“AS the sun rose over the mountains circling Los Reyes, a town
in the Mexican state of Michoacán, one morning in March
2009, a caravan of more than 300 heavily armed law enforcement
agents set out on a raid.
“All but the lead vehicle turned off their headlights to evade
lookouts, called “falcons,” who work for La Familia Michoacana, the
brutal Mexican cartel that controls the drug trade. This time, the
police weren’t hunting for a secret stash of drugs, guns or money.
Instead, they looked to crack down on La Familia’s growing
counterfeit software ring.
“The police reached the house undetected, barreled in and found
rooms crammed with about 50 machines used to copy CDs and make
counterfeit versions of software like Microsoft Office and Xbox
video games. They arrested three men on the spot, who were later
released while the authorities investigate the case. “The entire
operation was very complicated and risky,” says a person close to
the investigation, who demanded anonymity out of fear for his