Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mexican drug kingpin Benjamin Arellano Felix pleads guilty to US charges in San Diego

Benjamin Arellano Felix stands in his home in Puebla, Mexico, on March 9, 2002, the day he was arrested(photo courtesy USA Today)

By Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Mexican drug kingpin Benjamin Arellano Felix pleaded guilty Wednesday to racketeering and conspiracy to launder money, avoiding the spectacle of a trial for the leader of a cartel that once smuggled hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States and dissolved bodies of its rivals in vats of lye.

Under an agreement with federal prosecutors, Arellano Felix, 58, can be sentenced to no more than 25 years in prison — a lighter punishment than ordered for lower-ranking members of his once-mighty, Tijuana-based cartel.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss other charges that could have brought 140 years in prison if he was convicted.

The half-hour hearing was an anticlimactic finish to the U.S. government’s pursuit of one of the world’s most powerful drug bosses during the 1990s. His cartel, with its iron-tight grip on the drug trade along California’s border with Mexico, was portrayed in the Steven Soderbergh film “Traffic” but has struggled in recent years as other cartels have become more ruthless than ever.

Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney in San Diego who built much of her career on the case, said Arellano Felix will likely spend the rest of his life in U.S. prison but did not elaborate on the reasoning for the plea deal.

“Today’s guilty plea marks the end of his reign of murder, mayhem and corruption, and his historic admission of guilt sends a clear message to the Mexican cartel leaders operating today: The United States will spare no effort to investigate, extradite and prosecute you for your criminal activities,” Duffy said.

Arellano Felix stood attentively in court, acknowledging his guilt as U.S. District Judge Larry Burns recited parts of a 17-page plea agreement. He told the judge that he has been suffering migraine headaches almost daily but that the problem didn’t impair his judgment to accept the plea agreement.

Anthony Colombo Jr., Arellano Felix’s attorney, said his client could be released from U.S. prison in 20 years if credited for time served in this country and good behavior, assuming he gets the maximum 25-year sentence. As a Mexican citizen, he would then be deported to Mexico, where he still has nine years left on a sentence for related crimes.

Colombo said the government may have agreed to the deal to avoid having to bargain with 21 potential government witnesses for reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony. They also may have wanted to avoid a lengthy trial.

“They have to consider years and years of litigation, plus the expense, is avoided by this resolution,” Colombo told reporters.

John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor who co-wrote the 2003 indictment against Arellano Felix, said the case rested entirely on cooperating witnesses, instead of wiretaps or physical evidence. He said those cases weaken over time as witnesses die, get into more trouble or change their minds about testifying.

“This kind of case is based solely on witness testimony, and it slowly disintegrates,” Kirby said. “Maybe from the time when we put it together and now, it’s not such a great case anymore.”

The cost of a trial was unlikely to have influenced prosecutors, Kirby said.

“The government doesn’t care about the expense, the government cares about winning,” he said.

Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, a younger brother who led the cartel after Benjamin was arrested in Mexico in 2002, was sentenced in San Diego to life in prison in 2007, a year after he was captured by U.S. authorities in international waters off Mexico’s Baja California coast. Jesus Labra Aviles, a lieutenant under Benjamin Arellano Felix, was sentenced in San Diego to 40 years in prison in 2010.

Benjamin Arellano Felix was extradited from Mexico in April 2011 to face drug, money-laundering and racketeering charges, one of the highest-profile kingpins to face prosecution in the United States.

The U.S. indictment said Arellano Felix was the top leader of a cartel he led with his brothers, going back to 1986. It says the cartel tortured and killed rivals in the United States and Mexico as it smuggled Mexican marijuana and Colombian cocaine.

“He was the top of the chain,” Kirby said. “The brothers were at the top, and he was at the very top. He had the final say ... He was like the CEO of the operation.”

The cartel began to lose influence along California’s border with Mexico after Arellano Felix was arrested in 2002. A month earlier, his brother, Ramon, called the cartel’s top enforcer, died in a shootout with Mexican authorities.

Benjamin Arellano Felix was incarcerated in Mexico after his 2002 arrest and was later sentenced to 22 years in prison on drug trafficking and organized crime charges.

Arellano Felix also agreed to forfeit $100 million, a figure that will be difficult for the government to collect.

“Whether there is anything out there that (the government) can seize, I don’t know,” Colombo said.

Sentencing was set for April 2.

