WASHINGTON – Alberto Benjamin Arellano-Felix, an alleged leader of the Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO), was extradited today by the government of Mexico to the United States to face racketeering, money laundering and narcotics trafficking charges in the Southern District of California.
The extradition was announced by U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
Arellano-Felix was taken into custody by Mexican authorities in 2002. A final order of extradition to the United States was granted in 2007. After years of unsuccessful appeals, Arellano-Felix arrived in the United States this afternoon. He is scheduled to be arraigned on May 2, 2011, in U.S. District Court in San Diego before Judge Larry Alan Burns.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, whose office secured the indictment against Arellano-Felix, said that she was “extremely proud of the dedication and commitment that teams of people have demonstrated in bringing Arellano-Felix to answer, in an American court of law, to the very serious charges with which he is charged.” Duffy stated, “We are grateful to the Government of Mexico for its assistance in the extradition and have personally relayed our thanks to Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales.” Over the last several years, Duffy and Morales have worked together on a number of transborder crime matters.
“The extradition of Benjamin Arellano-Felix reflects our close collaboration with our Mexican law enforcement partners to dismantle violent criminal organizations in Mexico and the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The Arellano-Felix Organization has spread fear and violence on both sides of the border, and today’s extradition is an important step forward in our effort to hold the alleged leaders of this criminal enterprise to account.”
“Using violence, intimidation, kidnapping and murder, the Arellano-Felix Organization, also known as the Tijuana Cartel, has been one of the world’s most brutal drug trafficking networks,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “The extradition of Benjamin Arellano-Felix is one of many great victories against this criminal enterprise, which has seen five of the seven Arellano-Felix brothers either arrested or killed. Together with our Mexican partners, we will continue sustained attacks on cartels that threaten our way of life.”
“The FBI is pleased with Mexico’s efforts to bring to justice a leader from one of the most violent criminal enterprises in our history,” said Assistant Director Perkins of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The cooperation between our two countries is a powerful force in disrupting the Arellano-Felix Organization’s criminal activities that instill fear and threaten the safety of our citizens.”
Long-reputed to be one of the most notorious multi-national drug trafficking organizations, the AFO controlled the flow of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs through the Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali into the United States. Its operations also extended into southern Mexico as well as Colombia.
The seventh superseding indictment charges Arellano-Felix with conducting the affairs of an illegal enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity (RICO), conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, and money laundering. The indictment alleges that the leadership of the AFO negotiated directly with Colombian cocaine trafficking organizations for the purchase of multi-ton shipments of cocaine, received those shipments in Mexico by sea and by air, and then arranged for the smuggling of the cocaine into the United States and its further distribution throughout the U.S. The indictment also alleges that the proceeds of the AFO’s drug trafficking, estimated by law enforcement to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, were then smuggled back into Mexico.
The indictment also alleges that the AFO recruited, trained and armed groups of bodyguards and assassins who were responsible for protecting the leaders of the organization, and also for conducting assassinations of rival drug traffickers, suspected cooperators, uncooperative Mexican law enforcement and military personnel, and members of the Mexican news media who printed stories unfavorable towards the AFO.
This case is being investigated by agents from the DEA, the FBI, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, and prosecuted in the Southern District of California by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Green and James Melendres. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the extradition. The investigation of Alberto Benjamin Arellano-Felix was coordinated by an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program was created to consolidate and coordinate all law enforcement resources in this country’s battle against major drug trafficking rings, drug kingpins and money launderers.
An indictment is not evidence that the defendant committed the crimes charged. The defendant is presumed innocent until the government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.