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Former drug kingpin pleads guilty to racketeering, conspiracy

January 4, 2012 |  3:01 pm

Benjamin Arellano FelixFormer drug kingpin Benjamin Arellano Felix pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal racketeering and conspiracy charges, marking the end of a decade-old case targeting what once was Mexico’s most powerful organized crime group.

Arellano Felix, 58, the former leader of the Arellano Felix drug cartel, transformed Tijuana into a major drug trafficking corridor into the U.S.

During his 16-year reign, the cartel poured tons of drugs into California, generating profits that were used for bribes and to equip squads of assassins with high-powered weapons.

According to a plea agreement with prosecutors, Arellano Felix admitted that the organization he headed generated at least hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, exchanged weapons for drugs from a rebel group in Colombia, and trained bodyguards to assasinate rival traffickers and potential witnesses.

Arellano Felix, who was extradited in April, faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, according to the plea agreement.

He got a lighter sentence than several underlings in the cartel, including his brother, Javier, who got a life term. 

A sentencing hearing for Arellano Felix is scheduled in April.

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-- Richard Marosi in San Diego

Photo: Benjamin Arellano Felix

Credit: Associated Press

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