confessions of a Cartel Hit Man” has best-seller written on every page.
Corona was sprung from federal lockup in 2014, a mere 12 years after snitching on his confederates in a viciously murderous Mexican drug operation, the Arellano Felix Organization.
Corona’s information led to multiple arrests that decimated the AFO hierarchy.
He admitted to personally executing eight people — several from the same family — and participating in other carnage. The AFO, which inspired the movie “Traffic,” was known for its sadistic atrocities.
Cutting-edge butchery like the Mexican stew — stuffing victims alive into 55-gallon barrels of hot lye — was later adopted as a business practice by competing cartels.
“I’m not proud of my past,” Corona told The Post. “It’s really humiliating waking up and looking at yourself in the mirror knowing the things you’ve done. I was hoping that through all this, I could convince someone else not to make the same choices I did.”
Martin Corona, now 53, has murdered at least eight people, including a soldier in Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán’s cartel and Catholic Prelate, Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo of Mexico.
He was sentenced to roughly 25 years in prison in 2001, but later released in 2014 after becoming a federal witness and now works in construction.
He had a wife and two kids prior to being incarcerated, but won’t say what his family situation is now.
The book cover: “Confessions of a Cartel Hit Man,” by Martin Corona with Tony Rafael
Corona who grew up near San Diego, the son of a tough Marine father, played Little League and football and was a Boy Scout, has been in and out of jail his entire life.
He identifies the point his life took a wrong turn as when, as a 12-year-old, he and a friend mowed a man’s lawn, and the man paid the boys in pot instead of cash.
After that, he began dealing drugs and committing other crimes, including stealing 27 fur coats from a department store.
Things went from bad to worse for the 12-year-old when he discovered that the man he thought was his biological father, wasn’t.
“I lost the trust factor,” Corona said. “What could I believe in this world? Who could I trust?”
The answer turned out to be a local gang.
“I was a lost soul,” he recalled. “These people accepted me. They treated me with respect, and at the time, it seemed like admiration and love.”
Time spent in juvenile detention centers in his early years for various crimes, hardened Corona. While in juve he made connections that would eventually land him in the employ of the cartel.
David Barron-Corona (El Popeye), head of the AFO “death squad.”
Moving into the ranks of paid killers rather late in life,some would say, at the age of 29, Corona was recruited in 1993 by David (Popeye) Barron, an infamous hitman for the Arellano brothers, Benjamin, Ramon and Javier.
He had saved Ramon’s life the year before. and his stature grew from there.
Armed only with an AK-47, Corona single-handedly held off 40 assassins sent by Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman to annihilate everyone in a Puerto Vallarta nightclub.
He used his free hand to push Ramon to safety through a bathroom window.
Shortly afterward, he opened fire on El Chapo at a Guadalajara airport — and missed, instead taking out Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, a high-ranking prelate in Mexico’s Catholic Church.
El Chapo as his trademark, escaped.
The public outrage drove the AFO underground, though Barron’s Death Squad stayed active. He personally instructed Corona exactly where to plunge a knife into “a bound man who was screaming for his life.”
Hitman Martin Corona was tasked with protecting AFO cartel heads Francisco Arellano Felix [left]. Benjamin Arellano [center], and Ramon Arellano Felix [right]
Though an early assassination attempt on rival Sinaloa Cartel head Amado Carrillo Fuentes failed, the AFO kept after him. According to Corona, the cartel had a hit team inside the Mexico City hospital where Fuentes died while undergoing plastic surgery in 1997.
Barron’s Death Squad trained with the Mexican federal police, and often wore Federale uniforms on the job. Corona dressed casually, though, for his first execution on U.S. soil.
The target, a Sinaloa associate who owned beauty parlors in Tijuana. When Corona knocked on her door in Imperial Beach, Calif., the woman’s daughter judged the killer — wearing jeans and “nerdy glasses” — a safe bet.
She let him inside.
Corona and two other killers fired five rounds into the mother’s head, but let the daughter live. They fled the house, only to learn from a newspaper account that they left behind $500,000 hidden inside a closet.
On Corona’s next big job, the squad scaled the walls of a Tijuana compound, tying up the first family they found, a man, his wife and their 5-year-old twin daughters.
Super survivor El Chapo Guzman evaded Corona’s bullets, one of many escapes he pulled off. Last December he extradited to U.S. He is now on trial in Manhattan Federal Supreme Court, NY for cartel activities
At the main house, Corona held an infant and several other children at bay while Barron murdered the homeowner upstairs. Corona, in a brief show of compassion, allowed the wife to breastfeed her baby.
She was then stabbed to death.
Around the same time, Ramon Arellano ordered Barron to execute a man named Ronnie Svoboda in a dispute over a woman. Corona either wasn’t in on the Tijuana kill — or doesn’t admit to it.
But he caught the next job after Svoboda’s sisters Ivonne and Luz went to the police about the hit. Ivonne had only just returned from a year in Paris modeling for “Mademoiselle” magazine.
Corona cornered the two in a San Diego alley after the siblings climbed into their car. Disguised with an Afro wig and sunglasses, he crept up on the sisters.
He fired three shots into Ivonne’s head. Luz took a bullet in the chest. In the same moment when the killer realized Luz was pregnant, a little girl screamed from the backseat.
Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo was killed in the shootout by bullets meant for El Chapo, at the hands of Davis Corona
Yet one month later he was holding the same little girl, Luz’s 9-year-old daughter, at gunpoint while Barron murdered her father.
According to Corona, a seven-man crew dressed in Federale uniforms stormed into a house in Tijuana. The target this time was Luz Svoboda’s husband.
