Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

U.S. charges top leaders of Tijuana-based drug cartel

Federal authorities announced a wide-ranging criminal complaint Friday against top leaders of a Tijuana-based drug cartel that ran much of its operations from the San Diego area, allegedly ordering murders, kidnappings and the torture of rival traffickers in Mexico.

The racketeering conspiracy case charges 43 people, among them high-ranking lieutenants, Mexican police officers and a top official in the Baja California attorney general's office who allegedly passed along information obtained from U.S. law enforcement sources to cartel operatives.

The organized crime group, an offshoot of the Arellano Felix drug cartel, moved some operations to San Diego in recent years, seeking a safe haven from gang wars and law enforcement crackdowns south of the border, said Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney in San Diego.

Through the use of undercover agents and surveillance, authorities prevented most of the violence in San Diego County, including six attempted murders and an attempted kidnapping, Duffy said. In Mexico, cartel members kidnapped and killed several people, and tried to shift responsibility to rival gangs through corrupt Mexican law enforcement.

By shifting management to San Diego, cartel leaders hoped to operate more freely, authorities said. Such strategies have occurred in the past, most notably in the mid-1990s, when leaders of the Arellano Felix drug cartel moved north to avoid arrest by Mexican authorities.

The 20-month investigation, handled by the multiagency San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force, was able to use investigative tools often unavailable in Mexico, such as telephone wiretaps and informants.

"The presence of foreign-based drug-trafficking organization members and associates in San Diego will not be tolerated," Duffy said.

Thirty-one of the 43 defendants are in custody, authorities said. Twenty-seven were arrested in the San Diego area and four in Mexico. A top lieutenant, Armando Villareal Heredia, nicknamed Gordo, remains at large. Authorities also seized 1 ton of marijuana, 15 pounds of cocaine and 30 pounds of methamphetamine during the 20-month investigation.

The arrest of the Baja California official, Jesus Quinones Marques, after a traffic stop Thursday in San Diego was a setback for U.S. law enforcement agencies that work closely with counterparts in Mexico to hunt down U.S. fugitives and build cases against powerful drug-trafficking organizations.

Jesus Quinones Marques, director of international liaison for the Baja California attorney general's office, tried to plant stories in Mexican media outlets that placed the blame for killings on a rival gang, according to the 79-page indictment filed in San Diego federal court.

U.S. officials said that some information shared by U.S. liaison officers with Quinones was compromised, but that nobody's safety was put at risk. U.S. agencies, after arrests in recent years of corrupt Mexican liaison officers, usually limit information-sharing to the whereabouts of fugitives wanted in the United States.

-- Rich Marosi in San Diego

Comments () | Archives (21)

This is so unfair! They're just trying to feed their families.

Some progress is better than no progress. These drug dealing animals need to be dealt with swiftly and forcefully. Something just seems off here, though.

The abuse of the 14th Amendment of the United States has lead to the election of Mexican political representatives in our nation who unanimously agree with the Mexican illegal immigrants and Mexico. The Mexican advocacy groups have a credo that says that Mexicans will reclaim the western United States for Mexico. The Mexican state is in trouble. They often have assassinations of Mexican government officials carried out by drug cartels. It seems like America is speeding down the path to socialism as Sheriff Babeau said. Government has other interest besides upholding the U S Constitution There is so much socialism and the bills in Congress that add to that socialism.

That should make illegal immigration a controversy for years to come but if our government had asserted the 14th Amendment, it would preclude all of the travail caused by illegal immigration. Since the deportation of 1954 during the Eisenhower administration, every president has been dominated by a liberal Congress that has protected and supported the illegal immigrants. We Americans must be more careful who we vote for while there is a leaning toward socialism, multitudes of illegal immigrants claiming American jobs, mafias of paramilitary drug cartels with automatic weapons and hand grenades just south of the border, quasi-military groups that stand behind the Mexican advocacy groups such as Brown Shirts for Aztlan, Mexican advocacy organizations and Mexican representatives in Congress.

why doesn,t the USA declare war on Mexico? They are the ones causing us to lose our beautiful life here

Wow! All the fuss over protecting us from Islam fundamentalist terrorism and this stuff coming from Mexico is even worse! Living in SoCal I would be more afraid from these Mexican thugs than some Muslim guys looking like Osama Bin Laden.

We knew all along the Cartel in ingrained on this side of the border. How did they get in an out so easily? Bribe our government and politicians.

Path to citizenship.

AS I have said before and again and will say until I'm dead the illegals coming across the border now are primarily drug pushers, drug addicts, rapists, killers, thieves, pedophiles, and worse. Secure the border or watch it blow up in your face California. You need to pay attention to Arizona's good law!


are any of them related to tony v?

Just doing the jobs Americans won't do, right?

Arnold, Antonio, Baca, and others of their ilk must be so proud of the clone of the lawless, violent, third world country CA has become.

We read about the arrests of drug lords and illegal alien criminals. It's time we start reading about the removal of office of these corrupt politicians who have allowed, and facilitated, the invasion of these illegal aliens, including drug cartels.

Yeap, we have no problem here. Only 43 in custody? Wow our tax dollars at work, NOT!

We need some Az type laws here.

And they wonder why Americans are demanding strict enforements at our borders. If they are in our country, legal or illegal we should have no qualms about gathering up all pit bulls and have an American bull fighting arena and guess who is coming to dinner.

What a joke, they won't even protect American citizens and they think they can go after the cartel in Mexico.

The key thought in this article is "Tijuana-based drug cartel that ran much of its operations from the San Diego area." Stop it before it is too late America!!!!

This is the potential future of America. The casual era of open border policy must come to an end.

now i know for shure that the reasons some of my friends from san deago are tru, and dont blame them for moving to another state to protect there loved ones, what bothers me is it took twenty one months to do something about it, when thry should of done had it taken care of with two weeks at the most, was there even any atempt to check out any mexicans that were comeing into the town to see who they are and deport them if not shure of them,and as far as the offical who worked with the city, take away all of his money and send him to mexico just like all the other ones that should not be here, as far as his family if he has any put them on a list two watch out for any reason to send to mexico if it comes to it, in other words make a example out of him.

@ Teri

The USA can't declare war on Mexico because there is nothing to declare war about. That, and the US has no justification for war with any country in Latin America. And the Mexican Drug cartels are not causing you to lose "Your beautiful life" so stop victimizing yourself. If anything, we Americans are causing Mexicans to lose their sense of security by blowing things way out of proportion. They have more war justification towards us...

It's not a" war on drugs" it's a "war of who controls the drugs." Drugs aren't going away anytime soon, it's just a matter of who will profit.. Open your eyes people.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: