HomeNewsBriefFormer Tijuana Cartel Head Pleas Guilty in U.S. Court
BRIEF

Former Tijuana Cartel Head Pleas Guilty in U.S. Court

EXTRADITION / 5 JAN 2012 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

A former leader of the Tijuana Cartel, and one of the most powerful drug barons ever prosecuted in the United States, has pleaded guilty to racketeering and money laundering charges in a San Diego court.

Benjamin Arellano Felix accepted the charges against him as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors. According to the Associated Press, U.S. officials agreed to dismiss other charges against him that, if convicted, could have resulted in a sentence of up to 140 years in prison. As it stands, Arellano Felix will likely be given 25 years when he is sentenced on April 2nd.

Arellano’s sentence is relatively light for the charges against him, especially when compared to the sentences received by his former deputies. His younger brother Francisco, who was captured by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2006, was sentenced to life in prison in a San Diego court in 2007. Another lieutenant of his, Jesus Labra Aviles, received a 40-year sentence in 2010.

InSight Crime Analysis

Benjamin Arellano Felix's guilty plea is a testament to how far he has fallen since the late 1990s, when Mexican officials considered him one of the top drug lords in the country.

Back then, the Tijuana Cartel was a major player in Mexico's criminal underworld. He and his brother Ramon Felix Arellano inherited the Tijuana Cartel from their uncle, the legendary Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, alias "el Padrino." Shortly thereafter, Ramon ordered the death of a close associate of the Sinaloa Cartel's Joaquin Guzman, alias "El Chapo," sparking a conflict that lasted for more than 15 years.

However, an aggressive campaign by law enforcement beginning in the early 2000s significantly weakened the Tijuana Cartel, and since 2009 it appears to have agreed to a truce with their rivals. The Sinaloans, in comparison, have taken off. Along with the notoriously violent Zetas, they are considered one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in Mexico.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 1 JUL 2021

Multiple sources from the United States and El Salvador say the recent decision to temporarily halt the extradition of several…

EL SALVADOR / 31 MAR 2022

Between July 2021 and February 2022, the government of President Nayib Bukele released four top leaders of the MS13 in…

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 6 OCT 2022

El Salvador will hold off on extraditing a top MS13 gang leader to the United States to face terrorism charges.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…