Drug lord died during plastic surgery op trying to make himself unrecognisable

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On this day 25 years ago (July 7, 1997), a feared drug cartel boss Amado Carrillo Fuentes – nicknamed 'The Lord of the Skies' – died after plastic surgery to drastically alter his looks..

His death remains one of the most peculiar ways in which a major drug lord has met their maker.

Born on December 17, 1956 in Sinaloa, Mexico, Amado initially worked for his uncle Ernesto 'Don Neto' Fonseca Carrillo, then-leader of the Guadalajara Cartel.

READ MORE: Hunt on for 'British Pablo Escobar' after 300kg cocaine bust in banana shipment

Amado started out overseeing his uncle's drug shipments and quickly worked his way up in the criminal underworld.

In 1993, he murdered Rafael Aguilar Guajardo to seize overall control of the Juarez Cartel, which quickly became a drug trafficking powerhouse following the 1989 arrest of Miguel Félix Gallardo, who had until then managed to organise Mexico's rival cartels.

Amado earned the nickname 'The Lord of the Skies' as he was the first kingpin to charter a fleet of private planes to smuggle cocaine from Colombia into Mexico and then on to the US.

Unlike other Mexican drug lords who became household names and faces in the 1990s – such as Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán – Amado was one of Mexico’s "most mysterious men", according to the Washington Post.

Following his death they wrote: "He lived discreetly – no wild shootouts, no late-night disco hopping.

"Few pictures of him appeared in newspapers or on television. He was from a new breed, the US Drug Enforcement Administration liked to say, a low-profile kingpin who behaved like a businessman."

He would go on to amass a fortune of around $25million (£20.4m), which by the late 1990s meant he'd become a top target for law enforcement.

His desire to remain low-key while the net around him tightened explains why on July 4, 1997, he checked into a private clinic in Mexico City under the alias Antonio Flores Montes.

There, two plastic surgery doctors set about reconstructing his face and removing 3.5 gallons of fat from his body to make him unrecognisable.

Although it's not exactly clear what went wrong during the surgery – something did. He was pronounced dead at Santa Monica hospital just three days after he had arrived.

US officials announced that he had died from a heart attack and, to quell rumours that the death was faked, they released a picture of the body.

Amado's grisly end led to two more gruesome deaths.

On November 7, 1997 the bodies of his two doctors were found entombed in concrete-filled steel barrels.

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According to the Washington Post, the bodies were bound and gagged and showed signs of vicious torture. They had had their fingernails ripped off, been severely burned and strangled with cables.

The publication described the killings as "among the most grisly in recent annals of Mexican mayhem" and as an indicator of "the savagery of Mexico's drug wars".


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  • Cartels
  • Drugs
  • Crime
  • Gangs
  • Plastic Surgery

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