News Release
Date: September 14, 2010

Sinaloa Drug Cartel Member Sentenced to Life in Federal Prison

SEP 14 -- EL PASO – Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration–El Paso Division and United States Attorney John E. Murphy announced that in El Paso, 40­year-old Fernando Ontiveros-Arambula, a high level lieutenant in the Sinaloa Cartel, was sentenced this afternoon to life imprisonment and fined $100,000 on three federal drug charges in connection with a conspiracy to smuggle over 100 tons of marijuana from Mexico into the United States. “The defendant’s criminal actions certainly warranted this prison term,” stated United States Attorney John E. Murphy. “The sentence imposed reflects the seriousness of his crimes, his propensity for violence and his blatant disregard for the rule of law.”

On March 10, 2010, a federal jury convicted Arambula and 19-year-old Manuel Chavez-Betancourt of conspiracy to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. The jury also convicted Arambula of one count of conspiracy to import over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and one count of possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.

Testimony during trial revealed that a number of drug seizures by law enforcement in 2007 and 2008 were tied to numerous associates of Arambula and the Sinaloa Cartel. The jury heard evidence that Arambula was a high level lieutenant in the Sinaloa organization who was fighting with members of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug trafficking organization for control of the Juarez “plaza,” or drug trafficking corridor. Witnesses also testified that Arambula and other high ranking members of the Sinaloa Cartel were using any means at their disposal, including bribery, extortion and violence, to gain the upper hand in the war between the two cartels. Testimony also revealed that Arambula had more than 100 people working for him, including juveniles, to advance the smuggling activities and goals of the Sinaloa cartel. In addition, Arambula attempted to obstruct justice by not only corrupting Mexican law enforcement at all levels, military and judicial officers, but also by engaging in attempts to prevent witnesses from testifying against him and his organization.

The evidence presented during trial also showed that Betancourt was a relatively low level operative in the organization who delivered vehicles with marijuana in hidden compartments to stash house operators in the United States. On June 17, 2010, Betancourt was sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

“Arambula’s sentence to life in federal prison sends a message of our unending resolve to pursue drug traffickers who wreak havoc in our communities. It is another example of our success in the fight against major Mexican drug cartels operating in the United States,” stated Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, El Paso Field Division.

This case was investigated by agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Texas Department of Public Safety as well as state authorities in New Mexico.

The DEA El Paso Division encourages parents, and their children to visit the following interactive websites at, and