Fans of Jenni Rivera get emotional as they watch the live telecast of her memorial outside the Gibson Amphitheater.
Did "La Diva de la Banda" Jenni Rivera work for a Mexican drug cartel prior to the December plane crash that killed the singer and six others? Numerous Mexican news outlets such as Univision, La Opinión and the Mexican daily Reforma are reporting a witness has come forward exposing Rivera's ties to an infamous criminal organization.
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Reforma reported that a lawyer for the Beltrán Leyva cartel claims that Rivera was among the musicians often hired by the cartel. That lawyer asserts that he used to contract various artists to perform at parties and events for the cartel.The witness alleges the deals were handled discretely through a liaison named José Carlos Salinas Rodríguez, also known as "El Charly."
Rivera also did cocaine on multiple occasions at the cartel parties, and was once even publicly humiliated by ex-cartel kingpin "La Barbie" when the drug-lord kicked her as a prank in front of guests, the lawyer claims. The witness statements were reportedly made to Reforma in 2009 and then turned over to Mexican officials. That same year Rivera was detained at Mexico's International Airport for arriving in the country with $50,000 in cash from Los Angeles, Calif.
For her part, Rivera denied allegations of ties to the drug cartel or any other drug traffickers in an interview with Hola! Magazine.
"Yes, it is true that at times you are not aware of who contracts you [for a show,]" Rivera told ¡Hola! "They [just] tell you that you will sing at a certain place and that they will pay you a certain amount of money."
Rivera added that she "didn't want any problems" and said she "would not "risk it" whether it was in the U.S. or Mexico.
Reports of Rivera's supposed ties to drug traffickers predate her musical success, according to Fox News; her second husband, Juan López, was sentenced in 2007 for his involvement in the drug trade.
According to Mexico's transportation secretary, Rivera and her crew were killed when the small private Learjet plummeted from 28,000 feet and crashed into a mountainous area 9,000 feet above sea level.The jet was flying them from the northern Mexican city of Monterrey to the central city of Toluca.
According to CNN, the cause of the crash is under investigation. The accident report will not be ready for nine months to a year, the secretary of communications and transportation said.
The DEA recently announced that it is currently investigating Starwood Management, the company that owns the luxury jet that crashed and killed Rivera and her crew. The agency seized two of its planes earlier this year as part of the ongoing probe, reported The Huffington Post.
"The DEA has subpoenaed all the company's records, including any correspondence it has had with a former Tijuana mayor who U.S. law enforcement officials have long suspected has ties to organized crime," the Post noted.
The man who runs the business, 50-year-old Christian Esquino "has a long and checkered legal past," but he told the Associated Press he's been dogged by the DEA since the 1980s after he sold a plane in Florida to a prominent drug trafficker who eventually used the craft as part of a huge smuggling operation.
Esquino says the federal government is convinced he has ties to Tijuana's notorious Arellano Felix cartel, which he steadfastly denies.