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Mexican drug cartel operative arrested in El Monte, officials say

July 3, 2012 |  2:54 pm

A 27-year-old woman believed to be a "main U.S.-based operative" of the Mexican drug cartel La Familia was arrested in El Monte last week and deported, officials said.

Federal authorities arrested Anel Violeta Noriega Rios, 27, on immigration charges at her home in El Monte last Wednesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Tuesday. She was handed over to Mexican authorities in San Ysidro two days later.

A 64-page criminal warrant issued out of Mexico in January 2010 accuses Noriega Rios of helping oversee the cartel's distribution of methamphetamine across California and Washington, ICE officials said.

La Familia has been characterized as a ruthless and often cult-like network based in the Mexican state of Michoacan, an area with rough terrain and a large seaport. In addition to meth, officials say the cartel distributes cocaine and marijuana.

Mexican authorities have arrested several top-level La Familia leaders in recent years, moves some officials heralded as significant blows to the cartel that also created internal struggles within the organization.

Noriega Rios had been arrested in the United States and deported to Mexico five times between 2004 and 2005, ICE officials said. Mexican authorities had offered 5 million pesos as a reward for her arrest.

She has no criminal convictions in the United States, officials said.

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-- Kate Mather
twitter.com/katemather

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