26 comments:

  1. I Knew he did It!

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  2. Victim of Cartel ViolenceJanuary 5, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    Duffy and her prosecution team in the Southern District of California are pussies! 25 years to a mass-murderer!! Even though Benjamin is not coperating, he will probably get killed over the perception that he is due to the ridiculous plea! What frickin planet do you come from Duffy?

    How do you explain to all the victims of his violence and every law enforcement officer who brought him to justice that you that you failed them miserably to focus on your career? Duffy you are a true phony and a back-stabber!

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  3. Sad but this is now the trend. The gringos did the same with Osiel Cardenas Guillen but with less chest pounding in the media.

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  4. I find it Interesting that the report states that they did not want to waste money, or bring forth witnesses who happen to be protected,
    I wonder if this will be a recurring trend in the coming years with less money to spend per case, Prohibition is about to get more Expensive to maintain with less money tos spend on it, I wonder if the War on Drugs will be relabeled. Notice how the Gov, needs to borrow an additional 1.2 trillion in the next few weeks.

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  5. Lawyers do miracles

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  6. WTF!! Duffy should be tried for treason in both the US and Mexico! Every day it becomes more evident that "Doing the right Thing" is not the popular thing to do. Grow a pair of balls US Attorney's Office!.

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  7. everyone thinks the Arellano Felix family is crushed now or out of the game... seems like too me their the smart one right now... why all the other cartels are killing,doing beheading videos,robbing,extortion,etc... the a.f.o is playing it real low key,proberly moveing major product..why not on the radar... i thought the whole purpose of a cartel was the drug business.... seem like now the cartels are doing more fighting or killing than moving drugs... pretty soon the major drug barons in other countries are not gonna want to have any type of connection with these mexican drug cartels because of all this heat their bringing on themself

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  8. This will sound cold but it is not meant to be. Each US Attorney office does have a budget and they do have thousands of mules to prosecute. Of course with a sentence like is contemplated here, letting the mules go would be justice.

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  9. For all we know, the various cartels might be working for the same people. They couldn't all be independent from farmer to consumer, it's a huge market. The cartels are mostly middle men, so the supposed "war" is nothing more than a distraction from the real people making the money. It only gets harder and harder to find these people because they separate themselves from the dirty work more and more. You hear about drugs and chemicals being seized all the time, but not so many seizures of the massive amounts of cash being moved around.

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  10. How much did Duffy get paid for this crock of shit plea deal?!?! That's the real question!!! Think about it. They have unlimited funds, and they don't care about wasting the courts time or money. Someone put the idea of a plea in their mind, and I bet it had a pile of cash connected to it.

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  11. When i read this article i wondered how the boss got a lighter sentance then then the guy under him. Not until i read the he paid, i mean forfitted 100million dollars did it make sense. With $$$ u can get away with anything Even murder

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  12. he actualy got life if you look at the numbers , he is 58+ even if he gets 20 years for good conduct and ass kissing, thats 78 years of age and its not like he is spending them in club med fuck it might as well kill yourself and make life easy on the family.

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  13. An agreement to forfeit assets in a plea deal is a far cry from the gov't having the money.

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  14. 100 millions bucks, this is ALL about the money, not justice. When is the ATF going to go on trial too ?

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  15. Once again the USA and its people supposibly brags about how their system is soo un corruptable!!!

    Well here you have it this guy killed hundreds and only gets 25 years,but with good behavior he will get out in 10.

    The USA is hoar when it comes to making money off side deals such as reaching agreements,I wouldnt be suprised if Osiel Cardenas gets to have his furlos or little vacations here and there.

    You guys say Mexico is corrupt first look at your stupid country.

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  16. La justicia de los gringos es quitarle el dinero a los demas stupid ambiciosos se creen la gran kk y que se merecen enjuiciar a todo el mundo podria alguien abrirles los ojos y que vean que son iguales a cualquier cubano, mexicano, guatemalteco, etc, etc.

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  17. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss other charges that could have brought 140 years in prison if he was convicted.

    AS FAR AS I KNOW HE WAS EXTRADITED FROM MEXICO, HE CAN NOT GET MORE THAN 30 YEARS. IF HE MADE A DEAL IT WAS TO TAKE 5 YEARS OFF FROM THE MAXIMUM 30 YEARS.

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  18. He doesn't have that money, it's just a legal thing, there is quote in the San Diego article saying something to that effect. It has nothing to do with the Government wanting that money, more of a going thru the motions more then anything else. I wonder if he goes to the super max in Colordao, or a regular Federal prison.

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  19. 20 years of super-max is tough.

