Top Mexican Drug Kingpin Nailed by US Coast Guard, DEA
by Jim Kouri, CPP
The US Coast Guard, working closely with the DEA, apprehended Arellano-Felix and seven other adults in a recreational vessel on and arrived at the Coast Guard facility in San Diego, where they were taken into custody by the DEA and US Marshals.
“For over a decade, the Arellano-Felix family dominated the Mexican drug trade and flooded our nation with hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana, and massive quantities of methamphetamine and heroin,” said a high ranking DEA official.
“Javier Arellano-Felix, the last stronghold at the top of that cartel, is a violent drug kingpin wanted in the United States for numerous drug trafficking, conspiracy, and money laundering charges. He is considered threatening enough to our nation to warrant a $5 million US State Department reward for his capture. His arrest topples a dynasty built on violence and drugs and puts a chokehold on the destruction this brutal organization has caused in both the United States and Mexico,” she said.
Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix is the youngest of four Arellano-Felix brothers who have controlled the drug cartel since the late 1980's. Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix assumed over control of the cartel in March of 2002 following the incapacitation of his older brothers Benjamin (arrested in Mexico in March 2002) and Ramon (killed in Mexico in February 2002).
For more than a decade, the AFO has been one of the largest, and most violent, drug trafficking organizations operating in the Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico area. Its principal business is the smuggling of cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico in multi-ton quantities, and the further distribution of those controlled substances, using violence, corruption, and money laundering to achieve the organization's goals.
According to Assistant US Attorney Laura E. Duffy, who is prosecuting the case, an indictment filed in the Southern District of California in December 2003 targets the leadership of the AFO, including Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix and his surviving brothers Benjamin and Eduardo, who remains a fugitive.
The charges in the indictment include: RICO conspiracy; Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, Intending Unlawful Importation; Conspiracy to Import a Controlled Substance; Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance; and Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments; as well as criminal forfeiture allegations.
The indictment alleges that beginning in 1991, Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix became active in the AFO and that his role in the cartel steadily increased during the 1990s, during which time he participated in major decisions, and acted as his brother Benjamin Arellano-Felix’s representative.
According to the indictment, some of the cartel decisions that Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix participated in include the cartel's receipt of large drug shipments, the transportation of drug shipments into the United States, and “enforcement” activities undertaken by members of the AFO, including the kidnaping/murder of cartel “enemies.”
The indictment also alleges that in 2000, after the arrest of AFO Lieutenant Ishmael Higuera-Guerrero, Benjamin Arellano-Felix put Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix in charge of AFO daily Tijuana/Mexicali operations, and in 2002 Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix became the cartel’s ultimate leader following Benjamin's arrest.
According to the US Attorney, “Law enforcement deserves a great deal of credit for this operation, which was carefully planned and perfectly executed. We now have in custody the head of one of the deadliest drug organizations in history.”
“I am extremely proud of the US Coast Guard's contribution to this significant operation” said Rear Admiral Jody Breckenridge, Commander of the 11th Coast Guard District.
“This operation is the direct result of our partnerships with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Information sharing and a collaborative planning process positioned the Coast Guard to move swiftly with the appropriate assets when DEA identified the window of opportunity. The Coast Guard continues to work with Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other federal law enforcement partners on the disposition of the people and the Dock Holiday. This case demonstrates the importance and strength of ongoing interagency cooperation in the war on drugs.”
According to the US Attorney's office, the San Diego investigation of Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix was coordinated by an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program was created to consolidate and coordinate all law enforcement resources in this country's battle against major drug trafficking rings, drug kingpins, and money launderers.
The seven adults also apprehended on the boat with Arellano-Felix have been taken into custody and will be arraigned as material witnesses. Three children who were on the boat have been turned over to US Customs and Border Protection and will be reunited with their families. The defendant and seven material witnesses will be arraigned.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.