Last Of Tijuana Drug Cartel Leaders Sentenced
The last of the Arellano-Félix brothers, who dominated drug trafficking along California’s border with Mexico, was sentenced Monday to 15 years in federal prison.
Eduardo Arellano-Félix was named in court documents as the “senior adviser” of the Arellano-Felix Organization.
He pleaded guilty earlier this year to racketeering and conspiring to launder money. He also agreed to forfeit $50,000,000.
Two of Eduardo’s brothers, Benjamín Arellano-Félix and Javier Arellano-Félix, are already serving prison sentences in the U.S. for their roles in the drug trafficking organization. A third brother, Ramón, was killed in a shootout in Mexico in 2002.
Javier was sentenced to life in prison in 2007. Benjamín, the organization’s top leader, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in April 2012.
U-T San Diego reported Monday on a secret meeting held between the two brothers in 2011 while both were in custody. A source told the U-T that the meeting’s purpose was to assure Benjamín that Javier planned to testify against him if Benjamín chose to take his case to trial.
Several weeks later, Benjamín pleaded guilty to money laundering and racketeering charges. Javier, according to the U-T’s sources, may be part of a federal witness protection program. It’s unknown exactly where in the federal prison system he’s being housed.
Meanwhile, the judge who sentenced Eduardo Arellano-Félix on Monday backed a request that he be housed with his brother Benjamín at a Florida prison.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy released a statement following the sentencing:
“The three living Arellano Felix brothers, who for decades lived as multi-millionaires while terrorizing the Southwest border, ordering assassinations and corrupting countless public officials — are now confined to maximum security prison cells for a very long time. I urge others who aspire to take their place to take note.”
William R. Sherman, special agent in charge of the DEA San Diego, called it “the end of an era in cartel history.” U.S. officials said the same when Benjamín was sentenced.
Drug violence has slowed in Tijuana in recent years, but drug seizures at the border — particularly of methamphetamine — are up.
Experts on drug trafficking believe the relative quiet in Tijuana is likely due to some sort of pact between the remnants of the Tijuana cartel and the now-dominant Sinaloa cartel.
Across Mexico, drug-related killings have fallen during the first half of this year, according to Mexican officials. President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has been credited with capturing two major drug trafficking leaders over the past two months — Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, head of the Zetas drug cartel, and on Saturday, Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, head of the Gulf cartel.
Peña Nieto has also taken flak for granting an early prison release to former drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who was convicted of torturing and killing U.S. DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985.