The Mexican government Friday extradited to the U.S. drug kingpin Benjamin Arellano Felix, the former leader of one of Mexico’s most feared and powerful organized crime groups, whose ruthless reign transformed northern Baja California into a major drug trafficking corridor into the U.S.
Arellano Felix, who has been incarcerated in a Mexican prison since his arrest in 2002, was flown to San Diego and transferred to the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he will be held under tight security during court proceedings that are expected to last months.
The extradition marks the end of a long effort by U.S. authorities to get Arellano Felix into a U.S. courtroom. He faces racketeering and drug conspiracy charges as part of a San Diego federal grand jury indictment that has already led to the arrests and convictions of several of his brothers and associates from the cartel’s heyday during the 1980s and 1990s.
Arellano Felix was among the first of Mexico’s modern organized crime bosses. With connections to Colombia, he established, with the help of his brothers, a drug pipeline that pumped massive amounts of cocaine into California. The enormous revenue was used to systematically bribe Mexican military and law enforcement officials and purchase stockpiles of weapons that the cartel used to murder enemies, according to the indictment.