Major bust: Mexican national indicted on drug kingpin charges in Calif.
A Mexican described by U.S. authorities as “one of the world’s major drug traffickers” has been indicted by a federal grand jury in California on racketeering, drug trafficking and money laundering charges that carry the death penalty.
U.S. Attorney Carol C. Lam in San Diego said the indictment, unsealed on Dec. 20, accuses Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix of six counts of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, which dominated the Mexican drug trade for more than a decade and flooded the United States with hundreds of tons of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin.
The indictment accuses Arel- lano-Felix of maintaining control of his drug trafficking empire by personally ordering kidnappings and up to 20 slayings, including beheadings, of rivals in the drug trade, law-enforcement officers and members of the press.
Arellano-Felix, who also oversaw the construction of sophisticated tunnels to smuggle drugs under the U.S.-Mexico border, was arrested in August by U.S. authorities while deep-sea fishing and is now in custody in San Diego. The U.S. Coast Guard apprehended him aboard a boat known as the “Dock Holiday,” 15 miles off the shore of La Paz, Mexico.
An earlier indictment that sought his extradition in 2003 did not include the charges that could lead to his execution and is expected to be dismissed as moot. Mexico has balked at extraditing those facing a possible death sentence in this country.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokesman Rusty Payne said a decision whether to seek the death penalty will be made by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at a later date.
Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty has described Arellano-Felix, 37, as “one of the world’s major drug traffickers,” citing his role as a leader of a brutal international drug gang that includes seven brothers and four sisters.
Mr. McNulty said the Arellano-Felix organization negotiated directly with Colombian cocaine-trafficking organizations, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia for the purchase of multiton shipments of cocaine, received those shipments by sea and air in Mexico, and then arranged for smuggling the cocaine into the U.S.
Also indicted was Manuel Arturo Villarreal Heredia, 31, described as a hired assassin for the Arellano-Felix organization. He also was taken into custody on the fishing boat and is held in San Diego.
The indictment describes Arellano-Felix as the gang’s principal organizer and top leader since March 2000, and Villarreal as one of its top six under-bosses, in command of crews that carried out enforcement operations and drug trafficking activities.
It names Arellano-Felix and Villarreal in connection with the 2005 killing of Deputy Police Chief Hugo Gabrial Coronel Vargas in Tijuana, Mexico, and the kidnapping, slaying and beheading of three Rosarito Beach police officers in June 2006.
Arellano-Felix also was charged in Mexico in 1993 with conspiring to assassinate Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Posadas Ocampo. Cardinal Posadas Ocampo, along with six other persons, was assassinated on May 24, 1993, in the parking lot at Guadalajara International Airport. He was shot 14 times.
In January, federal agents located a 2,400-foot-long tunnel built by the Tijuana-based Arellano-Felix organization, filled with 2 tons of marijuana and connecting warehouses in Tijuana to San Diego.