Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Clan Arellano: Unpunished Wealth

"HEARST" for Borderland Beat 

Francisco Arellano at the opening of Frankie Oh nightclub, which he owned,

sitting in-between Pathy Thomas and Edna Bolkan.

The following is a combination of translated excerpts and summaries of the Zeta Tijuana article titled: “Clan Arellano, Unpunished Wealth”

Eduardo Arellano Felix, head of one of the most bloodthirsty drug cartels, completed his sentence in the United States on August 18, 2021.

Thirteen years ago, after serving a short sentence, the oldest of his brothers, Francisco Rafael Arellano, was in a similar situation. He was deported to Mexico on March 4, 2008 through Ciudad Juarez. However, unlike Eduardo, he had no arrest warrant waiting for him when he crossed into Mexico. And also unlike Eduardo, with Francisco there were no public announcements of the expatriation process so he could simply walk in, seek out transportation and take a plane to Tijuana to return to his life of luxury. 

Francisco returned to his life as a millionaire. His lifestyle was such that he was murdered five years later - in October 2013 - while celebrating his birthday with a luxurious party in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur.

Except for the $200 million dollars that the United States made three of his brothers turn over, the fortune amassed by the family has not been touched by the authorities in Mexico, beyond the 3,500 pesos fine imposed on Benjamín Arellano when he was sentenced to seven years for carrying a firearm.

It is with this untouched wealth that the capos' mother, sisters and brothers, wives, ex-wives and children have all pulled from and enjoyed for years. In a search of property transfers, reports from the Attorney General's Office (FGR), probate proceedings and property recovery processes, ZETA identified 37 members of the Arellano dynasty. 

They were searched for in the Agrarian, Professional, Property and Commerce public registries, and none of them were found to have legitimate business activity in Mexico. However, some of them, such as the mother of the clan, Alicia Isabel Félix Zazueta, have actively participated in the purchase and sale of real estate, even fighting their recovery in court, when they have been seized.

Neither Francisco, Benjamin, Eduardo or Javier were ever prosecuted for money laundering. Only the nephew, Fernando Sánchez Arellano (captured in 2014) has a pending trial for money laundering.

In general, none of the Arellano lineage has been investigated to determine if there is a "fiscal discrepancy" between what they "earn" and what they "spend and own". When asked, ZETA learned that the fortunes of the Arellano Felix Cartel (CAF) are also of no interest to the Financial Intelligence Unit, which is currently investigating the holdings of the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel (CS).

The CAF was considered intellectually (and in some cases materially) responsible for an average of 6,000 files initiated for the crime of homicide between 2005 and 2014. the CAF was classified for three decades as the most violent organization that was involved in drug trafficking for their frequent murder and kidnapping. 

There is no current total assessment of the CAF's profits. But at least as a reference point, in 2005 the US Treasury Department estimated that Ivonne Soto, who was only classified as "one" of their several cartel launderers, had laundered 120 million dollars in three years. He did this through a network of exchange houses and brokers.

In 2005, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that organized crime activities related to pure drug trafficking were worth more than 330 billion dollars a year. In 2010, the Binational Study of Illicit Goods reported that through drug trafficking, between 19 billion and 29 billion pesos annually entered Mexico from the US. And in 2012, the UNODC reported that, considering all criminal activities, the cartels had profits in excess of 2 billion dollars annually.

In March 2013, the director of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in San Diego said that the 15-year prison sentence against Eduardo Arellano Felix was the end of the Tijuana Cartel. As of 2019, the DEA's mapping no longer includes any mention of the CAF.

The Freedom of El Doctor

Eduardo Arellano is a doctor who graduated from the Autonomous University of Guadalajara. Eduardo Arellano’s brother Ramon was killed in a shootout with the then Federal Police in Mazatlán in February 2002. And his brother, Benjamin, was arrested in March 2002 and then another brother Javier was arrested in international waters on August 16, 2006. This led to Eduardo and his sister Enedina becoming the visible leaders of the CAF. 

According to the arrest report, "El Doctor" was arrested in Tijuana after a shoot out.. Federal forces riddled the house marked with the number 14334, on Misiones del Pedregal street, which today looks in total abandonment. Garbage, destruction, bullet holes and the absence of seals, make the house stand out, where the stuffed animals of Eduardo's daughter, then 11 years old, now 20 years old, still remain.

