Three Arellano-Felix Members Sentenced to Prison
Two will Forfeit $1 Million Each
APR 06 -- San Diego, CA – San Diego Field Division Special Agent in Charge Ralph W. Partridge and United States Attorney Karen P. Hewitt announced that today three defendants were sentenced to lengthy terms in United States prison as a result of their participation in the Arellano-Felix drug trafficking organization (AFO). Jesus Labra-Aviles and Armando Martinez-Duarte were sentenced today to 480 months and 220 months of imprisonment, respectively. In addition, on March 29, 2010, Jorge Aureliano Felix was sentenced to 360 months in prison. United States District Judge Larry A. Burns, who imposed the sentences, also ordered Labra and Felix to forfeit $1 million each.
The sentences follow the defendants’ guilty pleas in October 2009 to crimes arising from their leadership of the AFO. According to court documents, for nearly two decades, the AFO controlled drug trafficking and other criminal activity in the Tijuana or Mexicali areas of Baja California, Mexico. All of the defendants admitted in their guilty pleas that AFO members distributed indeterminable amounts of cocaine and marijuana exceeding hundreds of tons each. The defendants also admitted that AFO members paid millions of dollars in bribes to law enforcement, government, and military officials to evade capture and prosecution.
Court documents establish Labra, who was convicted of conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana, partnered with Benjamin Arellano-Felix to obtain large amounts of cocaine and marijuana. Labra admitted as part of his guilty plea that he helped organize and lead the conspiracy, which involved hundreds of members and associates. Labra also acknowledged that he was consulted on major decisions and directed the actions of others. According to court documents, Duarte, who was convicted of conspiring to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, was a federal law enforcement officer in Mexico paid by AFO leaders to provide information about investigations targeting the AFO, escort and protect AFO members and drug shipments, and intervene when other law enforcement officers targeted or arrested AFO members. Duarte also helped place certain individuals in ranking law enforcement positions in areas under the AFO’s control.
According to court papers, Felix, who was convicted of conducting the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity and conspiring to invest illicit drug profits, was a top lieutenant to the AFO’s daily operations manager. Felix and his immediate supervisors were in charge of receiving large drug shipments in Mexico, smuggling drugs into the United States, coordinating the distribution of shipments within the United States, collecting drug proceeds, and policing Tijuana for enemies, suspected informants, and uncooperative law enforcement or military personnel. All three defendants were extradited from Mexico to the United States in December of 2008. Their convictions bring to six the number of AFO leaders who have been sentenced in the Southern District of California since 2006.
“With this sentencing today, all agencies involved in this investigation have dealt a significant blow to the leadership of the Arellano Felix Organization,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman of the DEA San Diego. “This should send a message to the traffickers that with the continued outstanding cooperation of the Mexican government, there is no place for them to hide, they will be brought to justice.”
United States Attorney Hewitt said, “One by one, the leaders of the narco-trafficking Arellano-Felix Organization are being held responsible for their crimes and are being punished so that they will no longer 3 cause a bi-national security threat by their illegal conduct. The long sentences imposed today reflect the scope and seriousness of the defendants’ crimes. And these convictions also represent more than a decade of dedication and hard work by federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors in the United States to seek justice on behalf of the law-abiding citizens of Mexico and the United States. We thank the Government of Mexico for its outstanding cooperation and for permitting the extraditions of these defendants.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter commented, “Today's sentences are the result of international cooperation between law enforcement agencies and we are pleased with the efforts of the prosecutors to see justice brought to these individuals.” “The sentences announced today deal a significant blow to the Arellano-Felix organization and demonstrate law enforcement’s resolve to continue to investigate and prosecute drug trafficking organizations,” said Leslie P. DeMarco, Special
Agent in Charge of IRS – Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office. “IRS-Criminal Investigation brings in its financial expertise to narcotic investigations to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations. We specialize in following the money in these illegal operations, enabling increased criminal prosecutions and asset forfeitures.” Another defendant, Efrain Perez, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3, 2010, at 9:30 a.m., before Judge Burns.
DEFENDANTS Case Number: 97cr2520-LAB
SUMMARY OF CHARGES