Corona was told to take the man’s child and her grandmother into the other bathroom. He doesn’t mention recognizing the girl, though the connection was obvious.
“You aren’t going to kill me, are you?” the terrified child asked.
“No, mija,” the assassin replied soothingly. “I’m not going to kill you. And nobody else will.”
Instead of following orders to tie her up, Corona allowed the child to just hold onto the rope.
“When we leave, you can let go of the rope and call for help,” he advised her.
Corona claims that he was prepared to murder any of the men — including Barron — if a move was made to harm the girl or her grandmother.
At one point, he wandered from the hostages into the bathroom where the killer had taken the girl’s father. The man was lying in tub, covered by a sheet.
Suddenly, he heard a “disgusting, cracking, squishy noise from behind me.”
Barron had delivered the first of several pulverizing blows to the man’s face with a 5-pound sledgehammer.
AFO failed in an early assassination attempt on rival Sinaloa Cartel head Amado Carrillo Fuentes failed, but kept after him. Fuentes [Lord Of The Sky] whose net worth was put at $25 Billion ultimately died in elective surgery
The little girl and her grandmother weren’t injured — though the child had suffered her second family trauma at Corona’s hands.
Back at his home, Corona and his second wife were expecting their first child. The couple stood to make a fortune if she delivered a boy; Ramon offered $1 million if he was chosen as godfather for a namesake child.
As an enforcer, his life consisted of was sitting in a house in Mexico for five days a week, a requirement — no drinking, drugs or women — waiting for a call from his bosses. However, after 16 months as a cartel enforcer his conscience began to gnaw at him and he sought an escape route out of the cartel.
He moved back to California, By the time Corona’s daughter was born, he was living with his wife in San Diego. In his final phone call with Ramon, he quit the Death Squad while promising to never turn on the AFO.
Ramon invited Corona to come and enjoy a cruise on his new yacht. Corona knew if that ship sailed, he was going overboard.
He was eventually arrested on a weapons charge. In the process Corona learned that the government had compiled an extensive file on his cartel activity. He cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for testimony against other enforcers and several high-level cartel members.
In 2000, Corona started a long conversation with Special Agent Steve Duncan of the California Justice Department. The arrests that followed his accounts of AFO savagery dismantled the cartel’s upper ranks.
A reformed Corona now in witness supervision, said he doesn’t worry about retribution from his former comrades in arms.
“If you feel you need to come at me in a vengeful way, then hey, you know what? I didn’t get to where I got to being a coward,” he said.
“I’m not gonna sit there and be looking over my shoulder and live in fear the rest of my life.”
Duncan eventually reached out to the Svoboda sisters. Luz had since remarried and kept her past a secret from her new husband. Her 9-year-old daughter was now a grown woman.
Corona says AFO had a hit team inside the Mexico City hospital where Fuentes died while undergoing plastic surgery in 1997
Duncan stayed in touch with the still-traumatized woman until 2015, even though the calls upset her. Informed that Corona had been released from prison the year before, she said she never wanted to speak to Duncan again.
Duncan also passed on a letter Corona wrote to the sisters telling them he’d willingly spend the rest of his life behind bars to “make up for shooting them.”
According to Corona, one of the Svoboda women he had traumatized did respond to say she forgave him for the San Diego shooting and the murder of their brother.
“They saw me as much a victim as they were,” he claimed.
Corona also wrote duplicate letters apologizing to families of his past victims, identifying himself as the “same evil some of your loved ones had to look upon as they took their last breath.”
Corona now lives on supervised release, protected by the U.S. government. He conducts seminars for law enforcement nationwide, on cartel tactics.
It’s an effort to make up “in some small way for the violations I inflicted,” he writes.
Duncan says Corona has shown “unflagging remorse,” but the “misfortune” continued long past his fatal intrusion into the families’ lives.
“He can never truly know the depth of the damage he did.” said Duncan. “It’s heartbreaking to see.”
What about the once powerful Arellano family?
In June 2014, the Mexican army captured Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano, the last leader of the once-powerful Tijuana cartel, The Arellano Felix Organization,
In the 1990s, the cartel controlled much of the drugs flow from the northern Mexican city of Tijuana to the United States.
But the organization was dealt a severe blow after the arrest of four of the brothers leading it and the killing of a fifth.
Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano is the nephew of the Arellano Felix brothers who originally founded the cartel. He was the latest of the infamous crime family to be arrested.
The Mexican Army announced it had captured the last known leader of the once-powerful Tijuana cartel, AFO, Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano, aka ‘Engineer’ [photo], in June of 2014
The eleven sibling Arellano Felix clan is one of the most feared criminal families in Mexico.
The Tijuana cartel made its name from its sheer brutality and the mind numbing manner the cartel is said to have tortured and killed rivals in the US and Mexico, sometimes dissolving their bodies in vats of corrosives.
It was founded by Benjamin Arellano Felix in the late 1980s.
After his arrest in 2002, his youngest brother Francisco Javier took over the leadership of the cartel until he himself was captured by the US Coast Guard while fishing off the coast of Baja California in 2006.
Another brother Eduardo took over the reins for the following two years until his capture in 2008.
Ramon, considered the most violent of the brothers, was killed in a shoot-out with police in 2002.
The oldest of the Arellano Felix brothers, Francisco Rafael, was shot dead in 2013 by gunmen disguised as clowns who burst into his birthday party.
Mexican officials believe the cartel has been led in recent years by Luis, along with his mother Enedina.
The family inspired the US film Traffic by Steven Soderbergh.