By Jim Kouri
A top Mexican drug cartel boss — arguably Latin America’s answer to Al Capone or John Gotti — was sentenced Monday to 25-years in federal prison for racketeering and conspiracy to launder money, according to sources in the U.S. Justice Department.
Benjamin Arellano-Felix, the former leader of the Tijuana Cartel/Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO), was sentenced in U.S. District Court in San Diego by the Honorable Larry A. Burns.
Felix, considered one of the world’s most powerful drug lords, had been extradited to the U.S. from Mexico in 2011.
In addition, more than $100 million of the gang leader’s assets are being forfeited by the United States Treasury Department.
According to court documents obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police’s Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Committee, his crime group tortured and killed rivals in the United States, Mexico, and Central America while smuggling hundreds of tons of marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
The 56-year old gangster is expected to serve the remainder of his life behind bars since the federal penal system does not have a parole program.
The Tijuana-based drug cartel, known as the Arellano Felix Organization, smuggled along the Mexico-California border. It gained the reputation as a bloodthirsty crime gang that did not fear local and federal police (Federales) or the military.
Its cartel members and associates were known for dissolving the bodies of cartel enemies in vats of deadly corrosives, according to the DEA.
“The Tijuana Cartel was one of the world’s most brutal drug trafficking networks, but has now met its demise with leader Benjamin Arellano-Felix’s sentencing today,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.
Benjamin Arellano Felix was allegedly the crime gang’s leader from 1989 until his arrest. He personally oversaw his cartel’s drug trafficking operations and the kidnapping and murder of rival traffickers, informants and members of Mexican security forces, according to a DEA source.
His criminal organization began to lose its power and influence when Arellano Felix was captured and locked up in a Mexican detention facility.
He was sentenced there in 2007 to 22 years in prison for drug trafficking and organized crime charges. After serving four years in a Mexican prison, he was finally extradited to the US, where he will now avoid a trial after pleading guilty.
Mexico’s drug violence has surged and grown more gruesome in recent years, particularly in the northern border cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.