Officials gave few details on how or precisely when the escape occurred.
But Hazael Ruiz Ortega, the deputy chief of the capital's penitentiary system, said it appeared some six to 10 workers at the jail were involved. The inmates would have had to pass through five locked doors to reach a patio where they could escape, and none of those locked doors was broken so someone had to have opened them, he said.
Authorities were searching surrounding neighborhoods.
The biggest name among the escapees was Victor Manuel Félix Beltrán, who was designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2015 under the Kingpin Act. The designation described him as a “high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel trafficker, who operates from Culiacan and Guadalajara.” It noted that he was the son of drug trafficker Victor Felix Felix, who moved cocaine and laundered money for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The Mexico City prosecutor's office said in a statement that Luis Fernando Meza González and Yael Osuna Navarro were the other two escapees. Meza González was being held on drug charges and Osuna Navarro was held for alleged criminal association.
Félix Beltrán took over after his father's 2011 arrest and most recently was a key lieutenant for Guzman's sons, according to the U.S. Treasury designation. An indictment was unsealed for him in January 2015 in Illinois.
The escape brought renewed attention to the problem of security in Mexico's lockups. Capital officials said they had petitioned to have the prisoners transferred to high-security prisons, insisting that the city jails are for lower-level offenders awaiting trial.
In the case of Félix Beltrán, he entered the jail on Mexico City's south side on Oct. 28, 2017, and was transferred to the maximum security Altiplano prison in Mexico state six days later — two years after Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped it through a tunnel.
But on Nov. 9, 2018, a federal judge ordered that Félix Beltrán be returned to the jail, said Rosa Icela Rodriguez, the capital's government secretary.
“The presence of inmates of this profile in Mexico City's penitentiaries has put at risk the safety of those held there and of course affects the governability,” Icela said. “That's why we have insisted on the need to transfer them to high security prisons outside the city.”
Ruiz said there were about 3,400 inmates being held in Mexico City jails on federal charges and about 70 of them were high-profile criminals or subject to U.S. extradition.