In July 2019, two Israeli underworld figures sat down with Vanessa Ballar Fallas at a Mexico City restaurant. At one point during their meeting, Ballar Fallas took a phone call and, moments later, two assailants approached the table and shot both men dead from close range. Ballar Fallas then calmly got up, walked out of the restaurant, and disappeared—until now.
According to reports from Mexico, Ballar Fallas was arrested on Thursday for allegedly masterminding the killing of the two men. The pair, Alon Azulay and Benjamin Yeshurun Sutchi, were reportedly in Mexico City to collect a $14.5 million money laundering debt that she had with them. But the shady deal was entangled with Mexico City’s brutal cartels, and the men were aware they were in danger ahead of the meeting.
Messages on cellphones recovered at the scene—a restaurant at the luxury Plaza Arts Mall—reportedly revealed that the victims only agreed to meet in person if it all happened in a busy public place. Ballar Fallas reserved the table where Azulay and Sutchi were shot and was there to meet them before all hell broke loose in the building. Cellphone video of the incident showed panicked diners hiding under tables from the gunfire.
Ballar Fallas, known by the moniker “La Güera,” is believed by investigators to have lured Sutchi and Azulay to the restaurant with the promise of giving them millions of dollars of laundered money. In a Friday statement, the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office reportedly described her as a “trusted partner” of the leadership of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which has been blamed for organizing the assassinations.
The newspaper El Universal reported that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel had attempted to use the two Israelis to launder the millions but came to believe that the two weren’t going to give them their share, so allegedly arranged the hit job using Ballar Fallas and hired guns.
At the time of the murders, the shooters were named as Esperanza Gutierrez, a 33-year-old woman, and 23-year-old male Mauricio Hiram. They are both believed to have belonged to the Tláhuac Cartel, which is reportedly allied with the larger Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Gutierrez was arrested moments after the July 2019 hit, whereas Hiram wasn’t tracked down and arrested until September of that year.
Israel’s embassy in Mexico said the two dead men had previous criminal records in both Israel and Mexico, and Mexican police have noted that the evidence suggested that the shooting was linked to a financial dispute between criminal groups with connections to the Israeli mafia.
“The event yesterday leads us to relate the facts with a settling of scores among criminal groups and/or organized crime,” Ulíses Lara López, a spokesman for the city prosecutor’s office, said in 2019. “It could be a settling of scores in the Israeli mafia, which is why a complete identification [of the victims] was possible, along with their criminal records.”
In August 2019, Mexico asked Interpol for help in finding Ballar Fallas. On Thursday, a year and eight months after she allegedly masterminded the deadly hit job, she was finally tracked down in Mexico City.