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Press Release

Alleged Sinaloa Cartel Trafficker Victor Emilio Cazares Gastellum Extradited to the U.S.

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U. S. Attorney Michael Kaplan (619) 546-7927    


SAN DIEGO – Alleged drug kingpin Victor Emilio Cazares Gastellum, who for years was one of the United States’ most-wanted Mexican drug trafficking suspects, was extradited on Friday and arraigned in federal court in San Diego this morning on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Cazares, also known as “El Licenciado,” was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego in 2007, along with 18 of his suspected lieutenants and foot soldiers. According to the indictment, Cazares' organization shipped multi-ton quantities of drugs from Colombia and Venezuela through Central America to Mexico. The narcotics were then smuggled across the Southwestern border and he and others distributed the drug throughout the United States.

The United States issued a provisional arrest warrant for Cazares following his indictment, and the U.S. Department of State offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest and/or conviction. Cazares was captured by Mexican authorities about five years later, on April 8, 2012, at a highway checkpoint near the western city of Guadalajara. 

Until his arrest, Cazares was believed to be aligned with Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, former leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the most notorious and violent drug trafficking organizations operating in Mexico. The Sinaloa Cartel imports and distributes hundreds of tons of cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana into the United States each year.

The indictments were announced at a news conference in San Diego by then –Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The 22-month sting, code-named “Operation Imperial Emperor,” resulted in the nationwide arrests of 402 people suspected of working for the cartel, more than $45 million in cash and tons of cocaine, heroin and marijuana.

During today’s hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bartick, the defendant was ordered detained without bail. His next court hearing is scheduled for April 4, 2016 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Court Judge William Q. Hayes.

DEFENDANT                                              Case Number: 07CR0449

Victor Emilio Cazares Gastellum                    Age: 52                      


Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substance, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 952, 960, and 963; Maximum penalty- Life

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 846 and 841(a)(1); Maximum penalty- life

Engaging in a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C. Sec. 848(b); Maximum penalty- Life

Conspiracy to Launder Money, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C., Secs. 1956(a)(2)(A) and 1956(h); Maximum penalty 20 years


Drug Enforcement Administration

El Centro Police Department

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated March 7, 2016

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS16-0307-Cazares