Investigation Leads To The Indictment Of Arellano-Felix Organization
On July 8th, two indictments were unsealed charging a total of 12 individuals who represent the top hierarchy of the Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO). Long-reputed to be one of the most notorious multi-national drug trafficking organizations ever, the AFO controlled the flow of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs through the Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali into the United States. Its operations also extended into southern Mexico as well as Colombia.
In an unprecedented show of international cooperation between the United States and Mexico in criminal narcotics prosecutions, Mexican Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha, whose office provided substantial assistance to the U.S. during the course of the investigation, joined Attorney General Ashcroft at the press conference announcing the unsealing of the indictments in San Diego, California. Joining the Attorneys General at this announcement were John Walters, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Associate Deputy Attorney General Karen Tandy, Michael Vigil, the Special Agent in Charge of Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) San Diego Field Division, and other law enforcement representatives.
"These indictments mark the culmination of years of hard work and represent the finest in international cooperation and interagency teamwork," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "This case sends a message to drug dealers everywhere: We will investigate, prosecute, and punish all those who deal in drugs. There is no escape across the border."
"DEA has been investigating the activities of the Arellano-Felix organization since their violent rise to power," said DEA's Acting Administrator William Simpkins. "While DEA and our partners in Mexico have achieved many successes throughout this investigation, these indictments bring us one step closer to our ultimate goal of dismantling an organization which has shown no limits to its greed and callousness."
"International cooperation and the exchange of information are valuable weapons that law enforcement at all levels should be using to immobilize drug trafficking organizations worldwide, " said Special Agent in Charge Michael Vigil regarding the cooperation between Mexico and the United States in bringing about these indictments.
The first indictment against 11 individuals charges an overarching racketeering conspiracy running from 1986 to the present and was the culmination of a decade-long investigation of the AFO led by DEA in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement (BNE). The indictment alleges that, beginning in the mid-1980's and continuing to the present, the AFO was responsible for the importation and distribution in the United States of hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana.
The following individuals are listed in this indictment:
The indictment charges the above-listed defendants with conducting the affairs of an illegal enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity (RICO), conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, as well as money laundering. The leadership of the AFO is alleged to have negotiated directly with Colombian cocaine trafficking organizations, including a Colombian guerilla organization, for the purchase of multi-ton shipments of cocaine. They allegedly received those shipments, by sea and by air, in Mexico, and then arranged for the smuggling of the cocaine into the United States where it was distributed. The proceeds of the AFO's drug trafficking, estimated by law enforcement to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, are alleged to have been smuggled back into Mexico.
The AFO is also alleged to have recruited, trained and armed groups of bodyguards and assassins who were responsible for protecting the leaders of the organization, and also for conducting assassinations of rival drug traffickers, suspected cooperators, uncooperative Mexican law enforcement and military personnel, and members of the Mexican news media who printed stories unfavorable towards the AFO. Law enforcement officials estimate that the AFO was responsible for more than one hundred drug-related murders, both in Mexico and in the United States. The indictment specifically alleges 20 murders in the United States and Mexico that were carried out by the AFO.
Five of the defendants named in this indictment are currently in Mexican custody, while the other six are at large and believed to be residing in Mexico. The United States will seek extradition of all 11 individuals from Mexico to the United States to stand trial in this case.
A second separate indictment, also unsealed yesterday, charges Gustavo Rivera-Martinez for his alleged involvement with the Arellano-Felix organization. Specifically, Rivera-Martinez is charged with conspiracy to import and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, as well as aiding and abetting. The indictment alleges that Rivera-Martinez is a lieutenant level manager in the AFO who is a close confidant and adviser to Javier Arellano-Felix, the current leader of AFO trafficking operations in northern Baja California.