Sinaloa Cartel Member Extradited to the United States
Luis Arellano-Romero charged in April 2012 RICO indictment alleging conspiracies to commit murder, kidnapping, money laundering, illegally possess firearms, and drug importation and distribution
Sinaloa Cartel member Luis Arellano-Romero (aka “Bichi,” “Bichy,” “Helio”), age 44, has been extradited from Mexico to face federal racketeering charges in the Western District of Texas. Arellano-Romero had his initial appearance in El Paso today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Berton. Arellano-Romero remains in federal custody.
U.S. Attorney John F. Bash, Special Agent in Charge Kyle W. Williamson of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) El Paso Division, Special Agent in Charge Luis Quesda of the FBI’s El Paso Field Office and, Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey C. Boshek, II, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Dallas Division made the announcement.
In April 2012, Arellano-Romero was charged in the same federal grand jury indictment as Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka “El Chapo,” Ismael Zambada Garcia aka “Mayo,” Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo “aka Jaguar” and 20 other individuals responsible for the operations and management of the Sinaloa Cartel (Cartel). The indictment charged them with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. According to the indictment, Luis Arellano-Moreno was Torres Marrufo’s personal body guard who participated in numerous kidnappings and murders as part of Torres Marrufo’s assassin squads. Upon conviction, Luis Arellano-Romero faces up to life in federal prison.
The 14-count grand jury indictment, returned on April 11, 2012, charges conspiracy to violate the RICO statute; conspiracy to possess more than five kilograms of cocaine and over 1000 kilograms of marijuana; conspiracy to import more than five kilograms of cocaine and 1000 kilograms of marijuana; conspiracy to commit money laundering; conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes; murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE) or drug trafficking; engaging in a CCE in furtherance of drug trafficking; conspiracy to kill in a foreign country; kidnapping; and violent crimes in aid of racketeering.
According to the indictment, the purpose of the Sinaloa Cartel is to smuggle large quantities of marijuana and cocaine, as well as other drugs, into the United States for distribution. Laundered proceeds of drug trafficking activities are returned to Cartel members and are used in part to purchase properties related to the daily functioning of the Cartel, including real estate, firearms, ammunition, bullet proof vests, radios, telephones, uniforms and vehicles. In an effort to maintain control of all aspects of their operations, the Cartel and it’s associates, including members of the Gente Nueva (“New People”) and the Artistas Asesinos (“Murder artists”), kidnap, torture and murder those who lose or steal assets belonging to, are disloyal to, or are enemies of the Cartel.
This includes the Juarez Cartel, a competing drug organization who at the time was led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, as well as it’s enforcement arm known as La Linea and the Barrio Aztecas. Oftentimes, murders committed by the Cartel involve brutal acts of violence as well the public display of the victim along with banners bearing written warnings to those who would cross the Cartel.
The indictment references two acts of violence allegedly committed by members of the Cartel. First, the indictment alleges that in September 2009, Torres Marrufo, Gabino Salas-Valenciano, Fernando Arellano-Romero (Luis’s brother) and Mario Iglesias-Villegas, under the leadership of Guzman Loera and Zambada Garcia, conspired to kidnap and murder a Horizon City, Texas, resident. Specifically, Torres Marrufo ordered the kidnapping of the victim to answer for the loss of a 670-pound load of marijuana seized by the U.S. Border Patrol at the Sierra Blanca checkpoint on Aug. 5, 2009. After the kidnapping, the victim was taken to Juarez where Torres Marrufo interrogated him and ordered that he be killed. On Sept. 8, 2009, the victim’s mutilated body was discovered in Juarez.
Second, the indictment alleges that on May 7, 2010, Torres Marrufo, Fernando Arellano-Romero and Iglesias-Villegas, under the leadership of Guzman Loera and Zambada Garcia, conspired to kidnap and murder an American citizen and two members of his family. Specifically, Torres Marrufo caused an individual in El Paso to travel to a wedding ceremony in Juarez to confirm the identity of a target. The target was the groom, a U.S. citizen and a resident of Columbus, New Mexico. Under Torres Marrufo’s orders, the groom, his brother and his uncle were all kidnapped during the wedding ceremony and subsequently tortured and murdered. Their bodies were discovered by Juarez police a few days later in the bed of an abandoned pickup truck. Additionally, a fourth person was killed during the kidnapping at the wedding ceremony.
This investigation resulted in the seizure of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, and thousands of pounds of marijuana in cities throughout the U.S. Law enforcement also took possession of millions of dollars in drug proceeds which were destined to be returned to the Cartel in Mexico. Agents and officers likewise seized hundreds of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition intended to be smuggled into Mexico to assist the Cartel’s battle to take control of one of the key drug trafficking corridors used to bring drugs into the U.S.
The DEA, FBI and ATF together with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s-Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service, El Paso Police Department, El Paso Sheriff’s Office and Texas Department of Public Safety investigated the case. The Office of International Affairs of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division provided significant support in securing and coordinating Arellano-Romero’s arrest and extradition. U.S. Attorney Bash also expresses his appreciation to the U.S Attorney’s Office in New Mexico; Attorney General of Mexico Alejandro Gertz Manero and his attorneys; and, to law enforcement authorities in Mexico for their assistance.
It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.