A federal judge sentenced Benjamin Arellano-Felix, who once ran the violent Tijuana drug cartel, to 25 years to life following his guilty plea to racketeering and conspiracy charges.
Judge Larry Burns sentenced Arellano-Felix on Monday. The former leader of the Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO) had pleaded gulty in January and agreed to forfeit $100 million in criminal proceeds.
"Today's prison sentence virtually ensures that Arellano-Felix will spend the remainder of his life in custody," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "Following this sentence, he will be deported to Mexico to finish a 22-year sentence. This is a fitting end for a person who has caused so much suffering and destruction."
The AFO controlled the flow of cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs into the United States through the Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali. Its operations extended into southern Mexico and Colombia. The cartel, which was portrayed in the Steven Soderbergh film "Traffic," was known for its violent killings, including dissolving bodies of its rivals in vats of lye.
Arellano-Felix was taken into custody by Mexican authorities on March 9, 2002. An extradition order was granted in 2007, and after years of unsuccessful appeals, Arellano-Felix arrived in the U.S. on April 29, 2011 to face charges in the Southern District of California for narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime-related offenses. On Jan. 4, he entered guilty pleas.
Arellano-Felix was the leader of the AFO from approximately 1986 until his arrest. During that time, Arellano-Felix issued directives to other members of the AFO, including his brothers, Ramon, Eduardo, and Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix, as well as his top lieutenants and drug trafficking partners.
Arellano-Felix and other AFO members imported and distributed hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana, receiving hundreds of millions in U.S. dollars in profits. The cartel committed numerous murders, kidnappings, and other violent crimes. Members of the AFO also bribed law enforcement and military personnel as well as murdering informants and potential witnesses to obstruct or impede the investigation.
This case was investigated by agents from the DEA, FBI, and Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation division. The investigation was coordinated by an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
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