The so-called house of Eduardo Arellano has an area of 240 square meters, its market price is $846,000 pesos, and it is officially registered as property of Maria Guadalupe Gomez Sanchez since 2001, but it is in ruins and no one has claimed or inhabited it in more than a decade.

Property Seizures

After the assassination of Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo on May 24, 1993 at the Guadalajara International Airport, the then Attorney General's Office (PGR) launched a manhunt against the members of the Arellano Félix family, which included a showy but ineffective attempt to attack their financial capacity. 

In the first months of this government offensive against organized crime, up to 200 properties linked to the Arellano Felix brothers were secured in different states of Mexico. In Zapopan, Guadalajara and Tlajomulco de Zúñiga (Jalisco), at least 23 properties were seized, and to date, with the exception of one, they continue to be registered with the Public Registry of Property. One house was returned, after winning an injunction, to Arellano's mother, Alicia Felix Zazueta, in 2015. The rest remain with the status of secured indefinitely.

In Tijuana, 17 homes were seized by the PGR during the persecution of this criminal gang, ranging from luxurious mansions to very austere safe houses, mostly in high class neighborhoods such as Cacho (Madero), Hipódromo, Agua Caliente, El Paraíso, Las Palmas, among others.

It is justified when the property, object or thing serves to guarantee the proof of the corpus delicti or the probable responsibility of the accused. Property seizure can also be used to prevent the loss, destruction or alteration of the traces or vestiges of the criminal act. 

However, most of the assets seized by the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office do not pass under judicial control and remain in the possession of the prosecutor's office or the institution that administers them for years, even decades, as in the case of the assets of Los Arellano, without being proven to be an instrument, object, product of the crime, or acquired with money derived from illicit activities. For this reason they can be reclaimed and returned.

Arellano Mother Recovered Seized Property

During the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office operations to reduce CAF's finances, the property was seized. However, for more than two decades, the prosecution did not prove in what way the property was the product of or its use for the commission of a crime. So on October 18, 2014, a judge granted an amparo to Alicia Felix Zazueta, mother of the Arellano Felix brothers, so that the Prosecutor's Office would cease to have ownership of the property.

 Judge José  Raymundo Cornejo justified this saying the Prosecutor’s office could no longer claim the property "without evidence of any criminal conduct before and after that legal act by the named party, or in which the property was related to".

Judge José Raymundo Cornejo Olivera was blunt: "The passage of twenty-one years is an excessive period of time [...] which in turn violates the fundamental rights of legality and legal security of the plaintiff".This ruling was later upheld on June 12, 2015 by the Third Collegiate Court in Criminal Matters, of the Third Circuit, based in Guadalajara.

Seized Tijuana Properties Are Returned

Almost 30 years after the first seizures, Ramón, Francisco Javier, Benjamín and Enedina all still appear as owners of real estate in Tijuana and Tecate according to the Public Registry of Property and Commerce,

There are six properties that were secured and released, and another six that were never touched. Some of those include lot 13, manzana 18, in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood in Tecate of which Ramón Arellano is the registered owner. The surface of the property is 199.94 square meters, and its registration dates back to 1989.

Property located at Kilometer 7 of the Tijuana-Rosarito Highway, with number 2000, in the Chula Vista neighborhood was transferred to Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, in March 1983, when he was 14 years old. The surface of the property is 415.306 square meters.

Another property that the government returned to the Arellano family was lot 6.2 of block 7, of the Chapultepec Doctores neighborhood, with a surface of 432.88 square meters. On February 20, 1995, the seizure made of this property by the PGR two years earlier was cancelled. The owner is Enedina Arellano Felix who acquired the property in 1987.

The Widow of Francisco

Just a few weeks after the murder of drug trafficker Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, his widow, Rocio del Carmen Lizárraga Lizárraga, filed an intestate succession lawsuit to take possession of her late husband's assets for herself and her youngest daughter Isabella Guadalupe.

The so-called “intestacy” trial was filed in the First Family Court of First Instance of Mazatlan, Sinaloa. The locations of Francisco Rafael's properties in Sinaloa that she tried to claim are currently unknown.

“Frankie Oh!”, one of the most famous discotheques in Sinaloa in the eighties and early nineties was actually acquired by Francisco in the name of his son Francisco Arellano Barrionuevo. His son lives with his mother and brother in the United States. They do not have a relationship with the rest of the Arellano family and stay safely away from the vengeance of rival groups of the CAF. 

