News Release
February 5, 2010
Contact: Mike Turner
Number: 720-895-4214  

Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero Sentenced to Federal Prison for Trafficking Massive Amounts of Marijuana from Mexico to the United States

FEB 5 -- DENVER – Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero, age 46, a resident and national of the Republic of Mexico and a reputed member of the Sonora Cartel, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer to serve 204 months (17 years) in federal prison, followed by 2 years of supervised release, for his role in operating a large scale marijuana trafficking organization in Colorado.  He was sentenced to 60 months (5 years) for his involvement in a Arizona drug trafficking organization, to run concurrently with the Colorado sentence.  The defendant had previously admitted to trafficking more than 100 tons of marijuana from 1985 through 1988, resulting in more than $100,000,000 in payment being sent to Mexico. Caro-Quintero, who appeared at the hearing in custody, was remanded.  The announcement regarding the sentences was made today by United States Attorney David Gaouette and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin. 

Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver in 1990.  He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona in 1994. He was arrested in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, in December 2001.  He was then extradited to the United States on February 25, 2009.  Prior to his extradition, Caro-Quintero was held in custody pending extradition, and served a prison sentence in Mexico for weapons possession crimes.  The defendant and his older brother, Rafael Caro-Quintero, were identified as significant foreign narcotics traffickers under The Kingpin Act in June 2000, subjecting them and their associates to economic sanctions.  Rafael Caro-Quintero was accused of being the mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena in 1985, and was prosecuted by the Mexican government. Rafael Caro-Quintero was convicted in Mexico and is serving a 40 year prison sentence for the murder of the DEA Special Agent.

According to the stipulated facts admitted at the change of plea hearing in the District of Colorado case, beginning in 1985, Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero and others knowingly engaged in a series of racketeering acts constituting in a sustained and persistent pattern of activity in which:

  • Tons of marijuana were grown or acquired in Mexico;
  • Shipments of hundreds of  pounds of marijuana repeatedly were brought into the United States from Mexico;
  • The marijuana shipments were transported from state to state within the United States;
    The shipments were broken down into smaller loads;
  • The divided loads of marijuana were delivered to sub-distributors at a number of locations in the United States;
  • The marijuana was marketed for cash at a number of locations, including Colorado;
    The cash proceeds were collected and counted;
  • A portion of the gross cash sales was transported to Mexico; and
  • Cash proceeds transported to Mexico were delivered to the defendant in payment for the marijuana he provided.

Caro-Quintero generally managed operations within Mexico, including growing and harvesting ton-quantity crops of Marijuana in Mexico to supply and re-supply the drug trafficking venture.  The defendant acquired land and farming equipment.  Caro-Quintero hired workers who processed, stored, and moved marijuana crops in Mexico.  The Mexican side of the venture required farms, buildings, and vehicles.

According to the stipulated facts regarding the District of Arizona case, Caro-Quintero admitted to working with others in a conspiracy to deliver approximately 3,000 pounds of marijuana to buyers in Arizona in 1994.  The marijuana delivered in Arizona was provided to the would-be buyers by the defendant on credit, in anticipation of later payment.  The defendant subsequently had conversations with undercover investigators posing as customers regarding the quality of the marijuana and the price and payment arrangements for more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.

“This is an outstanding example of law enforcement teamwork involving not only agencies within this country but also in the Republic of Mexico,” said U.S. Attorney David Gaouette.  “It also shows the tenacity of our law enforcement agents who, for years, continued to pursue Miguel Caro-Quintero and bring him to justice and be punished for the serious crimes he committed.”

“DEA continues our global pursuit of major drug traffickers who profit from the sale of dangerous drugs to our citizens, and threaten the security of the United States,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin.  “The sentencing today of Miguel Caro Quintero sends a message to all who engage in this criminal activity: DEA will relentlessly pursue them, no matter where they are or how long it takes.”

“The successful prosecution of this major drug trafficker should put others who engage in this type of activity on notice,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis.  “This case also highlights the impact multiple agencies can have when they join forces.  We will continue to work together and pursue those who threaten our communities through the smuggling and distribution of illegal and dangerous drugs.”

This case was investigated and supported by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Field Divisions in Colorado and Arizona, the Boulder Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Denver Field Division, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, state and local investigators from Utah and Colorado, members of the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office, and law enforcement officers in Mexico.  The Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section provided critical support in the investigation and prosecution.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the extradition.  The Department of Justice’s Office of Enforcement Operations provided assistance and support to the investigation and prosecution.

Caro-Quintero was prosecuted in Colorado by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Barrett, Guy Till, and Susan “Zeke” Knox.