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Mexican Drug Kingpin To Be Sentenced In San Diego

The former leader of the notorious Arellano Felix Mexican drug cartel, who ordered murders and kidnappings in connection with his organization's distribution of drugs into the United States, is scheduled to be sentenced today at the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego.

Benjamin Arellano Felix pleaded guilty in January to racketeering and conspiracy to launder money. He faces a maximum 25 years in prison and a $100 million forfeiture.

As part of his plea, Arellano Felix said that between 1986 and 2002 he was the "shot-caller'' in a conspiracy to import and distribute hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds.

He admitted re-investing the money from drug sales to pay people to commit crimes, bribing law enforcement officials and ordering the murders of informants and others.

Arellano Felix was extradited to the United States last year after spending nine years in a Mexican prison on similar charges.

Long reputed to be one of the most notorious multi-national drug trafficking organizations, the Arellano Felix Organization 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 and Colombia.

According to authorities, the cartel -- run by brothers Benjamin, Eduardo, Javier and Ramon -- monopolized routes for illegal drugs through Tijuana to the United States for more than 20 years.

Ramon Arellano-Felix, the organization's top enforcer, was killed in a shootout in Mexico in 2002. Javier Arellano-Felix was captured in 2006; he is serving a life sentence in the United States. Eduardo Arellano-Felix was captured in 2008 after a shootout in Tijuana, and U.S. authorities are still seeking his extradition.

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