When the US family of Francisco found out about Rocio Lizárraga’s legal attempt to claim Francisco’s assets, they took their own legal action. By the time the US family discovered the proceedings, Rocio Lizárraga has been initially declared "spouse supertite in 50 percent inheritance” however when other heirs to Francisco’s fortune appeared such as his son Francisco Arellano Barrionuevo, the initial ruling was overturned. 

Martín Medina, the attorney for Barrionuevos, told ZETA that the discotheque continues to be under seizure by federal ministerial authorities, despite the fact that his father's namesake has won amparo proceedings. 

Corona Houses

In the 1990s, the surnames Corona and Baez were linked to the Arellano clan. Corona is the second lastname of Ruth Serrano, wife of Benjamín Arellano. The names of David and Humberto Barrón Corona stand out amongst CAF history as well. 

David Barrón Corona was a hitman and leader of the Logan Heights gang at the service of the CAF. David was killed in the attempted murder of the founding co-director of ZETA, J. Jesús Blancornelas. Humberto Barrón Corona was a high-ranking drug dealer for the Arellanos in San Diego, also deceased.

These surnames are repeated in the property records of the houses secured and never seized by the Attorney General's Office from the criminal organization.

Casa del Oro “The Golden House”

The most luxurious of all the properties listed was the one located between Jalisco Avenue and Querétaro Street, number 2931, in the Cacho neighborhood of Tijuana. It consisted of three floors and had gold finishes throughout practically the entire property. Gold cutlery and dishes, gold knobs and keys, gold; gold walls and stairs; even gold furniture!

There was a pool table, a bar, an indoor pool, a gym, a TV room, a Jacuzzi, secret passages and a fish tank within the walls.

Jorge Ortiz Corona has been listed as the owner of the property since 1990 in the Public Registry of Property and Commerce of Baja California. When he was 18 years old (1989) he bought it for 265 million old pesos from the daughter of former governor Roberto de la Madrid Romandía, Laura Martha de la Madrid Victoria de Zavala.

Nothing remains of the luxuries of the place. When it was secured by the then PGR, the shell of the house was left behind. It was a basic education school, and is currently rented for the development of a clinic for addiction rehabilitation, whose intermediary in the lease was Grupo Bustamante, and the lessor, according to the information provided, Jorge Ramos, former mayor of Tijuana.

El Paraíso House

Another residence that stood out for its luxury is the one secured by the PGR in October 1993, on the corner of Ottawa Street and Las Americas Avenue, Fraccionamiento El Paraíso. Sources consulted at that time by ZETA confirmed that the Arellano Felix brothers lived there.

The property is painted white on the outside, has a Romanesque design, has two floors and a basement, a swimming pool and a garage for eight cars. It has been uninhabited since then and has become a mansion for consuming and distributing various drugs, as well as for committing other crimes.

The house is completely vandalized and ransacked. Graffiti graffiti is seen all over the interior. Burnt garbage, wood, tires. The place has become a point of insecurity in the neighborhood. It has no security seals and the reason for its abandonment is unknown.

The RPPC found that the property was purchased in 1992 by Mayra Pérez Corona, the granddaughter of Ignacio Corona Ruesga, from Roberto Garín Olache. In 1993, a seizure notice was issued due to a debt of 21,703.59 pesos owed to the Comisión Estatal de Servicios Públicos de Tijuana. The appraisal of the property was calculated at 6 million 165 thousand 175 pesos.

Primary Article: Zeta Tijuana  

Photo Credit: Zeta article and vintage newspaper clippings uploaded by La Gacha Manzana Equis, with photo editing


  1. Rich family thanks to all those homes
    they have. Welcome back Eduardo A.

  2. The posted infamous picture of the AF family which one is Ramon? Or was out pulling a jale the day they took the photo.

  3. The abuela still active she's such a sweet heart

  4. Arellanos had TJ on lock and all was safe till Chapo got greedy!

  5. Very good story. Francisco’s club Frankie Oh is not still abandoned; but it was still there empty through close to 2008.

    Also Franscisco sequestered Rocio in 1990 after she won la reina de carnival in 1990.

  6. Very good story. Francisco’s club Frankie Oh is not still abandoned; but it was still there empty through close to 2008.

    Also Franscisco sequestered Rocio in 1990 after she won la reina de carnival in 1990.

  7. Thanks! Finding those newspaper scans of the club opening was like a goldmine. Thought it really illustrated the luxurious aspects of their lifestyle.

  8. Hearst you should do a story of all the properties they own here in the states, Eastlake has been CAFs quiet Kingdom since the late 80s early 90s


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