Alleged Head of the Quintero Drug Trafficking Enterprise Extradited to U.S. From Mexico
APR 27 -- Juan Jose Quintero-Payan, 68, of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, has been extradited to Texas to face charges of four felony violations of the drug and racketeering statutes, José Angel Moreno and John E. Murphy, United States Attorneys for the Southern and Western Districts of Texas, respectively, announced today along with Zoran Yankovich, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Houston Division.
Following the return of a sealed superseding indictment by a San Antonio grand jury and the issuance of a provisional arrest warrant in 2002, Quintero was arrested in Mexico. Quintero fought against his extradition for eight years. On Friday, April 23, 2010, Quintero was extradited by Mexico and transported to San Antonio in the company of U.S. agents. The indictment was unsealed on Monday, April 26, 2010, following Quintero’s initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela A. Mathy in San Antonio. Quintero has been ordered to remain in federal custody without bond pending further criminal proceedings.
Moreno praised the dedication of the agents and prosecutors as well as the Office of International Affairs in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division who have worked throughout the years to bring Quintero to justice. “The successful extradition of Mr. Quintero-Payan shows that joint international efforts work and that the rule of lawlessness is ultimately subservient to the rule of law,” he said.
The indictment alleges Quintero was the leader of a criminal enterprise whose operations spanned from South America and Mexico to the United States and the Cayman Islands during the years of approximately 1978 to 2002, when the current superseding indictment was filed. The charged conduct includes the movement of numerous large loads of marijuana to the United States from Mexico, in amounts of up 15,000 pounds at a time, using tanker trucks. As per the charges, cocaine shipments as large as 700 kilograms were acquired from unnamed foreign sources via airplane for re-shipment to the United States.
The indictment details the movement of more than $20 million dollars in United States currency into banks in California and Texas and other deposits into banks in New York and the Cayman Islands. A network of real estate was allegedly acquired in Texas and California related to the drug enterprise’s operations to include ranches, airstrips and residences.
The charges are the result of a continuing cooperative effort between prosecutors in the Western District of Texas and Southern District of Texas in “Operation Cash Crop,” an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation involving the DEA, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Narcotics Service of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the then United States Customs Service, now Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security.
“Through close and sustained cooperation with our partners in Mexico, we are bringing alleged cartel leaders to justice - on both sides of the border,” Yankovich said. “Mexico’s continued cooperation in targeting significant drug traffickers is critical to our mutual efforts to protect the public from the negative impact of the drug trade.”
The initial indictment arising from “Operation Cash Crop” was first brought in 1985 in San Antonio, Texas. Those charges were superseded in March 1986 naming Quintero and 49 other defendants. Portions of those charges were tried in 1986 in San Antonio. Additional prosecutions have occurred in San Antonio and in Brownsville, Texas, as a result of this investigative effort. Quintero has been extradited to face prosecution on a 2002 superseding indictment.
While the charges carry a statutory penalty of up to life imprisonment, at the time the extradition request was made, Mexico conditioned extradition on assurances that a sentence of life imprisonment would not be imposed. A copy of the superseding indictment returned in 2002 is attached.
Assistant United States Attorney Charles Lewis of the Southern District of Texas will be prosecuting the Quintero case in the San Antonio Division of the Western District of Texas.