By Jim Kouri
A top Mexican drug cartel boss — arguably Latin America’s answer to Al Capone or John Gotti — pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy to launder money on Wednesday in a U.S. federal courtroom in San Diego.
Benjamin Arellano Felix, considered one of the world’s most powerful drug lords, was extradited to the U.S. in 2011.
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 faces upwards of 25 years when he is sentenced on April 2, 2012.
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 didn’t 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.
Benjamin Arellano Felix was allegedly the crime gang’s leader from 1989 until his arrest in 2002. He personally oversaw his cartel’s drug trafficking operations and the kidnapping and murder of rival traffickers, informants and members of the Mexican security forces.
His criminal organization began to lose its power and influence when Arellano Felix was captured and locked up in a Mexican detention facilities in 2002.
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.