Drug kingpin Arellano-Felix has his day in a San Diego court
The fourth and final brother of the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO), a ruthless Tijuana drug cartel, was extradited from Mexico City to San Diego on Friday and pleaded not guilty to all charges in a Southern District of California federal courtroom this morning.
After years of unsuccessful appeals, the Mexican government finally granted the U.S. government’s extradition request and Eduardo Arellano-Felix, 55, one of the alleged leaders of the AFO, made his first court appearance on charges of racketeering, money laundering and drug trafficking.
The legal proceeding effectively ends the AFO’s 20-year reign of terror in Tijuana. Nearly four years ago, October 2008, Arellano-Felix engaged Mexican authorities is a sustained gun battle in an upscale Tijuana neighborhood that later gained notoriety on YouTube.
“This extradition is a significant step in our effort to bring another key figure in the Arellano Felix Organization to answer, in an American court of law, to very serious charges,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, whose office secured the indictment. “We are grateful to the Government of Mexico for its assistance in the extradition.”
The Arellano-Felix drug trafficking/money laundering investigation was coordinated by Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) a Department of Justice (DOJ) D.C.-based program that coordinates multiple law enforcement efforts to successfully dismantle high-profile organized crime elements. OCDETF was also involved in the fatally- flawed gunwalking program Fast and Furious that ended with the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
“The extradition is a milestone in our fight against the Mexican drug cartels. I want to thank the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs for its tireless work in helping to ensure that Eduardo Arellano-Felix and numerous of his alleged co-conspirators face justice in the United States,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spent the last 20 years investigating the AFO drug trafficking activities.
“This extradition illustrates that DEA and all its law enforcement partners will relentlessly pursue these drug traffickers until they are brought to justice,” said William Sherman, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego DEA.
During their 20-year reign the AFO kingpins controlled the flow of drugs across the California border. Working with other Mexican and Columbian cartel networks, the AFO successfully trafficked cocaine, marijuana and money across multiple California border crossings.
According to a DOJ statement; “The seventh superseding indictment charges Arellano-Felix with conducting the affairs of an illegal enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity (RICO), conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, as well as money laundering. The indictment alleges that the leadership of the AFO negotiated directly with Colombian cocaine-trafficking organizations for the purchase of multi-ton shipments of cocaine, received those shipments by sea and by air, in Mexico, and then arranged for the smuggling of the cocaine into the United States and its further distribution throughout the U.S. The indictment also alleges that the proceeds of the AFO’s drug trafficking, estimated by law enforcement to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, were then smuggled back into Mexico.”
Eduardo’s brothers, Benjamin Arellano-Felix and Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, are serving 25-year sentences in U.S. prisons following their convictions for racketeering, drug trafficking and money laundering charges. An Arellano-Felix nephew, Fernando Sánchez Arellano, has allegedly taken the helm of the severely weakened drug cartel.
Today’s brief arraignment was held in U.S. District Court in San Diego before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Lynn Major. Arellano-Felix was assigned attorney Brian Funk and will have a chance to request bail this Friday.
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