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  20. well,according to federal laws,his minions should not get a higher sentence than the king-pin!J,would you do BLB a favor & look into that!!

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  21. We need Benjamin out of the pinta!..We need him in Mexico, to take out that piece of shit Chapulin!...

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  22. A "slap in the face" to any victim, witness or law enforcement officer who were brutalized by this monster. Laura Duffy and her prosecution team should be dismissed and sent back to Disneyworld.

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  23. The bad thing is, I think the law reads that you can't give a kingpin less time than his mules.. or those who worked for him.. which means if this goes forward then there might be a lot of people over turning this case if I'm correct. And I think I am

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  24. @ January 11, 2012 2:09 AM,yes sir,you are correct,The kingpin cannot get a lower sentence than his workers/minions/pawns...call them what you will,that IS U.S department of justice law!!!

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  25. We need Benjamin out of the pinta!..We need him in Mexico, to take out that piece of shit Chapulin!...January 7, 2012 6:52 AM,Dude,Benjamin is to busy in court telling on all of his people!Another Sinaloense turned informant!!Hes right up there with Javier Torres Felix,Ismael & Gilberto Higuera!Puros pinches sapos/soplones/ratas/informantes!

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  26. I am an innocent former Fed.Narc who was "set up" by the government cause they do not like "whistle-blowers".(During U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy and Karen P. Hewitt)Carol Lam got fired as a "political" move.
    They used a Mexican "illegal" who was a convicted liar in 1996 trying to get a Green Card. Eloy Fernandez-Fernandez (aka Luis Olivas) is still a "snitch" today and in the Yuma, Arizona area or Chula Vista area with other Family.
    The AUSA and the FBI were all involved in committing Entrapment and conspiracy to violate my rights.
    Yes, the U.S. is still very corrupt and it needs to be fixed. I have tried and one man can not do it alone.
    I personally saw and spoke with Felix Arellano at MCC and he was not a happy man. He is lucky the U.S. Attorney didn't go for the death penalty, and they WERE trying. Duffy will lie like the rest to make their careers no matter who they kill "legally".
    I later saw and spoke with both Ismael and Gilberto Higuera.They were also in SHU(solitary) and they both voiced their opinions that they were not sure they could do the time.They will both miss their wives and children and never see them growing up, other than in letters or photos that are "screened" by Bureau of Prisons "scum bags" who block mail and violate "attorney client" privileged communications.(They don't care) They are "wanna be cops" and just "guards". There were some convicted BOP guards in prison too. More belong there, just like Eric Holder and dozens more from the current Obama administration.

    Anybody, no matter who, will probably give up their own friends or relatives if they can avoid the harsh sentences, if you committed the crime. Consider the innocent people that died.
    The U.S. Attorney will make you a deal if you are guilty, but NOT if you are innocent.
    It is a harsh life to live by the gun and possibly go to prison or die. Either way, we all die.
    I guess the question is after so many years, would you rather "die free or die on your knees"? Pancho Villa said, "it is better to die on your feet than to serve on your knees".
    Life in prison is no good no matter who you are. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, MLK,etc..
    I personally think we need to change the system and help people to become productive members of society instead of producing "psychos" after 3-5 years.(There were some men that were already crazy at 10-20 years)
    I was moved around so much I couldn't keep track.I met and dealt with many "personalities" and I had a lot of respect for some people.
    However, I did see some that should never have been imprisoned like myself.There were some who were just smugglers who got caught and were doing upwards of 20 years.(Is it worth all that?) I don't think so.
    Remember, I never committed a crime, but I spoke out against this corrupt country of ours in the USA. It is not popular to do what I do, but someone has to stand up.
    If I were President, I would change all the sentencing laws, and make sure convicts got jobs to support their Families, but not wasting time in prison.
    Unless you have millions or billions of dollars,you still can't buy your way out all the time.Even Manuel Noriega(CIA Asset) had to wait 23 plus years since his "capture" in 1989, before going to France.(Bush took ALL his assets)
    Ever hear of Carlos Lehder? Some say he is still inside and others say he bought his way out.The BPO site has no record of either spelling. He is about 63 years old.
    Both the Higuera brothers are at the Colorado "Super MAX" without ANY direct sunlight or human contact with Family or a female.(Underground)
    Nothing is worth one minute in jail or prison! Not one! It is worse to put one innocent man in prison than to let 12 criminals go free.
    God help all those who are innocent and in prison, and God help the ones who are guilty as well.

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