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News Release [printer friendly page]
February 3, 2006

Joint U.S.-Mexico Operation Nets Head of International Drug Cartel

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -The arrest of a major Mexican drug kingpin was announced today by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Deputy Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. Oscar Arturo ARRIOLA-Marquez was arrested in Torreon Coahuila, Mexico as a result of a joint operation between the Agencia Federal de Investigaciones (AFI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). ARRIOLA-Marquez is the head of an international drug distribution network whose operations extended from Mexico across the U.S. Border and throughout the Southwest.

The ARRIOLA-Marquez cartel is a violent criminal organization responsible for trafficking thousands of kilos of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. and laundering the resulting illegal proceeds. The cartel is known to have drug cells in Texas, Colorado, Missouri, New York, Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, and New Mexico. As part of this investigation, Mexican Government officials have seized approximately $32 million in assets from the ARRIOLA-Marquez cartel.

On June 1, 2005, Oscar ARRIOLA-Marquez was identified by President Bush as a Foreign Narcotics Kingpin under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.

DEA has been investigating the ARRIOLA-Marquez organization for its role in the money laundering of drug proceeds under the agency’s Money Trail Initiative. The Money Trail Initiative is an innovative financial crime strategy that attacks the financing of illegal drug trade and dismantles major drug trafficking organizations.

“As a man complicit in the ruined lives of countless Americans, his arrest is a meaningful victory in this nation's battle against drugs,” said DEA Deputy Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “He was responsible for cocaine in American neighborhoods from Colorado to North Carolina, and his money laundering operation was one of the largest in the world.”

The arrest was made by the Specialized Investigative Unit (SIU) of the AFI, an elite drug enforcement section of the AFI. The successful apprehension of ARRIOLA-Marquez was the result of an extensive surveillance operation that was spear-headed by the SIU with assistance from the DEA.

ARRIOLA-Marquez was charged in December 2003 in an indictment returned in the District of Colorado with Conspiracy to Import a Controlled Substance, 21 U.S.C. 963, 960, 952; Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A) and 846; Money Laundering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 1956 (a)(1) and (a)(1) (B)(i); 18 U.S.C. 1956 (h); and Aiding and Abetting, 18 U.S.C. 21. A Provisional Arrest Warrant was signed by the Government of the Republic of Mexico, and the United States will seek extradition.

The indictment and arrests are the result of a cooperative multi-agency investigation led by DEA and involving law enforcement agencies on the local, state, federal, and international level. The agencies responsible included the Agencia Federal de Investigaciones and the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) of the Republic of Mexico, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the agencies comprising the Colorado Springs, CO, Drug Enforcement Task Force.

If convicted of the charged offenses, the defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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