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Prosecutor Says Cross-Border Racketeering Case Is Historic For Southern California

A cross-border racketeering case against more than three dozen people is having a ripple affect across the San Diego-Tijuana region. The lead prosecutor says the case is historic for Southern California.

The assistant U.S. attorney handling the case, Todd Robinson, says it is the largest case of its kind in the last 10 years in San Diego, for the number of people involved.

Forty-three defendants are charged with crimes including drug trafficking, kidnapping, four murders and five attempted murders in San Diego and Tijuana.

The defendants allegedly worked for an offshoot of the Arellano Felix drug cartel.

Twenty-one defendants, including the Baja California Attorney General’s International Liaison Jesus Quiñones, have been arraigned in federal court in San Diego. Quiñones was arrested last week after a meeting with his counterparts in San Diego.

Robinson says two suspects remain at-large in the U.S.: Hassain Alzubaidy and Juan Carlos Rique Aguirre.

It's not clear how many people have been detained by Mexican police. They did arrest at least one policeman, Jose Antonio Ortega Nuño, who headed Baja California's sex crimes unit.

Robinson hopes all of the defendants in the case face justice in the U.S., though he would not comment on the U.S. government's extradition plans.

The case comes at a time when cross-border collaboration to dismantle drug cartels has been growing. However, Robinson says coordinating the case with Mexican authorities has been a challenge.

Baja California law enforcement officials were not aware that U.S. authorities planned to arrest Quiñones, the international liaison. The U.S. government coordinated the arrest of Ortega Nuño, Baja California’s director of sex crimes, with federal police in Mexico City.

Robinson hopes the case helps Mexican authorities see the U.S. government as an active partner helping to contain drug cartel violence.

The case involves 40 wiretaps and 50,000 recorded conversations. Robinson says roaming wiretaps allowed U.S. investigators to listen to calls in San Diego and Tijuana. He says in previous cases investigators had to climb telephone poles to tap lines.

He says as criminal organizations have become more sophisticated, the government’s investigative techniques have evolved, too.

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